If you are looking for somewhere to take out-of-town visitors, or for a great spot for a day trip close to Geneva this weekend, a trip to Château de Chillon is one of the best excursions you can find in the Lake Geneva area.
One of the gems of Lake Geneva and the most-visited historic monument in Switzerland, the castle sits on a rocky outcropping near the lakeshore a few kilometers east of Montreux. It’s accessible by car, train, or boat, and a visit to the castle can be easily combined with a tour of Montreux, Vevey, the Lavaux Vineyard Terraces, or any other spot along Lake Geneva’s north shore.
Château de Chillon has a lengthy history. The earliest written record of Chillon dates to 1150, when it was occupied by the Dukes of Savoy. It was an important strategic location on Lake Geneva and a tollbooth was located nearby, in the town of Villeneuve. In 1536, the Bernese conquered Vaud and took control of the castle; it was used by the Bernese as a fortress and arsenal for more than 200 years. In 1798, during the Vaudois revolution, the Bernese were expelled from the castle and it has been the property of the Canton of Vaud since its inception in 1803.
From a literary perspective, authors and artists including Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Victor Hugo, and Lord Byron have been inspired by the castle. Lord Byron’s 1816 poem The Prisoner of Chillon centers on François Bonivard, a monk imprisoned there in the 1500s, and Byron left behind his name carved into the walls of the castle’s dungeons.
Over time, the castle has been expanded, updated, and fortified. During your tour, look for the models that depict changes made to the castle over the centuries.
Inside and out, Château de Chillon is impressive. Its grand halls have soaring ceilings and rich decor; below ground, its dungeons display evidence of centuries of use. 14th century paintings still adorn the walls of the chapel, and the weapons on display in the keep are a visual reminder of the castle’s strategic location on the lakeshore. There are several courtyards and towers to explore, as well.
From Geneva, Château de Chillon is accessible by train, car, boat, bus, or any combination of the above. By rail, take the train from Geneva to Montreux. Château de Chillon is 4 kilometers from Montreux station; you can catch a regional train to Veytaux-Chillon, walk the 4 km along the lakefront, or take bus Ligne N° 201 from in front of the Montreux station to Chillon.
By car, find Chillon on the A9 Autoroute between Montreux and Villeneuve; parking is free of charge. Château de Chillon is also served by the CGN boat company. You can take a boat from Geneva to Lausanne, Vevey, Montreux or Villeneuve and then connect to Chillon.
Click here for more information on how to reach the castle.
One of my favorite ways to see Chillon from Geneva is to buy a return train ticket from Geneva to Montreux; take the regional express train to Montreux, then transfer to the CGN boat from Montreux to the castle. To return to Geneva, walk back to Montreux along a lakeside pedestrian path (approximately 45 minutes by foot) and catch one of the regular trains between Montreux and Geneva.
Tickets and Fees
A standard adult ticket costs CHF 12; tickets for children 6-16 cost CHF 6. Family tickets are available (two adults, two children aged 6-16) for CHF 28. The castle is open year round except on January 1 and December 25; for opening times and information on reduced ticket rates, click here. Audio guides are optional and cost CHF 5 on-site, or download the audio guide app in advance for CHF 3 (click here for more about the app). All visitors receive a printed brochure/guide with admission.
For additional information, including updates on special events at the castle, visit Château de Chillon’s homepage: www.chillon.ch/en
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