Thun Switzerland Travel Guide: 5 Unmissable Things to Do

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Thun might not be the first place you think of when planning a trip to Switzerland, but it’s a place that shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s similar to Lucerne, but a little smaller. Overall, it offers a mix of stunning natural scenery and fairy tale attractions.

Thun’s charm is undeniable. One of its highlights is a castle that offers a panoramic view of the quaint old town and the Bernese Alps. But there’s more. The town is situated at the northern edge of a lake (Lake Thun), dotted with castles. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Lake Como in Northern Italy, but instead of ancient villas, you’ll find castles here.

When you visit Thun, there are several spots and attractions that you’ll want to see. Let me guide you through these attractions, sharing why they’re worth visiting and how to make the most of your visit to each one.

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Switzerland - Thun

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Let me introduce to Thun to you quickly…

Thun, located 30 kilometers from Bern, is the point where the Swiss Central Plateau and the Alps meet. If you are journeying to the Bernese Oberland from Zurich, Bern, or Basel, Thun is the start where the natural scenery becomes more and more impressive as you move further southwards.

This is why Thun is often referred to as the gateway to the Bernese Oberland. If you’re planning a trip to the Jungfrau Region, which includes places like Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen, and Grindelwald, it makes sense to include Thun in your travel plans. However, it is not always the case.

Beautiful Houses in Old Town Thun, Town Hall Square, Thun, Switzerland
Beautiful Houses in Old Town Thun, Town Hall Square

Is Thun Worth Visiting?

While Thun isn’t exactly a detour on the way to the Bernese Oberland, I find it not as exciting as Switzerland’s top spots. If you’re short on time and it’s your first visit to Switzerland, you might want to skip Thun. It’s better to focus on the country’s main attractions, such as the Jungfrau Region or Zermatt.

But if you have the time, consider visiting Thun. It could add a unique, fairytale-like experience to your Swiss trip, complementing the fun adventures and amazing experiences from the country’s best attractions.

For castle enthusiasts, Thun should be high on your list! You can visit five stunning castles in and around Thun. One of them, Oberhofen Castle, is especially good for photos! Another is Thun castle. Right in the town center, it offers a view of the Bernese Oberland and Lake Thun that’s hard to pass up.

If you’re wondering what other attractions make Thun a great place to visit, its highlights should give you a good idea.

You can find the best hotel deals in Thun here.

Unmissable Things to Do in Thun

During the time I explored Thun, I came across a multitude of attractions. More than 10 of these were nestled within the old town, easily reachable from the city center. These are places that any traveler could conveniently explore during their stay.

Among these numerous attractions, five captured my attention. In my view, these are the highlights of Thun. They represent the essence of the city, and a trip to Thun would feel incomplete without experiencing at least three of them.

Thun Castle

Thun Castle seen from Old Town Thun, Switzerland
Thun Castle seen from Old Town Thun

If you’re planning a visit to Thun, the Thun Castle should be your top priority. This castle is the most prominent landmark in Thun, visible from various parts of the town. If you’re arriving by train, you’ll find the castle just a few steps away from the station.

The Thun Castle, built in the 12th century by Duke Berthold V of Zähringen, is worth visiting for several reasons. The primary reason is the stunning views it offers. Climb the castle towers and you’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view of the town, Lake Thun, and the Bernese Oberland.

Another reason to visit the castle is the museum housed within its walls. Here, you can learn about the history of Thun and its surrounding areas. If you have a vivid imagination, the castle’s halls and rooms will transport you back to the medieval ages. This is especially true when you see the weapons, armors, and old-fashioned tapestries on display.

However, don’t expect the castle to resemble a palace. Thun Castle was built as an administrative building, not a residence, so it lacks lavish interiors. The castle has seven parts open to visitors: the cellar, towers, and five floors.

View of Bernese Oberland and Lake Thun from Thun Castle, Thun, Switzerland
View of Bernese Oberland and Lake Thun from Thun Castle

Each part of the castle offers a unique experience.

In the cellar, you’ll discover the 900-year urban development of Thun. The first floor showcases items that were once in Thun’s town hall. The second floor houses a collection of items belonging to previous Governors of Thun.

The third and fourth floors are home to the ceremonial hall and corn chamber. The fifth floor allows you to appreciate the castle’s old architecture. Lastly, the castle towers offer the best views in town.

The fourth floor is particularly interesting as it reveals the castle’s previous uses.

To reach Thun Castle, if you’re driving, park in the space below the castle (Parkhaus City Ost Schlossberg), under the hill where the castle stands. An elevator from the parking lot will take you to the castle grounds. If you’re arriving by train, the castle is a 10-minute walk from the station. Be prepared for plenty of stairs, but the climb is worth it.

After exploring the castle, you can visit its coffee shop for refreshments. For more information on visiting Thun Castle, check the castle’s official website.

Did you know that with a Swiss Travel Pass, you gain complimentary access to Thun Panorama and numerous other museums across Switzerland? But that’s not all the pass offers! Curious about the additional benefits? Discover more about the Swiss Travel Pass by following this link.

Old Town Thun and Wooden Bridges

River Aare, wooden bridge, and houses in Old Town Thun, Switzerland
River Aare, wooden bridge, and houses in Old Town Thun

Visiting Thun Castle is just the beginning of your journey in Thun.

The town has much more to offer, especially its historic center, which is another highlight of any trip to this charming town. Remember when I mentioned that Thun is like a smaller version of Lucerne? You’ll understand why when you explore Thun Old Town and its wooden bridges.

However, Lucerne and Thun aren’t completely the similar.

Thun is unique in that it has a small island, Bälliz, in the middle of the Aare River. The wooden bridges in the town allow you to cross the river via this island, connecting one side of the Old Town to the other. During the warmer seasons, these bridges are adorned with colorful flowers, making for a picturesque sight that will inspire you to take photos.

The wooden bridges in Thun also serve a practical purpose as they act as locks, controlling the outflow of the Aare River from Lake Thun. If you’re fortunate, you might even see people surfing at the back of the locks under the bridges when the river current is strong.

There are two main wooden bridges in Thun. The more scenic one is located near the train station, offering a view of the Bernese Oberland.

However, Bälliz is connected to the rest of Old Town Thun not only by these wooden bridges. There are other bridges in Thun, such as Rathausbrücke, which offers a fantastic view of Thun Castle over the River Aare. This bridge is less crowded compared to the wooden bridges, providing a tranquil spot to enjoy the view.

Rathausbrücke is conveniently located near the town hall of Thun.

Another must-see part of Old Town Thun is Obere Hauptgasse. This street, just a few steps from the town hall, is unique and picturesque, thanks to its architecture. You’ll notice its elevated pathways with stores and shops beneath them. To make the most of your visit to Thun Old Town, consider following a walking tour.

Thun Panorama

Thun Panorama in Schadau Park, Thun, Switzerland
Thun Panorama in Schadau Park

Just at the outskirts of the Old Town Thun, near the tranquil shores of Lake Thun, awaits an unmissable attraction – the Thun Panorama. This is a must-see in Thun, as it is the oldest surviving panorama of its kind.

The artist behind Thun Panorama is Marquard Wocher of Basel. And thus, this masterpiece is also known as the Wocher Panorama.

Wocher spent five years, from 1809 to 1814, meticulously crafting this panorama from the rooftop of his residence in Thun. The result is a timeless snapshot of Thun and the Bernese Oberland as they appeared in the early 19th century.

The Thun Panorama, standing at 38 meters long and 7.5 meters tall, may not be as large as those found in Lucerne or Innsbruck. However, Wocher’s attention to detail is remarkable. As you gaze upon the panorama, take your time to appreciate the details – cats lounging, children peering out of windows, and townsfolk strolling the streets.

So, where can you find this impressive piece of art? It’s housed inside a cylindrical brick building in Schadau Park.

If you’re coming from the train station, hop on bus number 1 and get off at the Schloss Schadau stop. You’ll reach the Thun Panorama in about 10 minutes. If you’re up for a stroll, a 15 to 20-minute walk will get you there.

When planning your visit, consider purchasing a combo ticket for entry to both the Thun Panorama and Thun Castle at a discounted rate. And if you’re a Swiss Travel Pass holder, you’re in luck – you can enter the Thun Panorama without needing to buy a separate ticket.

Don’t forget to check the official website of the Thun Panorama for practical information before your visit.

Schadau Castle

Exteriors of Schadau Castle, Thun, Switzerland
Exteriors of Schadau Castle

Another place you must see in Thun is a castle located in the same park as the Thun Panorama. This castle, known as Schadau Castle, is one of the most enchanting buildings in Thun. If you, like me, are a fan of architecture, you’ll be thrilled to visit this castle. Its style, known as Romantic Gothic Revival, is truly unique.

Just one look at the rich patterned brickwork on its facade, and it’s clear why Schadau Castle is so special. Today, this castle, which dates back to the mid-19th century, is recognized as a Swiss heritage site of national significance.

Unlike Thun Castle, which is a museum, Schadau Castle functions as a beautiful hotel and restaurant. Travelers must book accommodation before they can explore and tour the inside of the castle. However, anyone can wander around the park and admire the castle’s architecture.

One of the highlights of visiting Schadau Castle is the chance to relax and enjoy the stunning view of the lake next to the castle. If the weather is good, the scenery is simply unforgettable. You can even order a picnic meal from the castle’s restaurant, if the weather allows it.

During your visit, be sure to take a stroll along the shores of Lake Thun near Schadau Castle. You’ll find charming landmarks that seem to have jumped straight out of a fairytale, like the small tower near the dock, east of the castle. If you follow the path closest to the Aare River, you’ll find the tower in no time.

Schadau Castle and Schadau Park in Thun, Switzerland
Schadau Castle and Schadau Park

If you’re traveling with children, there’s a mini steam train in the park for a fun ride. For more details, you can visit the official website of Steam Train Vaporama. Lastly, if you’re interested in staying at Schadau Castle, you can check the rates from this link.

Oberhofen Castle

Oberhofen Castle from the dock, Lake Thun, Switzerland
Oberhofen Castle from the dock, Lake Thun

With just a single bus ride (bus number 21) or boat ride from Thun Old Town, Oberhofen Castle is within easy reach. It is another tourist attraction in Thun not to be missed, thanks to its stunning location on Lake Thun.

From the dock near the castle, the Oberhofen Castle water tower can be seen standing in Lake Thun. The Bernese Alps provide a magnificent backdrop, creating a scene that seems as if it’s been lifted straight from a fairytale. This captivating setting is one of the reasons why Oberhofen Castle is often chosen as the venue for wedding receptions.

In my view, Oberhofen Castle ranks among the most photogenic locations on Lake Thun. If photography is your passion, this place should be high on your list.

At the same time, the architecture of Oberhofen Castle is remarkable in its own right. The Oriental Smoking Room, inspired by Ottoman style, is one of its unique features. This room is the highlight of the castle, promising a unique experience for all who visit Oberhofen Castle.

Upon your visit, you will notice that parts of Oberhofen Castle have been updated, such as the castle restaurant. This restaurant features large glass windows that allow you to enjoy the stunning scenery while dining.

However, despite these modern updates, the overall ambiance of Oberhofen Castle remains medieval. The castle, which dates back to the 1200s, is filled with historical furniture, murals, and medieval weapons and armors that will transport you back to centuries past.

The central keep, the oldest part of the castle, stands out with its impressive two-meter-thick walls. Oberhofen Castle offers tours that provide insights into the various historical artifacts found within its walls and their history.

Oberhofen Castle is also home to a beautiful garden that is a must-see. The garden boasts exotic trees and offers stunning views of the Bernese Oberland. They are another feature of the castle that makes a trip more worth it.

If you’re looking for a place to unwind, you’ll be pleased to find that the park is equipped with benches. This allows you to sit back and relax during your visit.

For detailed information about the castle and its visiting guidelines, consider checking out Oberhofen Castle’s official website.

If you’re planning to explore various attractions around Lake Thun by boat and don’t have a Swiss Travel Pass, you might find the Boat Day Pass useful. This pass includes a stop at Oberhofen Castle.

When to Visit Thun

If you’re considering a visit to Thun, timing is an important factor.

Generally, the summer and shoulder seasons are the best times to visit. These periods are typically ideal for outdoor exploration and offer a higher chance of sunny weather. Remember, during your stay in Thun, you’ll likely spend a lot of time outdoors. Activities range from exploring the streets of Old Town Thun to wandering in Schadau Park and Oberhofen Castle Park.

More importantly, on clear days, the scenery from Thun Castle is particularly striking. The view of the lake and mountains is breathtaking when the skies are blue and there’s no overcast.

If you are planning to visit Thun outside summer season, its worth noting that some attractions in Thun offer limited experiences during the winter season. For instance, Oberhofen Castle is closed in winter, but its garden remains open for exploration.

Another factor to consider when planning your visit to Thun is the town’s festivals and cultural events. These festivities add an extra layer of excitement to any destination.

Witnessing the locals in celebration is a delightful way to immerse yourself in the culture of the area. In Thun, there are four events that are particularly worth attending: Thunerseespiele, Thunfest, Cheese Dividing Fest, and Lazy Dog Festival.

Let’s talk what each of these events entails.

  1. The Thunerseespiele is a summer festival, typically taking place in July and August. This open-air musical event showcases internationally-famous productions in a stunning setting. It’s a cultural feast that attracts a large number of visitors each year.
  2. The Thunfest is Switzerland’s largest annual town festival, happening in August. Taking place over three days, it offers live music, delicious food, and refreshing drinks. With open-air performances of Swiss rock and pop hits echoing through the town’s narrow lanes, there’s something for everyone.
  3. The Cheese Dividing Fest or Chästeilet Justistal is a unique event held in September. On this day, the farmers of the Justistal gather to divide and distribute the mountain cheese according to a centuries-old custom. It’s a fascinating tradition that offers a glimpse into the local culture.
  4. The Lazy Dog Festival or Fulehung is a lively event that starts in September. It features a jester called Fulehung who chases the crowd with a wood mallet, distributing sweets to kids. It’s a fun-filled event that’s sure to create unforgettable memories.

To discover more events in Thun, check out the Thun’s calendar of events.

How to Visit Thun

Reaching Thun is quite straightforward with the efficient train system in Switzerland. There’s no need to rent a car unless you plan to visit other areas in Switzerland that require one.

From Switzerland’s major cities, which house international airports, the journey to Thun can range from a few minutes to approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes. If you’re traveling from Bern, Thun is just a 20-minute train ride away. From Basel or Zurich, a direct train can get you to Thun in around an hour and 30 minutes. If you’re coming from Geneva, the journey will take about 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Before heading to Thun from these cities, you might want to explore them first. You can make the most of your time in these places with the help of my articles listed below.

  1. Travel Guide to The Reasons Why Visit Geneva
  2. Guide to Make Your Zurich Trip Worth It
  3. How To Spend Days in Bern (20+ Things to Do)
  4. Beautiful Things That You Must See in Basel

How Many Days in Thun

If you’ve decided to visit Thun, it’s time to plan your itinerary. First, consider how long you want to spend in Thun. In my view, a single day is sufficient to experience the highlights of Thun.

Start your morning with a visit to Schadau Park, where you can see Schadau Castle and Thun Panorama. Later in the morning, explore the Old Town and enjoy the breathtaking views from the towers of Thun Castle.

By mid-afternoon, around 2 or 3, head to Oberhofen Castle to spend the rest of your day until sunset. You might even choose to dine in the castle while watching the sunset – a must-try for traveling couples!

While I believe a day is enough in Thun, you might want to extend your stay, especially if you plan to use Thun as your base for exploring the attractions around Lake Thun. Oberhofen Castle and Schadau Castle are not the only beautiful destinations around the lake. There’s also Spiez Castle, Saint Beatus Caves, and a few quaint villages.

Thun can also serve as a convenient base for a day trip to the Jungfrau Region. Reaching Interlaken from Thun is straightforward – just a single bus ride away on bus number 21.

If you’re considering making Thun your home base, you can find the best hotel deals in Thun from this link.

Where to Go After Thun

Thun, nestled in the heart of Switzerland, is strategically located, offering a plethora of options for your next Swiss adventure. You could head north to experience the country’s vibrant cities or venture south to delve deeper into the Alps.

Thun’s proximity to the Jungfrau region, one of Switzerland’s premier destinations, makes it an ideal starting point for your journey. From Thun, reaching Interlaken, the most accessible town in the Jungfrau region, is as easy as one, two, three. As previously mentioned, a simple bus ride from Thun will get you to Interlaken. For a more scenic route, consider taking a boat across Lake Thun.

Another captivating destination in the Bernese Alps is Kandersteg. Known as one of the most picturesque villages in the Swiss Alps, Kandersteg is the gateway to Oeschinensee, one of Switzerland’s most stunning high-altitude lakes.

For a unique Swiss experience, consider exploring cities near the Swiss Alps like Brig and Sion. Like Thun, these are less frequented destinations in Switzerland, but they hold great appeal for travelers who enjoy wandering, exploring, and capturing beautiful moments.

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Thun, Switzerland
Thun, Switzerland

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