SolothurnSolothurn is a town in Switzerland, located in the Berne Region at the southern edge of the Jura Mountains. It's on the River Aare at the southern base of the Jura mountain range and is also known as St. Ursen City, Wengi City, the City of Ambassadors. Some say it's Switzerland's most beautiful baroque city and the city of culture.
The name "St.Ursen City" recalls the legend of the two Roman legionnaires, Urs and Victor, who were beheaded in Solothurn due to their Christian beliefs. In honour of their martyrdom and the associated miracles, both were declared city saints. St. Ursen Cathedral dominates the city skyline and is its emblem.
Solothurners are very fond of the number 11. With 11 museums, fountains, chapels and churches, and a clock with a dial that only shows 11 hours. Numerous references to 11 are present in the design and construction of the cathedral. Not to mention the local beer called Öufi Bier ("Eleven Beer").
Solothurn is a German-speaking town but, as in the rest of Switzerland, communication in French and English is easy in the city centre.
Solothurn Main StationSolothurn is served by one of the most efficient passenger rail services in the world, the Swiss Federal Rail (SBB) system. Direct trains run roughly each half-hour between 04:00 and 01:00 the next morning every day to and from Geneva, Zurich, Bern, and points in between.
By boatSolothurn is also connected by boat to the bilingual town of Biel/Bienne. Boats by the BSG take 2 hours 50 minutes to complete the journey between the two towns, stopping also in the towns of Grenchen and Büren. Service is limited, however: As of 2018, boats leave three times a day except Mondays from May to September (there is an additional evening boat on Wednesdays with service only as far as Grenchen) and twice a day in October. There is no service from the last week of October until April.
The town is small enough to be easily explored on foot. The old town is north of the train station, across the river.
Solothurn Old TownThe old town is easily fully explored on foot within an hour or two at the most. Farmer's markets are held in the old town every Wednesday and Saturday morning. Cultural festivals or events are held in or near the old town on most weekends. Many cafes and bars are scattered around, the river front ones are especially pleasant on a warm summers evening.
Solothurn CathedralYou can go up the tower which offers views over the town, river valley, Jura mountains, and on a clear day a panorama of the Alps. The tower entrance is on the outside of the building at the rear of the Cathedral. The cost is stated at the entrance door and you pay when you reach the top of the tower which serves as the cashier/gift shop.
Naturmuseum SolothurnMostly focused on the local fauna, flora, and geology in very well put together exhibits. There is also a temporary exhibition in the basement which changes every 6 months or so. Information is mostly only in German.
Kunstmuseum SolothurnContains a number of surprisingly big names for such a small town. A peculiar point of interest is the Wellington boot sculpture over the pool outside which is periodically propelled around a swing by a water jet shooting out of the heel.
Museum Altes ZeughausA large collection of weapons and armour. The old building itself is very impressive too, and is turned into a giant advent calender from the outside during December.
There are a number of spots of interest a short walk or transport ride from the centre.
Hermitage in the Verena gorgeA church and house in a deep gorge in the forest. Reached with a 45-minute walk north of the city (15 minutes through pleasant housing, and 30 through the forest along the Verena gorge), or take bus 4 to Rüttenen, Brüggmoos. It's inside a forest, a beautiful place to walk around, especially in the evenings when candles are lit and placed in between the rocks throughout.
Attisholz ArealA long disused factory complex on the river that is being converted into a public park, art, and cafe/restaurant space. A 6 km walk/ride along the Aare, or you can take the regional train to Luterbach-Attisholz.
Hiking and bikingA wide range of options are available in the Aare river valley offering very flat trails through farmland and along the river banks, and the forests and Jura above providing more challenging and striking routes. Wildlife is easily found, with deer and beavers not far from the city.
Take the cable car to WeissensteinA newly built modern cable car offering a fast (and enclosed) ride from just above the village of Oberdorf to the restaurant complex at Weissenstein towering over the area. On clear days this offers fantastic panoramic views over the Alps and especially of the Bernese Oberland. Take a meal/drink and admire the view, or head off on one of the many well marked walking trails in the area. The lower cable car station is reached as a direct stop (Oberdorf SO) on the train route to Moutier, by the number 1 bus to Oberdorf (get off at the last stop and follow the marked walking path over the field or walk up the main road), or by a 5 km gentle uphill walk from Solothurn town centre.
Events and Festivals
Solothurn has a number of annual festivals and events. Check the relevant websites or the official city website for the exact dates, which vary by year.
Fasnacht (Carnival)Luzern and Basel have bigger and more famous ones, but the Solothurn one is still full of life and is mostly attended by locals giving it more of an authentic atmosphere. Starting with a 5am parade on Maundy Thursday, the whole town puts on fancy dress and goes crazy for a week. Hordes of people in costume can be found watching bands play Guggenmusik everyday. Pop-up bars appear all over the old town, with the biggest partys on the Friday and Saturday nights. On the Sunday and Tuesday a parade of floats and marchers passes through the town. On the Wednesday the Böögg is burnt at 8pm to bring the event to a close (essentially a giant wickerman filled with explosives).
Beer daysA popular beer festival show casing a whole range of local beer.
Bike daysThe biggest bike show in Switzerland with a mix of exhibits, test rides, technical help, and races to watch.
Solothurner LiteraturtageA literature festival.
Slow UpA number of roads are closed off allowing cyclists and roller skaters to take over the roads on loops through the Buechibärg region varying from 11km to 46km.
MäretfestA large market festival. The streets of the old town fill up with stalls selling food/drink and handicrafts, a number of stages for live music are also setup.
Weissenstein SchwingetA Schwingen (Swiss wrestling) contest next to the cable car station on Weissenstein.
Swiss National Day fireworksA firework display in the trench around the defences at the north east of the old town.
Solothurner Chästag (Solothurn Cheese Day)A showcase of local cheese products to eat or take away. Activities for children such as a petting zoo too.
HeSo - Herbstmesse SolothurnIn a number of large pavilions and tents outside the Baseltor, this showcases businesses and products from the region. Almost every shop in Solothurn and the area will have a stall here. Bars and restaurants are scattered among kitchen displays and whirlpool salesmen in a strange but fun mix. Events like pig racing and late night club tents keep it from feeling like a trade show.
Advent im KlosterChristmas market in a local monastery a short walk out of the town centre.
ChlausemäretHeld on only two days in early December and hidden in the Friedhofplatz this little market is easy to miss. The cosy setting and red decoration theme make it worth a visit however. Stalls offer typical Christmas Market food/drink and handicrafts.
Solothurner Weihnachtsreise (Nativity Play)An enactment of the nativity story in the streets of the old town.
Shows and theaters
KofmehlA well known concert venue, a 5-to-10-minute walk from the old town. A surprising number of international bands go there in addition to (and sometimes rather than) the bigger towns in the area. Check their website for listings.
There are also a number of small cinemas showing a mixture of mainstream films and special interest. Most mainstream Hollywood films are only shown with German dubbing, anyone wanting to see films in English may have to go to Biel/Basel/Bern instead.
Solothurn has a surprisingly large number of restaurants for such a small town. Italian and Swiss are the most common, with a few Thai restaurants being the more exotic options.
A local speciality is Solothurner torte, a dessert with cream sandwiched between two biscuits. You're bound to like this if you like the Luxemburgerli of Sprungli in Zurich.
Kebab shops and similar cheap take-aways are doted around the town.
phone: +41 32 621 22 69address: Theatergasse 12Middle Eastern food offering falafel, haloumi, shish kebab, etc. to eat in or take away.
Zur grünen EckeA cherished pizzeria in Solothurn
Zunfthaus zu Wirthen
A number of bars are gathered on the riverside in the old town (Landhausquai). The area is very popular, with a nice atmosphere and live music on Thursdays/Fridays in the summer. Even during the winter you will find people sitting outside with a drink when the sun is shinning.
address: Ritterquai 11On the bank of the river Aare you will find this nice bar/restaurant which used to be the old slaughterhouse of the town. It's very popular with every demographic in Solothurn, so you can always expect a mixed crowd.
HafebarA seasonal bar, open in summer only. Set under trees in a park, with views over the river to the old town and the Jura mountains, this is a very popular spot on warm (and dry days). Seating is limited, but there is no defined bar area so you can simply grab your drink and move along to a free spot of wall by the river.
address: Fabrikstrasse 4Brewery for the local beer; offering drinks, food and tours of the Brewery. A 5-10 minute walk from the old town.
address: Kofmehlweg 1In addition to shows there are also club and jam nights.
address: Oberer Winkel 2Member of Swiss Quality Hotels International.
address: Landhausquai 23The youth hostel used to be the first school in town, and offers nice and cosy rooms. Next to the hostel are several good bars and restaurants.