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.
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.
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
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.