Castles and fortifications in Switzerland

Haldenstein Castle

Haldenstein Castle was probably built in the 10th or 11th century as the family castle of the Ministerialis Haldenstein family, who were in service of the Lord of Vaz. By the 12th century the family had split into two lines, the Haldenstein family and the Lichtenstein family (who inhabited the nearby Lichtenstein Castle. Each family ruled over part of the nearby village and farms. By the end of the 13th century the Lichte ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Haldenstein, Switzerland

Belfort Castle

Belfort Castle was built in two parts, an upper and a lower castle, on a rocky ridge east. The first castle on the site probably dates to around 1200. In 1222 the castle was first mentioned as the home of the Lords of Vaz. Some parts of the castle have been dated by dendrochronology to 1228-31. The original upper castle consisted of a gatehouse and three story main tower on the north wall. In 1240 the castle was expanded. ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Albula/Alvra, Switzerland

Belmont Castle

Belmont Castle was built in the 10th or 11th century for the Freiherr von Belmont. The first recorded member of the family was Lutefridus de Belmonte in 1137/39. The Belmont family was related to a number of other Raetian noble families including the powerful von Vaz. By the 13th century they were one of the most powerful families in Graubünden. They owned castles and villages throughout the region. Konrad von Belmont wa ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Flims, Switzerland

Castels Castle

Nothing is known about the early history of the Castels Castle in Luzein. Initially it may have been a refuge castle or a fortified church built during the Middle Ages. The oldest part of the ring wallwas probably built during the 12th century. At some point in the High Middle Ages, it became the home of a noble family. By the early 14th century it was the administrative center of all the Aspermont estates in Upper Prätt ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Luzein, Switzerland

Friedau Castle

In 955 Emperor Otto I granted his estates in Zizers to the Bishop of Chur. Friedau Castle may have been built on the site of one of the buildings from this 10th century grant. Construction on the castle begun under Bishop Volkart von Neuenburg (1237-1251) but was completed under Heinrich IV von Montfort (1251-1272). Once it was completed it became the administrative center of the Herrschaft and the home of the bishop" ...
Founded: c. 1250 | Location: Zizers, Switzerland

Marschlins Castle

Marschlins Castle was built in the 13th century, though there may have been 11th or 12th century castles on the site and local legend claims it dates back to the Carolingian era. However, the 13th century castle was probably built for the Bishop of Chur. The castle is built in the Savoyard style, a square castle with corner towers, one of which is enlarged to serve as the donjon. This style of castle is unique in Graubün ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Landquart, Switzerland

Riom Castle

Riom was inhabited during the Roman era, from the 1st century through the 4th. During this time, it was a mansion or way-station along the Julier Pass road. After the Fall of the Western Roman Empire, farmers and herders continued to live here during the Early Middle Ages. In 840 it was personally owned by the king of Raetia Curiensis and was a local administrative center as well as the site of major church. The church wa ...
Founded: c. 1226 | Location: Surses, Switzerland

Kastelen Tower Ruins

Kastelen castle was built in the 13th century by the Counts of Kyburg. At the time of the peasant war in 1653 it was looted and left to decay. Today the tower remains. 
Founded: 13th century | Location: Willisau, Switzerland

Sonnenberg Castle

Sonnenberg Castle site was first time mentioned in 1242. The original castle was destroyed in 1407 during the Appenzell Wars and rebuilt by Landenberg family. It was again rebuilt in 1596 after a fire. Today Sonnenberg is restored and houses a restaurant.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Stettfurt, Switzerland

Porte du Scex Castle

Porte du Scex Castle was originally built to protect the territory of Vouvre and collect tolls. In the Middle Ages it was owned by Savoy and Tavelli de la Tour families. The castle was rebuilt between 1591 and 1609 and again in 1678. The museum opened in the Porte-du-Scex castle in 2008. It houses an interactive and in 3D model of the Chablais region, that is part of the permanent collection. Other rooms are dedicated to ...
Founded: 1591 | Location: Vouvry, Switzerland

Brestenberg Castle

The Brestenberg Castle is a small, Baroque style castle south of Seengen. It was built Lords of Hallwyl around 1625 to the site of earlier 16th century building.
Founded: 1625 | Location: Seengen, Switzerland

Campell Castle

Campell Castle was probably begun in the early 13th century for the knightly von Campell family. The first mention of the family is from 1289 when Egeno de Campelle appears in a record. The original castle was a four story bergfried. In the 13th or early 14th century it was expanded with a ring wall, gatehouse, ditches and a drawbridgeon the west side and a residential wing on the east. However, the Campell family died ou ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Sils im Domleschg, Switzerland

Nünegg Castle

Nünegg Castle castle dates from the 13th century and it was built by the counts of Kyburg. The visible remains of the castle today consist of a large keep with annexed buildings such as Palas and ancillary buildings.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Lieli, Switzerland

Pleujouse Castle

Pleujouse was first mentioned in 1105 when a noble family strenghtened the castle. Since then it was owned by the several families until falling into a decay in the 17th century. The castle was restored and transformed into a restaurant in 1988.
Founded: c. 1105 | Location: Pleujouse, Switzerland

Raymontpierre Castle

Raymontpierre Castle is situated on a spur on the north slope of Mont Raimeux. The castle was built around 1594-1596 by Georges Hugué de Raymontpierre, the châtelain of Delémont. His father had received the land as a fief from the Bishop of Basel in 1576. Between 1623 and 1809 it was owned by the Staal family, a noble family from Solothurn. The fortified mansion was eventually converted into a farmhouse. The Bu ...
Founded: 1594-1596 | Location: Vermes, Switzerland

Bischofstein Castle

Lords of Eptingen built the Bischofstein castle around 1250. It seemed to be damaged in 1356 in the earthquake of Basel. Today the tower, curtain wall, Palas and gatehouses are still quite clearly visible.
Founded: c. 1250 | Location: Sissach, Switzerland

Alt-Schauenburg Castle

Alt-Schauenburg is a ruined castle in the commune of Frenkendorf. It is located near the border of France and Germany, and little of the castle remains because of geological events. There were two Schauenburg castles near Frenkendorf, Alt-Schauenburg about 1 km southwest of the village on the top of Chleiflüeli hill and Neu-Schauenburg to the west. Alt-Schauenburg was probably built around 1275 as the seat of a jun ...
Founded: c. 1275 | Location: Frenkendorf, Switzerland

Neu-Schauenburg Castle

There were two Schauenburg castles near Frenkendorf, Alt-Schauenburg about 1 km southwest of the village on the top of Chleiflüeli hill and Neu-Schauenburg to the west. A first castle was probably built for the Lords of Schauenburg in the 11th century, however nothing is known about it. In the 13th century the original castle was replaced by a new castle. The 1356 Basel earthquake destroyed much of it, but unlike Alt- ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Frenkendorf, Switzerland

Wulp Castle Ruins

Wulp Castle was built during the high Middle Ages. Despite this, the castle is documented only in a few found texts, and much of the castle"s history is not known. However, in the chronicle of Muri Abbey, a castle that could perhaps fit Ruine Wulp"s description - a castle in proximity to Zurich and Lake Zurich - was mentioned, but this has not been confirmed by other findings and is mere speculation. Also, ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Küsnacht, Switzerland

Forstegg Castle Ruins

Forstegg Castle is a ruined castle in the municipality of Sennwald. It was built around 1200 by the Barons of Sax/Misox, was abandoned in the 19th century and fell into ruin in 1894.
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Sennwald, Switzerland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Wawel Castle

Wawel Hill – a Jurassic limestone rock, a dominant feature in the landscape of Kraków, have provided a safe haven for people who have settled here since the Paleolithic Age. It is supposed that the Slav people started living on Wawel hill as early as the 7th century. Early medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter’s daughter Wanda, who drowned herself in the Vistula rather than marry a German knight. Towards the end of the first millennium A.D Wawel began to play the role of the centre of political power.In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vislane tribe. The first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I (c.965-992) of the Piast dynasty as well as his successors: Boleslas the Brave (992-1025) and Miesco II (1025-1034) chose Wawel Hill as one of their residences.

At that time Wawel became one of the main Polish centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque and Romanesque sacral buildings were raised here, including a stone cathedral that was erected after the bishopric of Kraków was established in the year 1000.

During the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034-1058) Wawel became a significant political and administrative centre for the Polish State. Casimir’s son, Boleslas the Bold (1058-1079) began the construction of a second Romanesque cathedral, which was finished by Boleslas the Wrymouth (1102-1138). In his last will of 1138, this prince divided Poland into districts, and provided that Kraków was to be the residence of the senior prince. In 1291 the city of Kraków along with Wawel Hill temporarily fell under the Czech rule, and Wenceslas II from the Premysl dynasty was crowned King of Poland in Wawel cathedral.

In 1306 the Duke of Kuyavia Ladislas the Short (1306-1333) entered Wawel and was crowned King of Poland in the Cathedral in 1320. It was the first historically recorded coronation of a Polish ruler on Wawel Hill. Around that time, at the initiative of Ladislas the Short, the construction of the third Gothic cathedral began, the castle was expanded and the old wooden and earthen fortifications were replaced by brick ones. The tomb of Ladislas the Short in the cathedral started a royal necropolis of Polish kings in Krakow.The last descendant of the Piast dynasty, Casimir the Great (1333-1370) brought Wawel to a state of unprecedented splendour. In 1364 the expanded gothic castle witnessed the marriage of Casimir’s granddaughter Elizabeth to Charles IV accompanied by a famous convention of kings and princes, subsequently entertained by a rich burgher Wierzynek. The accession to the throne in 1385 of Jadwiga from the Hungarian dynasty of Andegavens, and her marriage to a Lithuanian prince Ladislas Jagiello (1386-1434) started another era of prosperity for Wawel. The royal court employed local and western European artists and also Rus painters. During the reign of Casimir Jagiellon (1447-1492) the silhouette of the hill was enriched by three high brick towers: the Thieves’ Tower, the Sandomierz Tower and the Senatorial Tower. The first humanists in Poland and tutors to the king’s sons: historian Jan Długosz and an Italian by the name Filippo Buonacorsi (also known as Callimachus) worked there at that time.

The Italian Renaissance arrived at Wawel in the early 16th century. King Alexander (1501-1506) and his brother Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) commissioned the construction of a new palace in place of the Gothic residence, with an impressive large courtyard with arcaded galleries which was completed about 1540. Sigismund’s patronage also left an indelible impression in the cathedral, where a family chapel was erected, known today as Sigismund’s Chapel - the work of Bartolomeo of Berrecci Florence, and through various foundations, one of which was that of a large bell, called the Sigismund to commemorate the king. Close artistic and cultural relations with Italy were strengthened in 1518 by the king’s marriage to Bona Sforza. Alongside Italian artists, German architects, wood workers, painters and metal smiths worked for the king. The last descendant of the Jagiellonian dynasty, Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572), enriched the castle’s interiors with a magnificent collection of tapestries woven in Brussels. In the “Golden Age” of Polish culture Wawel became one of the main centres of humanism in Europe.

The reign of Sigismund III Waza (1587-1632) also made a strong impression on the history of Wawel. After a fire in the castle in 1595 the king rebuilt the burned wing of the building in the early Baroque style. The relocation of the royal court to Warsaw was the cause of a slow but nevertheless steady deterioration in the castle’s condition. The monarchs visited Kraków only occasionally. Restoration of the castle was undertaken during the reign of John III Sobieski, the Wettins and Stanislas Augustus to counteract neglect.

After Poland had lost its independence in 1795, the troops of partitioning nations, Russia, Prussia and Austria, subsequently occupied Wawel which finally passed into the hands of the Austrians. The new owners converted the castle and some of the secular buildings into a military hospital, and demolished some others, including churches. After the period of the Free City of Kraków (1815-1846) Wawel was once more annexed by Austria and turned into a citadel dominating the city. By the resolution passed by the Seym of Galicia in 1880, the castle was presented as a residence to the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I. The Austrian troops left the hill between 1905-1911. At the turn of the 20th century a thorough restoration of the cathedral was conducted, and shortly afterwards a process of restoration of the royal castle began which lasted several decades.

When Poland regained its independence in 1918, the castle served as an official residence of the Head of State, and as a museum of historic interiors. During the Nazi occupation the castle was the residence of the German governor general, Hans Frank. Polish people managed to remove the most valuable objects, including the tapestries and the “Szczerbiec” coronation sword to Canada, from where they returned as late as 1959-1961. At present, the main curators of Wawel are Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection and the Metropolitan Basilica Board on Wawel Hill.