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

Thunstetten Manor

Thunstetten castle manor was built as a country manor house in the Bernese Oberaargau in 1711 to 1713 or 1713 to 1715. The castle was built for the Landvogt Hieronymus von Erlach following plans by the architect Joseph Abeille. The castle remained with the Erlach family until 1746. From 1746 until 1971 it had numerous owners. In 1971 the Stiftung Schloss Thunstetten (Thunstetten Castle Foundation) took over management of ...
Founded: 1711 | Location: Thunstetten, 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

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Broch of Gurness

The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.

The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.

The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.

The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.

Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.

At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.

In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.