Gruyères Castle in Switzerland

A guest post by Melissa from Queensland Camping

Perched high on top of a hill, overlooking a quaint medieval village, and surrounded by rolling countryside is the picturesque Gruyères Castle – one of the most famous castles in Switzerland.  Dating back to the 13th century, the castle has an intriguing history spanning across eight different centuries.

Gruyères Castle was built in the late 13 century in a style referred to as “Savoyard Square”.  The architectural style has the main part of the castle surrounded by a square like enclosure and includes a keep which is a fortified tower structure which was typical of the middle ages.  The complex also includes various other towers and watchtowers.

A Guide to Gruyères Castle

History of Gruyères Castle

Originally Gruyères Castle was the home of the most important noble family of western Switzerland – the Counts of Gruyères.   For almost five centuries the castle continued to be the home of the Counts of Gruyères, until the mid 16 century when Count Michel declared bankruptcy. 

In 1554, the castle became the home of the bailiffs the Fribourg government.  These government representative’s where responsible for the administration of the area including the justice, managing estates and collecting taxes.  It is said that behind 1554 and 1798 more than 50 bailiffs resided in the castle. 

Come 1848, the government found the castle too expensive to maintain and so the castle was then sold to the Bovy brothers.  The castle was then transferred into an artist colony in 1849.  Artists from across Europe come and take up residence in the castle.  They spend their days painting the castle walls and nights partying in the castle gardens.

In 1938, the castle was again bought by the Fribourg government and turned into a museum for the public.  Since that time, visitors from all over the world have come to Gruyères Castle to explore its various grand rooms, courtyards, gardens and dungeon. 

Visiting Gruyères Castle

Today visitors are encouraged to start their visit by watching a short 20 minute film which takes you through the rich history of the castle and shows you what life was once like living here.  Then visitors are free to explore the medieval fortress at their leisure. 

A handout is available free of charge in 12 different languages to assist visitors uncover the history of the castle.  Alternatively, there is the option of joining a 1 hour guided tour for an additional cost of CHF90 per guide.

While exploring the various rooms of Gruyères Castle you’ll uncover a range of wonderful treasures from across the centuries.  There is intricate stained glass dating back to the Middle Ages, elaborate wall decorations commissioned under the Ancien Régime,  three capes of the Order of the Golden Fleece (a catholic order of chivalry) which were captured by the Swiss Confederates in the battle against Charles the Bold – the Duke of Burgundy in 1476 and much more.   

You can still see the painted walls which occurred during the time the castle time was an artist colony.  There is a range of historical scenes and stunning landscapes from the surrounding village painted by artists such as Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, Barthélemy Menn and others. Visitors will also get the opportunity to view the troubadour decorations of the Knights’ Room, which were also created in the 19th century.

As you move from room to room, as well as admiring the various treasures on display, you’ll also learn the names of local heroes from the various centuries.  You’ll learn all about people such as La Belle Luce, John the Cripple, the jester Chalamala and the heroic women of Gruyères who used their goats as weapons.

Location of Gruyères Castle

Not only is the Gruyères Castle full of amazing stories and legends, it is also located in one of the most scenic locations in Switzerland.  From the top of a verdant hill, at the foot of the Fribourg Pre-Alps, you’ll have the pleasure of panoramic views.  During the warmer months, you’ll see lush green alpine hills, while during the winter months the entire region is covered in thick snow.

To reach the castle, you can walk 20 minutes up a relatively steep hill from the Gruyères Train Station, or better yet take the 263 bus which leaves from the station on a regular basis.  The bus takes you to just outside the Gruyères village and from here it is a short walk to the castle.

After exploring Gruyères Castle be sure to stop in at the Gruyères Cheese Factory and the Gruyères Chocolate Factory.  Other things to do in the village include the HR Giger Museum which has an interesting collection of works by Swiss artist Hans Ruedi Giger and the Tibet museum which has over 300 items of display including Buddhist sculptures, paintings, and religious items.

Location: Rue du Château 8, 1663 Gruyères

Opening Hours: 9 am to 6pm daily

Price:  Adults – 12 CHF | Child (6 to 15) 4 CHF | Family 25 CHF – or free if you have a Swiss Travel Pass

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