Chillon Castle In Geneva, Switzerland
Chillon Castle is a beautiful island castle in Lake Geneva. The place has become a major tourist attraction because of the beautiful view of the surrounding mountains and the lake. The Castle of Chillon has easy accessibility to other parts of the country, which makes it one of the most visited places in Switzerland.
History of Chillon Castle
The Chillon Castle history dates back to 1005. It has been under three major periods and was used as a prison. The Chillon Castle Dungeons are beautifully made and give a glimpse of the life of people who must have lived in these dungeons. The Chillon Castle in Montreux is very well preserved and has some furniture and paintings that make the place look authentic.
Highlights of Chillon Castle
The beautiful architecture of rooms built underground in a Gothic Style.
The three great halls of the castle are also a highlight of Chillon Castle.
The place has Camera Domini, an extraordinary room which was designated to Duke of Savoy.
The chapel has beautiful paintings belonging to the 14th century.
There is a weapons room, showing the audiovisual presentation of weapons used during the
There are many exhibitions held in Chillon Castle in Geneva. The most famous of these are Christine Sefolosha - Casting Off, Mouthwatering - Eating and Drinking in the Middle Ages, Medieval Factory, Magic Mountains Works By Daniel Frank, 1816-2016 Byron is Back! Lord Byron’s Return, Armour, Textiles And Reflections, Portraits Of Ghosts By Hugo Bonamin, Chillon And The Wonderful Era Of Posters, and many more.
There are many banquet halls in Chillon Castle in Geneva, where you can take your guests and give them a glimpse of history. The famous banquets are Aula Magna, Castellan’s Dining Hall, and Domus Clericorum.
One can book the venue for many activities related to kids and family such as:
There are different themes such as The Castle in Battle, The Archaeologists Castle, The Magical Castle.
Holiday Workshops are held in the Easter and autumn holidays.
Family events are also held.
The membership of Drako Club, Chillon Castle in Geneva is for CHF 20 per year. One can sign up for the membership and enjoy different benefits like participating in the holiday workshops free of charge and many more such benefits.
Circle of Friends of Chillon
Become a member of Circle of Friends of Chillon and actively take part in the different events.
Since 2011 there was a wine cellar and wine press at Chillon. The famous wine of Chillon Castle in Geneva are White Wine - Clos De Chillon Grand CRU and Red Wine - Clos De Chillon.
Outside the castle, there is a bazaar that is around 100 years old. From this place, one can buy:-
Since 1892 conservation and restoration work has been carried out. The work that has been done, keeping in mind and respecting the culture and tradition.
One must take tour guides with themselves to know about the Chillon Castle, as they have complete knowledge of the place, and help in making the people understand the history and relate it to the present in the right manner. The Chillon Castle Lake Geneva is best to spend a weekend with family and friends, away from the hustle-bustle of city life. The place is quiet and helps people getting relaxed. The amazing scenic beauty of the place enhances the mood of a person and makes them feel pleasant.
To relax in the lap of nature, and explore some historical facts about the Chillon Castle, one must visit the place.
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Chillon is currently open to the public for visits and tours. According to the castle website, Chillon is listed as "Switzerland's most visited historic monument". Α] There is a fee for entrance and there are both parking spaces and a bus stop nearby for travel. Inside the castle there are several recreations of the interiors of some of the main rooms including the grand bedroom, hall and cave stores. Inside the castle itself there are four great halls, three courtyards, and a series of bedrooms open to the public. One of the oldest is the Camera domini, which was a room occupied by the Duke of Savoy - it is decorated with 14th Century medieval murals. Β]
From priory to prison
In real life, the prisoner Bonivard was a nobleman around the time of the House of Savoy, the longest surviving royal house in Europe. At the time, the Duchy of Savoy ruled over the entire lake region, from Geneva to Chillon and present-day Canton Vaud (except for the Aigle region which fell into Bernese hands in 1475).
Born into a family closely linked to the Savoy Court, Bonivard succeeded his uncle as prior of St Victor in Geneva, on what today is the site of the Russian Church.
“That was the start of his problems. The priory generated large revenue and owned a lot land, which inflamed the greed of the Duke of Savoy,” Metzener explains.
As a further source of aggravation to the Duke, Bonivard supported the independence of Geneva and was close to the “Eidgenot” party, a movement identified with Swiss nationalism. Unwilling to give up his rights as a prior, Bonivard ended up in prison.
After an initial imprisonment in what is present-day Ain, he was captured once again in 1530 and locked up in the Château de Chillon. He was freed in 1536 when the Bernese invaded Vaud and he subsequently moved to Geneva.
Switzerland and its colonists
Switzerland had no colonies – yet some Swiss worked with colonial powers and profited from their seizure of resources on other continents.
His captivity in Chillon falls into two phases. During the first two years, his noble status continued to earn him privileges and he lived in two rooms within the castle. But when the Duke ruled these conditions too lenient, he spent the following four years underground in the dungeon.
Later describing the conditions of his imprisonment, Bonivard said he wore away the floor, creating a “path in the stone” by walking in circles within the jail. This cannot be confirmed, however.
“When we first excavated the castle at the end of the 19 th century, we didn’t find any sign of these famous footsteps. The archaeologist who did the digging also had to explain what he had done to the Vaud government, who were unhappy that the myth of this prisoner had been tampered with,” Metzener says.
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“We shouldn’t take Bonivard’s text literally. With this story about wearing away the stone, he was indulging in an exaggerated Renaissance literary style.”
Archaeologists haven't been able to find any trace of a prisoner around the columns. A plaque to Lord Byron has been set into the rock. swissinfo.ch
The torture of the Jews
In September of 1348, all Jews there were arrested and sent to Chillon’s dungeons, at that time under the rule of Amédée VI of Savoy. According to Michael Freund in the Jerusalem Post, the rumors were the “groundwork for massacre and persecution” of the Villeneuve’s Jews. They were badly tortured in the torture chamber until someone talked. Promised forgiveness for their crimes, many admitted in front of a tribunal in the judgment hall, to have poisoned the wells and swore it on the Bible. In October, all Jews there, including children were decimated. Some committed suicide preferring immediate death to torture while others were massacred by the Villeneuve non-Jewish community.
Perhaps the most well known prisoner held in the Chillon Castle to this day, remains Francois Bonivard, immortalized as a hero in Lord Byrons, “The Prisoner of Chillon.”
François Bonivard, (born 1493, Seyssel, Savoy [France]—died 1570, Geneva [Switzerland]), Genevan patriot, the hero of Lord Byron’s poem “The Prisoner of Chillon.”
Bonivard’s real character and history are very different from the legendary account that Byron popularized. After succeeding his uncle as head of the Cluniac priory of St. Victor, near Geneva, he began to oppose the encroachments made by Charles III, duke of Savoy, and the bishop of Geneva against that city’s liberties. He was imprisoned by the duke at Grolée from 1519 to 1521, lost his priory, and became more and more anti-Savoyard. In 1528, supported by the city of Geneva, he took up arms against those who had seized his ecclesiastical revenues in 1530, however, he was imprisoned in the castle of Chillon, where he was kept underground from 1532 until he was released in 1536.
Becoming a Protestant, Bonivard obtained a pension from Geneva and was married four times. In 1542 he began compiling his Chroniques de Genève, a history of Geneva from the earliest times. His manuscript was submitted to the reformer John Calvin for correction in 1551, but it was not published until 1831. He also wrote De l’ancienne et nouvelle police de Genève (1555 “The Old and New Government of Geneva”).
4. Beginning in the early 19th Century, Chillon served as inspiration for several Romantic Intellectuals.
- Victor Hugo was inspired by the castle, leaving a detailed description of what he saw: “He could only-lie on the rock- with a great deal of sorrows and without being able to spread his body parts.”
- Jean Jaques Rosseau set part of his novel, La Nouvelle Heloise in the castle.
- Gustave Flaubert is said to have been inspired by the castle as well.
- American author, Henry James, set part of his novella, Daisy Miller, at the Chillon castle serving as one of the European destinations Daisy visits with a “gentleman friend.”
- Percy Shelley wrote of Chillon: “I have never seen a monument more frighteningly elevated by the insensible and inhuman tyranny which a man took delight in inflicting on a man.”
- Lord Byrons “Prisoner of Chillon” was inspired during a visit he made to the castle. It is largely thanks to Byron that both Bonnivard the the Castle of Chillon became known to the world today, despite the many other famous poets and authors whose continued interested has kept the history alive. The poem, or sonnet, was based on true events which I’ve detailed above.
His crime? He had fiercely resisted the ‘unpatriotic’ acts of the Savoy family. He was the sort of individual that Lord Byron loved to write about – a lone man, standing up to the injustice of society, who used his imagination of the natural world to comfort himself in his solitude.
This extract from the poem describes the miserable dungeons of Chillon from the perspective of a prisoner.
There are seven pillars of Gothic mould,
In Chillon’s dungeons deep and old,
There are seven columns, massy and grey,
Dim with a dull imprison’d ray,
A sunbeam which hath lost its way,
And through the crevice and the cleft
Of the thick wall is fallen and left
Creeping o’er the floor so damp,
Like a marsh’s meteor lamp:
And in each pillar there is a ring,
And in each ring there is a chain
That iron is a cankering thing,
For in these limbs its teeth remain,
With marks that will not wear away,
Till I have done with this new day,
Which now is painful to these eyes,
Which have not seen the sun so rise
For years— I cannot count them o’er,
I lost their long and heavy score
When my last brother droop’d and died,
And I lay living by his side.
Lord Byron, writing in 1816.
Not content with just making a mark on Chillon Castle through literature, Lord Bryon scratched his name into the walls of the castle! His act of graffiti is still visible today – but it’s protected behind perspex, and is a major tourist attraction in itself.
All-in-all, the attentions of these prominent intellectuals transformed Chillon Castle in the eyes of the European aristocracy. Lord Byron effectively acted as the greatest salesman of all, and European gentry began to flock to the region, to take in the unspoiled scenery and the dramatic castle setting. These were the foundations of the tourist boom that Chillon still enjoys to this day.
5. The Chillon Castle inspired Walt Disneys The Little Mermaid! Yes, Disney fans can explore Prince Erics castle, not perched on the sea, but on the shores of Lake Geneva nestled in the Swiss Alps!
As Pepi waded out of the chilly water, my mind wandered to the many who have visited the castle before us. Once again, the soul of the Chateau was summoning like a siren, asking for her stories to be shared.
4. Tarasp Castle
Source: Vollverglasung / shutterstock Tarasp Castle
Located in the alpine Upper Engadine, Tarasp Castle, also a Swiss heritage site, is a medieval castle dating back to the 11th century. The hilltop castle not only rises above the surrounding landscape, but is also located 1499 meters above the sea level. Up until 1803 the castle actually belonged to Austria.
The castle was built gradually. The first structures on site were a ring wall and a chapel with a bell tower. The palas was built later, in the 13th century. The structure with impressive 2-meter thick walls became the main focal point of the complex. After that, additions of residential wings followed.
The castle was attacked several times around the 16th and 17th centuries. Due to inevitable fires during the attacks, the castle suffered damages but these were swiftly repaired, especially in the residential wing.
While Montreux’s history spans back to being a settlement on an important Roman road, it’s more recent history has been as a major tourist destination. Montreux was already becoming an international tourist destination back in the early 1800s, and is famous for the annual jazz festival. Montreux has attracted poets ever since Lord Byron first visited and wrote Prisoner of Chillon Castle in 1816. Lord Byron, Leo Tolstoy, Mary Shelley and Igor Stravinsky were all visitors of Montreux and it’s beauty. One famous aspect of Montreux is the statue of Freddie Mercury, vocalist for the band Queen, who called Montreux his home until his death in 1991. While Montreux is famous for this history of music, jazz and the many poets that visited, it’s probably even more famous as possibly the best section of the Swiss Riviera. The promenade along the shore of Lake Geneva is possible the most beautiful lakeside walk I’ve ever taken. Both palm trees and mountain pine trees can be found, along with colorful flowers. Hotels and restaurants line the promenade and continue up the hillside into the foothills of the Alps above. Color, especially the green of the trees and the green-blue colors of Lake Geneva (or Lac Leman in French – as we were in the French speaking part of Switzerland here) was as vivid as possible.
Everywhere we looked, people were just out enjoying themselves, walking or riding a bike along the promenade, sitting on various benches enjoying food from a local spot or just watching the ducks on Lake Geneva below. Watching people enjoy lunch on the benches made us hungry. We knew we needed to move fast, as we had a mile or two walk to our main destination, the Chateau de Chillon, so instead of hitting up a restaurant, we stopped at the local grocery store, Migros, and picked up some sandwiches. We walked while we ate, enjoying the amazing scenery, like the view below, looking towards the Chateau de Chillon in the distance.
Montreux and Lake Geneva – Prints Available
The view from one of the piers on the prominade from Montreux to Chillon
Walking along the Swiss Riviera towards the Chateau de Chillon castle, I really regretted not planning a night in Montruex. Just thinking of the photo opportunities I would have had of a sunrise, sunset or night scene over Lake Geneva and the Chateau de Chillon left me disappointed I hadn’t looked into it. If I ever get to return to Switzerland, it’s a must-do on my next trip. I also remember thinking it would have made one of the best locations to spend a honeymoon or anniversary someday. Montreux just exudes romance. Maybe it’s the history of famous poets who have called the area a second home. Being married now, it’s one of the top places I would love for my wife to see. Being able to go on an evening walk along the promenade would be amazing!
Château de Chillon: The “Coolest” Castle
Have you ever looked at a picture of a place in a magazine, on a website, or on someone’s blog and were called to go there? This is how I happened to venture to one of the most picturesque medieval castles in Europe called Château de Chillon, or Chillon Castle, in between Montreux and Villeneuve, in Switzerland. I taught a student who had just moved back to the U.S. from living in Zurich for several years with her family, and she had a photo of the castle as the screensaver on her laptop.
When I inquired about the picture, she eagerly recounted her visit with such zeal stating, “ It is the COOLEST castle because it is on a little island surrounded by a moat and has a prison in it!” She continued describing the castle’s keep, the kitchens with enormous fireplaces, the weapons, and even a toilet that dropped human waste right into the lake. I was hooked and had a growing fascination with that castle for years before I actually got the chance to visit. Once I arrived and set eyes on its magnificence, the memory of my student came flooding back… the sight was seriously so cool.
The fortress is certainly well-preserved and is truly celebrated for its strategic position on Lake Geneva and its centuries-old history which is explained thoroughly on placards placed in each area of the property and on the audio guide. Popular for its nefarious tales of torture and execution in the dungeon, the castle once housed François Bonivard, the hero of Lord Byron’s poem “The Prisoner of Chillon.”
All I can say is that my student was accurate in all of her descriptions including the prison, the toilet, and the moat, but she definitely nailed it as the “COOLEST” castle I have visited– at least so far!
We made our way to the castle from Geneva via train ( Geneva to Veytaux-Chillon). The easiest thing to do is go to the Geneva train station and buy your ticket from a kiosk. The kiosk has a button to press for English, so don’t worry about the language barrier. The train ride takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes one way. We spent several hours visiting the castle and then walked along the lake to one of the many restaurants for a late lunch before heading back to the train station.
Tickets: Entry tickets can be purchased online for around 13.50 CHF, and that is easier than waiting in line.
Château de Chillon (Chillon Castle) - the most visited castle in switzerland
Chillon Castle is a medieval fortress on Lake Geneva in Switzerland, built on a rocky promontory with high defensive qualities.
The first mention of the castle dates back to 1005, when it is mentioned that it was owned by the Bishop of Sion and governed by the "d'Alinge family". As you can easily count Chillon Castle therefore has a written history of over 1000 years.
The purpose of building the castle was to exercise control over the narrow isthmus between the Alps and Lake Geneva, on the commercial route from south to north Europe.
The castle has been rebuilt and extended several times over the centuries. Archaeological discoveries indicate that work around the courtyards took place as early as the 11th and 13th centuries. In the 13th century the moat around the fortress was widened. In the 18th century, a wooden bridge was built to replace the earlier drawbridge.
The size and shape of Chillon Castle resembles that of a ship, being 110 meters long and 45 meters wide at its largest point.
The castle consists of 25 independent buildings, which were gradually combined to achieve its current form.
The buildings consist of three courtyards around which rise barracks, storehouses, the castellan's residence, ducal and court apartments, and a chapel.
The underground was used as a prison for a long time. Many prisoners sat there for political or religious reasons, while others were held as war hostages. Women, thought to be witches, were tortured and burned from the late 16th to the mid 17th century.
The building was originally owned by the bishops of Sion, but in the 12th century the castle was given as a fief to the Dukes of Savoy. In later years, Chillon Castle was owned by the people of Bern, who used it as a warehouse and the seat of feudal lords. This only changed during the French Revolution, when the territory was annexed to Switzerland. It was then that the buildings, which had been destroyed for centuries, started to be rebuilt.
Today, the castle houses a museum and hosts parties, concerts and exhibitions.
The castle consists of more than 40 rooms, ranging from small niches that were once medieval toilets, to large state rooms, such as the Castellan's Dining Hall, decorated in dark wood, with decorated walls, beautiful painted family crests.
The decor of the rooms is very rich, although due to the frequent travels and moves of the owners, there is not much furniture and furnishings here. Of note are the impressively decorated window seats.
Chillon Castle is the most visited castle in Switzerland, with an estimated average of 330,000 visitors each year, of whom only 30% are Swiss. In 2019 alone, it hosted 432,000 tourists from around the world.
Between 1530 and 1536, Francois Bonnivard, a fighter for the liberation of Geneva, was imprisoned in the castle's vaults, as described by George Byron in his poem "The Prisoner of Chillon."
The walls of the castle are overgrown with vines, which are still used today to produce high-quality wine. It is believed that Mary Shelley wrote her famous novel "Frankenstein" during her travels in Switzerland, on Lake Geneva.
The castle also became the inspiration and prototype for the castle depicted in the 1989 Disney classic, "The Little Mermaid".
Château de Chillon
Excavations carried out from the end of the 19th century, in particular by the archeologist Albert Naef (1862-1936), affirm that this site has been occupied since the Bronze Age. In its current state, the Castle of Chillon is the result of several centuries of constant building, adaptations, renovations and restorations.
The rocky island on which the castle is built, was both a natural protection and a strategic location to control the passage between northern and southern Europe.
Eight short films to learn more about the history can be viewed on terminals in several of the castle’s rooms and halls. There are also projections of medieval silhouettes in the cellars and an arms room with sound design in the keep.
This museum greets you in the following languages: D/F/I/E
From Montreux and in background les Dents du Midi Chillon Castle from Villeneuve. Formal greathall to visit with medieval characters and for location
Location of the museum
April to September from 9AM to 7PM (last entry at 6PM)
October from 9:30AM to 6PM (last entry at 5PM)
November to February from 10AM to 5PM (last entry at 4PM)
March from 9:3AM to 6PM (last entry at 5PM)
Adult: CHF 12.50
Child (6-15 years old): CHF 6.00
Reduced fee for students, apprentices, pensioners, disability insurance recipients, Swiss military wearing their uniform, local visitors' card holders (presentation of a valid card required) : CHF 10.50
Family (2 adults and up to 5 children): CHF 29.00
Club 24 (1 card valid for 2 people): CHF 9.50
Riviera Card Adult: CHF 6.25
Riviera Card Child: CHF 3.00
Swiss Travel Pass, Swiss Museum Pass, ICOM: free
Audioguide rental: CHF 6.00
GROUPS (20 PEOPLE MIN.)
Adult: CHF 9.50
Child (6-15 years old): CHF 5.00
Chillon offers different guided tours for groups of up to 40 people from CHF 90.00/guide, available in 10 languages.