FIND OUT ABOUT THE BEST CASTLES IN SWITZERLAND
Did you know that Switzerland is home to more than 500 castles? That’s right, you can find 500 castles in Switzerland and other fortified locations in this tiny country!
And each of the castles has a unique history just waiting to be uncovered. Imagine walking through these picture-perfect castles of all shapes, sizes, and eras and being transported to another time. It’s like stepping into a fairytale!
Now, when most people think of Switzerland, they think of the Alps, stunning lakes and waterfalls, chocolate, and cheese, Swiss watches, or the banking system. Yes, castles are surely not one of the first things that we connect with Switzerland. But they make this beautiful country even more beautiful!
But why does Switzerland have so many castles to begin with? Well, Switzerland is a landlocked nation surrounded by several other European countries – this is also a reason why there are so many castles. During the medieval era, the presence of castles was pivotal in maintaining control over disputed territories.
Numerous castles were strategically constructed near trade routes or along mountain passes to assert dominance over vital trade pathways.
Of course, now these castles do not have that function any longer. In fact, many of these castles in Switzerland are open to the public, and I’m here to share with you the best ones to check out.
So, after this little info on why there are so many castles in this small country, let´s go for a magical journey through history and find out about the best Swiss castles.
BEST CASTLES IN SWITZERLAND
So, here they are – the best castles to visit in Switzerland.
Chateau de Chillon (Chillon Castle)
Chateau de Chillon (Chillon Castle) is perched on a rock overlooking the blue waters of Lake Geneva on its eastern shore near Montreux. The water castle in Switzerland stands out as the country’s most frequented historical structure, attracting over 400,000 visitors annually!
For about four centuries, this island served as a strategic point for overseeing the movement of ships on Lake Geneva and the crucial land route leading to the St. Bernhard Pass. Chillon was under the ownership of the Counts of Savoy from the 12th to the 16th century.
Later, it came under the control of the residents of Bern, and eventually, the inhabitants of Vaud gained dominance over the water castle.
Check out my Montreux guide for more travel tips.
- The castle is open all year.
- Adult tickets cost about 13.50 CHF, and children’s tickets are around 7 CHF.
The magnificent castle known as Oberhofen am Thunersee lies on the lake bed of Lake Thun; when you visit this nostalgic but unique area, you’re in for a medieval feast.
When it was controlled by the Habsburgs in the 14th century, this fortress was encircled by a moat and a wall to defend its people from intruders. Following the battle of Sempach, it was captured by Bernese forces and had a variety of uses from the 16th to the 17th centuries. It was later transformed and has remained the private property of the Counts of Pourtalès ever since.
Locals consider it one of the most beautiful castles in Switzerland – the medieval castle was also a main reason why Oberhofen won the title of the „most beautiful village in Switzerland“ in 2018.
Here are travel tips for the region of Interlaken.
- Tickets are 12 CHF for adults and 5-10 CHF for children and teens.
This long-standing castle is located in the town of Thun in the Bernese Oberland and was built between the 1180s and 1190s. Thun Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Switzerland – its location, right on the foot of Thun Market Square, makes it an eye-catcher.
Thun Castle was built by Duke Berthold V of Zähringen as part of his strategy to increase authority and influence among the knights’ ranks. The castle was handed over and utilized until it became a castle museum for the public to enjoy, filled with highly awaited antiquities.
The courtyard and its wings are also available to the public, so if you want to learn about the peculiarities that followed the Bernese era, come to look at this remarkable, once-used castle.
Check out my Thun post for more info.
- This castle is open daily from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., except for the winter season, when it is only open on Sundays.
- Adult entrances are 10 CHF and 8 CHF for children and the elderly.
- Free with a Swiss Travel Pass
The Castle of Hünegg is located inside the administrative district of Thun, namely that of Hilterfingen, very close to the Oberhofen Castle. It stands in front of a gushing verdant park with old-natured trees that have grown used to the environment surrounding the castle.
The outstanding architectural design of this castle has remained ageless, which is one of the sought-after reasons for tourists to visit. The building was created by locals in 1861 after being commissioned and brought to life by Baron Albert von Parpart of Prussia and his wife, Adelheid von Bonstetten.
After some time had passed, Gustav Lemke-Schuckert remodeled it into a nouveau-fashioned enclosure to his satisfaction. The castle’s basement, hallway, and terrace are some of the attractions open to tourists visiting the castle grounds.
- Open from May to October.
- The entrance is about 10 CHF for adults and 5 – 8 CHF for children and the handicapped.
In Sion, located in the southern canton of Valais, the hills of Tourbillon and Valère are a noticeable part of the town. One of them is the stunning Castle Tourbillon.
Shortly before the year 13000 the bishop of Sion, Coniface de Challant, undertook the construction of the castle – though it was completed by its successors – the frescos of the chapel date back to the second quarter of the 14th century (though it took a recent restaurant ion to make it visible).
In 1417 the castle was set on fire – it was restored a few decades later – and then became the summer residence of the bishop though it lost in importance during the 18th century when the castle was definitively ruined during another fire.
However, the Saint-Georges and Saint-Grat Chapel are still well preserved. And they are one of the main sights in Sion.
- Everyone of any age is welcome to enter Tourbillon Castle free of charge.
Castle of Valère
Sion, in the southwestern Swiss canton of Valais, is home to the well-known cathedral of Valeria, also known as the Castle of Valère/Valère Basilica. This castle from the Middle Ages features bright Gothic and Roman decor, a remnant of a once-thriving civilization.
Bishop Hugo erected the first buildings on this site in the 12th century. Over the years, this church grew in stature to become one of Switzerland’s most revered places of worship.
When you visit this site, you should definitely check out the preserved organs, which are remarkable given their advanced age and the fact that they haven’t been used or repaired in a very long time. Here are more travel tips for Sion.
- From 11 a.m. until 6 p.m., tourists may explore the cathedral and its many works of art and historical landmarks.
- Everyone of any age is welcome to enter the property free of charge.
The Schadau Castle is located on the southern shores of Lake Thun – in Schadau Park just a few minute’s walk from the old town of Thun.
It is a beautifully designed edifice with a rich history related to its patron, Abraham Denis Alfred de Rougemont, who commissioned its construction between 1846 and 1854. As it is now, it is the result of repairs that began as early as 1925. Not surprisingly, the castle attracts guests from all over the world because of its breathtaking location.
The castle was decorated romantically from top to bottom, with ornate old designs painted on the walls and bricks changed to appear like they were from ancient Greece.
Schaudau Castle is now a hotel and restaurant.
The French-style château is perched on a hill overlooking the picturesque Alpine foothills of Fribourg in the town of Gruyères. The Counts of Gruyères held the castle until the middle of the 16th century. The interiors are decorated with stained glass windows, paintings by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, and elaborate antique furniture.
Gruyères Castle, in the medieval town famous for its manufacture of Gruyeres cheese, was erected in the late 13th century and is one of the most splendid castles to visit in Switzerland. Head outdoors to stroll in a lush garden and take in the picturesque vistas.
Fascinating guided tours may be given upon request. Throughout these visits, storytellers in period garb will share tales of the castle’s history and local lore. Check out my Gruyeres post for more.
- Tickets are 7 CHF for adults and 6 CHF for youngsters and the elderly.
Located in the Swiss canton of Bern, the town of Spiez along its bay is one of the most picture-perfect places in the country, complete with vineyards and a background of the blue Thunersee and the surrounding Alps.
One of the oldest castles in Switzerland, this beautiful keep was built in 933. Many additions and alterations were made to the castle during the following centuries, so it now features many architectural eras and styles.
It’s a delightful surprise, a combination of classical Swiss architecture and Baroque concepts, and a gem of Switzerland waiting to be discovered. Check out my Spiez guide for more travel tips.
- The entrance cost to this castle is 10 CHF for adults and 2 CHF for children.
If you want to view one of the few moated castles in Switzerland, you should visit Hallwyl Castle, which is situated on two islands in the Aabach River. The local lords and nobles built the castle in the 11th century as a stronghold. The current castle was constructed through centuries of additions and improvements beginning in the 14th century.
A beautiful trail loops around the park and provides views of the walls and buildings from every direction. You can virtually smell, feel, and taste the centuries of history that have passed over the land possessed initially by the castle Lords. Compared to other European castles, its small size really works to its advantage.
This is the place to go if you want to learn more about the history of Switzerland.
- Adult tickets cost 14 CHF, while children’s tickets cost 8 CHF.
Stockalper Castle is a Swiss castle in the city of Brig-Glis, and it stands out from the crowd thanks to its three tall buildings, which are almost identical in height. This impressive structure was built in the 16th century at the behest of the powerful Kaspar Stockalper and later renovated in the 19th century.
Enjoy exploring the castle’s arcades, vaults, and halls, followed by a look at the rose bushes in the royal garden. The view over the Old Town of Brig, the monastery, and the Jesuit church from the boundaries of the castle’s three towers is nothing short of breathtaking.
You will be amazed by the silk paintings from the 18th century once you enter this castle.
- Entry is 10 CHF for adults, 5 CHF for preteens, and free for toddlers and younger kids.
The historic castles of Bellinzona may be found in the Ticino region of southern Switzerland, specifically in the city of Bellinzona. It’s important to remember that these defenses were built to prevent an assault on the Alpine Pass, making them exceptional in their class.
The Bellinzona pass, which costs 30 CHF, grants you access to the whole of the castle’s grounds which includes Castelgrande, Montebello, and Sasso Corbaro. They are all free to visit with a Swiss Travel Pass.
Below, you’ll find information on the three castles that make up the town: Castelgrande, Montebello, and Sasso Corbaro.
Castelgrande is the largest and most exciting castle of the three castles of Bellinzona. It is situated in Ticino canton. A popular attraction of this castle is its museum and slide display. The museum is called Sala Arsenale and is home to interesting temporary exhibitions and presentations throughout the country and worldwide.
A natural sensory path in the backyard is an excellent place for barefoot adventurers of all ages.
From Castelgrande, you may visit the castle of Montebello on the other hill by taking the stairs down to Piazza Collegiata and then walking along the lane next to the church of the same name.
During the springtime festival La Spada Nelle Rocca, the castle walls come alive with the presence of women, horsemen, archers, and musicians decked up in splendid costumes. A historical and archaeological museum may also be found inside this castle.
Sasso Corbaro is nestled in a forest of chestnut trees on a promontory that looks out over the Bellinzona region. Although it is the smallest of Bellinzona’s three castles, at 495 meters in height, it is also the tallest.
The Canton Museum of Art and Folk Culture has relocated to the historic Sasso Corbaro. Short-term exhibits are also held there. From Piazza Collegiata and Piazza Nosetto, it’s a steep 40-minute trek downhill to your destination.
One of the hidden gems in Switzerland is Schloss Wildegg nestled between Aarau and Brugg in north Switzerland. Wildegg Castle was built by the Habsburgs in the first half of the 13th century.
From 1483 to 1912 the Effinger family were the owners of the property – the castle apartments and rooms are furnished in their original style and they show the aristocratic lifestyle of this family. The large residence with farmyard, aviary, park, beautiful gardens, and forest has essentially been preserved intact and is today a cultural amenity of national importance.
Visible from afar visiting this castle offers a lot to its visitors. The baroque working farm and pleasure gardens are located on a terrace in the middle of vineyards and are home to nearly 300 ancient crop varieties
- The entrance fee for adults is around 14 CHF
Schloss Laufen is located just at the Rhine Falls near Schaffhausen. It is believed that it took the Barons of Laufen – who lived there beginning in the year 858 – 1,200 years to build the fortress. Since then, the castle has been the center of numerous wars, and as a result, it has many fascinating tales to tell.
The panoramic glass elevator and its vantage point provide the most unique perspectives of this impressive natural wonder. In addition to the “Historama” display, a tour of the castle is recommended so visitors can understand more about the castle’s 1,000-year history. All the magnificent castle rooms and exhibits make this castle a sight to see.
- Seeing Schloss Laufen will set you back roughly 5 CHF.
The Munot Fortress in Schaffhausen draws many visitors every year. The city’s round citadel rises above the Rhine River, providing breathtaking views of the waterway and its environs.
The fortress was never meant to be a home but rather a stronghold. Around the 16th century, Heinrich Schwarz used forced labor to construct the Fortress of Munot, which was used as a defensive stronghold armed with artillery.
The stone platform at the top is crowned by one massive round tower that looks out over the Rhine and the hills of Emmersberg. The castle’s most striking features are the caponier galleries in the foundation and the winding stone path leading to the turret.
- Look no further for an inexpensive destination; here, you can get in for zero CHF – are not free activities in Switzerland great?!
This specific castle is located inside the city limits of Aarburg, high on a scarped, rocky slope that overlooks the ground. It was built for defensive purposes by the Lords of Büron sometime in the 12th century.
From the 1400s forward, changing hands many times, it was rebuilt several times until it came under the authority of the present government.
The sturdy limestone walls, the tower house accessible by the tower steps, and the living quarters and cell blocks make this Swiss landmark a must-see for any history buff.
- Adults must pay 10 CHG to enter the beautiful grounds, while children 16 and under get in for free.
- Tours are only available on Saturdays from April through September.
Scuol, in the Lower Engadin, Graubünden, is home to Tarasp Castle. Initially constructed in the 11th century, it was owned by the Austrian Empire until 1803. There were several failed efforts to take the castle throughout the years.
The castle fell into disrepair until 1900 when it was bought by Karl August Lingner (who later invented the mouthwash Odor). For 16 years, it was meticulously restored to its former glory, becoming a place of pilgrimage for all castle enthusiasts.
The castle features several historically furnished rooms and a chapel with a 2,500-pipe organ. It also features an extensive collection of ancient and contemporary works of art. It has reopened its doors to the public.
Concerts and tours are regularly scheduled throughout the year, and visitors are encouraged to pitch in with some light upkeep as part of the fun.
- For about 13 CHF guests can explore the palace grounds all year long.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE BEST SWISS CASTLES TO SEE
Switzerland’s castles are not just relics of the past but vibrant testimonies to a rich history. From the grandeur of Château de Chillon to the mystical allure of Tarasp Castle, each offers a unique journey through time.
Though I personally will always love Switzerland mostly for its mountains and lakes, I love visiting the castles that come in all shapes and sizes. They are not the typical landmarks in the country but rather underrated – but as you can see, there are some beautiful castles in Switzerland to visit.
So, consider adding some castles to your Switzerland itinerary. Embark on your own adventure, exploring these architectural marvels and discovering the stories etched within their ancient walls