Castles are among the top attractions for European travelers, and Switzerland has hundreds of them sitting proudly among the Alps, atop rocky hills, and on lake islands. Visitors from around the world are awed by the grandeur of Switzerland’s castles from palaces with fairytale charm to sturdy fortitudes built to preserve the country’s long-standing neutrality.
Most of Switzerland’s castles were either built upon Roman ruins or ameliorated by families of nobility after the fall of the empire. They’ve been used as residences, prisons, rehabilitation centers, and more. Today, Switzerland’s castles serve as everything from museums to venues for weddings and public events.
Each one of these top 10 castles in Switzerland has its own story to tell and gives you insight into the country’s rich history and culture.
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The original Tourbillon Castle was built between the 13th and 14th centuries. Mostly destroyed by fire in 1788, the castle’s ruins are found on a rocky hill overlooking the city of Sion in the southwestern part of Switzerland. Luckily, a 15th-century chapel decorated in frescoes survived the fire. Along with breathtaking views from the battlements, the chapel and ruins are worth the steep climb up to see them.
Once a residence for bishops from Sion, the castle had a turbulent past. It survived several attacks, the first most serious one happening in 1417 when a large part of the castle was destroyed. It was rebuilt and repaired but sadly, once again destroyed by the fire of 1788 which also overtook the city of Sion.
The castle’s location is Place Maurice Zermatten, 1950 Sion. Guided tours are offered from mid-March to mid-November.
Located on a rocky island in Lake Geneva, Chillon Castle is easily one of the most visited historic sites in Europe and the most famous castle in Switzerland. It is said that Prince Eric’s castle in The Little Mermaid is modeled after its storybook looks. But in spite of its charming appearance with soaring walls and multiple towers, it served as a state prison for much of its existence.
In historical records, the castle is mentioned as early as 1150, but the exact date of its origin is not known. It was overtaken by the Bernese in 1536 who ruled it as a fortress, arsenal, and prison for two and a half centuries. The castle has belonged to the Canton of Vaud since the late 18th century. A restoration campaign that started in the late 19th century is still ongoing.
Explore the halls, courtyards, and bedrooms of this magical castle lakeside between Montreux and Villeneuve any day of the year except on major holidays.
With origins dating back to 933, Spiez is one of the oldest castles in Switzerland. And since its construction continued for centuries afterward, visitors today will get to see a variety of architectural styles. For example, the old Castle church is Early Romanesque, the courtrooms are from the Renaissance Era, and the southside addition is elaborate 18th-century Baroque.
Spiez Castle is in a spectacular setting in one of Europe’s most picturesque bays and is surrounded by lush vineyards. Climb the castle’s tower for views of the Bernese Oberland and Lake Thun.
Visit the castle museum where exhibitions will teach you about the castle’s 1,300-year-long history. You’ll discover the personal life story of Adrian von Bubenberg, a warrior who once dwelt in the castle, and learn many more stories.
Spiez Castle is located at Schlossstrasse 16, 3700 Spiez, Switzerland. Operation times are between May 1st and October 31st.
The Castles of Bellinzona
Bellinzona, the capital city of Ticino, is known for its three grandiose castles Castelgrande, Castello Montebello, and Castello Sasso Corbaro. The oldest and most imposing of the three is Castelgrande built in the 13th century, and the other two are exemplary of Switzerland’s best-preserved medieval castles. Sasso Carbaro is the highest of the three and has the best view. Perched on a rocky hill, you can see the entire city below.
The three castles once had fortified walls that formed a ring around them but little of it remains today. Since the castles played a major role in history by protecting the capital city, they have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit the Castles Of Bellinzona at Salita Castelgrande 18, 6500 Bellinzona from April to November.
Overlooking the waters of Lake Thun in the Canton of Bern, Oberhofen Castle is a turreted palace that looks as if it belongs in a fairytale. The monumental white spiral jutting out over Lake Thun is the feature that gives this castle its fairytale charm.
Construction on Oberhofen Castle began in the 13th century and continued for many more centuries. As you stroll through the grandeur of the castle, you’ll experience an assortment of architectural styles. Visitors are always amazed by the 13th-century chapel with its Romanesque frescoes and the Turkish smoking parlor. The lovingly restored rooms and gardens are a living museum that is a most enjoyable experience.
Oberhofen Castle is located at Schloss 4, 3653 Oberhofen am Thunersee, Switzerland. Events are held here throughout the year, and you can book special events such as weddings.
Located on Lake Zurich above the old town of Rapperswil (also known as the “town of roses”) this 13th-century castle was once vital to controlling passing ships on the three sides of water surrounding it. Time took its toll on the castle and it fell into deep disrepair. Miraculously, Count Wladyslaw Broel-Plater, a Polish emigrant was able to lease it in 1870. He lovingly and expertly restored the castle and converted it into the Polish National Museum.
Rapperswil Castle is also known as the most beautiful castle in the Zurich area. Each corner has a tower, the most notable being the five-sided clock tower. With a visit to the Polish museum, visitors will learn the history of Swiss-Polish relationships and the story of Nobel prize winner Marie Curie-Sklodowska.
The castle is located at Lindenhügel, 8640 Rapperswil-Jona, Switzerland.
Thun Castle’s location near Lake Thun with views of the Aare River and the city of Bern makes it one of Switzerland’s most popular attractions. It was built near the end of the 12th century for the Zahringen family, but they preferred staying at their other residence and never lived there. Two decades after it was completed, the property was inherited by the House of Kyberg who built on the upper levels of the complex.
Besides its stunning setting, the castle’s other standout features are its well-preserved donjon (dungeon), its four corner towers with views, and the tower of Knight’s Hall built in the 12th century.
Tour all five floors of Thun Castle at Schlossberg 1, 3600 Thun, Switzerland.
Lenzburg Castle in the Canton of Aargau just west of Zurich is a site of historical significance. It has survived many political uprisings since the 12th century. It’s also been the home of a German poet and an American adventurer. Frank Wedekind spent his youth in the castle with his family who emigrated from Germany and purchased it in 1872. In 1893, American Augustus E. Jessup and his wife purchased the castle and moved in.
The castle was expertly renovated in 1986 and opened for public tours. Today, a variety of cultural events are held at the castle including hands-on activities for kids. Guests can invite and entertain in elegance in the bookable event spaces at Knights Hall which was added in the 14th century.
Lenzburg Castle’s address is Schloss, 5600 Lenzburg, Switzerland.
You probably think of the world-famous Gruyeres cheese when you hear the name of this Swiss town in the Canton of Fribourg. The town of Gruyeres is known for more than its cheese. It’s home to the spectacular Gruyères Castle, one of the region’s most significant landmarks.
The castle was built in the 13th century in a square plan which was the style for fortifications at that time in the Savoy region. It was owned by the Counts of Gruyeres until the middle of the 16th century and has been passed on to families of nobility over the years.
In addition to its scenic surroundings, the Gruyères Castle is loved for its quaint looks and charm rather than its imposing stature. It has several towers, an impressive inner courtyard, and a beautifully landscaped garden. Inside the intricately painted walls are frescoes and other historical treasures.
Tour the Gruyeres Castle at Rue du Château 8, 1663 Gruyères, Switzerland.
Northern Switzerland’s gorgeous Aarburg Castle dates back to medieval times as discovered by 13th-century writings. The exact date of its origins is not known.
The middle of the castle is located on a narrow ridge and includes a limestone-walled keep and tower house. The bottom floor is actually rock directly carved out from the hill.
The castle was overtaken by the Bernese in the early 15th century. Extensive renovations and add-ons began in the 16th century and continued into the 17th century.
Today, the Aarburg Castle serves as a center for the reform of juvenile offenders called Kantonale Jugendheim. Drive by and admire it at Schlossrain 1, Aarburg. Switzerland.
Map of Swiss Castles
Frequently Asked Questions
How many castles are there in Switzerland?
Switzerland has about 500 castles and fortified locations listed as heritage sites.
Is Switzerland famous for its castles?
Switzerland is famous for castles of historical significance that date back to the Middle Ages.
What castle in Switzerland is the most visited?
Chillon Castle on the banks of Lake Geneva is the most visited castle in Switzerland.