Visiting the Chateau de Chillon

A trip to Switzerland almost requires a visit at the famed Chateau de Chillon, in fact this incredible architectural beauty might just be reason enough to go to Switzerland. Located in Veytaux on the shore of Lake Geneva, Chateau de Chillon originally began as a series of smaller buildings, around 100 of them, that have been melded together until they formed the one large castle that exists today.

No one is entirely certain when the castle first came into existence but the written record reaches back to 1150. Although three periods were more influential on the Chateau de Chillon than others, the Savoy period from the 12th century to 1536, the Bernese period which followed the Savoy period from 1536 to 1798 and finally the Vaudois period from 1798 to the present.

During the Savoy period the Chateau de Chillon was controlled by the Counts of Savoy who had conquered the territory and took the Chateau de Chillon as well as the route along the shores of the lake. The castle is strategically positioned on a rocky island which juts into the water and serves to protect the area and control ships traveling between northern and southern Europe. It was during the Savoy period that some major construction occurred on the castle and it served several important functions early in the era but eventually was neglected until the Bernese period.

The Bernese period began on March 29 1536 when the castle of Chillon fell. The castle was neglected but structurally sound and adapted to serve a defensive position and was used until 1733 when it was no longer deemed necessary for the military. The building then largely served as a storage facility until January 1798 when patriots from Vevey and Montreux took over with no resistance.

The Vaudois person, which continues today, notes the period when the Chateau de Chillon became national property. Initially the castle was again neglected and used for storage. The famed author Lord Byron wrote a poem, The Prisoner of Chillon, which was located in the Chateau de Chillon became wildly popular and spurred a refound interest in the beautiful castle with its magnificent backdrop. People came to visit the castle and were given short tours by guards who were there watching over the munitions stored inside, the guards spun their own tales and some of the names they gave to the rooms of Chateau de Chillon have survived and are used today.

Chateau de Chillon-Ioan Sameli510Creative Commons License Photo credit: Ioan Sameli

Chateau de Chillon basement

Today the Chateau de Chillon on Lake Geneva is Switzerland is a huge tourist attraction and draws the attention of people from around the world because of its unique structures, incredible architecture, storied history (real and fiction), and to get a look back in time.

One of the most architecturally stunning sections of the Chateau de Chillon are the underground rooms with arched ceilings that look like gothic cathedrals. These lower rooms have become famous for their legends and lore, most notably that by Lord Byron.

The Cells of Le Château de Chillon-toolfan.hess718Creative Commons License Photo credit: toolfan.hess

The Cells of Le Château de Chillon

The castle has four great halls which have incredible views of the lake outside. The Savoy used these great halls for entertaining while the Bernese may have held court proceedings inside the rooms.

Chateau de Chillon HDR-rhurtubia346Creative Commons License Photo credit: rhurtubia

Chateau de Chillon HDR

A highlight at the Chateau de Chillon are the regular performances in the courtyards. There are three courtyards, the lower courtyard, the Castellan’s courtyard and the Courtyard of Honor. The performances today are quite varied but no matter what is happening you can still get a sense for what these courtyards must have been like back in the Savoy era when guests flocked to the castle for entertainment and daily activities.

The Chambre bernoise is one of the bedrooms which is not too impressive for a castle but still nicely appointed with heating, a private toilet and running water.

The Camera Domini was the Duke of Savoy’s room which is today very scantily appointed but the remaining 14th century murals speak to how impressive this room may have been when it was being used as a residence for royalty.

The chapel at Chateau de Chillon is a small little masterpiece. The 14th century murals in this room are actually quite rare as most religious artifacts and pictorial depictions from that era suffered devastation and destruction during the reformation.

Château de Chillon, Switzerland-babeltravel166Creative Commons License Photo credit: babeltravel

Château de Chillon, Switzerland

The lake side of the castle was basically safe from invading forces and it is where the more lavish rooms are located. The mountain side of the castle is where the defenses were in place with watchtowers, sentry walks, double ramparts, moat, turrets and anything else they could have at their disposal to thwart marauding forces.

In addition to the incredible castle the Foundation of the Castle of Chillon is also in charge of managing the 12,500 square meter Cos de Chillon vineyard. The vineyard is the first area of the Lavaux region in the east and is noted for its Chablais Vaudois and Lavaux wine regions. Local Chasselas grapes are used to make the Clos de Chillon wine which can only be purchased at the Chateau and the profits are funneled back into the Foundation for the care of the castle.

The Chillon Castle (Château de Chillon)-Fawaz Al-Arbash177Creative Commons License Photo credit: Fawaz Al-Arbash

The Chillon Castle - Chateau de Chillon at night

The Chateau de Chillon can be rented if you have a special occasion you’d like to spend in a beautiful historic castle. They can accommodate everything from a formal banquet after public viewing hours to a child’s birthday party during the middle of the day.

The castle is open every day of the year except January 1st and December 25th with ticket office hours in April to September from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, October and March 9:30 am to 5:00 pm and November to February from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.  The castle remains open for one hour after the ticket office closes which may give you enough time to tour Chateau de Chillon but you will be rushed. Fees are reasonably established at somewhere between $6 and $12 USD. Guided group tours are available but you should call to check availability before you bring your group.

Creative Commons License Photo credit: Pear Biter

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