Castles and fortifications in Switzerland

Schlossberg Castle

In 999 the Abbot of Moutier-Grandval Abbey gave his extensive landholdings around Lake Biel, including where La Neuveville would be founded, to the Prince-Bishop of Basel. At that time the region was known as Nugerol and over the next centuries the Bishop of Basel and the Counts of Neuchâtel often quarreled over the land. In 1283 the Prince-Bishop Henry von Isny began to have Schlossberg Castle built on the slopes of ...
Founded: 1283 | Location: La Neuveville, Switzerland

Neu-Bechburg Castle

Neu-Bechburg Castle was built in 1250 by the Lord of Bechburg. The castle changed owners several times and, in 1635, it temporarily became the seat of the Bishop of Basel. Later it served as a private apartment, an inn and finally a stone quarry. In 1835 it was acquired by Johannes Riggenbach. His son Friedrich restored the castle from 1880 onwards.
Founded: 1250 | Location: Oensingen, Switzerland

Erlach Castle

Erlach Castle was built around 1090-1100 by Burkart von Fenis, the Bishop of Basel. In 1224, the castle and town of Erlach became the property of the Counts of Nidau. In 1265, Peter II of Savoy brought the counts and their castle under the feudal authority of the House of Savoy. While under Savoy control, Peter II appointed a warden to occupy the castle and manage the castle estates. The warden knights took their name fro ...
Founded: 1090-1100 | Location: Erlach, Switzerland

Zwing Uri Castle

Zwing Uri is a ruined medieval castle north of Amsteg, today in the territory of the municipality of Silenen. The castle is notable for its role in Swiss historiography as the first fortress destroyed in the Burgenbruch at the beginning of the Swiss Confederacy. The slighting of Zwing Uri (Twing Üren) is mentioned in the White Book of Sarnen, a Swiss chronicle of 1470. The event is placed in the year 1307 by t ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Silenen, Switzerland

Mesocco Castle

Mesocco Castle ruins are among the largest in the canton. Originally the seat of the noble family von Sax, from the 12th century until 1480 it was held by the Freiherr of Misox/Mesocco. From 1480 until 1549 it was held by the Trivulzio family. A small fortified church, the Church of S. Carpoforo, was built on the hill top around the 7th century as a refuge castle for the surrounding villages. Around 1000, the fortifi ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Mesocco, Switzerland

Unspunnen Castle

Unspunnen Castle, likely constructed in the early 12th century, overlooks the city of Interlaken. The castle was the center of a 13th-14th century fief of an Oberland barons, though the name of the barons or the castle builder is unknown. The cave castle of Rotenfluh at Tschingelsatz and Unspunnen Castle (first mentioned in 1232 as Uspunnun) were used to guard the late medieval Lütschinenbrücke, a bridge at Gsteig ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Wilderswil, Switzerland

Tarasp Castle

Tarasp Castle was probably built in the 11th century or possibly as early as the 10th century. The name comes from terra aspera or wild earth, which may refer to the newly lands in the Inn river valley. They had adopted the name of the castle by 1089 when Ulrich von Tarasp was mentioned in a papal mandate to the Bishop of Chur. Around the same time the family founded Scuol Monastery, which later moved to Marienberg Abbey ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Tarasp, Switzerland

Gesslerburg Castle

Gesslerburg Castle was mentioned first time in 1263, but it may have been built already earlier. The castle moved to the hands of Habsburg family in 1291.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Küssnacht, Switzerland

Pfäffikon Castle

Einsiedeln Abbey was granted farms at Pfäffikon along with surrounding land along Lake Zurich by Emperor Otto I in 965. Soon thereafter the abbot built a large granary in Pfäffikon. Between 1233 and 1266 Abbot Anshelm von Schwanden replaced the old granary with stone tower which was designed as a watch tower, granary and residence. In 1299 the Prince-Abbot Johann von Schwanden added walls, ramparts and a moat ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Freienbach, Switzerland

Dardagny Castle

During the 13th century Dardagny Castle, along with Bruel, La Corbière and Malval, formed a ring of castles, which secured the western boundary of the lands of the Bishop of Geneva. In 1298 there were two castles, which were separated by a small road. Each one belonged to one of the two noble families in Dardagny. In the 14th century, the south building was over two stories high and had a tower. In 1646, the Favre famil ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Dardagny, Switzerland

Frohburg Castle

Frohburg Castle area was already inhabitated in Bronze and Roman Ages. In the 10th century the local Frohburg noble family ruled the area and built the castle. It was enlarged during the Middle Ages and also an iron furnace was established. Frohburg family line died out around in 1367 and the castle was left to decay. Later the stones were reused by local farmers. Today the ruins are one of the most popular sights in Olt ...
Founded: 10th century AD | Location: Trimbach, Switzerland

Porrentruy Castle

Construction of the Porrentruy castle took place between the mid-13th century and the beginning of the 18th century. The oldest part is the thirteenth century Réfous Tower. 14th century ramparts survive on the western and northern sides. During the reign of Prince-Bishop Jacob-Christoph Blarer of Wartensee, the castle underwent an extensive period of reconstruction by the architect Nicolas Frick around 1588. In 1697, it ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Porrentruy, Switzerland

Habsburg Castle

Habsburg Castle near the Aare River was the original seat of the House of Habsburg, which became one of the leading imperial and royal dynasties in Europe. At the time of its construction, the location was part of the Duchy of Swabia. Around 1020–1030 Count Radbot, of the nearby county of Klettgau in the Duchy of Swabia, had the castle erected. It is believed that he named the castle after a hawk (Habicht ...
Founded: 1020-1030 | Location: Habsburg, Switzerland

Vaumarcus Castle

Vaumarcus Castle is a medieval castle, which hosts today a shopping center. Vaumarcus is a good example of the transformation, which took place in most castles in the 13th century when they were protected to defend agains new weapons, such as throwing machines. There was initially an entrance to the castle more than 7 m above ground level. It was undoubtedly reached from the outside by a wooden stairs, which were remov ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Vaumarcus, Switzerland

Binningen Castle

Schloss Binningen was built in the 1290s, originally as a moated castle. Two earthquakes destroyed the foundation walls, and the castle was almost burned to the ground. The castle was rebuilt as of 1414 but destroyed again in the wake of the Battle of St. Jakob in 1444. Over time, the castle has had several owners. A chronological list of the owners, along with their coats of arms, is displayed in the castle"s galler ...
Founded: 1290s | Location: Binningen, Switzerland

Münchenstein Castle

Münchenstein Castle is a landmark above the village. The ruins can still be visited and viewed, but are under private ownership. Around 1260, the up-rising cavalier family Münch acquired the village on the hills adjacent to the river Birs and established their estate there. The exact dates of the castle erection remains unclear, but most likely building began in the time between 1260 and 1270. The founders of the ca ...
Founded: 1260-1270 | Location: Münchenstein, Switzerland

Meggenhorn Castle

Meggenhorn Castle was built in 1868-1870 by Edouad Hofer-Grosjean from Mulhouse and in 1926 equipped with a Welte Philharmonic Organ. Today, it is mostly used as a tourist attraction and reception venue. The castle was inspired by Châteaux Chambord in the Loire Valley France and the grounds are open to the public since 1974. The castle overlooks a vineyard and is a popular place for picnicking with access to the lake fo ...
Founded: 1868 | Location: Meggen, Switzerland

Hagenwil Castle

Hagenwil is the only remaining intact water castle in eastern Switzerland. The first mention of the castle dates from 1264 when Rudolf von Hagenwil donated it to the Abbey of St. Gall. The donation was made in gratitude to the Abbot of St. Gall for rescuing Rudolf from his sons in law, who were holding him prisoner at Heitnau Castle in an attempt to receive their inheritance early. The donation included the right for ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Amriswil, Switzerland

Brandis Castle

The Maienfeld area was an important Roman era customs station on the road between Turicum (Zurich) and Brigantium (Bregenz). After the Fall of the Western Roman Empirethe area probably remained a local population center and retained some of the Roman buildings and fortifications. During the High Middle Ages the Carolingian royal estate of curtis Lupinis was built in the area and the town of Maienfeld grew up ar ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Maienfeld, Switzerland

Belp Castle

In 1550-54 the von Luternau family built the Belp Old Castle in the village to the site of earlier wooden castle. The Old Castle was the administrative seat of the Herrschaft during the 16th and 17th centuries.
Founded: 1550-1554 | Location: Belp, Switzerland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Externsteine Stones

The Externsteine (Extern stones) is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills. Archaeological excavations have yielded some Upper Paleolithic stone tools dating to about 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC.

In a popular tradition going back to an idea proposed to Hermann Hamelmann in 1564, the Externsteine are identified as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons, and the location of the Irminsul (sacral pillar-like object in German paganism) idol reportedly destroyed by Charlemagne; there is however no archaeological evidence that would confirm the site's use during the relevant period.

The stones were used as the site of a hermitage in the Middle Ages, and by at least the high medieval period were the site of a Christian chapel. The Externsteine relief is a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross. It remains controversial whether the site was already used for Christian worship in the 8th to early 10th centuries.

The Externsteine gained prominence when Völkisch and nationalistic scholars took an interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest peaked under the Nazi regime, when the Externsteine became a focus of nazi propaganda. Today, they remain a popular tourist destination and also continue to attract Neo-Pagans and Neo-Nazis.