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Thun and its castle

Thun Castle Bernese Oberland Lake Thun Switzerland

ABOVE: A view toward the lake from Schoss Thun.

Thun (pronounced "Toon") isn't just another cow-infested Swiss village. It's a city of nearly 40,000 that has occupied an important role in cantonal affairs since the Gentlemen of Bern acquired it from the House of Kyburg in 1384.

The city is located at the northwestern corner of Lake Thun (Thunersee), where the River Aare flows out of the lake on its 24-mile journey toward the Swiss capital of Bern. It offers frequent train and boat service to nearby Interlaken, the hub of the Jungfrau region, yet it's only a 20-minute commute from Bern. Trains also head south over the Loetschberg Pass to Brig, which offers easy railway connections to Italy and the popular Glacier Express between Zermatt and St. Moritz. In short, Thun is both a transportation hub and a convenient base for city and mountain excursions.

Schloss Thun, Thun, Switzerland, Berner OberlandBut that's not all. Thun is a tourist destination in its own right, with a magnificent turreted castle (now a museum) that has dominated the Thin skyline since Duke Berthold V of Zähringen ordered it built in 1191. Paul Guiton, author of an undated travel guide titled Switzerland: Northern and Eastern from 60 or 70 years ago, had this description of Thun and its castle:

Thun is approached by one of the arms of the Aare, in which rushes and other aquatic plants flourish and sway gently in the current. Nothing can be more delightful than the little town, the principal street of which has on either of its sides two footways raised above each other, so that there are four rows of neat little shops, some of them old, others modern. Above the town, and reached by flights of steps which are covered, are a church, a cemetery, a rose-garden, and a château, fitting abode for any fair princess seeking a retreat remote from the busy haunts of men....

In front of the château the limpid trickle of a fountain drips steadily into a round basin. We get a glimpse of a bit of wall with chestnut trees shedding their blossom; the bold square tower with its four round turrets, capped by conical roofs, stands out with a certain dignity, but not so proudly as the Stockhorn which man aped when he built these towers. Watchtowers at the four corners of the cemetery afford wonderful views of the lake and the snow crowned peaks in the distance--the Blümlisalp, the Jungfrau, the Mönch, the Eiger, and the Schreckhorn. Who can doubt but that the souls of those buried here are ever looking down from those crests upon the quiet places they once loved so well!

Although Thun is no longer the "little town" of Guiton's day, its urban center hasn't changed dramatically over the last half-century. The Rathausplatz still has a massive 16th Century city hall, and the businesses on the Hauptgasse continue to be arranged on two levels, with the sidewalks outside the upper-story shops serving as an arcade for the stores at ground level.

Thun, Switzerland, Bernese Oberland

ABOVE: Thun's Rathaus, or City Hall.

Sights and excursions

During your visit to Thun, be sure to see:

Vaporama, the Swiss Steam Engine Museum, with paddlewheel steamboats and antique locomotives from mountain railways.

Kuntstmuseum Thun, housed in a former grand hotel on the Aare River, has a large collection of modern paintings, sculptures, and photographs.

Thun Panorama (formerly the Wocher-Panorama), a pavilion in Schadau Park where you can see a panoramic painting of Thun as it looked in 1810.

Schloss Oberhofen, a handsome castle in a beautiful setting on Lake Thun. The castle is a branch of the Bern Historical Museum, with a collection of period furniture and displays on local life in earlier times. You can reach the castle by lake steamer and hike back to Thun along the shore.

For more information about Thun, please see:

This regional tourism site focuses on villages and attractions outside the city between Thun and Interlaken.