Spiez Castle – Swiss Beauty (History & Travel Tips)


Spiez Castle, or Schloss Spiez in German, is a beautiful castle overlooking Lake Thun in the Canton of Bern. A charming blend of traditional Swiss architecture intermingled with Baroque ideas, it is a treasure of Switzerland well-worth exploring. It has hosted three notable Swiss families; while it wasn’t caught up in much intrigue, the castle has witnessed Swiss cultural history for several hundred years. Read on for historic and visiting information about this stately lakeside complex.

There is an early Romanesque Schlosskirche (castle church) adjacent to the castle, the castle estate has held the church charter since the building was built … possibly before.

The amazing view of Spiez Palace and it's surroundings from the terrace of a restaurant.
The amazing view of Spiez Palace and it’s surroundings from the terrace of a restaurant. Spiez – Thunersee flickr photo by Kecko shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Frequently Asked Questions


Early History

The first evidence of a settlement at Spiez dates to burial objects from 1750-1500 BCE. The first signs of a fortification on the castle grounds are dated a bit later: a horseman burial & Celtic settlement evidence from the 6th to 8th centuries CE.

According to the Strättliger Chronicles, Spiez Castle was initially built in 933 by Rudolph II, King of Burgundy. Very little is known about the castle for the next 250 years until part of the outer walls & the base levels of the center keep were built around 1200. The keep walls are about 3 m (9.8 ft) thick at the base, although they thin out further up. The castle was mentioned historically again in 1280, listed as a fiefdom assigned to Vogt Richard de Corbières.

A drawing from between 1552-1628, likely of Schlos(s) Spie(t)z
A drawing from between 1552-1628, likely of Schlos(s) Spie(t)z. Sebastian Münster, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

13th-15th Centuries

From 1289-1308, the Spiez fief was co-owned by two noble families: the Strättligens and a succession of others, the last of which was Thüring von Brandis. His share of the fiefdom was withdrawn by the Hapsburgs in retaliation for von Brandis’ involvement in the murder of King Albert I of Hapsburg. The full fiefdom was granted to Johannes von Strättligen. At some point during Strättligen’s co- or full ownership, a residence hall was built adjacent to the keep, although it was most likely only one story tall at this point.

In 1338, von Strättligen sold the fief to the Schultheiss of Bern (similar title to govenor), Johann II von Bubenberg. While Bern was de facto independent from the Hapsburg rulers, the Bern-assigned Vogt at Spiez was still required to raise troops for the Hapsburgs–an awkward power tension that remained in place for the next forty plus years. It was only resolved when the Swiss Confederacy won the Battle of Sempach against the Hapsburgs in 1386.

The view of Spiez Castle from the back.
The view of Spiez Castle from the back. Old Castle Church Spiez flickr photo by hminnx shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

Despite power struggles, life at Spiez had its fun in this time period, as evidenced by the milieu of knights’ signatures & tournament depictions graffitied on the main fireplace. A north wing was also added to the residence hall during this time.

Erlach Family: 16th-19th centuries

The Bubenburgs held Spiez Castle until the line died out with Adrian von Bubenburgs in 1506, when the castle was sold to Ludwig von Diesbach who owned the castle for only ten years before selling to Ludwig von Erlach. The Erlach family retained Spiez Castle from 1516 until 1875, through quite a bit of history and change to the castle.

An old painting of Spiez in Cant. Bern.
Spiez in Cant. Bern. Daniel Düringer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The residence hall, which had originally been single-level, leveled up; the keep received the same overhaul … a few times, actually. The gallery was expanded, while the Trüel (a wine-making facility) was built on to the north-west side of the keep. 

In 1600, the final update was made to the keep, adding a hipped roof that took it to its current height at 39 m (128 ft) tall. Franz Ludwig von Erlach, who served as Mayor of Bern from 1629 until his death in 1651, was responsible for the conversion of the Palais into the ballroom and the addition of the State Room at Spiez Castle. Through the 17th and 18th centuries, the “New Castle” on the south side of the gatehouse was first built, then expanded, then remodeled in late Baroque style to its current appearance.

The interior of the church of Spiez Castle.
The interior of the church of Spiez Castle. Paul Bissegger, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ferdinand Rudolf Albrecht von Erlach made some bad investments, leaving him no choice but to auction-off Spiez Castle in 1875, bringing a nine-generation family ownership to an end. 

Current Times

Spiez Castle was owned by Hermann Karl von Wilke (a legationary councilor from Berlin) as a summer home; Rosina Magdelena Gemuseus-Riggenbach of Basel; and then her nephew, Dr. Wilhelm Schiess–all in a space of forty-eight years.

Schloss Spiez in Canton of Bern.
Schloss Spiez in Canton of Bern.

In 1927, when the castle went up for sale again, the Spiez Castle Foundation was organized by the Swiss Association for the Preservation of Forts and Castles. Eighteen months later, after a lottery to raise the money for the purchase price, the castle comes into the foundation’s ownership. The Spiez Castle Foundation has owned the castle since.

Interesting Spiez Castle Facts

  • There is an early Romanesque Schlosskirche (castle church) adjacent to the castle, the castle estate has held the church charter since the building was built … possibly before.
  • The most notable member of the Strättligen family is one Hienrich von Strättligen. Two or three of his songs on courtly love were printed in the early 14th century Codex Manesse.
  • Johann von Bubenberg bought Spiez fief (or baronage) for 5600 pounds, Bernese currency.
  • The municipality of Spiez donated 30,000 francs to the Spiez Castle Foundation for the castle purchase in the ‘20s. The one condition was that the castle grounds be open to the public–which the foundation has upheld since.

Visiting Spiez Castle – Tips and Tricks

Spiez Castle is a beautiful piece of Swiss history, well worth the visit! Consider spending a few days in the area to fully explore the Lake Thun area. There are multiple castles within easy access. Here are some facts and figures for visiting Spiez specifically:

The side view of Spiez Castle across the lake.
The side view of Spiez Castle across the lake. A journey across Thunersee XVII flickr photo by Pedro Nuno Caetano shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

How to get to Spiez Castle?

Getting to Spiez from Bern, the de facto capitol of Switzerland is a quick trip. A 29-minute train ride on any one of several lines that run through Bern will land you a 13-minute walk from the train station to the castle. The fare is usually between CHF 11-24 ($12-26 USD). Alternatively, a 30-minute taxi ride for CHF 180-220 ($195-238 USD) or driving yourself for a gas price of CHF 5-7 ($6-8 USD) are also options.

Ticket Prices, Visiting Hours & Travel Tips

Information was checked & updated on October 22, 2023.

Spiez Castle is a bit tricky to visit due to its limited visiting hours. The castle museum and cafe are only open between May 1st and October 31st: Mondays 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm & Tuesdays-Sundays from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (6:00 pm in July and August). The church is free to visit, but only open for visits Monday 2 – 5pm, Tuesday to Thursday and Sunday 10am -5pm, and 10am to 12noon on Fridays, as long as there’s not a private event booked.

The ticket prices to visit the castle museum are CHF 12($14 USD) for adults, with a reduced rate of CHF 10 ($11 USD) for seniors, disabled, students, groups of twelve or more, or regional guest cards. Children from 6-16 can enter for CHF 5 ($6 USD), while families (2 adults & max of four children) can buy a family ticket for CHF 20 ($23 USD); children under the age of 6 enter free. For tickets with the current special exhibit included, prices are 16 CHF ($18 USD) for adults, CHF 10 ($11 USD) reduced, and CHF 7 ($8USD) for a child’s ticket. A Swiss Museum Pass or Swiss Travel Pass will give you free entrance. 

Guided tours can be scheduled outside the normal opening hours. There is a surcharge of CHF 200 ($225 USD) plus reduced entrance per person.

Spiez Castle's main tower view.
Spiez Castle’s main tower view in front of the lake. Paul Bissegger, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How Long Will It Take to Tour Around?

Spiez Castle and gardens take about 2-4 hours to fully explore, per the official website’s recommendation.

Some words of advice and tips: 

  • The castle experience is a bit different during 2021. The exterior is being renovated, blocking the windows with scaffolding. The permanent displays have been temporarily removed and replaced with an art exhibit called Ghosts, by Swiss video artist Peter Aerschmann.
  • There is a “Knight’s Trail” through the castle, along with craft stations, for young visitors.
  • The castle accepts both Swiss Francs and Euros, along with all major cards.
  • There is a parking lot at the castle for your use.

Quick Video Tour of The Main Spiez 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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