From the 16th to the 18th centuries, the Catholic town of Solothurn was the residence of the French king’s ambassador. Fine Baroque and Renaissance buildings, such as the noble Palais Besenval, and magnificent religious buildings meet the visitor at every end and turn – the Old Town has eleven churches and chapels and the same number of fountains and towers. Truly magnificent is the St.Urs Cathedral, with a façade donated by Louis XIV, and an Italian-style staircase in front. Inside are wonderful Baroque stuccos. The town walls, which are still intact in some places, were built according to the principles of the French military engineer Vauban.
Between the beautiful historic monuments, the patrician buildings and the sturdy fortifications, the traffic-free Old Town is a pleasant place to wander, with lots of small shops and inns. On warm summer evenings, it is very pleasant to sit in the garden restaurants and bars by the Aare.
The town has a range of cultural attractions going far beyond the regional, including the Solothurn Film and Literature Days. The museums range from the History Museum to the internationally acclaimed Natural History Museum, the cathedral treasury, a Museum of Stones, the PC Museum and Schloss Waldegg, not to mention a collection of sentimental light fiction. Finally, in the "Old Arsenal" is one of the largest weapons collections in Europe.
Children are made particularly welcome in Solothurn: the Toy and Puppet Museum is just one of the amenities specially for children. If you follow the tips in the Guide for Children and Families, the tour of the town becomes an adventure in search of castle ghosts and dinosaur tracks, with a climb up to the St. Urs Tower.
A little outside the town is the romantic Verena gorge with its chapel and hermitage, a popular destination for walkers. Hikers and cyclists will find an extensive network of footpaths and 600 km of cycle tracks in the surrounding area and along the Aare. Solothurn is on two national cycle routes: the Mittelland Route and the Aare Route.
- Old Town – one of the finest and most compact Old Towns in Switzerland, with many Baroque highlights and a marked French influence.
- St. Urs Cathedral, made of pale Solothurn marble, is the most important Early Classical building in Switzerland, and has 11 altars.
- Museum of Fine Art – important collection of Swiss Art from 1850 onwards, with works by Cuno Amiet, Ferdinand Hodler, Bernhard Luginbühl, Meret Oppenheim, Jean Tinguely.
- Boat ride on the Aare (in summer) – to the Stork Colony in Altreu and via Büren, whose Old Town features in the National Inventory of Heritage Sites, to bilingual Biel/Bienne.
- Weissenstein – Solothurn’s local mountain (1291 m) and the Hotel Kurhaus Weissenstein - can be reached by bus on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Fine views of Central Switzerland and the Alps. Popular area for walking, cycling, cross-country skiing and sledging.
- Solothurner Film Days – important platform for Swiss films; independent film producers are well represented here; awarding of the Swiss Film Prize (January).
- Solothurn Carnival - "Chesslete", torch-lit procession through the Old Town, the participants wear white nightshirts and make a deafening noise. Masked balls, burning of the Böögg (February/March).
- Biertage - An invitation from 20 breweries to celebrate Swiss beer culture during the 9th Solothurn beer days (April).
- Bike Days - More than 15,000 visitors are likely to view this world of bikes and gather information about the current and future Planet Bike (May).
- Solothurn Literature Days – a forum for contemporary writing in Switzerland (on Ascension weekend, May).
- Solothurn Classics – open-air opera performances (July).
- Swiss Walking Event –The Swiss Walking Event is the original and largest independent Nordic walking event in Switzerland. It takes place every year in Solothurn on the first Sunday in September.
- Art Supermarket – the works of both young and more famous artists are presented and sold here (November).
The Weissenstein chairlift is no longer in operation. http://www.seilbahnweissenstein.ch