Castles and fortifications in Switzerland

Heidegg Castle

The first surviving document, which mentions the Lords of Heidegg, dates from 1185. For many centuries feudal Heidegg Castle, built in the 12th and 13th centuries was their home. Century. Today it houses the history and culture center of the Seetal valley. A living museum in which you learn stories and customs of aristocratic families, with the spirit of the past further rekindled with a stroll in the large park with its ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Hitzkirch, Switzerland

Aubonne Castle

The castle of Aubonne was built before 1197. The castle stands on a hill overlooking the town and the Aubonne ravine. The castle was acquired in 1670 by Jean-Baptiste Tavernier. He kept his property for nearly thirty years, and finally sell it to Henri Duquesne.The last renovation of the castle, owned by the municipality, lasted eight years and ended in 1988. It is currently listed as a Swiss cultural property of national ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Aubonne, Switzerland

Aesch Castle

Aesch castle was built in 1605-06 by the Blarer of Wartensee family. This family was originally from St. Gallen and had become wealthy from the linen trade. One line of the family settled in Wartensee Castle at Rorschach, hence the name of this line. With the election of Jacob Christoph Blarer of Wartensee in 1575 to the canons of the cathedral of Basel the family gained interests in the Basel region. Jacob Christo ...
Founded: 1605 | Location: Aesch, Switzerland

Colombier Castle

Colombier Castle was built in the 11th or 12th century as a fortified tower over the ruins of the Roman villa. It expanded in the 13th Century and by the 16th century had reached its present appearance.  One of the largest Roman era villas in Switzerland was excavated from under the castle in 1840-42 by Frédéric Dubois de Montperreux. It was built in multiple stages between the 1st and 3rd centuries AD into a palat ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Colombier, Switzerland

Hegi Castle

Hegi Castle, which dates from the 13th century, is situated to the east of Winterthur. The well preserved castle complex has 1,6m thick walls, and thanks to its 10m tall tower can be seen from a long way off. The castle complex includes a residential tower built in 1200, a knights’ house added later, and a farm building. The interior will transport you to the Late Middle Ages – as the furniture, stoves, ceramic items, ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Winterthur, Switzerland

Aarwangen Castle

The lords of Aarwangen were first mentioned between 1194 and 1212 as a Ministerialis (unfree knights in the service of a feudal overlord) family in service to the Kyburgs. Starting in 1266, Walter of Aarwangen was in the service of the future King of the Romans Rudolph I. Initially they owned land in the Emmental, but in 1276 they sold the land to Trub monastery. Around 1300 they built the tower of Aarwangen Castle along ...
Founded: c. 1300 | Location: Aarwangen, Switzerland

Hexenturm

The Hexenturm is a stone tower in Sarnen. The name ('Witch tower') refers to it being used as a prison for suspected witches in the 17th century. Today it houses the Cantonal Archives of Obwalden. The tower was built around 1285/86 as the residence tower of larger castle complex, the Unteren Burg von Sarnen or Lower Sarnen Castle. The castle was built for the von Kellner family who were knights in service to t ...
Founded: 1285 | Location: Sarnen, Switzerland

Old Bümpliz Castle

The first structure on the site of Old Bümpliz Castle was a Burgundian royal estate which was built around 900. Around 1250-1270 a round stone tower was built in the center of the site. This round tower was quite unusual for Bernese castles but may indicate a savoyard influence. Since Peter II of Savoy held authority over Bern at the time, it is likely, but not confirmed, that the round tower was built as a symbol of Sav ...
Founded: c. 1250 | Location: Bern, Switzerland

Grynau Castle

Grynau castle tower is situated at the then only bridge over the Linth river. Built probably in the early 13th century by the House of Rapperswil, the castle secured the strategically important river crossing in the area between the Grafschaft Rapperswil and the House of Toggenburg. The property was documented in 1311, when the castle was taken by force by Rudolf von Laufenburg-Rapperswil probably from the Toggenburg fam ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Tuggen, Switzerland

Grasburg Castle

According to legend, the first castle on the site of Grasburg was built by a Roman hunter who saw the massive sandstone spire on an island in the Sense river. He saw a red deer on the cliff over the river and went to catch it. As he rode after the deer a dragon roared out of a cave, but the hunter quickly killed the dragon. The deer then walked up to the hunter and offered his life to the hunter. The hunter allowed the de ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Schwarzenburg, Switzerland

Pfeffingen Castle Ruins

Pfeffingen Castle is one of the largest castle ruins in the canton Basel-Land. In the area around Aesch and Pfeffingen existed originally a Franconian royal court. However, no remains have preserved from this time. In 1135 Notker von Pfeffingen was mentioned for the first time, which was probably related to Count von Saugers. At the end of the 12th century, the Pfeffingen castle fell to the Count of Thierstein. In ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Pfeffingen, Switzerland

Wartenstein Castle Ruins

Wartenstein castle was built around 1206 by Konrad von Zwiefalten. The castle is mentioned for the first time in 1208 and later owned for several families. In 1341  it was rebuilt and repaired by abbot Hermann II of Arbon. After the middle of the 16th century sources describe the castle dilapidated. The Abbey Pfäfers gave in 1586 the worthless site to the local residents as a quarry.
Founded: 1206 | Location: Pfäfers, Switzerland

Wildenstein Castle

Wildenstein Castle consists of a residential and fortified tower. Unlike other castles of its kind, the tower remained intact after losing its military and residential functions in the 15th and 17th centuries. The history of castle dates back to the 13th century. In 1293 Heinrich von Eptingen took the name von Wildenstein. Under his son Gottfrid Wildenstein defended the castle against the the Bern and Solothurn armi ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Bubendorf, Switzerland

Iberg Castle

Iberg Castle is located south-west of the town of Wattwil. The central keep is six stories tall and has an entrance on the north-west corner. The keep is surrounded by a curtain wall. The castle hill is protected by moats and some walls. Iberg Castle was built in 1240 by Heinrich von Iberg who was a vassal of the Prince-Abbot of St. Gallen. The castle was briefly conquered in 1249 following the Toggenburg fra ...
Founded: 1240 | Location: Wattwil, Switzerland

Holligen Castle

The first recorded mention of Holligen is in 1257, when it was owned by the Teutonic Knights commandry of Köniz. It is likely that there was a castle here to control the Bümpliz-Köniz road and administer the estates. However, very little is known of this building. The current castle was built around 1500 by the Bernese Schultheiss Wilhelm von Diesbach. It was built in the style of a typical Burgundian castle, with a sq ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Bern, Switzerland

Châtelard Castle

The first wooden castle on the site of current Châtelard castle was built by the Burgundians around 1000. The current castle was built in the 13th and 14th centuries. It was looted and partially burned in 1476 during the wars of Burgundy.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Clarens, Switzerland

Alt-Süns Castle

Alt-Süns Castle was built around 1200 by the Freiherr von Vaz as the center of their estates in the Domleschg valley. Their Herrschaft of Paspels/Süns was first mentioned in a record in 1237, but the castle wasn"t mentioned until 1285. When the last male heir of the Vaz line, Donat von Vaz, died in 1338, the castle and lands were inherited by the Counts of Werdenberg-Sargans. They sold it to the von Matsch family i ...
Founded: 1200 | Location: Domleschg, Switzerland

Neu-Homburg Castle Ruins

Homburg or Neu-Homburg Castle was the seat of the Froberg family since the 13th century until it was destroyed in 1798. Count Hermann IV of Frohburg settled in 1240 in the Läufelfingen valley. The castle was built by Hermann. The Bishop of Basel acquired Homburg in 1303 and built a new castle with the mighty residential tower as the seat of his Vogts. After the French Revolution, many of the rural people rebelled agains ...
Founded: c. 1240 | Location: Läufelfingen, Switzerland

Reichenstein Castle

Reichenstein Castle is one of four castles on a slope called Birseck that confines the plain of the Birs river and is the sister castle to Birseck Castle. Between 1245-1813 the castle was a property of the Swiss noble family Reich von Reichenstein. Today Reichenstein hosts various birthday celebrations, concerts, and weddings throughout the year.
Founded: 1239 | Location: Arlesheim, Switzerland

Uster Castle

Uster Castle was built probably around 1200 by the House of Rapperswil. After the Appenzell wars Hans von Bonstetten concluded a pact with Zürich, and became a citizen of the city of Zürich respectively claimed the so-called Burgrecht in 1407. From that moment, the castle in time of war could be strengthened by a Zürich garrison. As an Austrian vassal, Zürich guaranteed a neutral status to the Bonstetten family, ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Uster, 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.