Switzerland has an abundance of stunning lakes and glacial mountain backdrops but none quite as lovely as Lake Thun, the largest lake in the Bernese Oberland. Stretching 18km from Interlaken to Thun and scattered with beautiful castles and tiny hamlets, it is the perfect place to visit on a day trip from Interlaken.
We were halfway through our European Road Trip and were using Interlaken as our base for a few days. Lake Thun looked amazing in the guidebooks and so we decided to check it out for ourselves and visit the fairytale castles on Lake Thun’s shores.
Our car enabled us to visit the five castles and the old town of Thun at our own pace, however public transport and train services are available from Interlaken to Thun as an alternative. It can also be reached by train from Bern in about 20 minutes or Zurich in about 90 minutes.
One of the loveliest things to do in Thun is to book a lake cruise. The boat will take you between the lakeside villages around Thun to view each castle from the water with a backdrop of some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes in Switzerland.
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Castle Oberhofen – the most photographed castle on Lake Thun
Our first stop of the day was the most photographed castle on the lake, the 13th-century Oberhofen. This impressive castle 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 opened, so we ordered a coffee from the lakeside cafe and sat and enjoyed the views across 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. If time permits, wander over to the adjacent 2.5-hectare landscaped park.
Address: Stiftung Schloss Oberhofen, Postfach 22, CH-3653 Oberhofen
Opening Hours: Please check the Castle Oberhofen website
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. This fairytale castle is positioned within a 6-hectare park above Lake Thun and facing the Alps.
Unfortunately, the castle was closed when we arrived, even so, the grounds were still lovely to explore.
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.
Address: Staatsstrasse 52, 3652 Hilterfingen, Switzerland
Opening Hours: Please check the Castle Hunegg website
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 add to its attraction.
Its centrepiece is the imposing 12th century Thun Castle with 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 back to the middle ages, so you may want to allow for a few hours here.
Address: Schlossberg 1, 3600 Thun, Switzerland
Opening Hours: Please check the Castle Thun website
The Old Town of Thun
The Old Town is located beside the River Aare, and 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 an excellent place to take photographs. You might also see a few surfers using the wake of the river to perfect their skills. Only in Switzerland!
As you wander around the town you will come across artisan shops selling Swiss souvenirs alongside traditional Swiss crafts. Several historic buildings date back to the 14th century, including the church and town hall.
The beautiful pink 19th-century Castle Schadau sits majestically on the shores of Lake Thun and is a short drive away from the Old Town. Once the home of noble families, Schadau Castle is now a hotel and restaurant.
The views from Schadau Castle down the length of Lake Thun are incredible as is the panorama of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. Castle Schadau’s terrace is the perfect place to stop for lunch and watch the boats cruising along the lake, showing visitors the wonders of this area.
A unique feature at Castle Schadau is the Thun Panorama. 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. You will find it in a roundhouse within the castle’s garden.
Address: Schloss Schadau, Seestrasse, 45CH – 3600 Thun
Parking for available in the local public parking areas marked “Scherzligen-Schadau” just outside the castle and park.
Spiez Castle and Chapel
Located on a small peninsula and just 25-minutes from Castle Schadau is the medieval national heritage site, Spiez Castle.
High above the bay and surrounded by a flower garden and a large well-kept park, the setting is incredible, with far-reaching views of the Swiss mountains. The Romanesque chapel stands separately from the castle and features 12th-century frescoes on its walls.
The grassy lakeside area beneath the castle is 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 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!
Address: Spiez Castle, Schlossstrasse 16, CH-3700 Spiez
Opening Hours: Please check the Spiez Castle website
Our day trip had come to an end, and we were impressed with what we had seen of Lake Thun and its five castles. It is undoubtedly an exceptional place to explore, from medieval castles and gardens to spectacular lake and mountain views.
We drove from our hotel in Interlaken for this day trip to Lake Thun but there is plenty of accommodation in Thun if you wish to base yourself by the lake. One last mention, don’t forget your camera as every turning is a photographer’s dream.