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An ancient town first mentioned in 737, DELÉMONT retains much of its medieval centre, and is an atmospheric place to stop over for an afternoon or a day. Its main historical claim to fame was as the summer residence of the prince-bishops of nearby Basel from the Middle Ages through to the Revolution. This century, the stirrings for Jurassien independence led to Delémont being named in 1976 as capital of the new canton, but it retains a small-town charm – only around 12,000 people live here – and has good access into the rolling Jura countryside for walks and rides.
It takes five minutes to cross the river and stroll northwest from the station into the Old Town. The main street is Rue du 23-Juin, longer and more impressive than you might expect for a little town, and home to the eighteenth-century Hôtel de Ville, set skewed to the road and shaded by a huge tree. This ornate building was the scene, in 1947, of a historic demonstration which sparked the subsequent liberation movement. A few steps west is the Église St-Marcel, built in the 1770s in a mixture of the lavish decoration of Rococo and the formal lines of Neoclassical, and with some lovely dark oakwood stalls. Beside the church is the château, built in 1721.
At the western end of the road is the Porte de Porrentruy, one of the old city gates, with the Fontaine du Sauvage topped with a stature of a wild man of the woods and, adjacent, the Musée Jurassien d’Art et d’Histoire (Tues–Sun 2–5pm; Fr.6; SMP). This modest but interesting museum houses in the basement the treasures from the St-Marcel church. Prime exhibit, prominent and proudly spotlit, is the beautiful golden mitre of St Germain, first abbot of Moutier in the seventh century. It’s a shame that his twisted old leather sandals, which are far more evocative, get rather shorter shrift.
A couple of kilometres northeast of Delémont is the atmospheric Chapelle de Vorbourg, a pilgrimage site tended by monks that’s dramatically located up on a forested crag below the ruins of a medieval castle.
Delémont’s tiny tourist office, 12 Place de la Gare (Mon–Fri 9am–noon & 2–6.30pm, Sat 9am–noon & 2–4pm; 032/422 97 78, www.delemont.ch) can help with local odds and ends, but the main cantonal office is in Saignelégier. The train station has a change counter (Mon–Sat 5.45am–9.15pm, Sun 6.30am–9.15pm) and bike hire, with a post office (CH-2800) across the road.
A kilometre east of the centre is an excellent HI hostel, 185 Route de Bâle (032/422 20 54, fax 422 88 30; a; March–Oct), with good facilities for families and quality food. Dorms are Fr.24. Hôtel du Boeuf, 17 Rue de la Préfecture (032/422 16 91, fax 422 20 91; b) is a clean, well-run hotel within the Old Town. On the same street you’ll find places to eat, including La Cigogne at no. 7 (closed Tues) serving home-made pasta and wood-fired pizzas. Place Roland-Béguelin, one street west, has plenty of shaded pavement cafés, and is also the scene of the town market (Wed & Sat morning).
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