Castles in Bern Canton

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

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

Felsenburg Castle

Felsenburg castle was probably built in the 12th century for the Freiherr of Kien. The castle was built on a rocky spire above the road over the Gemmi pass into Valais. It was inherited, along with the rest of the Herrschaft of Frutigen, by the Freiherr of Wädenswil in 1290. The Freiherr of Turn acquired it from Wädenswil in 1312. It was mentioned in a record in 1339 as the castrum de Petra. It was again mentio ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Kandergrund, Switzerland

Münsingen Castle

By the 12th century a castle was built in Münsingen town from which the Senn family ruled the town. However, it was demolished by Bern in 1311. A wooden outbuilding was built on the castle lands three years later, which later became the cantonal psychiatric clinic. In 1550 the Schultheiss Hans Franz Nägeli rebuilt the castle building into its current appearance. It was renovated and repaired in 1749–53. In 1977 the mu ...
Founded: 1550 | Location: Münsingen, Switzerland

Wimmis Castle

By the 12th or 13th century the Lords of Wimmis or Strättligen built Wimmis Castle above the village. The exact relationship between the two families is unclear, but the Wimmis line became extinct in the mid-13th century and by 1260 the Freiherr von Strättligen owned Wimmis Castle and the surrounding lands. A few years later the castle and lands were incorporated into the extensive holdings of the Freiherr von Weissenbu ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Wimmis, Switzerland

Riggisberg Castle

During the Middle Ages the Fribourg noble family of Riggisberg was established with a seat in Riggisberg. The first one that appears in a historical record is Constantin de Rucasperc in 1140. The family soon lost or sold all their rights and land in the village and by the 13th century other nobles and monasteries owned parts of the village. In 1337 the Riggisberg line died out and their remaining estates passed on to othe ...
Founded: 1700 | Location: Riggisberg, Switzerland

Wil Castle

During the Middle Ages, Wil Castle was built near the village and it became the seat of the Herrschaft of Schlosswil. The lords of the fort, the Freiherren von Wiler, were first mentioned in 1146. The von Wiler family died out around 1300, and the village and associated territory passed through several noble families, including the Freiherren von Signau and eventually the Senn von Münsingen family. The territory was spl ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Schlosswil, Switzerland

Amsoldingen Castle

Amsoldingen Castle and the neighboring was built in the 10th century. The castle was built as the residence of the wealthy provost of the collegiate church of Amsoldingen. However, the provost and church gradually became impoverished and in 1484 ownership of the castle was given to St. Vincent"s cathedral in Bern. The college of canons in Bern sold the castle and surrounding lands in 1496 to the wealthy merchant Bart ...
Founded: 10th century AD | Location: Amsoldingen, Switzerland

Strättligen Castle

Strättligen Castle was built by the barons of Strättligen in the 13th century. Today the ruins are well-preserved with a powder tower dating from 1699.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Thun, Switzerland

Trachselwald Castle

The name of the rulers of the Trachselwald Castle was first mentioned in 1131. The castle itself may date back to the 10th century but the 11th or 12th century is more likely. At first it belonged to the barons of Trachselwald, then to the barons of Rüti bei Lyssach, and then those of Sumiswald. The barons of Sumiswald sold the castle and surrounding lands to the city of Bern. Bern turned the castle into a sheriffhood. ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Trachselwald, Switzerland

Wittigkofen Castle

Wittigkofen Castle was originally built as a residence for a farm and was awarded to the followers of the Zähringians. In the mid-13th century Heinricus Wittenchoven managed the farm. He was a member of the council and the first documented feudal superior. The property was also home to the monastery of Interlaken. The castle had several owners and belonged to different families. Beat Ludwig von Mülinen (1521-1597) purch ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Bern, Switzerland

Worb Castle

The Freiherr de Worvo was first mentioned in 1127, a couple of years before the village appeared in the record. By the second half of the 13th century the Freiherr von Kien had inherited village, lands and Worb Castle. The family ruled over the Worb Herrschaft until 1336 when they became citizens of Bern and the territory came under Bernese authority. Over the following centuries several Bernese noble families ruled o ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Worb, Switzerland

Thielle Castle

Thielle Castle was built by Berchtold, the count of Neuchâtel in 1270-1300. In 1320-1325 it was reconstructed in Gothic style and later it got also Baroque elements. In the 19th century the castle was used as prison and restored in 1960-1980s.
Founded: 1270-1300 | Location: Gals, Switzerland

Burgistein Castle

The first castle at Burgistein was built by Jordan I of Thun (later of Burgistein) in 1260. Jordan III of Burgistein fought on the losing side in the Battle of Laupen in 1339. In retaliation a Bernese army attacked and destroyed the castle in 1340. It was rebuilt in the following years. In 1397 the Burgistein family died out and the castle was inherited by Werner Münzer. Over the following century it passed through nume ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Burgistein, Switzerland

Restiturm

The Restiturm, or Burgruine Resti, is a ruined castle in the municipality of Meiringen. The original castle was built in the 13th century and has been rebuilt several times. The castle is situated at the foot of the Hasliberges. The best preserved part of the castle is its tower, which still stands to this day. An examination of the castle interior reveals that the castle was constructed inside out, with the core"s c ...
Founded: c. 1250 | Location: Meiringen, Switzerland

Weissenburg Castle

In 1175 the Freiherr von Weissenburg was first mentioned as a land holder and vassal of Duke Berthold IV of Zähringen. Whether they had a castle at this time is not recorded. When he assumed the title in 1259, Rudolf III of Weissenburg expanded and repaired Weissenburg Castle to its full size. Beginning in the 13th century, the Weissenburgs began to expand their Herrschaft. Around 1250 they added Wimmis to their territor ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Weissenburg, Switzerland

Alt-Signau Castle Ruins

Alt-Signau castle was the ancestral home of the Barons of Signau. The family was first mentioned in 1130 when Werner von Signau appeared in a historical record. The castle was designed to protect and control the road between the Emmental and the Aare river. In the mid-14th century the castle was abandoned when the family moved to Neu-Signau Castle on a hill across the valley. The ruin is relatively well preserved.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Signau, Switzerland

Spittel Castle

Spittel Castle was established in 1225 by Lüthold von Sumiswald as a hospital, hence the name. The current appearance dates from the restoration made after the great fire in 1730.
Founded: 1730 | Location: Sumiswald, Switzerland

Allmendingen Castle

The original Allmendingen Castle was built during the High Middle Ages probably for the Lords of Allmendingen or Alwandingen. Between 1239 and 1256 Rudolf von Alwandingen was mentioned in the record. In 1256 the Lords of Allmendingen sold both Allmendingen and the neighboring hamlet of Märchligen to Interlaken Abbey. The castle fell into disrepair and during the 16th century the cartographer Thomas Schöpf referred to it ...
Founded: 17th century | Location: Allmendingen, Switzerland

Rümligen Castle

During the High Middle Ages the Freiherr von Rümligen owned a vast swathe of land between the Gürbe and Sense rivers. The first appearance of the family in the historical record is in 1076 when Lütold von Rümligen founded Rüeggisberg Priory. By the 13th century they were allied with Bern and in 1320-21 Berchtold von Rümligen (1294-1337) was the Schultheiss in Bern. The Simmental and Summerau lines of the Rümligen f ...
Founded: c. 1076 | Location: Rümligen, Switzerland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Charlottenburg Palace

Charlottenburg Palace is the largest palace in Berlin and the only surviving royal residence in the city dating back to the time of the Hohenzollern family. The original palace was commissioned by Sophie Charlotte, the wife of Friedrich III, Elector of Brandenburg in what was then the village of Lietzow. Originally named Lietzenburg, the palace was designed by Johann Arnold Nering in baroque style. The inauguration of the palace was celebrated on 11 July 1699, Frederick's 42nd birthday.

Friedrich crowned himself as King Friedrich I in Prussia in 1701 (Friedrich II, known as Frederick the Great, would later achieve the title King of Prussia). Two years previously, he had appointed Johann Friedrich von Eosander (also known as Eosander von Göthe) as the royal architect and sent him to study architectural developments in Italy and France, particularly the Palace of Versailles. On his return in 1702, Eosander began to extend the palace, starting with two side wings to enclose a large courtyard, and the main palace was extended on both sides. Sophie Charlotte died in 1705 and Friedrich named the palace and its estate Charlottenburg in her memory. In the following years, the Orangery was built on the west of the palace and the central area was extended with a large domed tower and a larger vestibule. On top of the dome is a wind vane in the form of a gilded statue representing Fortune designed by Andreas Heidt. The Orangery was originally used to overwinter rare plants. During the summer months, when over 500 orange, citrus and sour orange trees decorated the baroque garden, the Orangery regularly was the gorgeous scene of courtly festivities.

Inside the palace, was a room described as 'the eighth wonder of the world', the Amber Room, a room with its walls surfaced in decorative amber. It was designed by Andreas Schlüter and its construction by the Danish amber craftsman Gottfried Wolfram started in 1701. Friedrich Wilhelm I gave the Amber Room to Tsar Peter the Great as a present in 1716.

When Friedrich I died in 1713, he was succeeded by his son, Friedrich Wilhelm I whose building plans were less ambitious, although he did ensure that the building was properly maintained. Building was resumed after his son Friedrich II (Frederick the Great) came to the throne in 1740. During that year, stables for his personal guard regiment were completed to the south of the Orangery wing and work was started on the east wing. The building of the new wing was supervised by Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff, the Superintendent of all the Royal Palaces, who largely followed Eosander's design. The decoration of the exterior was relatively simple but the interior furnishings were lavish. The ground floor was intended for Frederick's wife Elisabeth Christine, who, preferring Schönhausen Palace, was only an occasional visitor. The decoration of the upper floor, which included the White Hall, the Banqueting Hall, the Throne Room and the Golden Gallery, was lavish and was designed mainly by Johann August Nahl. In 1747, a second apartment for the king was prepared in the distant eastern part of the wing. During this time, Sanssouci was being built at Potsdam and once this was completed Frederick was only an occasional visitor to Charlottenburg.

In 1786, Frederick was succeeded by his nephew Friedrich Wilhelm II who transformed five rooms on the ground floor of the east wing into his summer quarters and part of the upper floor into Winter Chambers, although he did not live long enough to use them. His son, Friedrich Wilhelm III came to the throne in 1797 and reigned with his wife, Queen Luise for 43 years. They spent much of this time living in the east wing of Charlottenburg. Their eldest son, Friedrich Wilhelm IV, who reigned from 1840 to 1861, lived in the upper storey of the central palace building. After Friedrich Wilhelm IV died, the only other royal resident of the palace was Friedrich III who reigned for 99 days in 1888.

The palace was badly damaged in 1943 during the Second World War. In 1951, the war-damaged Stadtschloss in East Berlin was demolished and, as the damage to Charlottenburg was at least as serious, it was feared that it would also be demolished. However, following the efforts of Margarete Kühn, the Director of the State Palaces and Gardens, it was rebuilt to its former condition, with gigantic modern ceiling paintings by Hann Trier.

The garden was designed in 1697 in baroque style by Simeon Godeau who had been influenced by André Le Nôtre, designer of the gardens at Versailles. Godeau's design consisted of geometric patterns, with avenues and moats, which separated the garden from its natural surroundings. Beyond the formal gardens was the Carp Pond. Towards the end of the 18th century, a less formal, more natural-looking garden design became fashionable. In 1787 the Royal Gardener Georg Steiner redesigned the garden in the English landscape style for Friedrich Wilhelm II, the work being directed by Peter Joseph Lenné. After the Second World War, the centre of the garden was restored to its previous baroque style.