The medieval delights of St Ursanne

June 11, 2013, No comments

St Ursanne view

It has to be one of Switzerland’s prettiest little towns, and least visited. St Ursanne is tucked away in the Jura hills, very close to the French border, in a gorge carved by the River Doubs.

St Ursanne square

The chunky town gateways are still there, along with all the necessary features for any self-respecting medieval town – cobbled squares, painted houses, wonky walls, and ancient fountains.

St Ursanne bridge

The place is named after St Ursinicus, an Irish monk who founded a monastery here in the 7th century, and apparently shared his cave with a bear (hence his name). Other than that, he is the patron saint for those suffering from stiff necks.

St Ursanne trees

Not too surprisingly there’s a very French feel to this small town, especially in summer with cafés spilling out under the box-cut plane trees. It’s also popular with bikers (both pedal and motor).

St Ursanne arch

It’s famous for its medieval festival every summer (this year on 12-14 July) and its delightful Christmas market over the first weekend in December (this year 7-8 December). A small market but one of my favourites.

St Ursanne cloisters

At the heart of the town is the abbey church, complete with very tranquil cloisters and a rather more ornate interior. But the only bears to be seen are decorative, left over from when it was part of Canton Bern.

St Ursanne fountain

There are only two or three streets inside the walls so it never takes long to look around, but it is a great place for having a drink in one of the many restaurants and watching the world go by.

23 June sign

And as with many towns in Jura, there’s a street called 23 June. It’s a very French habit to give dates as names for streets, and in the case it celebrates the date in 1974 when Jura voted for independence from Bern.

St Ursanne detail

St Ursanne is not on the Swiss tourist trail. This is not Gruyères or Appenzell. Nothing much happens here outside the festivals, and that makes it all the more appealing.

St Ursanne river

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