The castles of Bellinzona are located in a town within the Ticino canton. They are so spectacular that they have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000.
We focus on three castles that form a group of fortifications that give a special aspect to the small town of Bellinzona. Unlike other places where the castle has been isolated from the city and where its function has been reduced to a mere tourist attraction, in this case we can consider them as part of the city.
The first castle built, Castelgrande, is located in the middle of the city itself and is therefore surrounded by other modern or contemporary buildings.
In the following lines we describe the various castles, witnesses of the battles between the Sforza of Milan and the Confederates.
This fortress, located in the lower part of Bellinzona and also known as San Michele Castle, was built in the 13th century.
It is located in the heart of the city and can be reached from Piazza del Sole with a modern elevator. At the top there is a huge room full of lawns and buildings of the fortress.
What is most surprising is the sight of its two imposing towers: the black tower with 27 meters and the white tower with 28 meters.
The latter can be climbed to admire the fantastic view of the Bellinzona castles from its roof. From the top you can also admire the black tower and its stone bridge, which connects both towers as well as the city and the surrounding mountains.
The walk along the walls
A walk along the walls with a view of the landscape is one of the best ways to visit the castle. If you continue towards the town, you will go down a grassy path. Your footsteps will take you away from the fortress, and if you turn around you will have a beautiful view of the castle with its two towers and the vineyards.
Furthermore, for art and history lovers, there are two small museums inside the castle: the Art Museum and the Archaeological Museum.
Castle of Montebello
The Castle of Montebello is situated on the slope of the valley and its current appearance dates back to the 15th century. It is surrounded by walls that reach down to the town and constitute an important line of defence for the town.
Entering Montebello is a plunge into the magical and mysterious medieval world, thanks to the drawbridge that crosses the small moat to get there. Once you cross it, you can also see a stone press, we recommend you to walk along its walls or enter the castle where you can visit a temporary exhibition.
Castle of Sasso Corbaro
Also known as the Castle of Santa Barbara because the chapel in honour of the saint was built by the Sforza from an old defence tower. The castle was completed in 1478 and its main task was to stop possible attacks, taking advantage of a gap between the mountain and the Castle of Montebello and Castelgrande.
On an architectural level, the castle is located on an isolated rock that is difficult to reach. Its small size makes it even more beautiful, especially its defensive tower and its classic crenellated walls.
How to visit the castles of Bellinzona?
The tour can start with the smallest of the three castles and the castle at the highest point. It is perfectly signposted from Bellinzona, if you are travelling by car, follow the signs that will take you to the outskirts of the city. On the upper floor you can park for free and make your visit.
Afterwards you can visit the castle of Montebello, which is located in the centre. Ideally, you should take the car and park in the castle’s free car park. Before you do this, you can stop for a moment on the way and take some great pictures of Montebello Castle.
After visiting Montebello, continue by car, this time to Piazza del Sole. There is a car park downstairs and from here you only need to take the lift up to enjoy Castelgrande.
Since this castle is located next to Bellinzona, you can then take a walk through the pleasant historical centre of this small town.
The ticket for the visit of a castle costs 5 CHF, but there are possibilities to make the ticket cheaper if you want to enter as Bellinzona Pass. CHF 15 is the entrance fee to the three castles and the Villa Cedri Museum in Bellinzona, as well as discounts on Monte San Giorgio and the Monte Carasso-Mornera funicular.
However, we would like to point out that practically all castle areas offer free admission.
Families also benefit from discounts, such as the Castle Visit, which costs CHF 15 for a family of two adults and two children under 14 years of age, or the Bellinzona Pass, which costs CHF 25 for the whole family.