Solothurn is Switzerland's finest baroque town. It was at its peak from the 16th to the 18th centuries, when it was the residence of the French ambassadors to the Swiss Confederation. Solothurn became part of the Confederation in 1481.

Exploring Solothurn on foot is the typical way to see the town's attractions, although you may opt for a rental bike instead. At the Solothurn rail station on Hauptbahnhofstrasse (tel. 0512/269-815), you can rent a bike for 28F daily from 8am to 7pm.

Solothurn's Old Town is on the left bank of the river, partially enclosed by 17th-century walls. Inside those walls you'll find many Renaissance and baroque buildings. The Old Town is entered through the Biel Gate, or the Basel Gate. The heart of the old sector is Marktplatz, with its clock tower and a produce market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings from 9am to noon. The 15th-century Rathaus (town hall) has a notable Renaissance doorway. The two most colorful streets are Hauptgasse and Schaalgasse, where you'll find many wrought-iron signs and brightly painted shutters.

The baroque Cathedral of St. Ursus -- said to stand on the spot where its namesake was martyred -- dates from the 18th century and has been the seat of the bishop of Basel since 1828. The cathedral, just inside Basel Gate, was constructed by builders from Ticino, which explains its Italian artistry. Try to visit the gardens on the east side.

The Jesuitenkirche (Jesuits' Church), on Hauptgasse between the cathedral and the marketplace, dates from 1680 and contains a frescoed three-bay nave.

After you've absorbed the town's beauty, you might want to see some of the Juras, which tower in the background. There are many marked trails in the area for biking or hiking. The most scenic trail leads from the center of Solothurn to the Weissenstein Alpine Center, which will take about 2 hours by foot. Start out at the corner of Wengisteinstrasse and Verenawegstrasse in Solothurn and follow signs leading to Weissenstein. Once there you can board a chairlift that takes you down from Weissenstein to a station in Oberdorf, where you can return to Solothurn by rail.

In summer, consider a boat tour leaving from the quays at Solothurn to the towns of Biel, Murten, or Neuchâtel. A round-trip fare costs 55F, and the tourist office keeps a list of departure times, which vary depending on the weather.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.