Visiting Bellinzona, Switzerland
If you are vacationing in Lugano, Switzerland or Como, Italy you can go to Bellinzona for an easy day trip.
You can visit three castle while in Bellinzona, Switzerland! Bellinzona is a beautiful city, an easy day trip, and is certainly a kid-friendly travel destination!
*If you like the photo above and want to see more that you can also purchase as prints click here for prints and stock photos of Bellinzona, Switzerland by Monica Goslin
What to see in Bellinzona, Switzerland
The three castles in Bellinzona, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites, are the main attractions and below are descriptions of each, including tips on how to get to each castle.
The old historical city of Bellinzona is the main area and the train station is right at the edge of it. From the train station walk to the left and you reach a piazza with the church of Saint Pietro e Stefano and a few cafes. From this small piazza you can find your way up to the main castle, Castelgrande, which sits on a rocky plateau above the city.
The best way up to the Castelgrande however, is by elevator, which rises through the rocks and ends up at the castle wall just below the green space within the castle. The elevator up to the main castle in Bellinzona saves you the trouble of finding the hidden paths up, and needless to say it is less strenuous. The elevator up to Castelgrande is best reached from Piazza del Sole, a large square with a Migros market on one side and dotted by four concrete trapezoids that are entrances to the underground car park (very Swiss in design). The elevator is found through a narrow passage at the base of the rocky wall, and it is free!
The Castelgrande dates back as far as the 1st century BC, and in fact, was the only castle in Bellinzona until the 13th century. Much of what you see of the Castelgrande today is from the late 13th century to early 16th century, including extensive renovations.
From the main open square you can visit a small museum in the lower buildings and you can climb up the tall thin tower (entrance through the larger squat tower at the far end of the open space). You do have to get a ticket for the tower, 5 Swiss francs (July 2012). From the tower you can get a wonderful view of the valley, castle grounds, and the other two castles.
I also highly recommend walking along the castle wall, at least to the first break. The castle wall can be reached by walking through the flat green area, over to the side lower wall and on towards the sweeping castle wall, which is really impressive! This whole area is great for kids; they can run all over and visit a real castle!
Castle hours for Castelgrande in Bellinzona are:
Summer hours are 10-7 for the Castle Wall and 9-10 for the Inner Courtyard
Winter hours are 10-5 for the Castle Wall and 10-6 for the Inner Courtyard
I highly recommend stopping for lunch or even just a drink at the café right below the museum of the Castelgrande. The café/restaurant has a few sections that include an indoor grotto and an outdoor seating terrace under a grapevine covered path, with stone tables, and a view of downtown and the two castles. The food is seasonal and traditional for the area, plus the service is wonderful!
Montebello Castle in Bellinzona, Switzerland
Montebello Castle is the second castle to visit in Bellinzona, Switzerland and was built in the 14th century. The Montebello Castle can be reached by foot from a path that starts from the piazza with the church of Saint Pietro (if you are facing the church, the path is to the right). The walk up to the second castle in Bellinzona is mostly stairs and it takes about 15 minutes to reach the castle. Enter Montebello Castle and buy your ticket for 5 Swiss francs before climbing up to the castle wall, seeing the views, and visiting the museum that is terraced through the castle tower (prices current as of July 2012). The Archaeological and Civic Museum is open from March to November.
Sasso Corbaro is the third and smallest castle in Bellinzona, Switzerland and sits on top of a hill overlooking the town. Sasso Corbaro was built in the late 15th century and is not part of the city walls like the other two castles. There is a small museum in the Sasso Corbaro castle as well, open from March to November and you can walk along the castle walls. If you do not have a car, you can walk up to the third castle, although most of the walk tends to be along the road, and walking takes about 20 to 30 minutes from Montebello Castle.
How to Get to Bellinzona
Bellinzona is a town that sits in a valley at the foot of the Alps and can be reached by train.
– From Lugano to Bellinzona, it is a 22 to 30 minute train ride.
– Bellinzona is a main stop as it is the administrative capital of the Ticino Canton of Switzerland.