A Quick Guide to Thun Castle (Expectations + Tips + Photos)

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One may wonder, why is Thun called the ‘Gateway to the Bernese Oberland’? Well, my answer lies in Thun Castle. The views I saw there are the perfect visual explanation.

I was so enchanted by the picturesque scenery of the Bernese Oberland from the window of Thun Castle: an overlooking view of Lake Thun plus the snowcapped mountains of the Jungfrau Region in the backdrop. With Stadtkirche (the town’s church) in the foreground and the majestic mountains as the backdrop, I can’t help but think Thun is also a real fairytale town in Switzerland.

It’s an awe-inspiring scenery that every wanderer must see during their trip to Thun. And I am simply convinced that this castle provides one of the most picturesque scenes in the town. You wouldn’t want to miss it when you tour Old Town Thun.

Let me share with you everything that you need to know to make the most of your visit to Thun Castle.

Facts about Thun Castle (Summary)

Thun Castle, the mightiest and largest structure in Thun, has a rich history that stretches back to the 12th century. Once the stronghold of the Dukes of Zähringen and the House of Kyburg, it’s now publicly owned by the city of Thun. Today, Thun Castle serves as a museum, offering a window into the city’s development over the years. It houses cultural and historic displays not just from Thun, but also from other parts of the Bernese Oberland. While parts of the castle have been renovated over time, some areas, like the Knights’ Hall, remain preserved in their original state. 

Getting There

As its name suggests, you can find Thun Castle in the town of Thun, located 30 kilometers south of Bern. Thun Castle sits on a hill called Schlossberg, where it overlooks the entire town in all directions.

Once you’re in Thun, finding this castle doesn’t require any effort. In most cases, you just look up above the houses, and you’ll spot Thun Castle right away. In fact, if you’re driving from Bern or you’re heading to Thun from other places in Lake Thun using the boat, it’s the view of Thun Castle, dominating the skyline of the city, that will welcome you. Arriving by train? Your first picturesque glimpse of Thun Castle would be just a stone’s throw away, a few steps from the train station.

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Two sides of the skyline of Thun captured from Lake Thun (Top) and Stockhornstrasse (Bottom), Switzerland
Two sides of the skyline of Thun captured from Lake Thun (Top) and Stockhornstrasse (Bottom)
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For travelers arriving in Thun by train, getting to Thun Castle on foot requires a little cardio workout. As Thun Castle was built on a hilltop overlooking the Old Town, climbing the stairs (approximately equivalent to 7 floors) would be part of your journey to the castle grounds.

While exploring Thun Old Town, you can find a few pathways to get to the castle. There is one in the Town Hall Square, and there are three in Obere Hauptgasse—the main street of Thun Old Town that runs along its length. You can use any of them to get to Thun Old Town, but make sure you pass by Kirchtreppe when either climbing up or going down from Thun Castle. You may look at my map of Thun to give you a visual clue where Thun Castle and Kirchtreppe are.

Kirchtreppe is an old wooden covered staircase from the 19th century with picturesque gables. It ends at a small art-embellished pavilion, painted with modern art that depicts Thun’s history (I guess) with angels and demons.  I’m not sure what the title of the artwork is, though. But using this path, you may forget that you’re climbing stairs as the staircase is so eye-catching. Watch your steps!

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Kirchtreppe and the art pavilion near Thun Castle in Thun, Switzerland
Kirchtreppe and the art pavilion near Thun Castle
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Kirchtreppe is the closest staircase you can use to get to Thun Castle if you are coming from the train station.

Let’s say you’re indeed coming from the train station. Cross the river to get to the island and then cross again to the Old Town through Sinnebrücke (bridge). Continue until you reach Obere Hauptgasse and turn left. After a few steps, proceed to the first pathway on your right—it is Kirchtreppe. If you make it to the pavilion, continue climbing the stairs opposite Kirchtreppe. It’s the last staircase and will lead you to Schlossberg’s cobblestone pathway, which links Thun Castle and Stadtkirche Thun. The entrance to the castle will be just a few steps away from the end of the stairs.

Along this cobblestone pathway, you’ll also find the entry to the elevator going down to the parking lot below the castle.

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Stadtkirche In Thun, Switzerland
Stadtkirche
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Where is Thun Castle’s Parking Lot?

If you have a car, you can park it in the castle’s parking lot. The parking lot is located on Burgstrasse (street) near the Krankenhausstrasse junction/roundabout. It’s pay parking, and they accept credit cards for payment (2 CHF per hour during the morning). The last time I checked, the Thun Castle’s parking lot was very clean, well-lit, and could accommodate 300-plus vehicles. You can find e-chargers for electric cars and elevators that can bring you straight to the castle grounds.

Map of Thun Castle parking lot in Thun, Switzerland
Map of Thun Castle parking lot

The parking lot’s exact location is linked at the end of this post (sources section).

What’s Inside?

If you like quaint architecture and you’ve been to other castles in Switzerland, such as Oberhofen Castle (a must-see picturesque castle during a trip around Lake Thun), it might be better to set a lower expectation for Thun Castle.

Honestly, Thun Castle not as elaborate as you might be expecting. And its history pretty much tells why. For centuries, Thun Castle has not been a residence of a nobleman, but rather just functioned as a government office. As we know it, without someone living in a house, there’s no one who would decorate it.

Even so, despite this being the case, the quaint charm of Thun Castle is still palpable once you set foot on the castle grounds in Schlossberg. The cobblestone pathway and the beautiful scenery surrounding you evoke a flair of a fairytale.

Here’s a tip: I think you’ll like the first impression of Thun Castle more if you use Kirchteppe to get to the castle. The pathway in Schlossberg is one of the most picturesque places on the castle grounds—the charming Stadtkirche, mighty Thun Castle, and panoramic views of the Old City and Alps will all be yours to see.

Upon entering the gate, you’ll arrive at the castle’s courtyard, where the cafeteria is located. You can also find a few things that are straight out of the medieval ages, like the cannon and well.

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Call me biased, but I think old-world architecture is far more beautiful than modern architecture. Having internalized that, I’m often disappointed with old buildings modified to look modern. Sadly, this has happened in one part of Thun Castle. You can see the modern alteration as soon as you enter the courtyard. My best guess is that those modifications were made for the castle’s hotel.

On a positive note, many parts of the castle’s exteriors are still preserved, such as the covered wooden ramparts and the tower at one corner of Thun Castle. That witch-hat-like roof of the tower simply looks magical. I can imagine medieval guards stationed there with binoculars, scanning the nearby fields for intruders.

It’s also in the courtyard of Thun Castle where you can find the entrance to the main part of the castle. From there, you can start your journey to seven more parts of Thun Castle, such as the cellar, 5 upper floors, and the towers. Each has a different purpose and exhibit. The gallery below shows the pictures of the exhibits in Thun Castle that I find most interesting.

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According to the official website of Thun Castle, they have thousands of collections, but only 600 are exhibited to the public. It’s more likely that they show the exhibits in rotation to attract visitors to come back and see the castle again. If my guess is true that archivists and curators occasionally shuffle the castle’s collection, what you might find in Thun Castle may differ from what I’ve shown in the photos.

Regardless, these types of items (medieval and renaissance artifacts and artworks) are the ones that you can expect to see in Thun Castle (particularly on the 1st-3rd floors). They highlight the region’s history, culture, and art. I think you’ll like the exhibits if you’re into medieval art and weapons.

By the way, you can also find ceramics, antique toys, and hunting tools that depict the hunting culture of the residents. Interestingly, despite being in Switzerland, you can find a Burgundian Heraldic tapestry in Thun Castle.

If you are interested in discovering Thun’s 900 years of urban development, you won’t want to miss the castle’s cellar. In the basement, a modern diorama of the city awaits you. Good to know: the exhibits are explained in both English and German.

The View 😍

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The view of Thun Central Church and the snowy peaks of Bernese Oberland from Thun Castle in Thun, Switzerland
The view of Thun Central Church and the snowy peaks of Bernese Oberland from Thun Castle
Iconic view of the Bernese Oberland from Thun, Day 2 Morning of Switzerland Itinerary
Iconic view of the Bernese Oberland from Thun
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As you might already know, even from the start of this article, the highlight of visiting Thun Castle is the towers. The magical view of the Bernese Oberland awaits you at the windows of the tower.

Access to the towers of Thun Castle is through an external covered staircase linked to the floors of the castle. There’s no lift or elevator, though. So, you’ve got to expect a bit of footwork. But don’t worry! The scenery is absolutely rewarding, especially if you visit on a clear sunny day.

Should You Visit?

As a wanderer, I recommend visiting Thun Castle. Although it’s not an architecturally super impressive structure, the insightful exhibits and breathtaking scenery from its towers are a must-see. The magical view of the Bernese Oberland from Thun Castle is a uniquely beautiful sight you can’t find anywhere else in Switzerland. The one or two hours you’ll spend in Thun Castle is something you won’t regret during your visit to Thun, I believe.

Besides, Thun Castle is Thun’s primary landmark. It’s a highlight of the city, and failing to visit it is like missing nearly half of the amazing experience you can find in Thun. Imagine missing the picture-perfect Chapel Bridge in Lucerne or the spectacular Zytglogge in Bern. Of course, we don’t want that!

If you visit Thun Castle during a time when it’s not accessible, I still recommend visiting Thun Castle and exploring Schlossberg. Apart from Thun Castle’s tower, a few more picturesque viewpoints await you there. For example, the pavilion behind Stadtkirche also boasts breathtaking scenery, good enough to be an alternative to the view you can take in from the castle’s tower. The best part? It’s free to go there and you won’t have to climb stairs for that view!

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Things to see in Stadtkirche Thun in Thun, Switzerland
Things to see in Stadtkirche Thun
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Visiting Information

Are you visiting Thun Castle? Make sure to come only during its opening hours. The last time I checked, Thun Castle is open:

  1. Every day from April to October – from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm 
  2. Sundays from November to January – from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm
  3. Every day from February to March – from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm

The admission fee starts at 10 CHF/adult. 

A trip to Thun Castle usually lasts for an hour or two. That includes simple activities like strolling in the castle grounds, sightseeing & taking pictures and exploring the castle up to the viewpoints in the tower. It can be longer if you plan to eat in the cafeteria or relax on the benches with the views of the city and mountains in the castle’s garden.

If you like to maximize your stay in Thun and you want to visit Thun Castle, you can purchase the “kombi-ticket,” which also lets you enter Thun Panorama for only 5 CHF additional to the regular price.

If you have a Swiss Travel Pass, you won’t have to pay any admission fee for Thun Castle, Thun Panorama, or even Thun Art Museum. The Swiss Travel Pass is an all-in-one pass that covers access to the country’s public transportation and many museums. It’s recommended if you’re visiting Switzerland for 3 or more days.

What’s nice: You can use the free-to-use-lockers in the entry room of Thun Castle if you have bags (i.e., normal-size backpacks). They are really helpful for a relaxing tour of the castle, especially if you want to climb to the top of the tower for epic views.

Please check the official website of Thun Castle for news and announcements. (Link at resources section — up next!)

Learn More

You can learn more about Thun and check some latest information from the links below.

Are you planning a visit to the Bernese Oberland soon? If you’re in search of a hotel, I recommend using my partner’s hotel search and booking platform. It’s my go-to choice due to its fantastic hotel deals, including free cancellations and other perks. Please note that the link provided is an affiliate link, meaning I may earn a small commission when you book through it (no additional cost to you). Consider this as your donation to WanderInEurope, enabling me to create more helpful content like this. Thank you for your support!

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Thun Castle is only one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the Bernese Oberland. You should also visit the other locations I discovered: Harder Kulm, offering a 180-degree panorama of the mountains, including Lake Thun and Lake Brienz; Mannlichen, providing a 360-degree view of the entire Jungfrau Region; Wengen, for an overlooking view of the Lauterbrunnen Valley; and the First Cliff Walk in Grindelwald, for stunning views of Eiger’s North Face. Note: They are all in Jungfrau Region which is within Bernese Oberland.

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