Solothurn is a beautifully preserved Baroque city on the River Aare and an ideal place to combine a cultural outing with Christmas shopping.
The church spires of the car-free old town rise majestically above the banks of the Aare, set against the backdrop of the Jura mountains. The main entrance to the town is through the imposing Basel Gate (a Christmas exhibition is being held in the gate tower from December 15 to 17).
Entering the old town through the gate, visitors are confronted with the city's most impressive structure, the domed Cathedral of St Ursus.
The wide staircase leading into the cathedral's doors is divided into flights of 11 steps. As any visitor soon realises, 11 is a holy number in Solothurn. Inside the cathedral are 11 altars and 11 bells.
In 1481, Solothurn became the 11th canton to join the Swiss Confederation. The cathedral is one of 11 churches and chapels in the town, which counts 11 historic fountains and towers.
The Jesuit church is considered one of the best examples of Baroque architecture in Switzerland. It was built when the city was the seat of the French ambassadors to the Swiss Confederation (1530 - 1792).
The Arsenal museum (Altes Zeughaus) boasts one of the finest collections of armour, weaponry and uniforms in Europe. The Clock Tower is Solothurn's oldest structure. It was built in the 13th century and includes an astronomical clock, which was added around 200 years later.
Despite its imposing Baroque architecture, Solothurn remains as lively as ever, with a plethora of shops, restaurants and cafes scattered throughout the city. Many are located in splendid buildings, dating from the 17th and 18th centuries.