Aarau was founded as a town, on a rocky outcropping above the River Aare, around the year 1248 by the Earls of Kyburg, Hartmann IV and Hartmann V. It was then referred to as Arowe for the first time. The oldest confirmed evidence for the existence of an urban settlement dates back to 1256. The small town was dominated by the Turm Rore (Rore Tower), the seat of the Kyburg bailiff. The tower is now integrated into the Town Hall.

In 1263, the Kyburg family had already died out. The Habsburgs took over as new territorial lords. They granted Aarau the town charter on 4 March 1283.

In 1415, with the help of the city of Solothurn, Bern conquered lower Aargau, which from then on formed part of Bern’s peasant lands.

The population growth in the 16th century led to houses being extended upwards and to condensed building methods. In Aarau, early forms of industry were developing, with the main items manufactured being bells, weapons and knives. The textile industry established itself from the early 18th century. German immigrants introduced cotton weaving and silk fabrication, and significantly contributed to the wealth of the city.

In mid-March of 1798, French troops occupied the town of Aarau under the command of General Guillaume-Marie-Anne Brune. On 22 March 1798, it was declared by the French occupiers as the capital of the Helvetic Republic and thereby as Switzerland’s first ever capital city (only for a few months, however). Dating back to these times is the city expansion on the Laurenzenvorstadt, a uniform street feature in classicist style which was to serve as a status symbol for the town.

In 1803, Canton Aargau was extended to its present boundaries and Aarau was definitely confirmed as the canton’s capital. In the young canton capital, forward-thinking men laid the foundations for cultural, political and economic growth. In Aarau, amongst others, the three large Swiss national associations of the Schützen (marksmen), Turner (gymnasts) and Sänger (singers) were founded.

On 1 January 2010, the municipality of Rohr was merged with Aarau. This caused the total population to increase to around 20,000. Aarau is now the most densely populated city in Canton Aargau.


Guided City Tours

Discover both the historic and the modern sides of Aarau, observe the city from above, embark on a culinary journey of discovery, or explore the surroundings by bicycle.

18 qualified city guides with plenty of experience and extensive knowledge offer exciting guided tours.