Things to Do in Aarau, Switzerland (Museums, Castles & More)

View of Aarau old town

The town of Aarau, Switzerland is not only the capital of Aargau but also makes for a fun day trip.

It is home to a preserved Medieval old town with a range of world-class museums and is renowned for the mind-blowing painted eaves that have to be seen to be believed.

Scroll down to read my travel guide for Aarau includes the top things to do, where to eat, where to stay, and how to get there.

Stroll Around Aarau’s Old Town

Aarau Old Town
Aarau Old Town from above

Taking a stroll around the historic Old Town will be the first thing you want to do when you arrive in Aarau. And if you travel here by train, it’s within walking distance of the central station. The Old Town is one of the most charming in northern Switzerland and is like journeying back in time to the Middle Ages.

Not only is the old town filled with historic buildings and cobbled streets but it is a pleasure to walk through because it is car-free. Ok, the buses come through some of the bigger streets occasionally, but otherwise, you can’t beat a city center with no cars! So, you can stroll or relax anywhere in town and it has such a peaceful vibe that I always wonder why I never spend more time here.

There is one thing you need to watch out for in Aarau though, the water channels. There are a few of them scattered around the city and you have to be careful not to step into them. Sure, they are quite the unique feature of such a town, but I nearly took a plunge while I was admiring a stunning building while walking through the town, so watch out!

Aarau old town water channel
Aarau old town water channel

City of the Beautiful Gables

Yes, Aarau has the nickname “The City of the Beautiful Gables“. So, you may wonder why everyone seems to be looking up when wandering through the historic center. They’re just admiring the intricate and colorful paintings on the underside of the roofs of around 90 buildings. Called “Dachhimmel” in German, the paintings are leftovers from a tradition that started in the 16th century.

They are such an unusual feature and are truly stunning to look at and feature a variety of geometric, floral, and allegorical images. I have included quite a few photos of the Dachhimmel above so you can get an idea of how stunning they are

I wandered through the old town taking pictures and suggest you head to Rathausgasse to see the best Dachhimmel in Aarau.

The Medieval Gate Tower (Obertorturm)

There are other highlights of the old town which are also worth seeking out if you have more time to spare.

I particularly enjoyed the Gate Tower also known as the Obertorturm in German. It is actually the best preserved Medieval tower in all of Switzerland and dates from the 13th century. It features an iron-wheel clock from 1532 and was actually raised by 3 floors in the 16th century. It was once a prison and houses a gatehouse, all of which can be visited on a tour you can organise with Aarau Tourism.

Stadtkirche Church

The Stadtkirche church is part of the Evangelical-Reformed parish of Aarau and was between 1471-1478 on the foundations of an older church which is presumed to have been from the 11th century. It was more recently renovated between 1965-66 and put under protective status.

The church is predominantly built in the Gothic architectural style and features a three-aisled basilica with a simple exterior in the style of mendicant architecture from the Middle Ages. There are also a number of beautiful stained-glass windows from Felix Hoffmann and Roland Guignard which have only been added in the 20th century.

Below I have included the address which is on the edge of the old town and the opening times. It was not open when I visited, despite being in the times given below. So, don’t be disappointed if it is closed when you arrive.

  • Address: Kirchgasse 19, Aarau (Google Maps)
  • Opening Times: 8 am – 6 pm

Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen/Fountain of Justice

Right across from the Stadtkirche is the rather unique Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen. Created in 1643 by the sculptor Hans Henz and then painted by Balthasar Fisch, the stunning centerpiece of the fountain is a sandstone statue of Lady Justice (aka justitia). She stands blindfolded on top of the column holding the scales of justice and a sword.

This is actually only a copy of the original, which is stored in the Schlössli City Museum. And more interestingly, the Fountain of Justice was not always located here. It was moved from its original location between Rathausgasse and Kronengasse in 1905 due to an increase in traffic in the city.

Naturama – Explore The Animal Kingdom

Naturama, Aarau
Naturama, Aarau

A live nature museum right across from the train station, Naturama first opened in 2002. Visitors can travel back in time to the land of prehistoric animals like dinosaurs and mammoths by exploring fossils found in nearby archeological sites. Several species and habitats are showcased with life-sized extinct mammals on display.

An interactive library is available for the curious. And there are lots of displays about Aarau-specific habitats, including a look into the future. After all, the planet is changing fast! The team at Naturama also holds a lot of theme-based discussions and excursions and has a range of special exhibitions every year. They are currently focused on insects and have a bat exhibition coming in October.

  • Address: Feerstrasse 17, Aarau (Google Maps)
  • Website: Naturama
  • Opening Times:
    • Tuesday to Sunday: 10 am – 5 pm
    • Closed on Mondays
  • Ticket Prices:
    • Adults: CHF 12
    • Students, IV, Pensioners: CHF 10
    • Children (6-16): CHF 4
    • Children (under 6): Free

Aargauer Kunsthaus

Aargauer Kunsthaus
Aargauer Kunsthaus

With its focus on local talents, the Aagauer Kunsthaus is destined to become a major destination to admire Swiss artworks. In addition to its small but diverse permanent collection, the museum regularly features works by lesser-known upcoming Swiss artists.

If you’re a fan of flowers and photography, you’ll adore the Flower of Art exhibition showcasing floral interpretations by Swiss master florists. The event takes place annually during the second week of March.

Note: The Aargauer Kunsthaus is currently closed from 30.5. – 1.9.2023 for renovation works.

  • Address: Aargauerpl., 5001 Aarau (Google Maps)
  • Website: Aargauer Kunsthaus
  • Opening Times: (from 1st of September 2023)
    • Tuesday – Sunday: 10 am – 5 pm
    • Thursday: 10 am – 8 pm
    • Monday: Closed
  • Ticket Prices:
    • Adults: CHF 17
    • Children (under 16): Free
    • Students (Up to 26 years) & Pensioners: CHF 12

Stadtmuseum (City Museum) – History of Aarau

Stadtmuseum Aarau
Stadtmuseum Aarau

The Stadtmusem Aarau has a huge collection of Aarau’s history which includes an archive of over 60,000 objects. One of the main exhibitions “100xAarau” presents the unique history of 100 individuals over 700 years of Aarau. Another interesting exhibit takes you on a fact-filled stroll through Aarau from the 17th century to today.

Not only is the Stadtmuseum an interesting snapshot of the city’s history the building it is housed in is also worthy of a visit. It is a unique combination of a historic tower with a modern addition. The museum was designed by the architects Diener & Diener and the facade of the new section includes 134 life-size reliefs created by the renowned Swiss sculptor Josef Felix Müller.

  • Address: Schlossplatz 23, Aarau (Google Maps)
  • Website:
  • Opening Times:
    • Tuesday – Wednesday: 11 am – 6 pm
    • Thursday: 11 am – 8 pm
    • Friday: 11 am – 6 pm
    • Saturday – Sunday: 11 am – 5 pm
  • Ticket Prices:
    • Adults: CHF 8
    • Students and seniors: CHF 8
    • Children under 16: free

Get Close to Nature at Roggenhausen Wildlife Park

Wildpark Roggenhausen (Image Courtesy of Wikimedia)

Want To Save This For Later?

We'll email this post to you, so you can come back to it later!

Go for a relaxing walk through the countryside and observe animals such as rabbits, goats, ponies, sheep, wild boars, deer, ibex, and more up close in a stunning natural setting. The 15-hectare Roggenhausen Wildlife Park is out in the country west of the Aarau city limits and has been a popular regional destination for more than 100 years.

The park is open every day and entrance is always free. There’s an orchard, a playground for children, and a restaurant on the grounds. The park is huge so plan on spending the afternoon.

Marvel at the Castles Around Aarau

Hallwyl Castle
Hallwyl Castle

Everyone loves to visit a castle, and Aarau is within half an hour’s drive of several gorgeous and historically significant ones.

Hallwyl Castle

Dating back to the 11th century, the Hallwyl Castle is surrounded by water on three sides. It was named after the noble Hallwyl family and served as their official seat. The Hallwyls were one of Switzerland’s largest art collectors, and their collection has been on display here since 1925.

It is quite a small castle, by European standards, and is quite isolated from nearby towns. It actually sits at the end of its namesake Lake Hallwyl where I often go stand up paddling and I regularly passed the castle without ever really knowing it was there. The surrounding moat makes for a stunning reflection at sunset as you can see in the image above.

  • Address: Schloss Hallwyl, Seengen (Google Maps)
  • Website: Hallwyl Castle
  • Opening Times:
    • 1 April to 29 October
    • Tuesday – Sunday: 10 am – 5 pm
  • Ticket Prices:
    • Adults: CHF 10
    • Students: CHF 8
    • Children (6-16): CHF 8
    • Children (0-6): Free

Habsburg Castle

Habsburg Castle is a medieval fortress perched high on a hill above the Aare River near Aarau. It is actually the original seat of the House of Habsburg, one of Europe’s prominent royal dynasties. The castle was built in 1020 but unfortunately only part of the whole complex remains intact today.

As part of the exhibitions in the castle, you can do a VR tour of the castle to experience how large it was back in 1200. They also have a variety of historic displays showing a model of the castle, how life was when it was lived in, and much more. Surprisingly, the castle is free to enter.

  • Address: Schlossgasse 30, Habsburg (Google Maps)
  • Website:
  • Opening Times:
    • April – End of October
    • Tuesday – Sunday: 10 am – 5 pm
  • Ticket Prices: Free

Lenzberg Castle

One of Switzerland’s oldest and most notable castles, the Lenzburg Castle is built around the legend that a dragon once lived on the hill the castle sits upon. Two German Knights slayed the dragon and earned the right to live on the hill. It’s also the site of a grave from the Neolithic era discovered by Swiss authorities.

The castle offers a mixture of museums along with events that are held inside its walls, especially during summer. You can also combine it with a visit to the city of Lenzberg which has a beautiful old town worth a stroll.

  • Address: Schloss, Lenzburg (Google Maps)
  • Website: Lenzburg Castle
  • Opening Times:
    • March – End of October
    • Tuesday – Sunday: 10 am – 5 pm
  • Ticket Prices:
    • Adults: CHF 10
    • Students: CHF 10
    • Children (4-16): CHF 8
    • Children (0-4): Free

Aarau Festivals

Like any other Swiss city, Aarau likes to celebrate given any opportunity. There are a number of yearly festivals that are specific to Aarau that you should check out if you have the chance.

Take Part In The Bachfischet

Held every September on the second last Friday before the fall school break, Bachifischet is an endearing festival that dates back to medieval times. Known as the lantern parade, the celebration revolves around the tradition of draining the stream to clean the waterbeds.

While the cleaning chores were done by the adults, the children caught fish and crabs left over in the puddles by lighting their way with homemade lanterns. Today, both the young and the old participate by parading through the streets at dusk with lanterns.

Experience Rüeblimärt – Annual Carrot Market

Carrots Market

This delightful annual event takes place on the first Wednesday of every November to honor the region’s favorite root vegetable. You’ll see carrots in all shapes and sizes, and gayly decorated stalls sell carrot cakes, breads, and other delicacies and products made with carrots. Beta carotene has never been more fun!

Hiking & Cycling

Cycling at Aarau

If you’re into hiking or cycling, you’ll want to explore the surrounding hills of the Aagau canton on its 1,650 kilometers of hiking trails or the 1,000 kilometers of bike paths.

Altogether, the Aarau area has 16 scenic trails with hand-curated trail maps to guide nature lovers along. You’ll find easy hiking trails, trails with historic sites, trails for outdoor enthusiasts at every skill level, and kid-friendly trails for families.

Where to Eat in Aarau

Aarau Restaurant

Aarau has a variety of trendy cafes and chic restaurants serving regional specialties and more from the Old Town to the banks of the River Aare.

For classic dishes like veal liver with rösti or Châteaubriand, try The Mürset, a meeting place for over 150 years. Or enjoy French bistro cuisine in the Brasserie and end your meal in the elegant wine bar. The Mürset is open 365 days a year. It’s located at Schachen 18 CH-5000 Aarau. Make reservations by calling +41 62 822 13 72.

The Restaurant EINSTEIN serves dishes inspired by the Southern Alps known as Mediterranean Alpine cuisine. The chef is passionate about freshly prepared foods and seasonal offers. The restaurant is open from lunch through dinner every day except Sunday and Monday. The address is Bahnhofstrasse 43, 5000 Aarau and the phone number is +41 (0)62 834 40 34.

For a variety of dishes including vegetarian plates, Restaurant Speck at Zollrain 10, 5000 Aarau is an excellent choice. International favorites like Pulled Pork and Crispy Fried Chicken are on the menu. And vegetarian or not, the Roasted Eggplant with white beans, marinated tomatoes, and buffalo mozzarella. Get more information by calling 062 824 39 74.

Where to Stay in Aarau

For the very best accommodations to extend your day trip with an overnight stay, the Hotel Kettenbrücke is the crème de la crème. It offers 26 trendy rooms and suites, a restaurant, lounge & bar, meeting rooms, and a roof terrace with magical views. It’s located at Chain Bridge Aarau, Zollrain 16, 5000 Aarau, and the phone number is +41 62 838 18 18.

If you can’t swing a stay at the Hotel Kettenbrücke, Aarau has many other options. For many travelers, the hotel of choice is the Hotel Baeren Suhr for comfort, convenience, and value. The amenities are designed with travelers in mind such as blackout curtains, free Wi-Fi, a desk, room service, luggage storage, and free parking. Check-in at Bernstrasse-West 56 CH-5034 Suhr or call +41 62 855 25 25 for reservations.

The Hotel Aarauerhof is ideally located next to the train station and 10 minutes away from the A1 motorway. The self-check-in policy lets you check in at any time. Choose from 75 spacious and comfortable rooms with amenities like a private bath, desk, and flat-screen TV with satellite. Hotel Aarauerhof is located at Bahnhofplatz 2, 5000, Aarau, and the phone number is +41 62 858 47 77.

Getting There

By Train: Get to Aarau from Zurich in 24 minutes at a distance of 37 km. On weekdays, the first train departs at 6:08 am and the last departure is 12:08 am. On Saturdays and Sundays, trains depart Zurich starting at 4:00 am and end at 11:38 pm. Trains leave about every half-hour.

By Car: Get to Aarau from Zurich by car by taking the A1 motorway. The trip takes around 46 minutes. If coming from abroad, Zurich Airport offers all major car rentals.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Aarau known for?

Aarau, Switzerland is known for its 16th-century painted eaves called Dachimmel, its car-free Old Town, nearby castles, and unique museums. 

What castle is near Aarau?

Aarau Castle (Schlössli) is the city’s oldest building and has remained almost unchanged since the 13th century. Today it is the site of the city museum. 

Is Aarau a good place to live?

Aarau, Switzerland’s 43rd-largest city ranks 577th, or in the top 6 percent of the best places to live in the world, and the 28th best in Switzerland. 

Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *