Chillon Castle

A testimony to medieval Europe


Avenue de Chillon 21, 1820 Veytaux, Switzerland

GPS: 46.414739699015, 6.9285002894846

Plan my route

Built on the shores of Lake Geneva by the Counts of Savoy in the 12th and 13th centuries, Chillon Castle is a superb feudal fortress. This ancient seigniorial residence is close to the town of Montreux, built on a small rocky island in Lake Geneva, below the Swiss mountains. With its romantic character and breathtaking natural setting, Chillon Castle is the most visited historical monument in Switzerland.

Chillon Castle is built on old Roman foundations. Its strategic position allowed it to take control of the main Alpine trade route with Italy and the Grand Saint-Bernard Pass in the canton of Valais. It prospered when a toll to tax goods passing through its territory was introduced. In the Middle Ages (12th and 13th centuries), the House of Savoy undertook the transformation and enlargement of the fortress for military use, even though it also served as a residence for the counts and dukes. The castle became an administrative and power centre for the Savoy dynasty, which established its territorial domination in the region. Large dungeons and then a system of walls was added to protect the seigniorial domain from external attacks. Underground tunnels were built to create dungeons and store wine. In 1536 the Bernese, with the help of the Genevans, attacked the Chillon Castle, and the Savoyards decided to abandon the fortress in the middle of the night. The latter retreated to the Chambéry area and the fortress on the Vaud Riviera saw its influence decline. From the middle of the 17th century, Chillon Castle became the main port on Lake Geneva for the warships of the Canton of Bern before the Canton of Vaud took possession of it when it became independent in 1798.

Today it consists of about forty well-decorated rooms, but for a long time Chillon Castle was used as a prison and arsenal, from the middle of the 14th century to the 1850s. Many political prisoners were incarcerated in its damp dungeons, cut directly into the rock. The castle was eventually restored at the end of the 19th century, using new techniques to recover its feudal citadel architecture. In 2019, it broke its attendance record with over 430,000 visitors.

Read more

  • The overall good condition of the Chillon Castle, a testimony to the feudal era and to medieval Europe
  • The romantic character of the place with a breathtaking view of the Alps and the Swiss Riviera; the contrast between the princely appearance of the castle on the lake side and the defensive appearance of the fortress seen from the land
  • The charming drawbridge giving access to the castle island; the visit of the underground passages (including François Bonivard’s prison) and the cellars (superb gothic vaults reminiscent of cathedral architecture)
  • The 14th century wall paintings in the Count’s bedroom (Camera Domini) and the private chapel of the Dukes of Savoy
  • The large collection of chests, weapons, and antique furniture
  • The sophisticated water system; the walkway between the towers; the large ceremonial rooms and the four outer courtyards
  • A place of inspiration for many authors such as Lord Byron, Victor Hugo, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Alexandre Dumas, and Gustave Flaubert; the external embellishments giving way to new landscaping
  • The numerous picnic areas and walking paths around Lake Geneva; the location of the castle four kilometres south of Montreux near the Franco-Swiss border (accessible by car, bus, boat, train, bicycle or on foot)
  • The numerous events at the Chillon Castle (open-air theatres, concerts, shows, educational workshops, temporary exhibitions, children’s activities, thematic visits, Christmas parties, Fright Night); the wine tasting workshops and audio guide available in nine languages
  • Archaeological excavations carried out on the site show that the Chillon site has been occupied since the Bronze Age.
  • Chillon Castle is not a single unit. It is the result of a successive fusion of some 20 small buildings linked together by internal and external passages.
  • Lord Byron’s poem, “The Prisoner of Chillon”, contributed greatly to the reputation and fame of the castle. The five months spent living on the shores of Lake Geneva in 1816 proved to be a creative period in the life of Lord Byron. He was inspired François Bonivard when writing “The Prisoner of Chillion” by Bonivard, a nobleman from Savoy, who was imprisoned in the fortress for six years in the 16th century (including four years spent in underground dungeons). This work was so successful that it allowed this Swiss destination to be included in the Grand Tour in the 17th and 18th centuries (these were cultural journeys made by nobles and aristocrats from wealthy families throughout Europe to further their education).
  • The castle has a vineyard of 12,500 m² and the wine produced locally (Le Clos Chillon) is bottled in the basement of the estate under the Lavaux appellation.
  • The Cantonal Museum of Archaeology and History in Lausanne exhibits many objects from Chillon Castle.
  • A boat trip gives access to Chillon Castle, departing from several towns in France (Evian-les-Bains, Thonon-les-Bains, Yvoire) or Switzerland (Montreux, Vevay, Villeneuve).
  • On site, you can choose between a self-guided tour (with the help of a paper guide translated into 17 languages), a guided tour (through several themes), a tour with an audio guide and a fun family discovery (adapted to children). These tours can be combined with a tasting of castle wines.
  • We recommend booking your tickets online if you wish to visit Chillon Castle in summer or during the school holidays.
  • Since 2020, the site has had a cafeteria (Café Byron) in a pavilion opposite the Lake Geneva fortress. Catering options can be booked in advance for groups of at least 15 people. Picnic lunches are also available to enjoy in the Lake Geneva surroundings.

Where to eat

  • Délifrance
    (excellent burgers and sandwiches)
  • La Corsa Al Cilento
    (authentic restaurant)
  • Tango
    (for meat lovers)

Where to go

  • Lac de Taney
    (beautiful mountain lake)
  • Swiss Vapeur Parc
    (miniature train rides)
  • Rochers-de-Naye
    (breathtaking view of Lake Geneva)

Where to stay

  • La Rouvenaz
    (a stone's throw from the castle)
  • Bnb Belalp
    (located on the heights)
  • Fairmont Le Montreux Palace
    (high quality service)