Travel Guide

Zofingen – A Lively Small Town with A Rich History

Old town of Zofingen. Picture source: zofingen.ch

Heiternplatz in Zofingen

Children’s festival (Kinderfest) in Zofingen. Picture source: ­zofingen.ch

Zofingen in the western tip of the Canton Aargau with a population of around 12 000 is centrally located between the cities of Zurich, Basel, Bern and Lucerne, close to the junction of Switzerland’s most important north-south and west-east routes. The lively small town is known as a regional center and an attractive site for business and industry. With its rich history, the charming old town – the largest unspoiled historic town in Canton Aargau – and many long-established concerts and events, there is much to see and do in Zofingen.

 

History

Zofingen has a long history: stone tools found in the area suggest that it was settled by hunting tribes as far back as the Neolithic period. In the third century BC the Helvetians took possession of the land. The remains of a Roman estate from the first century AD bear witness to the subsequent era of Roman rule. The restored mosaic floors from that time are now open to the public at no charge.

The Alemanni arrived in the 6th century and established one of the oldest parishes in Canton Aargau. A canonical monastery was founded by the House of Frohburg in the 11th century, and in 1231 Zofingen was first officially mentioned, before it fell into the hands of the Habsburgs in 1299. In 1415 Zofingen was conquered by the Bernese and in 1528 the Protestant reformation was introduced. The town’s affiliation with Canton Bern ended with the proclamation of the ­Helvetic Republic in 1798. Since 1803 Zofingen has been part of Canton Aargau and gradually grew into a regional center.

 

Attractions

The town has much to offer, both for tourists and for the local population, including a variety of green spaces, public playgrounds and the Heitern recreational area nearby. Zofingen’s transportation system is well connected with the entire country, and a wide range of leisure activities is available, including sports events and concerts. The historic old town is Zofingen‘s hallmark. It is one of the most beautiful and best maintained in all of Switzerland. The town’s layout is based on a standard plan: an irregular rectangle of approximately 470 meters in length and with a maximum width of 225 meters, a typical Frohburg layout.

Zofingen contains a number of historic buildings. To this day, many of the details and features are evidence of Zofingen’s interesting past. The charm of the historic environment can also be experienced with several imaginative city tours covering a variety of topics and focal points. How about a hangman’s tour, for example, where the guests are taken to various earlier crime scenes to explore the dark side of the town? Or a side trip to the Middle Ages after dark with a night watchman to hear some exciting and bizarre stories about these fellows who apparently were not always easy to get along with? Other opportunities are a guided tour with a market woman, or a fountain and water tour (Zofingen’s old town has 22 fountains with running water), a tour for children, a museum tour or to the municipal church and its crypt. There is something to see for everyone.

The central point of the old town is the Niklaus-Thut square with the fountain memorializing the town’s hero and former mayor. Other noteworthy buildings include the town hall, constructed in the late 18th century according to the plans of Niklaus Emanuel Ringier. It includes a classicistic municipal hall and a lovely interior courtyard with the oldest fountain in Zofingen. The municipal church, the former St. Mauritius monastery church, is Zofingen‘s landmark in the center of the old town. The basic design of the three-aisled structure is from the 11th century. The church’s oldest foundations are estimated to date from around 600 AD. The steeple is over 60 meters high and since 1929, it comprises a set of six bells (the largest bell weighs approximately 6900 kg, the smallest 600 kg).

Outside of the old town is the Heiternplatz, which is well known in Zofingen and beyond. The unusual event venue is surrounded by linden trees and was developed as a parade ground in 1745. It forms a delightful background for open-air music events and offers views of the old town and the mountains. A wilflife park is also located nearby, where a variety of deer, wild boars and chickens roam in the natural environment with time-honored trees and a small creek. The attractive location and its proximity to the town make Heiternplatz a popular destination. 

But – not only is there much to see and do, there is also a lot going on in Zofingen. Over the course of a year, the town regularly transforms into a hotspot for countless well-established events and festivals.

 

Celebrations and events

The highlight of any year, without a doubt, is the Children’s Festival. It is celebrated on the first Friday in July. By and large, the program has not changed much in over 150 years, and it is considered to be the most beautiful day of the year for the children (and the adults) of Zofingen. The high spots of the event are a military tattoo on the evening before in the lanes and on the squares of the old town, the parade the following morning with a ceremony in the municipal church, the get-together of the participants in the afternoon with presentations, games and music on Heiternplatz and the torchlight parade in the evening through the darkened old town. The afternoon events also include the reenactment of a battle between different groups. And nobody in Zofingen would think of missing the lunch of traditional sausage rolls. 

Since 1991, a major event has taken place in mid-­August of every year at Heiternplatz: the Heitere Open Air Festival. Meanwhile it has grown into a multi-day affair and it is one of best- known open air festivals in Switzerland, attended by tens of thousands of visitors from near and far. During the festival week, days before it officially starts, a variety of concerts and events are already happening on Zofingen’s local hill.

The Powerman endurance race is another fixed annual event taking place in Zofingen. For 30 years it has been the measure of all things in the sport of duathlon and is the undisputed Number One of international duathlon events. What the Ironman Hawaii is for triathletes is the Powerman Zofingen for duathletes. The goal of all competitors is to achieve the fastest time in running 10 km, followed by 150 km bicycling and ending with another 30-km run in and around the town. 

For centuries, Zofingen has had the right to hold markets. Unusual markets have sprung up in Zofingen in recent years, such as Bio Marché, the art fair, the agricultural market of Pro Specie Rara or the Christmas Market for the Senses. 

 

Business and culture

Zofingen is home to many industrial, trade and commercial companies, including national and international corporations, such as Ringier AG, Müller Martini AG and, of course, our very own Siegfried AG. But small and medium-sized companies are also well represented with a diverse mix of businesses, especially in the old town. Overall, there are more than 1100 companies in Zofingen. The region is an attractive site for innovative businesses, offering many qualified employees, excellent transportation links, attractive framework conditions, and a high quality of life.

Zofingen is an active town with many-faceted, high-quality and coordinated cultural activities. With specific cultural support, established providers of cultural experiences and a variety of events and exhibits, Zofingen is known to art lovers far beyond the town. 

 

  • The group “Kleine Bühne” organizes events with known and up-and-coming artists in the minor performing arts. 
  • The Zofingen art museum typically features four or five exhibitions every year. It preserves and honors art in the Aargau region with retrospectives, shows and publications and at the same time, it supports the work of regional and national artists.
  • The museum at General-Guisan Street houses a history and a natural history section. The history department includes prehistory and early history, the Ringier museum, the Zofingia museum, a coin collection, the findings from Alemanni graves and an important collection relating to the defense system. A significant film collection (the Scholl Archive) shows moving pictures from 1929 on. The department of natural history has a variety of extensive collections, including the collection of Hermann Fischer-Siegwart (1842–1925).
  • Musik & Theater Zofingen arranges theater and music programs for the Municipal Hall in Zofingen. Classical and current theater performances as well as a wide variety of music are part of every season’s program.
  • The purpose of the group Kulturraum Hirzenberg Zofingen is to enrich, preserve and promote the cultural life in Zofingen, especially with respect to music. The primary goal is to present artists who, due to their reputation, can generally only be enjoyed at the festivals of Lucerne, Gstaad or Davos. One of the priorities is the quality of the performances. However, in addition to classical music there is also room for entertainment and humor. The intention of the members of Verein Kulturraum Hirzenberg is to support young, talented artists.
  • The literature festival in Zofingen takes place after the Frankfurt Book Fair with selected representatives of the particular guest country. 
  • The City Library of Zofingen has been a place of culture and interaction since 1693 and combines tradition and the modern world. It offers children, adolescents and adults an extensive and up-to-date media collection, which also includes a digital library.
  • The Zofingia fraternity is an important part of Zofingen’s cultural life. Established in 1819 by students from Bern and Zurich it is the oldest fraternity in Switzerland. Zofingen was selected as its headquarters because of the town’s location mid-way between Bern and Zurich. The active members of the Zofingia fraternity, which now has 14 sections, get together in Zofingen every year for the so-called “Central Fest”, a celebration of its foundation. On the occasion of its 75th anniversary, Zofingia presented the town with the new Niklaus-Thut fountain.
  • True to the slogan “Zofingen moves and connects” the pleasant small town has something in store for everyone.

 

Facts and Figures:
Canton: Aargau
District: Zofingen
Population: approx. 12 000
Mayor: Hans-Ruedi Hottiger

 

Further information:
www.zofingen.ch
www.heitere.ch
www.powerman.ch
www.museumzofingen.ch