Tag Archive: bern

Switzerland’s Most Scenic Castles

Castle Chillon - Montreux, Switzerland

Aigle Castle Find on Google Maps

Chateau Aigle, Vaud Canton -Switzerland

Chateau Aigle / Uwe Brodrech-Flickr

Aigle Castle is located in western Switzerland, in the Canton of Vaud. Montreux, the largest city nearby, lies on the shores of Lake Geneva. The castle was originally built by the Barons of Aigle, who along with the succeeding Counts of Savoy and Lords of Compey, enlarged and improved the castle over the centuries.

While the castle alone, in its pristine condition, deserves consideration on any history or architectural lovers itinerary, what sets this castle apart is the landscape around it. Vineyards surround the castle, and in the distance the snow capped Alps accent the scene beautifully.

Aigle is approximately one hour by train or car from Bern and Geneva.

 

Bellinzona Castles Google Map Link

Castelgrande - Bellinzona, Switzerland

Castelgrande – Bellinzona, Switzerland / Wikipedia

If castles are a top item on your European vacation list, but you only have one day to spend in Switzlerand, Bellinzona is the stop I would recommend. It boasts three castles in close proximity to each other.  The largest, known as Castelgrande, is located in the valley center on a hill. Its also the largest as its name suggests. Just above it, attached to the same city wall that greets visitors to Bellinzona, is Montebello. And finally up the hill from that is Sasso Corbaro

Castlegrande has been the site of man-made fortifications since Romans first occupied it in the 1st Century B.C. Much of the current castle was built between the 12th and 15th century while under the control of the House of Visconti  and the Dukes of Milan.

Montebello was built in the 13th century and expanded later by the House of Visconti, after taking control of this region of Switzerland.

Sasso Corbaro is the smallest and last of the castles to be built (1478). Its original purpose was to fill a hole in the city’s defensive parameter. The castle was expanded later on, but fell into disuse afterward.

Due to its nearly subtropical climate on the south-side of the Alps, the author found this to be a great place to escape the winter cold. Something to consider depending on your travel plans.

Zurich is the closest major Swiss city to Bellinzona, approximately 2 hours away. Bern will take you another hour.

Chillon Castle Google Map Link

Castle Chillon - Montreux, Switzerland

Castle Chillon / Wikipedia

Located on Lake Geneva outside Montreaux, Chillon (Château de Chillon) is one of the most visited castles in Switzerland and Europe. It’s an architectural gem, accented by its location along the shore, with the high mountain peaks of the Alps to the south. The castle, built by the dukes of Savoy, was made famous by Lord Byron’s poem The Prisoner Of Chillon, which chronicled their holding of François de Bonivard, a Genevois monk and politician for opposing their rule. Lord Byron left his named carved in a pillar of the castle’s dungeon following a visit to the castle.

Chillion is approximately one hour drive from either Bern or Geneva.

Valère Castle Google Map Link

Valere Castle - Sion -Valais - Switzerland

Valere Castle, Sion, Switzerland

Also known as Valère Basilica, this fortified church was built above the town of Sion beginning in the 11th century. The Basilica dominates one of two prominent hills above the city, the other occupied by the ruins of Château de Tourbillon, a castle built at the end of the 12th century. The Valere and Tourbillon Castles were constructed by the Prince-Bishops of Sion, who were given control over the Valais region by the last King of Upper Burgundy Rudolph III.

Sion is approximately an hour and half from Geneva by train or car. From Bern the train is faster and takes about the same amount of time as from Geneva.

Oberhofen Castle Google Map Link

Schloss Oberhofen - Switzerland

Schloss Oberhofen- Thunersee

Oberhofen Castle was built on the shores of Thun Lake (Thunersee), at the beginning of the 13th Century A.D. Over the years the castle has passed through many hands, from the Habsburgs who lost it after the Battle of Sempach, to a variety high ranking families within the Bern-controlled regions of the old Swiss Confederacy. In some ways the events that impacted Oberhofen over the centuries are a reflection of the most important events in Switzerland’s history. The Battle of Sempach for example, not only determined the future fate of this castle, but the expansion of the city/state of Bern, and eventual formation of the modern Swiss state.

The castle is just over a 30 minute drive south from Bern. If you are coming from Bern, a stop at Thun Castle which overlooks the town of Thun is worth a visit.