Oberhofen Castle – Lakeside Romantic (History & Travel Tips)

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Oberhofen Castle is a beautiful castle right on the shore of Lake Thun, Switzerland (literally, one of the castle towers is actually in the lake). While it’s sported a myriad of styles throughout its long history, Oberhofen today is a Romantic-style castle. Whether you visit for the architecture, the restaurant, or the grounds, it is a captivating local that is sure to be memorable.

The Turkish smoking room was based on rooms the Count would have seen during his time as a Prussian diplomat in Istanbul.

An aerial view of the lakeside Schloss Oberhofen Castle.
An aerial view of the lakeside Schloss Oberhofen. Mike Lehmann, Mike Switzerland 19:09, 10 September 2006 (UTC), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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Frequently Asked Questions

FOR HISTORY | BEAUTIFUL IMAGES | INTERESTING FACTS | TRAVEL TIPS

Early History

Oberhofens, Eschenbacks, & Hapsburgs

Castle Oberhofen takes its name from an early ruler of the area: the Freiherr von Oberhofen. The von Oberhofens built the original castle in the area, Balm Castle was built on a hilltop overlooking the town (Only remnants remain today.) Ita von Oberhofen married into the von Eschenbach family in 1200, taking the castle and village with her.

The entry gate to Oberhofen Castle.
The entry gate to Oberhofen Castle.

The von Eschenbacks began a new moated castle on the lakeshore, the beginnings of the Castle Oberhofen we are familiar with today. The central keep is the only piece remaining from this time period. After a century of occupation, the Eschenbacks were forced to sell the castle to the House of Habsburg. A series of vassals were appointed over the area until 1386.

Swiss Rule

The Swiss Confederacy defeated the House of Habsburgs at the Battle of Sempach, opening the way for the Bernese Oberland to expand into previously Austrian territories–including Oberhofen, which was occupied in 1386. A decade later, the entirety of Oberhofen’s feudal lands was owned by the Bernese Oberland.
In 1398, the Oberhofen herrschaft and castle was sold to Ludwig von Seftigen, an Bernese noble. The area passed through several families’ hands over the next few centuries.

The view of the other side of the Oberhofen Castle.
The view of the other side of the Oberhofen Castle.

At some point within this time period, a tower was built in the lake. In 1652 the castle again returned to Bern. The Herrschaft was replaced by a bailiwick, with assigned (but unnamed) bailiffs residing in Oberhofen Castle. During the first fifty years (prior to 1700), the castle was renovated into the Bernese Baroque style. The Garden Room was added on the lakeside, while the water tower was demolished.

19th century

After the 1798 French Invasion, Oberhofen became part of the short-lived Helvetic Republic, a French-occupied sister republic to the French Republic. After the collapse of the Republic five years later, Oberhofen returned to Swiss rule as part of the Thun District. At this point, Oberhofen Castle passed into private ownership for 150 years.

The rebuilt water tower with mountain view.
The rebuilt water tower.

Count Albert Alexander de Pourtalè was a notable owner during this time. 1849-1852 saw a major renovation of Oberhofen Castle under his influence, which gave the castle its current Romantic appearance and expanded grounds. The water tower was rebuilt, a dining room and grand hall were added to the interior, while upstairs a library and the Turkish smoking room were added.

Current Times

In 1940, Oberhofen was owned by American William Maul Measy. He established the Oberhofen Castle Foundation to run and maintain the castle, which marked the end of the castle’s private ownership. In 1952, the castle became part of the Historical Museum of Bern which operated a branch of the museum out of the castle from ‘54 until the castle became a private foundation again in 2009.

The new building inside the castle courtyard that houses the Restaurant Schloss Oberhofen opened in 2013.

Castle Oberhofen 2017 (note the modern Restaurant building).
Castle Oberhofen 2017 (note the modern Restaurant building). Switzerland – Oberhofen castle flickr photo by einaz80 shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

Interesting Oberhofen Castle Facts

  • The Turkish smoking room was based on rooms the Count would have seen during his time as a Prussian diplomat in Istanbul.
  • The oldest part of the castle, the keep, has 2 m (6 ft) thick walls– or wider than the average person is tall!
  • The original lake tower stood until at least 1680 when it was included in an illustration of the castle.

Visiting Oberhofen Castle – Tips and Tricks

Oberhofen Castle is a beautiful castle set right on the edge (even into) a Swiss lake. It is a picturesque experience, well worth the visit! Besides, it is relatively easy to get to for being a remote castle, so why not? Here are some travel & visit information to make the trip that much easier:

The colorful garden at Oberhofen Castle.
The colorful garden at Oberhofen Castle. Oberhofen castle gardens flickr photo by Paul Gover shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

How to get to Oberhofen Castle?

A train ride from the nearest large city, Bern, to Thun and a bus ride from there to Oberhofen Castle takes a ground total of 42 minutes, at €10-21 ($11-25 USD). There are nine different trains routes that pass through Thun from Bern, so you will have your choice! Once in Thun, the 21 or 25 bus lines visit Oberhofen.

Alternatively, it is a 27-minute drive of 20.4 miles to get straight from Bern to Oberhofen–at either €130-170 ($152-199 USD) via taxi or €4-6 ($5-7 USD) in gas money.

Ticket Prices, Visiting Hours & Travel Tips

Oberhofen Castle features several different areas with different opening times and ticket prices. The Restaurant Schloss Oberhofen is open Tuesday – Sunday from 10 am to 11 pm year-round, while the castle museum (interior) is only open from May 9th to October 31st, from 11 am to 5 pm every Tuesday – Sunday. Entrance fees for the castle museum are CHF 10 for Adults, CHF 8 at a reduced price for students, unemployed, or military with ID; individuals in a group of 10 or more people; or those with a Bernese Oberland Regional Pass. Children between 6-16 enter at CHF 2.

The castle park is free to enter, it consistently opens at 9 am but the closing time varies throughout the year:

  • April 4th – May 22nd: 8 pm
  • May 23rd – July 31st: 9 pm
  • August 1st – September 18th: 8 pm
  • September 19th – October 23rd: 7 pm
  • October 24th – December 19nd: 5 pm

The park does not open between December 20th & April 3rd. Dogs are not welcome in either the park or castle, but you can bring them to the restaurant.

A detailed view of the amazing roof artistry at Oberhofen.
A detailed view of the amazing roof artistry at Oberhofen.

How Long Will It Take to Tour Around?

A full exploration of Oberhofen Castle and grounds will take two to three hours.

Some words of advice and tips: 

  • The castle shop features items closely related to the castle itself and the exhibits housed in the castle–it’s worth a look!
  • Oberhofen town is quite small, but only about an 18-minute walk from Thun, which will have more options for places to stay if you want to spend more than a day visit in the area.

Do you want to see more unique and interesting castles to visit? Read our list of best castles in Switzerland.

Quick Video Tour of The Main Oberhofen Castle Areas

Elora Holt
Elora Holthttps://whimz.medium.com/
I am a part-time personal assistant & part-time freelance writer/editor. Full-time architecture geek, especially Gothic & Art Nouveau varieties - the quickest way to convince me to travel is to describe the architecture of the local (not that it will take much effort, I have a bucket list of locations that will take a lifetime). I’m a design geek as well, so my long-term focus is to work in 3D architectural rendering. But in the meantime, I’m enjoying grabbing a cup of coffee and writing about castles around Europe!

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