On one cold November day I have decided to visit Aarau, which is actually not that far from Basel (where I live), but I have never had a chance to visit this town in Switzerland.
Aarau is almost in the middle between Zürich and Basel, and not so far from Bern as well. The city itself is, I would say, middle size for Switzerland with 20 000 inhabitants. It has a pretty specific architecture style (especially the roofs) and has a very cute old town. Aarau art museum is really worth your time and overall Aarau offers a great time for anyone who is interested in Switzerland’s history, architecture and art.
How to get to Aarau
You can reach Aarau with a car or by train. It is very easy as Aarau has a train station and is close to some big cities like Zürich or Basel.
It is just 46 kilometers from Zürich and 54 kilometers from Basel. Right in the middle. From Bern it is a bit further – 80 kilometers. But from all the directions it shouldn’t take you longer than 1 hour by car.
The train ride form Zürich can take from 24 to 45 minutes. So it’s a very fast and easy connection. Check all the latest time schedules and prices of trains right here: Swiss trains.
As I came there by car, I simply parked in Kaserne parking which is here: Laurenzenvorstadt, 5000 Aarau – it is very close to the city center. As well, you can check info about all Aarau parking right here: Aarau parking.
Aarau city facts
Ok, if you do not like history, just skip this part, but I think it is always very cool to know some facts before you visit the place, it gives more value to the whole trip.
So first and the biggest fact for me is that once Aarau was the capital of Helvetic Republic. It was the first capital of unified Switzerland. I know that many people get confused about the Switzerland short name like for Germany it is DE, for France it is FR, for Switzerland it is CH. What is CH? CH is Confœderatio Helvetica 🙂 What is Helvetica? Well, it is a Latin translation for Switzerland 🙂 Once it was formed, Latin language was a big deal 🙂
Ok, so actually, Aarau is one of the Switzerland historic capitals. Now, it is a capital of Aargau canton. Oh, and just a note so you don’t make a very common mistake: Switzerland capital is Bern, not Zürich 🙂 I know it is unusual as Zürich is the biggest city in Switzerland, so it is normal to make this mistake.
What to do in Aarau?
First of all, visit the old town. It is not that little if you consider that the whole city is just 20 000 people, but it is very beautiful, with very nicely painted roofs and full of cozy boutiques. Just have a look at those roofs, they are huge and beautiful.
And we saw a guy very beautifully playing violin in the middle of old town.
All of those big roofs are painted underneath. Swiss people really like to paint their houses and you can actually can see a lot of that in different Swiss villages and cities, but these huge roof paintings… I saw it for the first time. And Aarau old town is full of them.
I love such architecture and how it makes all city just a bit more alive 🙂 As you can see on the facade the numbers 1644 – it means that the first foundation was based there that year. Not definitely that all houses and its facade, but the first base was back in 1644. Quite often in Switzerland you can see dates like 1365 or 1452, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that all house is from back then.
The city was definitely Christmas ready! On the roof we see some words, but I guess that is in Latin, not german.
In the old town you must go to the Aarau city church. It is a beautiful big church with huge tower and right there you can get a very good views to old buildings and surrroundings of Aarau. The old roofs and the street below the church is almost straight from Harry Potter books 🙂 I am always happy to find such places as they prove once again that Switzerland is full of wonders.
The angle of picture is not great, but the church is cramped into the old town (I guess it was a bit different when it was built). I love the blue color on the tower, makes the whole building stand out.
I love those roofs 🙂 Would like to have such on my house some day (such roof are very popular in Bern and in Luxembourg). As you see Aarau is in quite flat place (for Switzerland), but on the way to Aarau you will cross some hilly places.
That street below is really straight from Hogsmeade 🙂 The small village next to Hogwarts, don’t you think? Maybe Hogsmeade had smaller houses and more wooden architecture, but the whole feeling right in this place brought me right back to Harry Potter world.
In this view you can see some mountains/hills further away. But these are very very little ones 🙂
So if you want to see this nice oldtown street from the top and see the surroundings of Aarau, you must go to the church 🙂
Ok, the second thing you must do in Aarau is the Art museum (Kunstmuseum).
It is called Aargauerkunsthaus. It is probably the most beautiful modern architecture building in Aarau. It really catches your eyes. It is very modern, you can go through it upstairs and you will end up on the top of museum and the path leads you to city library and small nice park with some art in it.
So this is the view from the street to the museum. It is written on the museum: Ich, Das Bild, Ich sehe – I, The picture, I see. But I guess it is highly probable that there’s a deeper meaning of it.
I love those stairs, the architectural solution is amazing.
So you take these stairs and can get to city library and city garden.
From the top of the roof you can see a bit more of the city and even further hills.
As I love those stairs, I made one more picture of it 🙂
Here is the city library (on Saturday it was full of people) and the path leads to a small park.
Here is the view from Aarau library back to the city.
Aarau library and a small modern statue.
The park itself is pretty small, 5 minutes to walk around, but I love that they put some modern art in it, definitely makes the whole place much more interesting.
Ok, let’s go back to the museum 🙂
There’s a small modern coffee place just inside the museum, so you can have a coffee and read the newspapers.
The entrance for adult to this museum is 17 CHF and it is open all week except Monday. I think this is one of the most interesting places in all Aarau.
After visiting old town and the museum we decided to have a coffee and found an interestingly named coffee place, so why not visit it?
Lucky monkey! It is very close to the Kunsthaus, you just have to walk the direction of old town and you will not miss it.
Afterwards we wandered a bit more in the old town and found a skiing place, so I bought new skiing pants as skiing season is right here:)
On the way to the parking lot I saw a pretty nice Starbucks, liked the architecture of the building, so why not to take a picture?
I think Aarau in Switzerland is definitely good for an afternoon trip, just to explore a bit more of Switzerland history and its beautiful cities.
My suggestion for a day trip to Aarau would be these 5 top things:
- Visit Kunsthaus. It is really nice and modern with substantial amount of art. Please look for all information about it right here: Aargauerkunsthaus.
- Spend time in the old town. I really liked it. Go to all the small backyards you find, visit coffee places, small boutiques, small shops. It is really cute. I like those roofs as well, never saw something like that on such a scale.
- If you have more time, you can go for a walk next to Aare river. It is 5-10 minutes walk from Kunsthaus.
- Visit Roggenhausen wild park. It is very close to Aarau, more in the nature, but you can go there by bus or by car (there’s parking place right next to it). The park is not of exotical animals, it is more local animals; please have a look for all information right here: Roggenhausen Wildpark.
- As Aarau is the first capital of Switzerland, I think it would be pretty interesting to visit the city museum. All information is here: Aarau Stadtmuseum.
I would put aside up to 4 hours to visit Aarau. You can fly through it very fast if you wish, but just stroll around, take your time, have dinner, visit a museum, adore the old town.
Aarau is really worth your time and just only its historical value must raise your curiosity.
If you have any questions regarding Aarau, please let me know, I will do my best to help you.
If you would wish to spend more time around Aarau, not that far from it is beautiful Regionaler Naturpark Thal with many hiking routes and beautiful hills. Check out one of my hikes right there: Naturpark Thal hikes.
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