The Château de Chillon is far and away the most famous castle in Switzerland. It’s easy to see why. Situated on the eastern edge of Lake Geneva, this iconic structure dates back to the 11th century and was never taken by siege at any point in its history. Located near Monteux (home to the justly famous Monteux Jazz Festival), the site borrows much of its grandeur from its proximity to the lake and backdrop of the Dents du Midi (translation: Teeth of the South) Mountains.
The majority of the main structure was constructed on Roman foundations beginning in the 13th century, and now consists of more than 100 independent buildings. Among these are a series of grand bedrooms, halls and cave stores, as well as four great halls, three courtyards and the Camera domini, which was once occupied by the Duke of Savoy and is adorned by beautiful medieval murals. Also of interest are the armories and Saint George’s Chapel.
Among the countless historical figures who have visited the chateau was none other that Lord Byron, who was inspired to pen his poem Prisoner of Chillon while visiting. The work describes the fate of the castle’s most famous prisoner, François de Bonivard, who was confined there for six years in the 15th century for attempting to import Protestantism to Switzerland.
Though once playing a significant strategic role in the region, the castle complex is now a tourist attraction of staggering proportions. Chillon offers an abundance of tours (well worth the money), historic reenactments and installations, and, during the summer months, an array of open-air theatre productions.