Sion is a city along the Rhône River in southwestern Switzerland. It’s the capital of the Canton of Valais, sitting in the middle valley whose slopes are used for winegrowing. Is Sion worth visiting?
Sion is worth visiting for a hike and a stroll to its hilltop churches and castles. Visitors (photographers in particular) get fantastic photo opportunities from Sion’s breathtaking tourist attractions. Remarkably, it’s in Sion that you can find the oldest playable organ in the world.
You will learn more about Sion’s landmarks and tourist attractions in this blog post. I will introduce and guide you in doing the best things to do in Sion for an insightful and successful trip. Let’s get started!
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Do you also have an old soul like me? Wandering in the mountains, discovering pieces of history, and admiring old-world architecture excites me. If you do the same, perhaps Sion can be worth a while in your Switzerland journey.
Sion will stimulate your imagination, especially if you’re a fan of medieval-themed movies and series. You will find yourself in the scenes of your own story of the Lord of the Rings, Rings of Power, Merlin, etcetera. Wanderlust will be satisfied!
Let’s begin with some practical information.
Introduction to Sion Switzerland
As mentioned at the start of this post, Sion is the capital of the Canton of Valais in southwestern Switzerland. There, it sits between the Bernese Alps and the Pennine Alps—two of the three highest major subranges of the Alps.
Winegrowing is one of the main livelihoods in Sion due to its location, which is perfect for viticulture. Today, Sion is known for the wines it produces. As far as I know, Sion’s wines are generally a single varietal wines made from Chasselas, but there are more you can discover as you explore its town center.
Where To Stay In Sion
You can find the best hotel deals in Sion from this link. You may use the map feature of the hotel browser to quickly find a hotel with a convenient location during your visit.
When is the Best Time To Visit Sion
Generally, visiting Switzerland during the shoulder seasons is ideal when the weather is fantastic and Switzerland is no longer packed with tourists. Those are between April and June and September until October.
But if you want the highest probability of getting the best weather (that’s sunny and dry), visit Sion from late May to early September.
If you are like me, who will be coming from the other side of the world (I’m from Asia), I choose to visit Sion between May and September. I just want to be sure that I get the best of Sion. Sunny and warm, please! Besides, who wants to take a photo with clouds everywhere? No one! 😀
Nevertheless, Sion’s tourist attractions are mixed outdoors and indoors. To fully enjoy your visit, try visiting Sion during the driest season (summer) to fully enjoy your stay. You must have more chances of seeing breathtaking views—they’ll make your visit worth it!
Best Things to Do in Sion
I just want to share how funny I discovered Sion. I just opened Google Maps and zoomed into Switzerland. Sion was the first town I saw.
Here are the places and attractions that I found in Sion that I think we must visit, especially if you also like going back into the past and reliving history:
1. Sion Cathedral
Going to Sion Cathedral is the first best thing to do in Sion (1st of the 5 places).
Of all the places indicated in this blog, Sion Cathedral will be the first place to visit upon arrival in Sion. We would like to thank God first. For all the blessings and safe travels.
A brief history of Sion Cathedral
Sion Cathedral, also known as the Our Lady of the Glarier (Notre-Dame du Glarier), is a 15th-century roman catholic church structure in the heart of the town of Sion. It was the second time it was rebuilt after destroying the previous cathedrals on the same site.
How to go to Sion Cathedral From Sion Terminal?
It is only a 15-minute walk from Sion Train Station. From the station, walk northwards on Avenue de la Gare. After passing Parc de la Planta and before reaching Tribunal Cantonal Building, we turn right to Rue Mathieu Scheiner street. We will eventually arrive at Sion Cathedral in a few steps.
Here’s an alternative route. Click to see the path or shortcut to Sion Cathedral From Sion Train Station. Be sure to install Google Maps on your phone!
What to expect in visiting Sion Cathedral?
- The church has a Romanesque bell tower whose sides and back have beautiful clocks in gold, black and red colors.
- Sion cathedral was designed and constructed with Byzantine architecture, with stained glass mosaic behind the main altar.
- There are 15 altars in the cathedral containing several Roman inscriptions.
swipe the 360° image below to see more views
Visiting Sion Cathedral could only last a few minutes unless you want to check every detail of the cathedral.
2. Sorcerer’s Tower
Seeing the Sorcerer’s Tower is the next best thing to do in Sion (2nd of the 5 places)
The Arthurian Legend is one of my travel inspirations for why I want to visit Europe. It is also where I learned that there was a purge of the witches that happened centuries ago.
Actually, it is one of the works of literature we study in high school. If you can’t remember it exactly, I suggest you watch Merlin, a 2008 TV series that describes what happened hundreds of years ago.
When I learned that there’s an actual place (Sorcerer’s Tower) in Sion where the purge of witches literally happened, I did not hesitate to include it on this list.
History of the Sorcerer’s Tower
In contrast to its name, the Sorcerer’s Tower was not a home of a witch or a sorcerer. It was built to fortify the defenses of Sion in the 14th century instead. The construction of the Sorcerer’s Tower added another angle to the town’s walls.
Later, it was converted into a prison and a place where witches stood in trials. The trails of the sorcerers, which happened during the 15th to 18th century, echoed in history, conferring the site a name, Sorcerer’s Tower.
Today, it is the principal remaining vestige of the walls surrounding Sion’s old town. It is also a landmark that tourists come to observe in Sion.
Where is Sorcerer’s Tower?
Sorcerer’s tower is located a kilometer away north of Sion train station. It is a 15-minute walk from the station and can already be seen at the end of Avenue De La Gare.
If you are already in Sion Cathedral, you only have to walk 3 minutes northwest to arrive at the Sorcerer’s Tower. You may check this Google Maps link to see the route instantly.
What to expect in visiting Sorcerer’s Tower?
According to the landmark description: “Inside the Tower, in the hall of justice, the visitor can still see traces of the instruments of strappado torture used to question the convicts.” It is also a place to see medieval architecture and learn the history of the City of Sion.
Do you like to see countless medieval artifacts? You must try going to Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Germany. It’s one of the reasons why I think people must visit Rothenburg.
3. Chapelle de Tous-les-Saints
Dropping by Chapelle de Tous-Les-Saints is the next best thing to do in Sion (3rd of the 5 places)
The hills beside the town center are where we can find the most exciting attractions in Sion. These attractions are structures that are very reminiscent of the past.
One of these structures is the small chapel called “All The Saints.” This small but charming chapel is perhaps one of the most photographed locations in Sion.
This chapel was constructed in 1325 in the direction of Canon Blandrate. And if we are to calculate, it’s about 700 years old by now!
Where is Chapelle de Tous-Les-Saints (Chapel of All the Saints)?
Chapelle de Tous-Les-Saints is located along the path to Valere Basilica, which is situated at one of the hilltops of Valere hill. It is just an 8 to 10-minute walk from the Sion Cathedral to the east.
Here is the Google Maps Link to show you the path to Chapelle de Tous-Les-Saints straight from the Sion Terminal – in case you want to skip Sion Cathedral or Sorcerer’s Tower.
What to expect in Visiting Chapelle de Tous-Les-Saints?
- Going to the chapel follows an inclined route, but it isn’t hard to hike. The change in elevation from the town center to Chapelle de Tous-Les-Saints is approximately 70 meters.
- Coming to Chapelle de Tous-Les-Saints, we will not only see a gothic-style chapel made from bricks. We can already have an overlooking scenic view of Sion at this point.
- Though Chapelle de Tous-Les-Saints was built in 1325, the chapel we can see now is only a restored version of the original. The restoration was made last 1964
Chapelle de Tous-Les-Saints might be a small building, but I think we can create many epic photos from it! Just look at the mountains around Sion. This chapel could be a source of dozens of beautiful pictures!
Do you like seeing chapels in scenic places like Chapelle de Tous-Les-Saints? You should check Berchtesgaden (12 Reasons Why It Is Worth Visiting) in Germany. This place has 3 picturesque chapels—one on a hill, one beside a lake, and another beside a river.
4. Valere Basilica
Exploring the Valere Basilica is the next best thing to do in Sion (4th of the 5 places)
By the time we arrive in Chapelle de Tous-Les-Saints, we are almost already in Valere Basilica. Some also call this Valere Castle. It is one of the Swiss heritage sites of national significance – a reason to visit.
It is also here, in Valere Basilica, that we can find the oldest playable organ in the world! For me, it is so meaningful to see. I wonder how it survived centuries of wars and natural calamities.
Do you want to see scenery like these? I mean… castles on hilltops. You should check Neuschwanstein Castle and Lichtenstein Castle in Germany and another castle in France near Colmar (10 Reasons Why Colmar Is Worth Visiting).
History of Valere Basilica
The first building blocks of Valere Basilica stood in the hills of Sion in the 1100s. The improvements continuously happened for centuries after its first phase was completed.
Initially, the Valere Basilica was built with Romanesque-inspired architecture. Throughout its development, its design was changed into the Gothic style as it expanded.
The improvement of the Valere Basilica continued until the mid-1700s. The paintings, murals, and statues were added together with the famous organ.
And in October 1987, Pope John Paul II visited Valere Basilica. It was only when this church gained its title as a minor basilica.
Where is Valere Basilica?
Valere Basilica is located on the hilltop of Valere hill, just east of the town center of Sion, with the Sion cathedral as the reference. Coming straight to Valere Basilica from Sion train station takes about 20 to 25 minutes of walking. Check out this Google Maps Route to instantly see where you will go.
What to expect in Visiting Valere Basilica?
- Standing on a hilltop with Valere Basilica, we will see a scenic view of the town of Sion, together with the mountains in the backdrop.
- We can also see Tourbillion Castle from Valere Basilica. For me, this is the perfect spot to capture Tourbillion Castle. There are no obstructions; it just gives a whole new perspective apart from photographing Tourbillion Castle from the lower ground.
- There are also gothic marble statues in Valere Basilica, which were added to the church in the 1400s.
- The church also has murals that are now already 600 years old!
- Of course, here we can find the famous and oldest playable organ in the whole world. Like the murals, the organ was added to Valere Basilica around 1430.
Are you curious about the organ? Good thing that someone provided a 360-view of the basilica’s interior. Check it out here:
swipe the 360° image below to see more views
As a Catholic and someone from Asia, seeing such artifacts, murals, and old statues gives me goosebumps! Never in my life, I’ve seen artifacts about our religion that are over 500 years old! Really!
swipe the 360° image below to see more views
5. Tourbillon Castle
Going to the ruins of Tourbillon Castle is the last and ultimate best thing to do in Sion.
If Valere Basilica is the best spot in the city to photograph Tourbillon Castle… Then Tourbillon Castle is the best place to capture a photo of the Valere Basilica. Located 182 meters above the town center, anyone visiting Tourbillion Castle will have a Bird’s-eye view of the whole town.
Similar to Valere Basilica, Tourbillon Castle is also a Swiss heritage site of national significance. However, most parts of the castle were destroyed already, unlike the basilica that stands solid today.
History of Tourbillon Castle
The story of Tourbillon Castle started in the 13th century when Bishop Boniface de Challant, a native of Savoy, ordered the people to construct his new residence on the hill near Sion. From then, it became the residence of all the bishops assigned in Sion.
Fast forward to 1417, Sion’s people and the bishop had “grave” conflicts. This conflict between the two sides was so severe that the people resulted in burning the Tourbillon Castle.
Though the Tourbillon Castle did not remain in rubble three decades after that incident, another fire incident in 1788 happened again.
That fire event completely destroyed the castle. Since then, it has stayed in ruins. It was only in the 19th century when reinforcements came to the Tourbillon Castle to make it a historical monument.
Where is Tourbillon Castle?
Tourbillon Castle is located on Tourbillon Hill, beside Valere Hill and Valere Basilica. It is elevated 182 meters (597 feet) above the town center, making it visible to most parts of Sion.
This castle is approximately 30 minutes away from Sion Train Station. Check this Google Maps Route to Tourbillon Castle to instantly see the avenues and pathways you must pass if you’re coming straight from the station.
What to expect in Visiting Tourbillon Castle?
- Tourbillon Castle has different parts. When you arrive at the entrance, the first things that we will see are the two towers guarding the entrance.
- If we move east immediately after entering the castle, we will arrive at the castle’s chapel. It is connected to the sacristy, where the articles of worship are stored.
- Inside the chapel, we can find faded murals that narrate the story of Jesus and other Christian beliefs.
swipe the 360° image below to see more views
- After exploring the chapel and sacristy, we can move northwards to see what’s inside the main palace, cistern, and keep.
- While exploring the castle, we can directly spot Valere Basilica. The windows facing south frame the view of the basilica – don’t forget to capture it!
- Outside, to the east, we come to the castle’s courtyard – the perfect spot to view the plains and fields of Sion.
Where To Go After Sion?
If you need ideas about where to go next in Switzerland, I have many suggestions for you. For a summary, you can check my article, How To Spend 3, 7, 10, and 14 Days Switzerland Itinerary.
However, if you are looking for a place to visit in Switzerland near Sion, I recommend:
- Zermatt. An alpine village/ski resort/hiking destination where you can see the most famous mountain, the Matterhorn. Check these out:
- Montreux. A beautiful city beside lake Geneva. Come here to see Chillon Castle and Lavaux vineyard. Check this out: 10 reasons to visit Montreux.
Here are my other recommended tourist attractions in Switzerland (complete list: Beautiful Villages in the Swiss Alps):
Jungfrau Region. A top destination in the Swiss Alps with adventures, scenic trains, and remarkable mountaintop attractions. Check these out:
- Interlaken (most accessible from Bern, with beautiful lake attractions)
- Lauterbrunnen (heaven on earth valley with rustic villages)
- Grindelwald (best destination for outdoor activities and adrenaline-pumping adventures)
- Kandersteg. A lovely village closest to Oeschinensee, one of the most beautiful lakes in Switzerland. Learn more: 10 Things to do in Kandersteg.
- Gruyeres. A preserved medieval village in the Prealps. Come to taste authentic Gruyeres Cheese and unlimited chocolates! Discover: 10 Reasons to visit Gruyeres.
You might also want to discover the cities near the Swiss Alps. These cities are in proximity to the best tourist attractions in the Swiss Alps. They can be an alternative home base for Switzerland’s major cities.
- Thun. A picturesque city where you can find the oldest panorama painting and a few castles. Discover Thun: 7 Best things to do in Thun.
- Brig. The city gateway to Italy. Come here to see Stockalper Palace and the scenic Simplon Pass. See the Best things to do in Brig.
- Lucerne. It is a charming city with remarkable landmarks (Chapel Bridge and Lion Monument) and near Mount Rigi and Mount Pilatus.
If you’re still planning your trip to Switzerland and you need a clue where to start or end your trip, Switzerland’s major cities are nice options:
- Zurich: 15 Reasons to visit Zurich
- Basel: 7 Most beautiful places in Basel
- Bern: 22 Things to do in Bern
- Geneva: 10 Reasons to visit Geneva
Lastly, Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps, is only a few kilometers from Sion. You can see it really close to Chamonix (10 Best Reasons Why You Should Visit Chamonix), a town in France. Going from Sion to Chamonix requires 3 train rides or a 1.5-hour drive (approximately 75 kilometers).
These five places do really give a throwback to the past. From the ruins to the masonry structures to the murals, Sion casts an irresistible charm to see in person.
In my imagination, the old structures and the mountain from afar… They will make you feel that you’re in a world where many kings and queens still exist.
For someone like me who has only seen jungles, beaches, small mountains, and modern cities in their entire life, Sion is really a place to be. It is a place to get a new perspective, learn history and reflect on life.
Discover more places!
Hello, before you go, I just want you to know that I have articles that can help you discover and visit different places worldwide. Mostly, they are about historical cities and scenic attractions. You may click the images below to find your next fantastic destination!
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