Delémont – following the traces of dinosaurs

Try to imagine that the scenic path you now follow during your hikes round Delémont and the territory of its canton were roamed by enormously sized creatures like sauropod and stegosaurid dinosaurs, which clearly favored the area, if a great number of archeological finds is anything to go by.

You won’t even have to try hard to do that, as the forests and the landscape of the canton easily virtually transport you into one of the childhood cartoons or fantasy films. Though, the woods are no longer the rainforests with exotic plants and trees, and the continents have long ago drifted apart, having split up from the supercontinent Pangaea, and even the modern and centuries old buildings with buzzing paved streets snaking around them remind you that those wild tropical times are long gone now, but there’s still something so unusual and almost magical about this corner, squeezed on the borders between France and Switzerland, that sets it apart from, for example, no less striking Bernese Alps.

It’s this feeling of ‘archaity’, if you want, uniting with nature and refreshing lonesomeness that drapes itself around this region, drawn in heavy forestation and thankfully, for a considerable part, spared by civilization and pernicious effects it has on the environment.

But, if you have drawn a conclusion that Delémont and the Canton of Jura, lying in the Jura Mountains and Fribourg region, whose capital this city is, is a prehistoric hole with only beautiful nature to look at, you are mistaken. It’s just a small percentage of the joys and discoveries that await you here, starting from stunning architecture of the medieval Old City and many sports opportunities to the gourmet’s pleasures of tasting regional cuisine and rich cultural life, with such masterpieces of cities as neighboring Fribourg and Basel, and the heart of the country – Bern – beating a short distance away.

So, let’s learn a few things about Delémont and get a glimpse at the life of this city! Yes, a glimpse, because words will hardly be sufficient enough to relay the true character of this small hub, located in the heart of the picturesque Jura & Three-Lakes Region. Yet, rest assured, you will be charmed by it nonetheless, definitely enough to get a wish to visit it one day.

Interesting things and facts about Delémont

The city’s name originated from a word ‘mountain’

The city is very old. There is evidence that the area of the municipality was already inhabited in as early as the middle Bronze Age. The name Delemonte was first mentioned in 736-37. Then later in 1131, the German name Telsperg was documented as the first mention. Other old names of the city include Laimunt (1181) and Deleymunt (1225). The name is believed to be a derivative of the Germanic Tello or Dagili and the Latin word mons meaning mountain.

Originally, Delémont was a part of to the Canton of Bern

In 1947, the confrontation between those who were faithful to Berne and those who were in favor of the separation from the Canton of Bern made the city the focal point of unrest. As a result of two referendums, held in 1959 and 1974, the Canton of Jura was formed. Delémont was the meeting point where the drafting of the cantonal constitution took place, and later the city became the capital of the new canton, when the constitution was officially approved 1 January 1979.

The famous Jurassic Period strongly linked with dinosaurs got its name thanks to the rock strata found in the canton’s Jura Mountains

The limestone massif of the Jura extends from the Lake of Geneva to the Rhine and occupies about 12% of the total area of the country. The average height of the mountain range is 700 m. The folded relief of these mountains with intermittent ridges and streams flowing in the valleys of the mountains is very picturesque, and very old. Old enough to see a plenty of dinos strolling around its slopes and valleys.

That’s why, these mountains, first of all, became known thanks to excavations, as a result of which numerous remains of dinosaurs were found. Since, it was the site of the excavations, the limestone mountains of the Jura gave the name to the following geological period – the second segment of the Mesozoic Era, occurring from 199.6 to 145.5 million years ago and following the Triassic Period 201.3 million years ago.

This was the time, when the near-tropical Earth’s continents were still jammed together, forming the supercontinent Pangaea, but beginning to drift apart with the separation of the continents of Laurasia and Gondwana being almost complete by the late Jurassic; great plant-eating dinosaurs roaming the earth, feeding on lush ferns and palm-like cycads and bennettitaleans, smaller, but vicious; and the flowering plants (angiosperms) evolving, beginning to change the face of the Earth.

Delémont is in the midst of 3 different speaking regions

Together with the neighboring villages, Delémont is a French speaking city located between Alsatian speaking Alsace and Basel  and Swiss German speaking canton Bern. For this reason, the local of 12,562 people (as of December 2016) are usually fluent enough in at least a couple of languages and dialects.

Wenger, based in Delémont, is one of two companies that produce Swiss Army knives

The Swiss Army knife is a multifunctional pocketknife which is typically comprised of multiple tools such as a folding blade, a can opener, a screwdriver, and so on. All the tools are placed inside the handle of the knife much like a sandwich, and can be pulled out by rotating around rivets that hold the tools together. The handle is typically in its clichéd red color, with a logo of Victorinox or Wenger “cross”, and the Swiss military knives usually feature the coat of arms of Switzerland. Though the Wenger Company was acquired by its rival Victorinox in 2005, it still manufactures watches and some other licensed products, like multifunctional tools for outdoor adventures.

As for the knives, since 2013 Wenger Swiss Army knives became a part of the Victorinox collection as the “Delémont collection”retaining the brand qualities and peculiarities.

The company carries the name of its founder – a Swiss minister

The second industrial cutlery manufacturer of Switzerland Paul Boechat & Cie, the future Wenger, was established in 1893 at Courtetelle in the Delémont valley. Shortly after, it signed a contract with the Swiss Army to produce. In 1897 Theodore Wenger, who was returning home to Switzerland after having served as a minister in the USA, was hired by the group of entrepreneurs who had purchased Boechat & Cie two years earlier. Later, the company was renamed Wenger et Cie.

Theodore Wenger’s first step was to acquire a spoons and forks manufacturer, which he moved to a rented factory in Delémont later that same year. Then, in 1900, they built a new 18,000-square-foot (1,700 m2) facility, which became the new factory called Fabrique Suisse de Coutellerie et Services. They integrated both the utensil operations and the Courtetelle cutlery production into one manufacturer which still produces some of the top cutlery in Switzerland.

In 1908, in order to avoid friction between two cantons, the contract was divided between Victorinox, in the German-speaking canton of Schwyz, and  Wenger in the French-speaking part of the canton of Bern. Thus, half of the Swiss Army order was going to Victorinox, and the other half to Wegner.

The 9/11 terroristic attacks were the reason for Wenger’s crisis and subsequent integration into Victorinox

Following the events of 9/11, airport security underwent major changes. As a result of stricter regulations carrying pocket knives was restricted. Therefore, the sales of Swiss Army knives at duty-free shops dwindled drastically. Wegner S.A. was one of the Swiss Army manufacturers that experienced the crisis. In 2005, Wegner was acquired by its competitor Victorinox. Being a part of Victorinox, Wegner managed to sustain its own production of Swiss Army knives using its own brand.

Now, these two joint companies each produce their own types of knives: the “Genuine Swiss Army Knife” by Wenger and the “Original Swiss Army Knife” Victorinox.

Wenger’s Giant is listed in the Guinness World Records as the only knife, performing 141 functions

The Swiss Army knife is a well-known multi-tool which includes 87 tools performing 141 functions.  Wenger integrated a knife, a corkscrew, scissors, a can opener, and so on into one tool, which he called the Giant. Integrating 87 functions the giant set the Guinness World Record as the most multifunctional penknife.

Alfred Comte – a Swiss aviation pioneer was born in Delémont

Alfred Comte, born on the 4th of June 1895 in Delémont, was a Swiss aviation pioneer. He was also well-known as a photographer, instructor, and as one of the first aviation entrepreneurs. One of his great successes was the construction of civilian and military aircraft.

At the age of 15 the genius built a motorized bicycle, and at the tender age of 18 he obtained his private pilot’s license from the Aéro-Club of France. He served as a military pilot at the beginning of World War I. Later, he became an instruction officer for military aviation. After Porrentruy had been bombed, throughout 1916 Alfred Comte was making night flights from Delémont to prevent air space violations. When World War II broke out, he took on his military aviation duties once again. His life Alfred Comte devoted to flying, designing and building aircraft, as well as managing and founding a couple of aviation schools. All in all, he made a huge contribution into the development of Swiss aviation.

During World War II  Delémont was accidentally bombed

Sadly, that wasn’t the only such occurrence. Several severe bombing took place in Switzerland over the duration of the war, due to mistakes in navigation, as was officially claimed. How top-notch navigation could err for such long distances and take Zurich or Schaffhausen, for example, for a German city hundreds of miles away is a mystery even till now. Swiss proclaimed political neutrality was aimed exactly at avoiding any conflicts and any battles playing out on its territory, surrounded by warring enemies on all the sides. Still, after a few similar, but far more destructive accidental bombings, a number of railway employees were injured and several railway employees died on 8 September 1944 during attacks on the railway stations of Delsberg, Bassecourt and Courrendlin, which were bombed several times by the Allies.

Delsberg is winner of the Wakkerpreises 2006

The Swiss Homeland Security thus honored the city “for the revaluation of the public space in the center by renovations and the introduction of a Tempo-30-Zone”.

How to get to Delémont?

By plane:

The international airports of Basel and Bern are the closest to Delémont. Delémont is located not far from Bern, about 30 kilometers (18.6 mi) southwest of Basel, and halfway between Basel and Bienne. Thus, it is easily accessible by direct express trains from the mentioned cities, as Aarau is a big transportation hub, ideally connected to the Swiss railway network and the international airports in both Basel and Bern-Belp and more distanced Zurich and Geneva.

By train:

The railway has been constantly developing since September 1875, when Delémont first employed the Basel-Delémont route, connecting the Jurabahn to the railway network. At Delémont railway station is the connection point between the railway from Paris, Belfort, Delle and the Bienne to Basel line. The line between Belfort and Delle is currently being electrified. For that reason, an hourly Optymo bus service maintains the connection between these two points.

Besides, the city is connected to the Basel metropolitan area by the S3 line of Regio S-Bahn Basel (Basel SBB-Pruntrut). All trains on the railway line Basel-Biel have to change the direction of travel at the station in Delémont.

By bus:

In addition, Delémont has a well-developed bus system that connects it to other cities and countries, and serves the surrounding countryside.

By car:

The city is located at the junction of the main roads from Basel to Biel and La Chaux-de-Fonds. In 1998, the first section of the A16 motorway was opened on the Jurastic area with the Delsberg-Pruntrut route. In 2005 the bypasses of Delsberg and Pruntrut followed. The A16 has recently linked the city to the Swiss national road network, as well as to the French motorway network in 2016.

How to get around?

Delémont is a small city, and it’s very easy to navigate there, especially in the Old Town, which presents itself as a square with two main roads as the sides and tree intersecting smaller streets. It’s actually impossible to get lost there. The city is very beautiful and full of parks, sports fields, various orchards and other small green corners. In fact, 42.0% of the capital’s territory is forested, which makes Delémont basically drawn in green canopies of trees. It lies along the Sorne River, and stretches toll the point where the river flows into the Birs on the northern edge of the Delémont valley, a wide depression in the Jura Mountains. So, set out to discover the city on foot, and you’ll get a wonderful breathing therapy as a bonus.

As for public transport, city busses, taxis, bikes for rent are all in your disposal. In addition to this, a well-developed bus network will take you to the surrounding municipalities: Moutier, Lucelle, Pleigne, Roggenburg, Soyhières, Châtillon and Val Terbi (Montsevelier).

Where to stay and grab a bite?

Various accommodation options are available in Aarau from hotels, inns, hostels and campsites to renting an apartment from locals. You will be able to find a nice place in any price range, but be prepared that less expensive ones may be booked out, as Delémont is very close to Basel and lots of tourists tend to seek accommodation here, rather than in Basel. So, to avoid any trouble, book a room ahead. Hôtel Le National and Hôtel du Midi will be excellent choices.

As to the restaurants, due to the borders of three cultures – Swiss, French and German – meeting in one place, notwithstanding the city’s size, the cuisines represented in Delémont are varied and diverse, and will leave no person unsatisfied. Be sure to check out Auberge Les Viviers Restaurant. In the countryside and yet close to the town: the classic Auberge is situated in an idyllic spot on the edge of Delémont. It offers fresh seasonal dishes, a wide selection of meat and fish menus and pizzas baked in a wood-fired oven. While the adults can enjoy their good food totally relaxed, the children can let off steam on the playground.

The city enjoys quite an active night life as well. The intersection of “Rue du 23 juin” and “Rue de la préfecture” is full of bars and cafes. Keep in mind that they are usually crowded in the evening, so either arrive early or book a table in advance.

Shopping in Delémont

Perhaps the most well-known firm based here is Wenger, producing watches, Swiss Army knives and other licensed products, like multifunctional tools for outdoor adventures. Since, the company’s head office is located in Delémont, it would be a great idea to look for a watch right here. Wenger watches are thought to have similar simple concept of the Swiss Army Knife, with a multifunctional outdoor focus. In addition, Wenger offers a few watches focusing solely on elegance. What is especially pleasing, the prices are more welcoming than in bigger cities. A range of fine kitchen cutlery under the brand names of Swibo, Grand Maitre.

Wallet type notepads are among other products manufactured by Wegner. These have both the shape and the function of a wallet. However, inside of the twofold wallet there is a small writing pad. This unique feature makes the wallet serve the purpose of a miniature notepad. Other licensed products using the Wenger and SwissGear trademarks include camping equipment (backpacks, tents, and sleeping bags in particular), and those to market luggage, backpacks and office/business needs.

What is the weather like in Delémont?

Delemont is charming during all seasons, but it’s better to go there either in summer to fully grasp the lush beauty of the region’s nature, if you’re not scared of getting wet, or in autumn, when the weather is dryer. The wettest month is June, during which there is precipitation for an average of 12.2 days. The driest month of the year is October with precipitation for over 9 days.

Summers are usually warm with July and August being the hottest months averaging 24-25˚ C. In fact, the city with its nearby surroundings is known to experience the hottest summers in the Jura region.

Conversely, the coldest months are December and January. Most of snow falls in February and usually the weather in winter is snowy and rather pleasant with slight frost bite. So, if you have got a wish to come here in winter, especially, if you plan to do some skiing or snowboarding, the weather shouldn’t disappoint either, if you don’t count rare blizzards and slippery roads.

What to see and do in Delémont?

There’s a myriad of ideas. First of all, enjoy the stunning nature: rivers snaking through valleys, verdant meadows and lush green hills. There is plenty to explore in the city as well, from beautiful squares and monuments to museums and art galleries. From having a thorough workout while doing sports, both winter and summer type, or sleeping on straw in Martial Lachat in Courcelon 3 km east of Delémont to viewing an original Swiss farmhouse and visiting a small country cheese dairy – you won’t be bored here. So, let’s see what this city has got to offer and what can you do there!

Discover the medieval Old Town!

Anyone visiting Delémont should make an excursion around the Old Town, which still has the medieval layout with well-preserved cityscape, and is in the list of the Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites.

As to aitectural attractions, two city gates, the Porte au Loup (today’s building from 1775) and the Pruntruter Tor (Porte de Porrentruy 1756-1759), are very well preserved and dominate a big part of Delsberg, as it is called in German. Some parts of the old city walls and  the Tour des Archives, a round tower Franche Courtine from the 13th century, are still preserved.

Besides, you should take a look at the beautiful secular buildings, namely the Catholic Church of Saint-Marcel, built between 1762 and 1767, which displays a mixture of Baroque and Classicist styles. Other eye-catching Baroque monuments from the time of the prince-bishops are the Hôtel de Ville (town hall), built 1742-1745 with richly decorated stucco ceilings in the various halls, the Châtellenie – a former bailiwick, rebuilt in 1717 that today serves as a courthouse, and the Episcopal Palace (1716-1721). The former Capuchin Chapelle de Montcroix a little bit northeast of the Old Town was built in 1950 in the style of Le Raincy in Paris (1922-1923) by the Jurassic architect Jeanne Bueche and is an exposed concrete church with concrete glass windows and the mural in the choir is by Albert Schnyder.

And, of course, you will definitely be drawn by the magnificent complex of the late Gothic chapel Saint-Michel and the eponymous castle, dating from the 17th century.

Admire the castles of Delémont!

To the west of the city, on the southern slope of the Les Rangiers chain, is the Domont Castle, a late gothic structure with a staircase tower, built in 1560 and now used as a restaurant.

Then, you should drop by the Delémont Castle is the former summer residence of the Prince-Bishops of Basel. It is situated to the southwest of the Old Town. The current building stands on the site of a medieval castle. At the beginning of the 18th century, the Prince-Bishop of Basel, Johann Konrad von Reinach-Hirtzbach, commissioned the architect Pierre Racine from Renan to build a spacious summer residence.

Some parts of the building now serve as a kindergarten and primary school. The castle is a site of national significance and a part of the Swiss heritage.

Climb the hill to get a fantastic view from the Castle and the Chapelle Notre-Dame du Vorbourg – the oldest shrine in the Jura canton!

Also, you should take a look at the ruins of early medieval Vorbourg Castle are preserved on the ridge on the western flank of the Birsklus. Actually, you will catch the sight of the castle ruins and the chapel from far away, as they are well visible from the road from Basel to Delémont.

The Chapelle du Vorbourg is located below the old Vorbourg castle ruins. It towers just 1.9 kilometers from Delémont on a high cliff above the Birs, which forms a narrow cliff there. Moreover, next to it is a Marian pilgrimage chapel, the former chapel of the lower castle, consecrated almost 1000 years ago! – in 1049 – and later renewed several times. There is a very beautiful main altar in the chapel which features Madonna dating from the 16th century.

The origins of Vorbourg are unclear. The Castle of Vorbourg was first documented in the 10th century. Over time, it had different owners, including those from the French side. It is said that in 1049 Pope Leo IX had the chapel consecrated, which makes it the oldest shrine in the Jura canton dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

He himself came from the family of Egisheim, which was also one of the owners of the castle. The lower castle and chapel were built between 1150 and 1350. Damaged by the Basel earthquake, it was reconstructed in 1365. In the Swabian War it was destroyed again in 1499 and was finally abandoned during the 16th century. Since the 17th century, the Chapelle Notre-Dame du Vorbourg enjoys great popularity as a place of pilgrimage in the Jura. Since 1995, the chapel is in the care of the Benedictine monks of Le Bouveret from Valais.

Admire the monumental Renaissance fountains – a trademark of Delémont!

You’ve already heard of those fabulous fountains in Bern. Now, it’s time to check out Delsberg’s ones. They are very easy to locate at the squares of the Old Town, which are adorned by five intricate monumental figure fountains from the 16th century in the style of the Renaissance, with two of them created by Hans Michel. Be it Fontaine du Sauvage (Brunnen des Wilden), Fontaine Saint-Maurice (Mauritiusbrunnen), Fontaine du Lion (Löwenbrunnen) or Fontaine de la Vierge (Jungfrauenbrunnen) – they will amaze you without a doubt. Plus, while admiring these fountains, check how good your memory is by trying to pinpoint the similar fountains in other Swiss cities.

Explore the Jurassic Museum of Art and History!

The museum embraces various cultural, social, political and economic aspects of the region, including the period of Jurassic history. A place full of character in the heart of the Old Town of Delémont, the museum houses its collections in five adjoining old buildings. Sitting on the ramparts of the old town, these edifices are part of an architectural ensemble of the 18th and 19th centuries.

It has twenty-one permanent exhibition rooms that propose to present the history. It is rather big and you will require quite some time to fully examine it. Still, you won’t regret the time you spent there.

Go hiking or biking and discover the area’s attractions!

There are many fantastic routes with various themes in all difficulty ranges, just pick the one that seems the most exciting and check the weather and the details of the tour with the guide, or the Tourist office before heading out to avoid any mishaps during the hike. You can go on foot, or rent a bike, or even a motorbike at one of the rental offices.

Any route you choose will undoubtedly bring lots of unforgettable impressions, but be especially sure to consider a 13-km circular path, the “Sentier Auguste Quiquerez” – a themed trail dedicated to the scientist Quiquerez (1801 – 1882) -, which leads from Delémont to Soyhières and then back again to Delémont.There are 30 informaion panels which provide information about the flora and fauna, geology, ecology as well as archaeology of the surrounding area. Several historic buildings, such as the Vorbourg Castle, are encountered en route as well.

The fans of monumental, modern sculptures should head along a sculpture trail, called the “Balade de Séprais”, leading its visitors west of Delémont.

Visit nearby lying Moutier and its Jurassic Museum of Fine Arts!

Moutier is a small town, located as close as 10 km south of Delémont. It is home to the Jurassic Museum of Fine Arts, as well as a couple of other significant historic and cultural buildings, including a former Moutier-Grandval Benedictine Monastery, the illustrated bible of which today belongs to the British Museum in London.

Appreciate the largest collection of model aircraft in the world at the Museum of Model Aircraft Construction!

The museum is located in Bassecourt. It is very interesting, and you will be able to see the sketches, photos and models of the aforementioned Swiss aviation pioneer – Alfred Comte.

Get awed by the stunning nature of local gorges!

What can be a better way to experience the true scale of natural magnificence of the region, than descending into one of two local gorges?

Both the ‘Gorges de Moutier’ and ‘Gorges de Court’ are regarded as huge natural attractions, luring lots of tourist each year. However, before being engrossed by the beauty that’s going to surround you, check the route you’re going and its availability in the given season, as well as weather forecast. And don’t forget to wear a nice sturdy pair of boots, the paths are rather tricky and sometimes hard to cover.

See white tigers and other animals at the “Siky Ranch”!

This is a small private zoo in Crémines, near Moutier, which is home to many rare animals, including striking white tigers, amongst others. The zoo is very popular and it’s no wonder, kids are always ecstatic to roam there.

Participate in Notes d’Equinoxe!

The festival which unites all kinds of musical traditions from around the world, and is held to commemorate the autumn equinox in the Old Town of Delémont. It is held in September and is a massive event.

Find your way out of the biggest maze in Switzerland!

The originality of the biggest labyrinth of Switzerland, which lives its eighth summer, lies in the fact that it is ephemeral and very ecological. It is drawn in a gigantic cornfield in front of the center of La Croisée des loisirs, in Delémont.

Its dimensions are impressive: 45,000 m2 or the equivalent of eight football fields! Once the summer season is over, the farmer who owns it will shave the labyrinth-field to harvest corn.

Each year the maze is dedicated to some theme. In 2017, taking place from July 15 to September 17, it was the Olympics. At the end of the labyrinth, with the help of animators, participants were able to take on more or less crazy challenges in the SPORT-17 zone and take part in the competitions that would reward the best performers.

Who knows what they will think up next year? Either way, this is a true adventure for both young and old, and a real testament to one’s navigation skills. So, don’t miss the opportunity to check yours!

Discover Delémont’s neighbor – Basel – the cultural capital of Switzerland!

An important financial and industrial center of Switzerland, a cradle of Swiss higher education, a city that is claimed to be the cultural capital of this rich and stunning country, Basel is a city where old medieval coexists with new modern; a cosmopolitan corner that bustles with students and once in a while turns into a magical entity, all brimming with sounds and vibrant colors of Carnival, safely protected by the Basilisk – a mythical beast with the head of a rooster and a snake’s tail, one of the symbols of the city that kills everything in its sight with just one glance. Coated in mystery and centuries-old legends, this city is a true gem, an incredible find, worth of discovering, without any doubts!

Visit nearby-lying Bern – the unbelievable ancient capital of Switzerland!

Bern is considered the heart of Switzerland, the part that makes it live and function, its soul, since it possesses a lot of things that make Switzerland what it is – an incredible country, definitely one of a kind.

Hundreds of city’s namesakesbears, both alive and various kinds of artificial, thousands of flags, brown tiled rooftops on cute grey-green cubic houses, arranged in intricate neat rows and decorated with paintings, frames and ornaments, often resembling gingerbread houses, making you feel, as if you have suddenly appeared amidst the times described in the Hänsel und Gretel fairy tale with beautifully decorated balconies and windows with pots of fragrant colourful flowers overlooking ancient cozy squares with magnificent fountains and narrow cobbled streets,  winding through the city and climbing up the steep hills or descending to the glacial turquoise waters of the River Aare that snakes around and bends in a U-shaped horseshoe, with the Old City safely tucked inside and carefully protected from hardships and all bad luck.

Add arcades of all kinds and size that are so predominant in the city’s architecture and embroider it with elegant stitches; headspinning high bridges and picturesque low ones, still paved, that reach across the bright icy blue and green river to connect the peninsula to the main land, dominated by the snow-covered Bernese Alps, visible in the distance, and lots of beautiful churches and Gothic cathedrals, which amaze you by their intricate architecture.

So, don’t miss a chance to visit Delémont and have a trip to its more famous neighbours, plunging into all of the peculiarities of this island among different rich cultures and feel through the very essence of this amazing multicultural country!