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Peak Transfer | Chateau de Chillon: A Fairytale Castle with a Darker History
8th January 2017

Chateau de Chillon: A Fairytale Castle with a Darker History

If you find yourself lakeside in Montreux you can’t help but notice the impressive grandeur of the Chillon castle standing tall upon the rocky islet along the shores of Lake Geneva. Strategically situated as far back as the Bronze ages the castle acted as both natural protection from notorious enemies and optimal placement to control movement of trade and people between north and south of Europe for over 4 centuries. Although we know that the small rocky outcrop has been fortified since Roman times, we don’t quite know when the first ‘castle’ foundations were laid. However, the oldest documentation mentioning the castle’s existence can be found as early as 1150!

Chillon has been largely shaped by three noble families who have inhabited the Castle, firstly the Savoys, then the Bernese, and finally the Canton of Vaud who remain the owners to this day. The layout of the castle is particularly interesting as it effectively has two faces. Landside which is primed for defence heavily loaded with arrow-holes, battlements and fortifications. By contrast, the beautiful serene lake-side exterior with large glass windows looking out onto the beautiful lake Geneva.

Château de Chillon is a Perfect day out for all the Family

And we can tell you now the inside is just as impressive. Unlike many castles and chateaus of its kind which only make one or two rooms available, almost the entire castle is accessible to the public (except a few broom cupboards here and there). Chillon Castle comprises of almost 50 rooms, from little Medieval latrines, to grand state rooms such and banquet Halls donning striking family crests on the walls.

The Chillon castle represents several centuries of different constructions, renovations and purposes. Providing an extensive labyrinth of chambers, dungeons and banquet halls to explore connected to each other through a network of intricate passageways. The internal passageways and rickety wooden external sentry walks provide a maze-like feel that kids will love. So it’s no surprise that it’s Switzerland’s most visited historic building.

A Maze in a Castle Children will Love

Chillon attracted tourists as early as the 19th Century serving as inspiration to prominent romantic intellectuals such as Jean-Jaques Rousseau, Gustave Flaubert and Victor Hugo. The most notable being English poet Lord Byron. His famous work “The Prisoner of Chillon Castle” tells the plight of François Bonivard, a political prisoner trapped inside the castle’s miserable dank dungeons. As a result of the poem, the dark dank dungeons situated in within the bedrock of Chillon Castle have earned themselves a place in castle notoriety. Not content with just making a mark on Chillon Castle through literature, Lord Byron etched his signature onto the 5th Pillar in which Bonivard is claimed to have been shackled to. His act of graffiti is still visible in the dungeon today.

The Chateau de Chillon dungeon is a must see

Just like the great poet Byron, why not take advantage of the Chateaus hospitality and take inspiration on what life must have been like for it inhabitants both invited and imprisoned there through the ages. Cost of entry is 12.50 chf for an adult and 6 chf for children which provides access to the entire chateau for the day and inclusive of all exhibitions featured at time of visiting. You get a lot for your money here which cannot often be said with the renowned expensive prices in Switzerland.

You can take a trip back through time with each room or chambre preserving a specific period of time in the castle’s history. As you can imagine with the Swiss they have prepared a very comprehensive itinerary which they like you to follow in numerical order. All rooms have information plaques in English, French and German and most also contain interactive screens and videos with additional information and interesting facts about the building history and life at the castle. Through the various information boards, interactive stations, workshops and exhibitions held in each room of the castle you can really envisage the day-to-day lives of both the Court of Savoy and the Bernese. It’s easy to imagine how the Savoy family once hosted gargantuan feasts in the Great Halls or the Bernese family implemented justice in court.

Extravagant Halls provide feasts and courts for the noble familes of Chateau de Chillon

For those that prefer to listen to an audio guide allowing your eyes free to absorb your surroundings then these can either be downloaded to your own personal device in advance or an MP3 player can be rented at the shop situated at the beginning on the tour. Languages include French, English, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Chinese and Japanese. This will allow you to appreciate the 13th Century Gothic inspired decor of the underground labyrinth, discover the 14th Century chapel and once formidable defences, not to mention the fantastic wine cellar!

With the castle being a listed medieval monument 100’s of years old it is not as accessible as modern tourist attractions with many low ceilings, wooden beams as well as uneven flooring and staircases to watch out for. You can reach the castle on foot from Monteux, by road or even water, the boats and steamers being a truly wonderful way to arrive.

Peak Transfer recommend a visit to Chateau Chillon

The Chateau is open to visitors all year round. To find out more or take a look at the exhibition calendar visit the the information page here.

For last minute bookings call our transfer hotline: +33 (0) 679 851 810