Medieval castles in 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

Landenberg Castle

The earliest fortifications on Landenberg hill probably date back to the early 11th century, when the Counts of Lenzburg built a wooden fort there. After the Lenzburg line died out in 1173 their estates around Sarnen were inherited by the Habsburgs. The Habsburgs built a stone ring wall around much of the crown of the hill. While parts of the wall are still visible, very little is known about the buildings inside the wall ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Sarnen, Switzerland

Steinsberg Castle

During the High Middle Ages a fortified church with a ring wall and perhaps a tower was built near the current Steinsberg Castle. By the end of the 12th century, these fortifications were demolished and a new castle was built above formerly fortified plateau and the Church of St. Lazius. It was probably built for a local noble family. In 1209 Albert von Frickingen sold all his estates and villages as well as the castle ab ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Scuol, Switzerland

Lucens Castle

Lucens Castle"s strategic location allowed it to control the Broye valley, which was an important transit corridor. Starting in the Middle Ages and until 1536 it was a residence of the Bishop of Lausanne and served to control the Bishop"s land in the Broye valley. During the 12th century, the castle was repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt. In 1476, it was destroyed by the Swiss Confederation. In 1536 the val ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Lucens, Switzerland

Rouelbeau Castle Ruins

First wooden Rouelbeau Castle was built in 1318 by the lords of Faucigny.  It was rebuilt as a stone castle probably between 1339 and 1355 whose ruins appear still today.
Founded: 1318 | Location: Meinier, Switzerland

Farnsburg Castle Ruins

Farnsburg  castle ruins are the remains from the 14th century. It was built by the Counts of Thierstein between 1319-1342. In the 15th century Farnsburg lost its military purpose. The buildings were left to decay and it was easily conquered in 1653 (the Peasants' War) and finally in 1798 (by the revolting farmers). In 1798 the city Vogt was finally expelled and the castle was set on fire by landowners. The ruin was the ...
Founded: 1319-1342 | Location: Ormalingen, 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

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

Wyher Castle

Wyher Castle is a moated castle, which lies south of the village center of Ettiswil. It was first mentioned in 1304 as the home of the Freiherr von Wediswil. After passing through several owners, around the end of the 15th century it was acquired by the Feer family. Around 1510, Petermann Feer rebuilt it into a late-Gothic castle. In 1588 it was inherited by Ludwig Pfyffer von Altishofen, whose descendants adopted the nam ...
Founded: c. 1304 | Location: Ettiswil, 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

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.