Castles and fortifications in Switzerland

Stein Castle

Stein Castle was built on a rocky promontory above Baden gorge some time before 1000. In the late 11th century the castle came to the Lenzburg family. By the early 12th Century, the cadet line that lived in the castle called themselves the Counts of Baden. In 1172, the castle was inherited by the Kyburg family. When that family died out in 1263, the castle was inherited by the Habsburgs in 1264. The castle was occup ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Baden, Switzerland

Zug Castle

The first castle in Zug was probably a wooden manor house built around 1000 and owned by a ministerialis family in service to either the Counts of Aargau or of Lenzburg. Based on archeological excavations, it was built on an island between two small streams and surrounded by a wooden palisade. While the local nobleman occupied the house and island, his men built a village along the streams. Later the steams were dammed to ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Zug, Switzerland

Landvogteischschloss

The Landvogteischschloss is a small castle in the city of Baden. It is located on the right bank of the Limmat river and once guarded the narrow pass over the river. Today it houses the Historical Museum and city archives of Baden. The core of three-storey castle was erected in the first half of the 12th century. During the centuries extensions were built in three stages.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Baden, Switzerland

Grandson Castle

The Lords of Grandson were first mentioned in the second half of the 11th century, when the castle was built. It was sited on the shore of Lake Neuchâtel to control the coast road. The House of Grandson sired a number of powerful scions, including bishops of Basel, Lausanne, Toul and Verdun. Over the following century, as the Lords of Grandson expanded their power, they often came into conflict with the nearby monast ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Grandson, Switzerland

Aigle Castle

The Barons of Aigle were first mentioned in 1179. At that time they had a small fortification, that became the center of the modern castle, along the road over the Col du Pillon and Col des Mosses passes of the Rhone. However, only traces of this first castle have been archaeologically discovered. Some time before 1200, the Barons of Aigle ended up as vassals of the powerful Counts of Savoy. In 1232, Count Thomas of ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Aigle, Switzerland

Romont Castle

A document from 1177 from the Abbey of Hauterive mentions the Romont as a wooded hill. In 1239, Anselme (or Nantelme) sold the rights to Romont hill to Peter II of Savoy. At that time, Romont was part of the territory of the Bishop of Lausanne. In 1240, Peter II sent a castellan to Romont to build a castle and found a village. The main castle (Grand Donjon), with a typical Savoy square floor plan, was completed befo ...
Founded: 1240 | Location: Romont, Switzerland

La Tour-de-Peilz Castle

Built in the 13th century by Pierre de Savoie, the castle of La Tour-de-Peilz served as a fortress and refuge, as an observation post of traffic along lake Geneva, and as a customs post. In 1476, during the Burgundy wars, it was heavily damaged. It was nearly three centuries later, that in 1747 the French officer Jean Grésier purchased and transformed the building. It remained private property until 1979, when the city ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: La Tour-de-Peilz, Switzerland

Lenzburg Castle

Lenzburg Castle ranks among the oldest and most important of Switzerland. The castle stands on the almost circular castle hill, which rises approximately 100 m the surrounding plain. The prominent hill was already a settlement site in prehistoric times. For example, in 1959 a Neolithic gravesite was uncovered in the carpark. There have also been small discoveries from the Roman and Alemannic eras.  The oldest p ...
Founded: c. 1100 | Location: Lenzburg, Switzerland

Tourbillon Castle

Tourbillon Castle was built sometime between 1290 and 1308 by the Bishop of Sion, Boniface de Challant, as his principal residence. After Boniface died in 1308, his successor Aymon II de Châtillon probably finished the castle. In 1352 the Upper Valais revolted against Bishop Guichard Tavel. Led by Peter de la Tour, in November of that year, they marched on Sion, burned the town and unsuccessfully besieged the castle. In ...
Founded: 1290-1308 | Location: Sion, Switzerland

Huwiler Tower

Huwiler Tower (Huwilerturm) is the smallest of the four outer town wall towers in the city of Zug (Switzerland). Its exact age is unknown, but cannot be later than 1524/25. The tower was known for a long time as the 'Hof' tower, and was called that until it was acquired by a citizen named Huwiler (a.k.a. Huwyler) in 1697. Huwiler tower was part of the defense system and the city wall, but as Zug was actually nev ...
Founded: c. 1524 | Location: Zug, Switzerland

Sasso Corbaro Castle

Sasso Corbaro, known as Unterwalden Castle after 1506 and Saint Barbara's Castle after 1818, is about 600 m south-east of town on a rocky hill. Unlike the other two castles Sasso Corbaro is not integrated into the city walls. The first part of the castle was the north-eastern tower which was built in 1478 to close a gap in the defenses of the city. In 1479 a small garrison was moved to the tower. During peacetime the tow ...
Founded: 1478 | Location: Bellinzona, Switzerland

Werdenberg Castle

Werdenberg castle was founded around 1228-1230 by Count Rudolf I of Montfort. Today, the architectural complex comprises two museums – one in the castle and one in the town – that tell the 800-year history of the rulers and their subjects. Three of the epochs – the times of the counts, the governors of Glarus and that of the well-to-do Hilty family – are effectively displayed in the castle. The Museum Schlangenhau ...
Founded: 1228 | Location: Werdenberg, Switzerland

Frauenfeld Castle

Frauenfeld castle was founded by the counts of Kyburg in the 13th century. The massive tower dates from 1227. The exhibit of the Thurgau History Museum in castle illustrates the time after 1415 that was so important for the region. It offers both children and adults an insightful and playful gateway to the Middle Ages. The modern arrangements, interactive animation and the artwork shining in new splendour are the highli ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Frauenfeld, Switzerland

Aarau Castle

The small castle of Aarau ('Schlössli') has remained nearly unchanged since the 13th century. The 'Schlössli' is the oldest building in the city. It was already founded at the time of the establishment of the city shortly after 1200; the exact date is not known. Today it hosts a city museum.
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Aarau, Switzerland

Chenaux Castle

Chenaux castle was built in 1392 by Chevalier Pierre and his brother Guillaume. Humbert, the bastard of Savoie, acquired the fortress in 1432 and completed it by an advanced defense. The castle was set on fire during the wars of Bourgogne. Today the castle of Chenaux is occupied by the prefecture but can be visited.
Founded: 1392 | Location: Estavayer-le-Lac, Switzerland

Saint-Maurice Castle

Started at the end of the 15th century, between 1476 and 1482, the construction of St-Maurice castle took place in several stages.  They began by building a tower with doors, then a crenellated enclosure and guard towers. This led to the construction of the main body of the building and, at the beginning of the 16th century, a large retaining wall to which a new tower with a large ogival door was added. A fire destroyed ...
Founded: 1476 | Location: Saint-Maurice, Switzerland

Bischofszell Castle

Bischofszell castle was built in the 12th/13th century. It was damaged by the city fire in 1419 and repaired soon thereafter. During the 17th and 18th century the castle was expanded and totally renovated. The newly founded Canton of Thurgau took over the castle in 1798, but sold it in 1811 again. About 1838 the west part collapsed, and in 1843 the keep was broken up. Since 1930, the castle has been owned by the municipal ...
Founded: 1419 | Location: Bischofszell, Switzerland

Willisau Castle

Willisau castle was built for bailiffs in 1690-1695 by the city of Lucerne. The castle is one of the most important secular Baroque buildings in central Switzerland. Particularly impressive is the design of the first two floors. The magnificent stucco works in the courtroom were created by the two artists from Lugano, Augusto Giacomo and Pietro Neurone. The impressive ceiling paintings were created by Francesco Antonio Gi ...
Founded: 1690 | Location: Willisau, Switzerland

Hallwyl Castle

Hallwyl Castle is one of the most important moated castles in Switzerland. It is located on two islands in the River Aabach, just north of the northern end of Lake Hallwil. Since 1925, it has been open to the public, and since 1994 it has been owned by the canton of Aargau and is part of the museum of Aargau. The first mention of the castle is in the year 1256. However, the originally free noble family of Hallwyl ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Seengen, Switzerland

Arbon Castle

A castle in Arbon is first mentioned in 720 in a history of St. Gall Abbey. It stood on or near the site of the Roman era Arbor Felix fortress from 250 AD. After the Romans retreated south of the Alps around 400, the old fortress was abandoned. Sometime later a Frankish castle was built in Arbon probably for the Frankish royal family. By around 700, Arbon and presumably the castle, were the property of the diocese ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Arbon, Switzerland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Het Steen

Het Steen is a medieval fortress in the old city centre of Antwerp. Built after the Viking incursions in the early Middle Ages as the first stone fortress of Antwerp, Het Steen is Antwerp's oldest building and used to be its oldest urban centre.

Previously known as Antwerpen Burcht (fortress), Het Steen gained its current name in around 1520, after significant rebuilding under Charles V. The fortress made it possible to control the access to the Scheldt, the river on whose bank it stands. It was used as a prison between 1303 and 1827. The largest part of the fortress, including dozens of historic houses and the oldest church of the city, was demolished in the 19th century when the quays were straightened to stop the silting up of the Scheldt. The remaining building, heavily changed, contains a shipping museum, with some old canal barges displayed on the quay outside.

In 1890 Het Steen became the museum of archeology and in 1952 an annex was added to house the museum of Antwerp maritime history, which in 2011 moved to the nearby Museum Aan de Stroom. Here you’ll also find a war memorial to the Canadian soldiers in WWII.

There are some beautiful plaques on the back side of the Steen Castle at Antwerp. Canadian visitors will especially want to see the plaques thanking the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry for their part in the liberation of Antwerp, in 1944.

At the entrance to Het Steen is a bas-relief of Semini, above the archway, around 2nd century. Semini is the Scandinavian God of youth and fertility (with symbolic phallus). A historical plaque near Het Steen explains that women of the town appealed to Semini when they desired children; the god was reviled by later religious clergy. Inhabitants of Antwerp previously referred to themselves as 'children of Semini'.

At the entrance bridge to the castle is a statue of a giant and two humans. It depicts the giant Lange Wapper who used to terrorise the inhabitants of the city in medieval times.