Switzerland has its fair share of stunning castles; one such landmark is in the tiny town of Oberhofen. Set on the shore of Lake Thun, Oberhofen Castle is one of my favorite landmarks in the Bernese Oberland and a must if you’re staying in the region.
It’s easily accessible from Interlaken, Lake Thun, and even Bern. Featuring interesting architecture, lavish rooms, and a fabulous smoking parlor on the top floor, the castle offers a different way of experiencing this region, usually known for tall mountains and gondola rides.
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|Schloss 4, 3653 Oberhofen am Thunersee, Switzerland
|Mid-May – October; Tuesday to Sunday, from 11 AM until 5 PM
|Free with Swiss Museumspass, Museen Bern, Flexi Pass, Youth Pass, Oberhofner Museumspass, Schlössercard, VMS-Mitgliederkarte, Raiffeisenkarte
|Handicapped accessible WC, suitable for children and the elderly
|In front of the school in Oberhofen
|Bus from Interlaken, Sigriswil, boat
History of Oberhofen Castle
Oberhofen Castle boasts a rich history characterized by architectural transformations and powerful local families. It began in the 12th century when Freiherr von Oberhofen ordered the construction of Balm Castle atop a nearby hill.
In the following century, this castle passed to the von Eschenbach family through marriage, who decided to build a newer, moated castle on the shore of Lake Thun. That is the first version of the Oberhofen Castle as we know it today.
Several different families then owned Oberhofen Castle over the years since. It wasn’t until it fell into the hands of the Pourtàles family in the 19th century that the castle underwent major architectural transformations. This family transformed the castle into a summer residence and added many of the neo-Gothic elements that are present even today.
Oberhofen Castle Facts
Before we get into the logistics of visiting Oberhofen Castle, here are a few things to know about the landmark and its appeal:
- Oberhofen Castle is more than 700 years old
- The castle walls are more than 2 meters thick
- Oberhofen Castle is famous for its neo-Gothic architectural elements
- It’s home to the Museum of Bernese culture
- In 1940, the Oberhofen Castle Foundation was established by William Maul Measy, an American lawyer
- Ownership of the castle has changed hands many times throughout history
Location and How to Get There
Oberhofen Castle is situated on the northern shore of Lake Thun and is easily accessible by buses and boats from Thun, Interlaken, Sigirswil, and a few other towns on the lake shores.
There are two options for travel from Interlaken to Oberhofen Castle:
Riding the bus is the quickest way of reaching Oberhofen Castle from Interlaken. Head to the Interlaken West station and get on the Bus 21, and you’ll be at the castle in about 45 minutes.
Traveling by boat is a great day out. Total travel time is an hour and 45-50 minutes, but it’s the more scenic option out of the two. It’s also a great excuse to go on a cruise on Lake Thun and enjoy the stunning Swiss lake from a different perspective.
The Oberhofen pier is next to the castle, so you’ll have to walk very little if you opt for the boat ride. The boats also depart from the Interlaken West port.
If you’re traveling to Zurich, you first need to reach Interlaken. The total travel time is around two hours and includes one train change in Bern. it’s approximately 55 minutes by train to Bern, and then another 55 minutes from Bern to Interlaken.
A quicker option is to take a train to Thun (with a stop in Bern), and then ride the bus to Oberhofen. It’s an hour and 20 minutes by train and then an extra 20 minutes by bus, so at least an hour quicker than traveling through Interlaken.
You have two options when traveling from Bern. One is to take a train to Interlaken West, which takes about 45 minutes, and then ride the bus or boat from Interlaken to Oberhofen.
The second option is to get out at Thun, and it’s quicker. It’s only about 20 minutes from Bern to Thun and then another 15 minutes by bus from Thun to Oberhofen. Make that 20 minutes to take into account the walking and waiting for the bus. In total, it takes just under 40 minutes to travel from Bern to Oberhofen via Thun, as opposed to more than an hour and a half it would take if you were to go via Interlaken.
Things to See and Do
So, what can you do once you finally arrive at this historic castle? Here’s an overview of my favorite ways of exploring the Oberhofen Castle.
Tour Oberhofen Castle Museum
The museum at the castle is the highlight of any visit. It’s the only seasonal attraction, and it’s a unique opportunity to walk around the castle rooms, admire the opulent interior, and discover its secrets.
The top sights of the tour are the visit to the 15th-century Chapel with stunning murals, the second-floor servant bedrooms, and the ground-floor dining room.
The Oriental smoking room is on the castle’s top floor, and it was inspired by Count Albert de Pourtalès’ travels to Istanbul. Sitting on the divans is a wonderful experience, made better only by the striking panoramic views.
Hang Out at The Castle Park
The Castle Park is open from April until mid-December. It’s free to visit, and it’s best experienced in late spring and early summer when all the vibrant flowers planted in the park are in full bloom.
Come here to enjoy the views and walk the beautifully landscaped paths even if the museum is closed. Admire the architecture of the Oberhofen Castle from the outside, and experience a small slice of the summer residence of one of the most influential families to have lived in Bernese Oberland.
Stroll Down Lakeside Path
The lakeside path is part of the Castle Park. It’s a promenade that follows Lake Thun, and exploring the path after lunch is best.
The promenade is open from March 1st, from 9 AM until 5 PM until the end of March. After that, it observes the same operating hours as Castle Park.
The views along the path are magical; you can see the tall mountains on the other side of the lake and a row of tall trees behind you. Plenty of benches can be found along the lakeside path, which invite you to take a short break and admire the scenic vista.
Lunch at The Castle Restaurant
You’re bound to get hungry at one point, and the Oberhofen Castle restaurant is the best destination for a meal. It’s not inside the castle; the restaurant sits in a small building on the edge of the property, overlooking Lake Thun.
Fight for an outdoor table if you’re in Oberhofen in the summer. You’ll be adjacent to the incredibly thick castle walls and experience stunning panoramic views of Lake Thun and the mountains in the backdrop.
The food is delicious, albeit a little pricey.
Opening Hours and Ticket Prices
Sections of the Oberhafen Castle are accessible most of the year, free of charge. You can eat at the castle restaurant whenever, and you can walk along the castle grounds in any season.
But the castle museum is open only from mid-May until the end of October, and it’s the only charged attraction. The standard entrance fee is 12 CHF for adults, which isn’t too expensive for a Swiss castle. It’s worth noting that visitors can enter the castle for free with many different passes and get various discounts with travel passes for Switzerland.
Where to Eat
The best place to grab a bite to eat nearby is the Oberhafen Castle restaurant. With outdoor tables adjacent to the castle walls, the experience of dining at this restaurant is one for the ages. The views from the tables are stunning, but it is important to note that the restaurant is in a newer building and not within the actual castle.
Restaurant Kreuz, Rebleuten, and Pier 17 are within walking distance of Oberhofen Castle and offer delicious food and spectacular views.
Are there other things worth your time in Oberhofen, or should you focus on just the castle and head back? I say if you’re already in the town, take a few more hours to explore the other nearby attractions.
- Hünegg Castle – 19th-century castle just a 20-minute walk from Oberhofen Castle
- Ruhebank Rinderstall observation deck – gorgeous views of Lake Thun from the hilltop lookout point
- Strandbad Oberhofen – local beach famous for swimming in the summer
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is Oberhofen Castle famous?
Oberhofen Castle is famous for its rich history and spectacular architecture. It is a Site of National Significance in Switzerland and one of the best historic landmarks in the Bernese Oberland.
How old is Oberhofen Castle?
Oberofen Castle dates back to the 13th century, so it is more than 700 years old. Parts of the castle that were initially constructed for the Balm Castle are over 800 years old.
Is Oberhofen Castle worth visiting?
Yes, Oberhofen Castle is worth visiting. It’s one of the most notable landmarks on the shore of Lake Thun.