Castle of Chillon


Chillon Castle, near Montreux, the most visited resort in Lake Geneva, Switzerland. The landmark Chillon Castle, originally built in the 9th century, is a must-see for visitors. Built on the water's edge, Chillon is unique, with one side a fortress facing the ancient road to Italy, the other a princely residence facing Lake Geneva. Its rich history and distinctive appearance have served as inspiration to such literary greats as Lord Byron, Victor Hugo and others.

During the sixteenth century, the castle was used as a state prison and was the setting of the English poet Byron's The Prisoner of Chillon. It also inspired Russian writers from Tolstoy to Dostoyevsky, and in the castle bookshop they sell an anthology of Russian writing about Chillon. No Swiss historic monument is better known throughout the world, and 340,000 visitors visit each year.

The castle has had three main occupying powers during its history: from the 12th to the early 16th centuries it was in the hands of the Counts of Savoy, who used it to control the trade route along the shore of Lake Geneva, and as a summer residence; from 1536 to the end of the 18th century the Bernese occupied the fortress, using it as a prison; and lastly the castle became the property of the Canton of Vaud.

In the summer of 1816 Lord Byron was sailing with fellow English poet Shelley on Lake Geneva when they stopped to visit the ‘Château de Chillon’. They were shown the dungeon where the monk François Bonivard was imprisoned from 1532 to 1536, and Byron was inspired to compose his Romantic poem, The Prisoner of Chillon, published in December 1816. The poem focuses on an isolated figure who survives great suffering by strength of will.

As befits an up to date visitor attraction, Chillon castle offers present day visitors a choice of ways to experience its history: you can tour on your own with a leaflet in your language, go with a guided party, or use an audio guide. Throughout the castle are placed audio-visual terminals that show 3 minute films on topics such as the architecture of the castle, its military function and life in a medieval castle. You can even listen to the audio guide with an App on your iPhone, iPad or iPod – (in fact you don’t even have to go to the castle to listen to the audio guide!). The presentations focus on the most dramatic periods of the castle’s 1,000 year life.
Visitors to the castle today see the famous dungeon, the medieval kitchens, the halls and bedrooms. There is a good museum and a shop. The café has a garden with a lake view. All rooms contain historic paintings and furniture, and there are great views from the top of the tower. Photography for personal use and without the use of flash is allowed.

Chillon Castle is located on an island at the eastern end of Lake Geneva, 3km from Montreux. There is parking and a local bus stops nearby. The castle is open every day of the year except 25 December and 1 January. About 1-3 hours are needed to do the castle justice, and it can appeal to all ages.

Switzerland, Chillon castle castle on lake Geneva castle near Montreux castle Chillon
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