Medieval castles in Switzerland

Altenburg Castle

The exact date of Altenburg Castle construction is unknown, however the traditional date given is during the reign of Valentinian I or around 370. The discovery of several small coin hoards near the ruins may indicate a construction date as early as the beginning of the 4th century AD. The castle was built on a point above the Aar river as part of the Limes Germanicus to protect an easily fordable stretch of the ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Brugg, 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

Auenstein Castle

Auenstein Castle was built on a rocky hill above the Aare river in the 13th century for a local nobleman named Gowenstein. Around 1300 it was acquired by the Lord of Rinach. During a war between the Habsburgs and the Old Swiss Confederacy in 1389, a Bernese army sacked and burned the castle. Following the Bernese conquest of the Aargau in 1415, Auenstein became a part of the Landvogtei of Lenzburg. Over the fol ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Auenstein, Switzerland

Bellikon Castle

Bellikon Castle, which features in the municipal coat of arms, is a small castle that was built in the 13th century by the Habsburgs and was known as Rotten Hus. From 1314 to 1640, the patrician Krieg family of Zurich owned the castle. The chapel dates from 1676.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Bellikon, Switzerland

Biberstein Castle

Biberstein estate was first mentioned in 1280 which indicates a late 13th century construction date. The castle was built for the Counts of Habsburg-Laufenburg. In 1335 the Habsburgs sold the castle and town to Rudolf von Büttikon who established a Knights Hospitaller commandry in the castle. After 1368 the Habsburgs attempted to secretly repurchase Biberstein Castle from the Knights by using a minor noble as a str ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Biberstein, Switzerland

Böttstein Castle

Böttstein Castle was built in the 12th century for the Barons of Böttstein. After the extinction of the Böttstein line, the castle became the property of the Barons of Tiefenstein in the 13th century. In 1361 the Lords of Wessenberg were granted the castle and surrounding villages as a fief by Duke Rudolf of Austria. After the Old Swiss Confederacy conquered the Aargau in 1415, the local rulers and their jurisdi ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Böttstein, Switzerland

Brunegg Castle

Brunegg castle was built on a hill at the edge of the Jura mountains in the 13th century. This castle was probably built, together with near Wildegg castle, as part of the Habsburg border defenses. The castle was occupied by Habsburg knights, including Schenken von Brunegg and Gessler von Meienberg. In 1415 the castle was besieged by Bernese troops, but they lifted siege after a counterattack. However, Bern conqu ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Brunegg, Switzerland

Freudenau Castle Ruins

Freudenau Castle was built around 1240 to protect the bridge over Aare river. It was left to decay already in 1300 and a large part of the castle was destroyed on 25 December 1351. The remaining buildings were abandoned and decayed over the centuries. Today only ruins remain.
Founded: 1240 | Location: Untersiggenthal, Switzerland

Habsburg Castle

Habsburg Castle near the Aare River was the original seat of the House of Habsburg, which became one of the leading imperial and royal dynasties in Europe. At the time of its construction, the location was part of the Duchy of Swabia. Around 1020–1030 Count Radbot, of the nearby county of Klettgau in the Duchy of Swabia, had the castle erected. It is believed that he named the castle after a hawk (Habicht ...
Founded: 1020-1030 | Location: Habsburg, Switzerland

Hallwyl Castle

Hallwyl Castle is one of the most important moated castles in Switzerland. It is located on two islands in the River Aabach, just north of the northern end of Lake Hallwil. Since 1925, it has been open to the public, and since 1994 it has been owned by the canton of Aargau and is part of the museum of Aargau. The first mention of the castle is in the year 1256. However, the originally free noble family of Hallwyl ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Seengen, Switzerland

Kasteln Castle

About 1200 the original fortress Kasteln was built in the middle Schenkenberger valley, a few kilometers away from Schenkenberg Castle. In 1238 the castle is first mentioned in a deed of gift to the residents of the castle who were vassals of the Kyburgs. In 1262 Ruchenstein castle was built on the cliff directly behind the fort for the Knight of Ruchenstein. After the extinction of the Kyburg line in 1264, the cast ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Oberflachs, Switzerland

Klingnau Castle

The construction of the Klingnau castle, originally the seat of the Klingen family, was started in 1240. Until 1269 a manor house stood on the grounds. After 1331 the outer walls were added. In the second half of the 14th century the Bishop of Constance was often a resident in the castle. He ordered further improvements and expansions. In the late 16th century, the castle, which was the seat of the bailiff from Co ...
Founded: 1240 | Location: Klingnau, Switzerland

Landvogteischschloss

The Landvogteischschloss is a small castle in the city of Baden. It is located on the right bank of the Limmat river and once guarded the narrow pass over the river. Today it houses the Historical Museum and city archives of Baden. The core of three-storey castle was erected in the first half of the 12th century. During the centuries extensions were built in three stages.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Baden, Switzerland

Lenzburg Castle

Lenzburg Castle ranks among the oldest and most important of Switzerland. The castle stands on the almost circular castle hill, which rises approximately 100 m the surrounding plain. The prominent hill was already a settlement site in prehistoric times. For example, in 1959 a Neolithic gravesite was uncovered in the carpark. There have also been small discoveries from the Roman and Alemannic eras.  The oldest p ...
Founded: c. 1100 | Location: Lenzburg, Switzerland

Liebegg Castle

The origins of Liebegg castle and the von Liebegg family are unclear, though they were probably a junior line of the von Trostburg family. The first castle was probably built in the 2nd half of the 12th century. About a century later the second castle was built south of the first. The first mention of the family is in 1241 when Burkhard I and Ludwig von Liebegg appear as witnesses in a document. At that time they were u ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Gränichen, Switzerland

Schenkenberg Castle

Schenkenberg castle was probably built in the early 13th century for the Habsburgs dynasty, both as a headquarters and to protect core areas around Brugg. The first written mention of the castle took place in 1243 when the Lords of Schenkenberg, a Habsburg vassel, were granted land around the castle. The ownership changed multiple times as the Habsburgs granted it to other vassels. After the Habsburg defeat at the Bat ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Thalheim, Switzerland

Stein Castle

Stein Castle was built on a rocky promontory above Baden gorge some time before 1000. In the late 11th century the castle came to the Lenzburg family. By the early 12th Century, the cadet line that lived in the castle called themselves the Counts of Baden. In 1172, the castle was inherited by the Kyburg family. When that family died out in 1263, the castle was inherited by the Habsburgs in 1264. The castle was occup ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Baden, Switzerland

Trostburg Castle

Trostburg castle was probably built in the 12th century, though nothing is known of its early history. At some point in the 12th or early 13th century a junior line moved a short distance away and built Liebegg Castle near Gränichen. On 28 May 1241 Burkhart I of Trostberg and his relative Ludwig of Liebegg appear in a document as witnesses and unfree knights in service to the Counts of Kyburg. Eventually they passe ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Teufenthal, Switzerland

Wildenstein Castle

Wildenstein Castle"s first mention was in 1301, with no understanding to when was it made or by whom. The two towers were built around 1350 and the construction or expansion of the palas was made around 1400. The medieval castle was restored as a Baroque residence in 1640 by Hans Thüring Effinger. The restoration work started in 2012.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Veltheim, Switzerland

Willdegg Castle

Willdegg castle in the midst of gardens, meadows and vineyards was founded in the first half of the 13th century by the Habsburgs. For eleven generations Wildegg Castle was owned by the Effinger family. During that time the castle was expanded several times. The gardens in their seasonal change are an oasis of calm and an invitation to stroll, smell and marvel. The site consists of a well-preserved 13th-century keep and ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Wildegg, 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.