The castles of Bellinzona

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The courtyard of Montebello castle in Bellinzona.

The castles of Bellinzona

The three castles of Bellinzona are a UNESCO World Heritage site, dating back to the Middle Ages. Learn about local history and enjoy the views from the strategically positioned walls and towers.

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  • Attraction type: culture, museum;
    culture, monument;
    city tour
  • Escort: independent (no guide)
  • Region: Bellinzona (Ticino)
  • Duration: 1 day or less

What are the castles of Bellinzona?

Bellinzona is located at a crossing of various pass roads and has therefore been a strategic location for ages. Originally, the castles were built from the 13th century, to help stopping the Swiss confederation expanding further south. But ultimately the current canton of Ticino decided to join the confederation in 1513. The castles were then useful to stop the Venetians from expanding to the north. More about the history of Switzerland can be read here.

Castle 1: Castelgrande

The biggest castle of the three can be found on a hill, only 50 m above the town center of Bellinzona. There is a white and a black tower of 27 and 28 m high. I reality their colors are not that different, but one is definitely darker than the other. There is a museum and a restaurant.

Castle 2: Montebello

We'll find the second castle about 85 m above the town, on the hill named Montebello. There is a small museum and one can explore the castle walls and enjoy the view from there.

Castle 3: Sasso Corbaro

The castle at the highest location, at 235 m above Bellinzona, offers the best views of the area. You can see the other castles, and the views reach as far as Lake Maggiore. It was built in the late 15th century to improve the line of defense offered by the two other castles and the city walls. The walls of Sasso Corbaro are 4.7 m thick! There is a museum.

Villa dei Cedri museum

This art museum is housed in a wonderful 19th century villa, surrounded by a small park with cedars (cedri). The collection consists of paintings, works on paper and sculptures, and there are temporary exhibitions from time to time as well.

Preparation

We recommend to allocate 4 hours to visit all castles on foot and to have a quick look inside, or up to a full day for an extensive look and to visit the museums too.

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