Castles and fortifications in Switzerland

Gräpplang Castle Ruins

The first documented reference to the Gräpplang castle dates from the year 1249. It was built around 1220 by the Knights of Flums. During the Old Zurich War (1436-1450), the castle was extorted in 1440 to get protection, but it was never attacked or destroyed. In 1528 the property was given to Ludwig Tschudi von Glarus. The castle remained in their family possession until 1767. The Tschudi family gave the castle its ...
Founded: c. 1220 | Location: Flums, Switzerland

Aarburg Castle

Aarburg Castle is located high above the town Aarburg on a steep, rocky hillside. The castle was built around a medieval castle, which controlled the narrow point on the Aare river and served as the seat of Aarburg Vogt. Today it houses the Kantonale Jugendheim, for holding and rehabilitating juvenile offenders. The exact year of construction of the castle is not known. However, it was probably built around 1200 b ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Aarburg, Switzerland

Santa Maria in Calanca Castle

The Santa Maria in Calanca castle ruins are located on a hill top at the entrance to the Calanca valley. The hill top was inhabited prehistorically and by the late Roman era was home to the Church of Santa Maria. By the High Middle Ages it was the political center of the entire valley. By the 12th century the first castle was built on the hill below the church. This castle was probably built for the de Calanca family, of ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Santa Maria in Calanca, Switzerland

Les Clées Castle

Chateau des Clées is located above the village. Built probably in the 11th century, it guarded the traffic through the Jougne Pass and collected tolls on the pass road. Les Clées is first mentioned in 1134 when Pope Innocent II tried in vain to prohibit the reconstruction of the castle.  The chapel of Les Clées was built before the 14th century and rebuilt in 1738-1740. In 1444 the Duke Louis I of Savoy comm ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Les Clées, Switzerland

Compesières Commandry

The Compesières Commandry is the main Commandry of the Order of Malta in the Canton of Geneva in Switzerland. The village of Compesières existed since the 12th Century and was also mentioned as the family name of the local noble family. In 1270 the Bishop of Geneva, Aymo of Menthonay, granted the village church to the Order of Saint John. They then expanded the church into a Commandery. It is likely that the o ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Bardonnex, Switzerland

Alt-Regensberg Castle Ruins

Alt-Regensberg Castle was built about the mid-11th century AD by the House of Regensberg in the municipality of Regensdorf. The decline in importance of the castle had been shown already in the Old Zürich War, when Zürich"s opponent Alt-Regensberg occupied without resistance. Later the ruins served as a quarry. The quadratic keep dates from the first construction phase. The exterior of the residential tower ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Regensdorf, Switzerland

Wartenberg Castle Ruins

Right at the top of the Wartenberg near Muttenz there are three castle ruins which can be visited. Archaeological findings prove that it was already in use during the New Stone Age (around 2000 BC). During the Bronze Age (1800-800 BC) a fortified settlement stood here. Presumably the Burgundians built a king’s castle on the northernmost spur in the 10th century. Today the front Wartenberg is situated here. It had been ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Muttenz, Switzerland

Hohenrätien Castle

Hohenrätien Castle was built on a rock wall that rises 250 m above the Viamala river and the important roads over the San Bernardino and Splügen Passes. The area was inhabited during the Bronze and Iron Ages. During the Roman era the current castle site was a religious site and by the 4th or 5th century there was a church on the site. It is unknown whether the church was originally built as a Christian church or was a t ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Sils im Domleschg, Switzerland

Gorgier Castle

Gorgier Castle was first time mentioned in 1299. It was owned by the lords of Estavayer and Neuchâtel. The drawbridge, ditches, gardens and outbuildings date from the 16th century. In the 19th century the castle become the home of rich merchants and industrialists. Following the successive works, the castle is decorated with an architecture combining medieval and Neo-Renaissance features.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Gorgier, Switzerland

Valangin Castle

Valangin castle was a residence of the local lords from mid-12th century to 1566. The oldest visible remains date from the 13th century. It consists of a courtyard surrounded by a rampart and a 'donjon' (keep), which hosts the current museum. Since 1430 the castle was altered with semicircular towers to be defended against the firearms. The castle was damaged by fire in 1747 which destroyed a whole wing. The ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Valangin, Switzerland

Alt-Wartburg Castle

Alt-Wartburg Castle was built around c. 1200 by the lords of Ifenthal. It was significanly extended in 1325. In the mid-14th century Alt-Wartburg became the property of the Büttikon family and later Hallwyler family. When the Confederates conquered Aargau in 1415, Bernese troops burned down the castle. Alt-Wartburg was left ruined.
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Oftringen, Switzerland

Castelmur Castle

The fortifications at Castelmur may be, after the Three Castles of Bellinzona, the most important example of medieval valley fortifications in modern Switzerland. The castle site has been occupied and fortified since at least the Roman era. The important trade road over the Septimer Pass runs through the Val Bregaglia. The Romans built a guard station and village named 'Murus' according to the 3rd century Itinerarium Ant ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Bondo, Switzerland

Illens Castle

The ruins of Illens castle stand on a rock wall above a loop of the Saane river. The castle stands on the opposite side of the river from the fortified town of Arconciel. The two castles secured both sides of a crossing (either a ford or a bridge) over the river. The castle is first mentioned between 1150 and 1276. In 1366, the notoriously violent Count Peter of Aarberg moved into the castle and remained there for a s ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Rossens, Switzerland

Böttstein Castle

Böttstein Castle was built in the 12th century for the Barons of Böttstein. After the extinction of the Böttstein line, the castle became the property of the Barons of Tiefenstein in the 13th century. In 1361 the Lords of Wessenberg were granted the castle and surrounding villages as a fief by Duke Rudolf of Austria. After the Old Swiss Confederacy conquered the Aargau in 1415, the local rulers and their jurisdi ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Böttstein, Switzerland

Baldenstein Castle

Baldenstein Castle was the family castle for the Knights of Baldenstein, the first of which was mentioned in 1246. The central tower which now forms part of the castle was built around the same time. Very little is recorded about the Baldenstein family and by 1289 the castle was owned by the Freiherr von Löwenstein. Before 1289 he lost the castle in a war with the Freiherr von Rhäzüns, but in the peace treaty of that y ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Sils im Domleschg, Switzerland

Jörgenberg Castle

Jörgenberg Castle was built in the 8th century as a fortified church, on lands donated by the Frankish kings. In the 765 testament of Bishop Tello it was referred to as a castellum on Jörgenberg hill. At the beginning of the 9th century it was called ecclesia sancti Georgii in Castello or St. George's Church in a Castle. The current castle and church were probably built on the site of an earlier walled church. Th ...
Founded: 8th century AD | Location: Waltensburg/Vuorz, Switzerland

Biberstein Castle

Biberstein estate was first mentioned in 1280 which indicates a late 13th century construction date. The castle was built for the Counts of Habsburg-Laufenburg. In 1335 the Habsburgs sold the castle and town to Rudolf von Büttikon who established a Knights Hospitaller commandry in the castle. After 1368 the Habsburgs attempted to secretly repurchase Biberstein Castle from the Knights by using a minor noble as a str ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Biberstein, Switzerland

Horben Castle

In the 12th century Muri Abbey owned a farm on the Horben hill. Then, in 1700 Abbot Placidus Zurlauben build a rest home for the sacristan on the hill. The lower Prince-Abbot Gerold Haimb had the Chapel of St. Wendelin and Ubaldus built in 1730 near the home. Between 1752-76, during Abbot Bonaventure Bucher"s term of office, the house and chapel were rebuilt into their present form. In 1762 the interior was furni ...
Founded: 1700 | Location: Beinwil (Freiamt), Switzerland

Klingnau Castle

The construction of the Klingnau castle, originally the seat of the Klingen family, was started in 1240. Until 1269 a manor house stood on the grounds. After 1331 the outer walls were added. In the second half of the 14th century the Bishop of Constance was often a resident in the castle. He ordered further improvements and expansions. In the late 16th century, the castle, which was the seat of the bailiff from Co ...
Founded: 1240 | Location: Klingnau, Switzerland

Wildenburg Castle

Wildenburg castle was founded in the 13th century by the Lords of Hünenberg, vassals of the counts of Kyburg and Habsburg. The first plant was probably just a stone ring wall with wooden buildings. A round keep and a palas in the northeastern corner were added later. In 1386, the knights of Hünenberg fought against the Confederates at the Battle of Sempach on the side of Habsburg Austria. Wildenburg was destroyed after ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Baar, Switzerland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Hochosterwitz Castle

Hochosterwitz Castle is considered to be one of Austria's most impressive medieval castles. The rock castle is one of the state's landmarks and a major tourist attraction.

The site was first mentioned in an 860 deed issued by King Louis the German of East Francia, donating several of his properties in the former Principality of Carantania to the Archdiocese of Salzburg. In the 11th century Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg ceded the castle to the Dukes of Carinthia from the noble House of Sponheim in return for their support during the Investiture Controversy. The Sponheim dukes bestowed the fiefdom upon the family of Osterwitz, who held the hereditary office of the cup-bearer in 1209.

In the 15th century, the last Carinthian cup-bearer, Georg of Osterwitz was captured in a Turkish invasion and died in 1476 in prison without leaving descendants. So after four centuries, on 30 May 1478, the possession of the castle reverted to Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg.

Over the next 30 years, the castle was badly damaged by numerous Turkish campaigns. On 5 October 1509, Emperor Maximilian I handed the castle as a pledge to Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg, then Bishop of Gurk. Bishop Lang undertook a substantial renovation project for the damaged castle.

About 1541, German king Ferdinand I of Habsburg bestowed Hochosterwitz upon the Carinthian governor Christof Khevenhüller. In 1571, Baron George Khevenhüller acquired the citadel by purchase. He fortified to deal with the threat of Turkish invasions of the region, building an armory and 14 gates between 1570 and 1586. Such massive fortification is considered unique in citadel construction.

Since the 16th century, no major changes have been made to Hochosterwitz. It has also remained in the possession of the Khevenhüller family as requested by the original builder, George Khevenhüller. A marble plaque dating from 1576 in the castle yard documents this request.

A specific feature is the access way to the castle passing through a total of 14 gates, which are particularly prominent owing to the castle's situation in the landscape. Tourists are allowed to walk the 620-metre long pathway through the gates up to the castle; each gate has a diagram of the defense mechanism used to seal that particular gate. The castle rooms hold a collection of prehistoric artifacts, paintings, weapons, and armor, including one set of armor 2.4 metres tall, once worn by Burghauptmann Schenk.