top of page
  • Writer's pictureDeb Smithers

Chateau de Chillon - Montreux

Chillon Castle

A painting of the Chateau de Chillon in Montreux, on a misty morning

While traveling around Switzerland, I had especially wished to visit the Chateau de Chillon in Montreux, in the far western corner of Switzerland. I had heard about the hypnotic beauty of the Castle and studied its history. I was excited to witness the craftsmanship and romance of one of Switzerland's most iconic landmarks.

Traveling from Bern to Geneva takes about 2 hours and it is a sensational rail journey, enjoying the spectacular views and passing the entire length of Lake Geneva. The landscapes are breathtaking and it reminds me of Swiss artist, Ferdinand Hodler's painting of Lake Geneva, who with his post-impression style captured the Lake remarkably.

Painting of Lake Geneva by Ferdinand Holder

"Landscape on Lake Geneva"

Once arriving in Geneva, I walked to the lake to catch the boat across to Montreux. You can cross by ferry or hop on board one of the enchanting Belle Epoque paddle steamers, which is a lovely way to cross taking 3-4 hours. Alternatively, you can take the train, which will only take an hour, but certainly not the same experience.

Montreux is a charming town on the shores of Lake Geneva, with a backdrop of the magnificent Alps and the Jura mountains. It is surrounded by vineyards with vines growing down to the water's edge. It has a vibrant cultural scene and is home to the Montreux Jazz Festival, the second largest jazz festival in the world.

Night time arial photo of the festival at night with all its lights and the Geneva lake as its backdrop

The festival began in 1967 and is now one of the most prestigious jazz festivals in the world, attracting musicians and artists from across the globe. I was lucky to have arrived on the weekend of the Montreux Jazz Festival. The entire town was in party mode and there was so much going on, talented musicians lined the streets, food vendors and a mile of market stalls along the lakeside promenade. The vibe was infectious and impossible not to jump up and have a bit of a jive. But I wonder how it would compare to Byron Bays' own Blues & Roots Festival or Splendor in the Grass Festival?

As you walk along the promenade you pass the Giant Freddie Mercury Statue.

He recorded 6 albums while living in Montreux and in memory of his presence the bronze statue stands on the lakeside promenade and is always adorned with flowers from his fans.

Large bronze statue of Freddie mercury, with his hand in the sky. On the edge of Lake Geneva with the Swiss Alps as the backdrop.
Freddie Mercury

The first glimpse of Chateaux de Chillon left me speechless, with the feeling as if I had stepped back in time. This ancient landmark is strategically placed on a rocky island at the lake's edge. The castle's location offers breathtaking views of Lake Geneva and the surrounding Alps, making it a picturesque spot that attracts tourists worldwide. While I enjoyed the castle's stunning gardens and courtyards, I could immediately understand why it is said to be one of the most beautiful water castles in the world.

Illustration of the Chateau de Chillon, Montreux. One of the World's most beautiful water castles

The origins of the castle date back to the Roman era and its rich and fascinating history adds to its allure. Over the centuries, it has served as a royal residence, strategic fortress, and prison; with stories of battles, intrigue, and romance associated within its walls.

The history of the castle is marked by three great periods, those of;

The Savoy family,

The Bernese bailiffs,

and The Canton of Vaud.


The castle was built on the lake's edge to protect and control the trade routes along the lake and alpine passes. It has 2 sections, the landside of the castle was used as a fortress, and the lakeside serving as a royal residence with large gothic windows to view the magnificent landscape.

Large gothic windows allow you to see lake Geneva from inside the castle.

Chillon comprises of 25 rooms and three courtyards. Protected by two circular walls, with ancient architecture, towers, and turrets dating back to the 19th Century. Rugged stone, arrow slits, wooden beams, and intricate detail offers a rich glimpse into medieval life. The castles' many rooms include grand halls and chapels, the duke's chambers, Prison cells, and dungeons.

Black and white map showing the many sections of the Chateux de Chillon.

The castle's interior showcases incredible medieval craftsmanship with amazing ornate ceilings and frescoes, transporting you back in time. It has over 300 items on display throughout this magnificent structure, including armor and weapons found during the archeological digs in 1842.

A suit of armor from the 17th Century

Medieval weapons standing in the castle with a silhouette of 2 men in armour.

Revealing everyday items such as coins, toys and decorative tiles, dating from the Middle Ages to the 17th century.

In the 19th Century an interest in medieval history led to the restoration and preservation of the Chateau.

Medieval coffins with heavy wooded pieces and cast iron hinges and locks at the Chateau de Chillon.

A wooden tub with a white sheet, in front of a painting of how they bathed in the royal castles back in the 18th century.
The incredible architecture of this ancient medieval castle.

Increasing the fame of the castle was the poem, "Prisoner of

Chillon" by poet Lord Byron. One of the most famous prisoners of the castle was François Bonivard, a Genevan monk and politician, who was held captive in the dungeons with his 3 brothers from 1530 to 1536. Positioning them pillars apart but none facing, he could but only hear his brothers until they both died.

Black and white drawing depicting men tied in a dungeon in a medieval castle.

After my visit to Chillon I began to study further the life of Lord Byron, who is somewhat fascinating. I was enthralled when reading the book, " Byron's Women" by Alexander Larman. A Lucid and dextrous account exposing the man, and the poet. Combining creativity and intellect with acts of cruelty and disrespect, Lord Byron himself was certainly a man of lasting impression and the book a recommended read. You will either admire him or despise him.

Picture of a book, with a man and woman on the cover. Taken from the 17 th Century.

Read Lord Byron's poem

Photo of a castle that sits on the edge of Lake Geneva. With its sweeping towers and royal blue sky.

Today, the Château de Chillon is not only a tourist attraction, but also a venue for cultural events, exhibitions, and private functions. What I would give to attend a private event at the Chateaux de Chillon. Taste the amazing Chillon red wine with lunch at the Lord Byron Restaurant.

Chillon Castle is designated as a UNESCO site but it underscores its beauty and importance as a historic landmark.

Black and White illustration of a castle, with strong seas and boats trying to sail ahead.

On my tour of the castle, I chose to utilize the audio-guided tour. The castle is huge and there is so much to see inside, learning more about its history while wandering around at my own pace, made it even more captivating.

an amazing blue lake that can be seen overlooking the top of a castle in Montreux

Include in your visit to Montreux-

  • The Lavaux Vineyard Terraces, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

  • Dine at the Rando Burger Restaurant and taste test the best burgers in Montreux.

  • Experience Riviera Col du Pillon and Glacier 3000 from Monteux. Stay in a wooden Chateau down in the village of Diablerets and spend your days sledding and spending time in the snowy playground.

  • Take the exhilarating walk along the peak-to-peak bridge in the Swiss Alps. It is amazing!

  • If you are a fan of the legendary music of Queen, take the audio-guided tour "Footsteps of Freddie" using audio and video to recreate the Montreux scene in Freddie's time. It was a great tour, fun and interactive costing around $40.

Peak to Peak bridge in the Swiss Alps. A thin narrow steel walkway and the snow an cloud are close.

For more castle adventures, visit my blogs -

Schloss Wildegg and Schloss Hallwyl.

An illustration of a solder from the 17th century

What we learn from history ...

.... is that people don't learn from history.


bottom of page