Top Things To Do When Exploring the Bellinzona Castles
A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Castel Sasso Corbaro, Castel Montbello & Castelgrande in Bellinzona
When in Ticino, one of the top excursions suitable for all the family, is a trip to explore the fascinating castles of Bellinzona. There are three Castles to visit – Castel Sasso Corbaro, Castel Montbello and Castelgrande. In 2000 they were awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.
We began our self guided tour at the castle located in the highest position, Sasso Corbaro.
Castel Sasso Corbaro
Corbora Castle is a typical Sforza fortress named after the dark craggy rock on which it is located (which is as dark as a crow or “corbatt”). However, it also went by the name of Unterwalden Castle and Santa Barbara Castle during its chequered history.
Views at 230m over Bellinzona and Beyond
Located at 230 metres above Bellinzona, Sasso Corbaro offers fantastic panoramic views. You can look down on the town of Bellinzona and see the other two castles and you can even see as far as the Lake Maggiore basin in Italy.
Built in 1479, it has high walls protecting a dungeon and lookout tower in the square courtyard. It was designed by architect Benedetto Ferrini and constructed in just 6 months with the aim of stopping the Swiss Confederates from reaching Milan.
Castel Sasso Corbaro Restored 2004 – 2006
In 1870 it was sold and there were plans for it to become a hotel. However, it was restored from 2004 – 2006 under the direction of architect Paola Piffaretti and has now become a very popular tourist destination with stunning views and and lots to explore.
Rafaello 3D – The Divine Exhibition
There are plenty of historic artefacts to admire and it also hosts great temporary exhibitions. Whilst we were there we saw the very interesting Rafaello 3D – The Divine Exhibition which was taking place.
Lunch at L’Osteria Sasso Corbaro
We had a fabulous lunch at Restaurant l’Osteria Sasso Corbaro which is located right in the inside courtyard. The menu featured many local specialities and was delicious and beautifully presented! In fact it was one of the highlights of our stay in Ticino!
Top Things To See at Castel Sasso Corbaro
- walk round the ramparts and take in the beautiful views
- visit the temporary exhibition in the showroom spaces
- make sure to have lunch at the wonderful courtyard restaurant l’Osteria Sasso Corbaro on site
Address: Via Sasso Corbaro 44, 6500 Bellinzona
Tel: 091 825 21 31
Castel Montebello is the middle castle and from it you get great views of the two other castles. As you walk across the draw bridge you really feel as if you’re entering somewhere steeped in history. It’s located at 85 m above the town of Bellinzona, on the hill named Montebello. There is plenty of on-site parking close to this castle and it also has one of the Grand Tour of Switzerland signs too.
Again one of the things to do here is take a tour of the walls and enjoy the stunning views.
From 1457 – 1472 the castle was called Castel Piccolo (meaning small castle) and during the Swiss occupation it was renamed Switto Castle, which was later changed after 1818 to Martino Castel.
At the end of the 18th Century it was acquired by the Ghiringhelli family and in 1903 it was taken over for the centennial of the Canton of Ticino’s independence and restored.
Top Things To See at Castel Montebello
- the Museum of Archeology
- the drawbridge and the castle walls and views
- the playpark just outside the castle for younger visitors
- the photo opportunity at the Grand Tour of Switzerland sign
There are also a number of educational and group activities which can be undertaken (if organised in advance )- please check directly with the castle. When we were there they also had the Rafaello 3D – The Divine Exhibition taking place.
Address: Via Artore 4, 6500 Bellinzona
Tel: 091 825 21 31
Castelgrande is the biggest of the three castles and has the most to see and do. You can easily walk to it from the town centre and it also has a stunning rampart and a castellated wall.
It has a large amount of park space open to the public, where we saw families eating picnics and relaxing and enjoying the views. There is also a rocky water area in the park.
As you walk up from the town the views are stunning.
Top Things To See at Castelgrande
The key things to look out for when you visit Castelgrande are as follows:
- visit the Museum of History & Archeology and watch the accompanying film
- visit the temporary and exhibitions and displays
- the Torre Nero (black Tower) dating back to 1310 which is 28 metres tall & its Escape Room which can be booked in advance
- the Torre Bianca (With Tower) dating from 1250 – 1350, which is 27 metre high & has the most amazing panoramic views from the top
- walk outside around the castle courtyard where there is a “sensory path”
- walk along the 270 metre long walls of the castle which once reached the river Ticino
Address: Salita Castelgrande 18, 6500 Bellinzona
Tel: 091 825 81 45
Villa dei Cedri museum
The Villa Dei Cedri art museum is a beautiful 19th-century villa in a small park with an interesting collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures. There are often temporary exhibitions as well. If you purchase the Bellinzona Pass entry to Villa Dei Cedri is included.
With three castles all with something different to offer, it is fun to see them all in one day – though to do them justice it could be quite tiring. If you do want to do them all together you can buy a Bellinzona Pass which allows you not only to visit all 3 castles but to visit the Villa too. At the time of publishing the Bellinzona Card cost CHF 28 for adults and CHF 70 for a family. Children under 6 are free and students /AHV are CHF 18. You can see more details on the Bellinzona Pass here.
If you are short on time, and can only visit one castle then I would probably recommend visiting Castel Grande as it is close to the centre and you wouldn’t need to take so much time getting there. However, if you were looking to combine your visit with lunch, I would highly recommend that you visit Castel Sasso Corbaro and enjoy a wonderful alfresco lunch in the courtyard. Do leave around 4 – 5 hours if you want to see all 3 castles and the Villa.
When you’ve finished exploring the castles why not go for a stroll round the beautiful town of Bellinzona and enjoy an ice cream or a coffee?
Things To Do in The Region
There is so much to see and do in Ticino. Here are some more ideas for things to you whilst you are in the region:
This article is a Sponsored Article and was written in collaboration with Ticino Tourism
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