A different kind of castle feeling

Fancy a special change of scenery? These castles beam you straight into the past.

Natalie Sidler

31.01.2021

Despite the many challenges we have faced over the past year, one thing has become clear: Just how diverse Switzerland is! Because we have to narrow our horizons at the moment, we can concentrate on the many beautiful spots our region has to offer. Switzerland’s turbulent history in particular has lots in the way of exciting episodes and old walls to be able to organise a change of scenery nearby. Do you actually know how many castles there are in Switzerland? Depending on how narrowly you define the term, you arrive at a staggering 626 (burgenwelt.org) or 330 (blick.ch) – in any case, we have quite a lot to choose from.

Special locations awaken your thirst for adventure

If you’re not primarily looking for fun on the slopes or winter hiking, you might consider planning a city or cultural trip. If you’re looking for an unusual place to stay for your next trip, this idea might inspire you: Have you ever thought of beaming back in time with friends or family in an authentic castle setting?

Your best option for achieving this “leap in time” is not only being able to visit a castle, but also spending the night in the middle of it. No, not in a modern converted “castle hotel”, but between historic castle walls, of course… to experience in person why old walls are much more than just stones. And you even get twice the change of scenery, location-wise and time-wise.

Compared to the noble but expensive châteaus in France, there are many more opportunities in Switzerland to spend the night in a stately castle, even at reasonable prices. Here are a few inspirations with a great castle ambience.

Reopened in 2020: “Night at the Museum” at Burgdorf Castle

Spending the night in the museum must be a unique adventure in itself. But because our name is not Ben Stiller, this kind of experience was only possible in the movies or in our imagination – until now, anyway… Since spring 2020, the newly opened Burgdorf Castle has been offering just that: Castle feeling and living museum included.

With stylish elements, the castle complex has been transformed into a design wonder that pays tribute to the ancient stories. The rooms of the youth hostel are located in the former granary or the banqueting hall of the nobility, and every corner of the freshly converted Zähringer castle hides a room with unique stories. On this journey through time, you will meet knights, servants, mayors, gold seekers and emigrants who will tell you their anecdotes. And in the courtroom you can listen in on old court cases, if you want. The key highlight is reserved for the guests of the youth hostel: They are allowed to explore parts of the museum or the battlements in a night-time atmosphere.

Two “youth castles” for an authentic medieval feeling: Ehrenfels and Rotberg

Two other stone fortresses – including a very special place to sleep – rise out of the forest in Sils im Domleschg (Ehrenfels) and in Mariastein (Rotberg). Right on the edge of the forest and away from civilisation.

Both bear the name Jugendburg (youth castle) because they were rebuilt with united forces during an employment programme for young unemployed people in the 1930s. While Ehrenfels impresses with its imposing fortified tower, the exquisite hilltop castle of Mariastein is bursting with medieval charm. Once you have climbed the 150 steps of the castle staircase, you are greeted by a castle gate lit by torches, a dining room in the style of the noble castle knights and even a light-flooded tower room for the night. In addition to the medieval knights’ weekend, a festival with live music takes place here at Rotberg several times a year. Famous acts like Anna Rossinelli, Dodo, Ritschi, Stiller Has, the Pedestrians, Marc Sway and many more have already rocked the stage here.

The best part about these two castles is that there is beautiful nature all around, allowing you to explore the surrounding valley and its forests (Domleschg or Leimental) after your overnight stay.

You can find other hostels, not directly in castles, but nearby, in Avenches, Baden, Bellinzona, Montreux (Chillon), Rapperswil-Jona, Sion und Stein am Rhein.

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