Château de Chillon

Top choice chateau in Montreux

Image by Christian Dagnæs 500px Images

From the Montreux waterfront, fairy-tale Chemin Fleuri (Floral Path) – a silky smooth promenade framed by flowerbeds positively tropical in colour and vivacity – snakes dreamily along the lake for 4km to the magnificent stone hulk of lakeside Château de Chillon. Occupying a stunning position on Lake Geneva, this oval-shaped 13th-century fortress is a maze of courtyards, towers and halls filled with arms, period furniture and artwork. The landward side is heavily fortified, but lakeside it presents a gentler face.

Chillon was largely built by the House of Savoy and taken over by Bern’s governors after Vaud fell to Bern. Don’t miss the medieval frescos in the Chapelle St Georges and the spooky Gothic dungeons.

The fortress gained fame in 1816 when Byron wrote The Prisoner of Chillon, a poem about François Bonivard, thrown into the dungeon for his seditious ideas and freed by Bernese forces in 1536. Byron carved his name into the pillar to which Bonivard was supposedly chained. Painters William Turner and Gustave Courbet subsequently immortalised the castle’s silhouette on canvas, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Alexandre Dumas, père and Mary Shelley all wrote about it.

It's easy walk of about 3km around the lakeshore from Montreux to Chillon, or take bus 201 (10 minutes). CGN boats and steamers – a wonderful way to arrive – call at Château de Chillon from Lausanne (1¾ hours), Vevey (50 minutes) and Montreux (15 minutes).