Switzerland has an abundance of stunning lakes and glacial mountain backdrops but none quite as lovely as Lake Thun. Stretching 18km from Interlaken to Thun and scattered with beautiful castles and small hamlets, it is the perfect place for a day trip from Interlaken.
We were halfway through our European Road Trip and were using Interlaken as our base for a few days. We decided to take a trip to Lake Thun to check whether it was as lovely as the guidebooks described and visit the fairytale castles that sit on the shores of Lake Thun.
Public transport and train services are available from Interlaken to Thun if you haven’t got your own vehicle. There is also a cruise on Lake Thun that will take you between the lakeside villages to view each castle from the water.
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Castle Oberhofen – the most photographed castle on Lake Thun
The most photographed castle on the lake and dating back to the 13th century was our first stop. Oberhofen sits on the water, giving the impression that it is floating, with its drawbridge and red turreted towers adding to the fairytale illusion. We had arrived before the castle had opened so ordered a coffee from the lakeside cafe and sat and enjoyed the views across to the Bernese mountain range while we waited.
Inside the castle museum, you will discover its history, find out who has owned the castle through the ages and be able to view the chapel and oriental smoking room.
Outside, make sure you stop by the formal castle garden with its flower borders, covered walkways and lake views and if time permits, wander over to the larger 2.5-hectare landscaped park adjacent to the castle.
A 5-minute drive further along the lake takes you to Castle Hunegg, built in the late 1800s in the style of the Loire valley’s French castles. Positioned within a 6-hectare park, this castle stands elevated above the lake and looks proudly out towards the Alps.
When we arrived, we were the only people there and then realised the castle was closed. It was still a lovely place to explore, and we just took our time wandering around the park and enjoying nature all around us.
Looking down towards the lake, we spotted quite a few people swimming, which we found out was a regular local pastime in summer. We hadn’t brought our swim stuff with us, so we couldn’t join in, although I’m not sure we would have been able to cope with the water’s alpine temperature.
The medieval town of Thun sits at the opposite end of the lake to Interlaken and is very charming. Cobbled streets and narrow alleyways with the River Aare running through its centre all add to its attraction.
Its centrepiece is the imposing 12th century Castle Thun with its four distinct turreted towers. We didn’t bargain for the steep climb up to it and were out of breath by the time we reached the top, but our reward was the far-stretching views over and beyond the town.
The castle is a large complex, and there is a lot to learn from its history, dating all the way back to the middle ages, so you may want to allow for a few hours here. The four towers can be climbed if you feel particularly energetic and will give you another amazing view.
The Old Town of Thun
Beside the River Aare, you will find cafes and restaurants to enjoy a drink or a bite to eat. A Ferris wheel operates in the summer months and a covered bridge leading out over the river is a good place to take photographs.
A few small artisan shops around the town offer souvenirs alongside traditional Swiss crafts and several historic buildings including the church and town hall dating back to the 14th century.
Castle Schadau offering amazing views across Lake Thun
The beautiful Schadau Park, on the shores of Lake Thun, is a short drive away from the Old Town. At its centre is the pink 19th-century Schadau Castle, now a hotel and restaurant, gazing majestically out to Lake Thun.
The views from here down the lake’s length are incredible, and this is where we chose to stop and treat ourselves to lunch. We sat on the terrace with a bottle of crisp white wine and watched the boats cruising along the lake, showing visitors the wonders of this area.
The Thun Panorama is in a dedicated round building on the park grounds. It is the oldest existing 360° panorama painting in the world and shows the town centre of Thun at the start of the nineteenth century.
Spiez Castle and Chapel
Located on a small peninsula and just 25-minutes from Castle Schadau will bring you to the medieval Spiez Castle. Dating back over 1000 years, this national heritage site would be the last castle we visited on our trip around Lake Thun.
High above the bay and surrounded by a flower garden and a large well-kept park, the setting was incredible with far-reaching views of the mountains. The Romanesque chapel stands separately from the castle and features 12th-century frescoes within its walls.
The grassy lakeside area, beneath the castle, was a hive of activity with many families playing in the water. We decided that we would be brave and at least dip a toe into the waters of Lake Thun, but we were not as hardy as we would like to think.
The water was absolutely freezing, and we quickly retreated into the sunshine. It seems that lake swimming is only for the sturdy Swiss locals who have grown up being gradually acclimatised to its temperature!
Our day trip had come to an end, and we really had seen the best of Lake Thun. It is certainly an exceptional place to explore, from medieval castles and gardens to spectacular lake and mountain views.
The trip can be made in reverse if you are staying in Bern, but if you want to stay on Lake Thun, there are many hotels, B&B’s, lakeside lodges and camping grounds from which to choose. One last mention, don’t forget your camera as every turning is a photographers dream.