Solothurn 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.
Solothurn's history dates back to Roman times. As early as 350 BC the Romans built their "Castrum Salodurum", a bell-shaped walled fort. The remains can still be seen at Friedhofplatz and in Löwengasse.
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.
- 1 Solothurn Main Station. Solothurn 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.
Solothurn 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.
- Solothurn Old Town. The 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. free.
- 1 Solothurn Cathedral (The Cathedral of Stt. Urs and Victor). You can go up the tower which offers views over the town, river valley, Jura mountains, and a hint of the Alps. The tower entrance is 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.
- Solothurn Natural History Museum.
- Solothurn Art Museum. Located on the north side of the old town by the bastion. 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.
- Old Arsenal Museum.
- Einsiedelei im Verenaschlucht (Hermitage in the Verena gorge). Reached with a 45-minute walk north of the city (15 minutes through pleasant housing, and 30 through the forest along the gorge). It's located in a forest and is a beautiful place to walk around, especially in the evenings when candles are lit and placed in between the rocks throughout. Look for signposts and ask around. Please don't abuse this off-the-beaten-path gem and keep it quiet and peaceful as it is a path of meditation. free.
- Hiking and biking. A wide range of options are available With 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 Weissenstein. A 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 on the train route to Moutier, by the number 1 bus to Oberdorf (get off at the last stop and follow the walking paths over the field or walk up the main road), or by a 20-30 min gentle uphill walk from Solothurn town centre.
- Fasnacht (Carnival). Takes place in the week up to Ash Wednesday. 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. On the Sunday and Tuesday a parade of floats and marchers passes through the town. On the final day the Böögg is burnt (essentially a giant wickerman filled with explosives). Mostly Free.
- Bike days. Mid May. A big bike show with a mix of exhibits, technical help, and races to watch.
- Beer days. Late April. A popular beer festival show casing a whole range of local beer.
A number of mainstream and specialised shops can be found in the old town. Larger retailers and retail parks can be found outside on the town edges.
A number of modern restaurants are dotted around the old town area and are lively on any weeknight. Kebab shops and similar cheap take-aways are doted around the town.
A local speciality is Solothurner torte, a dessert with creme sandwiched between two biscuits. You're bound to like this if you like the Luxemburgerli of Sprungli in Zurich.
- Pittaria, Theatergasse 12, 4500 Solothurn, ☎ . Middle Eastern food offering falafel, Hallumi, Shish Kebab etc: to eat in or take away. Winner of the best falafel in Switzerland award several times over and raved about in Lonely Planet. Fr. 12-25.
A number of bars are gathered on the riverside in the old town. The area is very popular, with a nice atmosphere in the summer.
- SolHeure, Ritterquai 11. On the bank of the river Aare you will find this nice bar/restaurant which used to be the old slaughterhouse of the town. But don't be afraid to go there, nothing reminds of the ancient times.
- Oufi Brewery, Fabrikstrasse 4. Brewery for the local beer; offering drinks, food and tours of the Brewery. A five minute walk from the old town.
- Kofmehl, Kofmehlweg 1. A well known concert venue, located 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.
- An der Aare, Oberer Winkel 2, fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Member of Swiss Quality Hotels International. Centrally located three star hotel in the Baroque city of Solothurn, 150m to the city centre and only 800m to the railway station. One-person room from Fr. 120. Two-person room from Fr. 157 (rates 2009).
- YouthHostelSolothurn, Landhausquai 23. The youth hostel in Solothurn is located next to the river Aare. The building used to be the first school in town and offers nice and cosy rooms. Next to the hostel are several good bars and restaurants. Dorms start at Fr. 31.50 for Members. Doubles with shower/wc Fr. 49 per person..