Medieval castles in 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

Allaman Castle

Allaman Castle has its origins in the 11 and 12th centuries but the main components were built by Louis, Duke of Savoy, in 1253. The wealthy Genevan philanthropist Count Jean-Jacques de Sellon, who owned the property until 1839, gave accommodation at the castle to political refugees, such as Napoleon"s brother Joseph Bonaparte, Empress Joséphine de Beauharnais, Voltaire, Franz Liszt and George Sand. In 18 ...
Founded: 1253 | Location: Allaman, Switzerland

Birseck Castle

Birseck Castle is also called Vordere Burg Birseck and is one of four castles on a slope called Birseck that confines the plain of the Birs river. Burg Reichenstein sits on a higher slope to the north. The origins of the castle probably date back to the age of Counts of Frohburg in the 12th century. Bishop Lüthold of Basel bought the castle hill from the Niedermünster monastery in 1239 and built the present cas ...
Founded: 1243-1244 | Location: Arlesheim, 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

Dardagny Castle

During the 13th century Dardagny Castle, along with Bruel, La Corbière and Malval, formed a ring of castles, which secured the western boundary of the lands of the Bishop of Geneva. In 1298 there were two castles, which were separated by a small road. Each one belonged to one of the two noble families in Dardagny. In the 14th century, the south building was over two stories high and had a tower. In 1646, the Favre famil ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Dardagny, Switzerland

Oron Castle

Oron Castle was built in the 13th century. It was totally rebuilt in second half of the 15th century and renovated several times in the 17th century. In 1801 it was acquired the Roberti family of Moudon, and in 1870 it was bought by Adolphe Gaiffe. Beginning in 1880, a library was built in the castle. Today it houses 17,000 volumes and is one of the largest private collections of French novelists of the 18th Century in E ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Oron-le-Châtel, Switzerland

Champvent Castle

Situated on a hill overlooking the valley of Thiele, the Champvent castle of is on of the best preserved medieval castles in Vaud canton. It was probably built around 1250 by Henri de Grandson. His family occupied the castle until 1336. The castle and the lordship then passed in Burgundy until 1476 when it was burned after the Battle of Grandson (in Burgundian Wars). Champvent castle was rebuilt after 1536 and beca ...
Founded: c. 1250 | Location: Champvent, Switzerland

Wartensee Castle

The western tower of Wartensee castle was built in 1243 by Ritter Heinrich von Wartensee as a residential tower. By the marriage the tower went in 1377 to the brothers Walter and Diethelm Blarer from St. Gallen. The family Blarer owned Wartensee until 1719. The current appearance dates from the alterations made in 1843-1553 by English composer Robert Lucas Pearsall de Willsbridge. Today Wartensee is a hotel.
Founded: 1243 | Location: Rorschacherberg, 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

Angenstein Castle

Angenstein castle was founded in the middle of the 13th century by the  for a strategic outpost between Basel and the Jura area. It was owned by the Counts of Pfirt, but half of it was apparently ceded in 1271 to the Bishop of Basel. After 1557 the castle was destroyed by fires (1494 and 1517) and turned into a residence. The four-storey residential tower was built, which still characterize the appearance of Angenstei ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Aesch, 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

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

Herblingen Castle

Herblingen Castle in Stetten was probably built at the beginning of the 13th century by the Lords of Herblingen. In 1281 Konrad von Herblingen rebuilt the chapel, which may have been existed already in the 11th century. Herblingen family died out in the 15th century and after then castle owners changed many times. The bank director Johann Wilhelm Gestefeld from Vienna acquired the castle in 1733 and converted it into ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Stetten, 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Königstein Fortress

Königstein Fortress is located on the left bank of the River Elbe. It is one of the largest hilltop fortifications in Europe. The 9.5 hectare rock plateau rises 240 metres above the Elbe and has over 50 buildings, some over 400 years old, that bear witness to the military and civilian life in the fortress. The rampart run of the fortress is 1,800 metres long with walls up to 42 metres high and steep sandstone faces. In the centre of the site is a 152.5 metre deep well, which is the deepest in Saxony and second deepest well in Europe.

The fortress, which for centuries was used as a state prison, is still intact and is now one of Saxony's foremost tourist attractions, with 700,000 visitors per year.

By far the oldest written record of a castle on the Königstein is found in a deed by King Wenceslas I of Bohemia dating to the year 1233. It is probable that there had been a stone castle on the Königstein as early as the 12th century. The oldest surviving structure today is the castle chapel built at the turn of the 13th century. In the years 1563 to 1569 the 152.5 metre deep well was bored into the rock within the castle - until that point the garrison of the Königstein had to obtain water from cisterns and by collecting rainwater.

Between 1589 and 1591/97 Prince-Elector Christian I of Saxony and his successor had the castle developed into the strongest fortification in Saxony. The hill was now surrounded with high walls. Buildings were erected, including the Gatehouse (Torhaus), the Streichwehr, the Old Barracks (Alte Kaserne), the Christiansburg (Friedrichsburg) and the Old Armoury (Altes Zeughaus). The second construction period followed from 1619 to 1681, during which the John George Bastion was built. The third construction period is seen as the time from 1694 to 1756, which included the expansion of the Old Barracks. From 1722 to 1725, at the behest of August the Strong, coopers under Böttger built the enormous Königstein Wine Barrel, the greatest wine barrel in the world, in the cellar of the Magdalenenburg which had a capacity of 249,838 litres. It cost 8,230 thalers, 18 groschen and 9 pfennigs. The butt, which was once completely filled with country wine from the Meißen vineyards, had to be removed again in 1818 due to its poor condition. Because of Böttger, Königstein Fortress is also the site where European porcelain started.

Even after the expansion during those periods of time there continued to be modifications and additions on the extensive plateau. The Treasury (Schatzhaus) was built from 1854 to 1855. After the fortress had been incorporated in 1871 into the fortification system of the new German Empire, battery ramparts were constructed from 1870 to 1895 with eight firing points, that were to have provided all-round defence for the fortress in case of an attack that, in the event, never came. This was at this time that the last major building work was done on the fortress.

Because Königstein Fortress was regarded as unconquerable, the Saxon monarchs retreated to it from Wittenberg and later Dresden during times of crisis and also deposited the state treasure and many works of art from the famous Zwinger here; it was also used as a country retreat due to its lovely surroundings.

The fortress played an important role in the History of Saxony, albeit less as a result of military action. The Saxon Dukes and Prince-Electors used the fortress primarily as a secure refuge during times of war, as a hunting lodge and maison de plaisance, but also as a dreaded state prison. Its actual military significance was rather marginal.

Since 1955 the fortress has been an open-air, military history museum of high touristic value.