Medieval castles in Switzerland

Romont Castle

A document from 1177 from the Abbey of Hauterive mentions the Romont as a wooded hill. In 1239, Anselme (or Nantelme) sold the rights to Romont hill to Peter II of Savoy. At that time, Romont was part of the territory of the Bishop of Lausanne. In 1240, Peter II sent a castellan to Romont to build a castle and found a village. The main castle (Grand Donjon), with a typical Savoy square floor plan, was completed befo ...
Founded: 1240 | Location: Romont, Switzerland

Rue Castle

Rue castle was built originally in the 12th century (the keep with three storeys), but the other buildings were destroyed in the 1230s. Peter II of Savoy rebuilt the castle between 1260-1268, but it was again destroyed in 1476 in the Burgundian Wars. The current residence dates from 1619-1763.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Rue, Switzerland

Petit-Vivy Castle

Petit-Vivy Castle is located near the dike surrounding the Schiffenensee and northeast of Barberêche. It is among the oldest preserved castles in the region. The still-preserved, mighty, four-sided keep was built in the second half of the 13th century, and has 3.5 m thick walls. Around the keep are the remains of former surrounding walls, arranged in triangular form. The residential buildings were built in the 16th ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Courtepin, Switzerland

Arbon Castle

A castle in Arbon is first mentioned in 720 in a history of St. Gall Abbey. It stood on or near the site of the Roman era Arbor Felix fortress from 250 AD. After the Romans retreated south of the Alps around 400, the old fortress was abandoned. Sometime later a Frankish castle was built in Arbon probably for the Frankish royal family. By around 700, Arbon and presumably the castle, were the property of the diocese ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Arbon, Switzerland

Bischofszell Castle

Bischofszell castle was built in the 12th/13th century. It was damaged by the city fire in 1419 and repaired soon thereafter. During the 17th and 18th century the castle was expanded and totally renovated. The newly founded Canton of Thurgau took over the castle in 1798, but sold it in 1811 again. About 1838 the west part collapsed, and in 1843 the keep was broken up. Since 1930, the castle has been owned by the municipal ...
Founded: 1419 | Location: Bischofszell, Switzerland

Frauenfeld Castle

Frauenfeld castle was founded by the counts of Kyburg in the 13th century. The massive tower dates from 1227. The exhibit of the Thurgau History Museum in castle illustrates the time after 1415 that was so important for the region. It offers both children and adults an insightful and playful gateway to the Middle Ages. The modern arrangements, interactive animation and the artwork shining in new splendour are the highli ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Frauenfeld, Switzerland

Gottlieben Castle

Gottlieben village is first mentioned around the end of the 10th Century as Gotiliubon. It was originally part of the land owned by the Bishop of Constance. In 1251, Eberhard von Waldburg built a castle that served as the residence of the Bishops. After the Swabian War in 1499 the episcopal chief constable managed the village and the local low court from the castle until 1798. The court included Engwilen, Siegershau ...
Founded: 1251 | Location: Gottlieben, Switzerland

Hagenwil Castle

Hagenwil is the only remaining intact water castle in eastern Switzerland. The first mention of the castle dates from 1264 when Rudolf von Hagenwil donated it to the Abbey of St. Gall. The donation was made in gratitude to the Abbot of St. Gall for rescuing Rudolf from his sons in law, who were holding him prisoner at Heitnau Castle in an attempt to receive their inheritance early. The donation included the right for ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Amriswil, Switzerland

Seeburg Castle

The site of current Seeburg castle was mentioned first time in 740 AD. The construction of current castle was started in the 11th century (around 1036). It was largely extended by Wichmann von Seeburg, later Archbishop of Magdeburg (1115-1192). The next renovations took place in the 14th and 15th centuries, when the castle was flanked by towers and a gatehouse under the rule of Counts of Mansfeld. Later Seeburg was l ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Kreuzlingen, 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

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

La Bâtiaz Castle

The La Bâtiaz castle was built in 1260 and is the only remaining witness to the medieval era. It was an object of envy, and passed from the House of Savoie to the Sion bishops (and vice versa) many times. Dishes influenced by medieval flavours are served during the summer season. There are panoramic view over the surrounding vineyards and Rhône Valley from the castle tower. The castle also hosts collection of medieval ...
Founded: 1260 | Location: Martigny, Switzerland

Leuk Castle

Leuk castle consists of an early-Romanesque tower (11th-13th century), an attached dwelling house and a curtain wall. It has undergone repeated conversion and extension. The castle was the scene of witch trials in the 17th century.
Founded: 11th century | Location: Leuk, 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

Saint-Maurice Castle

Started at the end of the 15th century, between 1476 and 1482, the construction of St-Maurice castle took place in several stages.  They began by building a tower with doors, then a crenellated enclosure and guard towers. This led to the construction of the main body of the building and, at the beginning of the 16th century, a large retaining wall to which a new tower with a large ogival door was added. A fire destroyed ...
Founded: 1476 | Location: Saint-Maurice, Switzerland

Monthey Castle

Monthey Castle was built in the early 15th century by Duke of Savoy. It was damaged by fire in 1607. Today Monthay castle is a museum. 
Founded: 15th century | Location: Monthey, Switzerland

Majorie Castle

Majorie castle served as a residence for bishops of Sion since 1373. In 1529 and 1788 it was damaged by fire. Today it houses the cantonal museum of fine arts.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Sion, Switzerland

Tourbillon Castle

Tourbillon Castle was built sometime between 1290 and 1308 by the Bishop of Sion, Boniface de Challant, as his principal residence. After Boniface died in 1308, his successor Aymon II de Châtillon probably finished the castle. In 1352 the Upper Valais revolted against Bishop Guichard Tavel. Led by Peter de la Tour, in November of that year, they marched on Sion, burned the town and unsuccessfully besieged the castle. In ...
Founded: 1290-1308 | Location: Sion, Switzerland

Aarau Castle

The small castle of Aarau ('Schlössli') has remained nearly unchanged since the 13th century. The 'Schlössli' is the oldest building in the city. It was already founded at the time of the establishment of the city shortly after 1200; the exact date is not known. Today it hosts a city museum.
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Aarau, 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

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.