Murten – the lakeside fortress that Napoleon handed over to Fribourg

Last update: 17.6.2021

We’ve already closed the ski season for this year and with the coming of spring, it’s once again the season for trips to places other than the snowy Alps 🙂 Yesterday we went to Murten, which lies about thirty kilometres west of Bern and is one of the best preserved medieval towns in Switzerland.

Murten is situated on the shores of Lake Murten, which is considered the warmest lake in Switzerland in these parts and is connected by canals to Lake Neuchatel and Lake Biel. Together they form the Pays de Trois Lacs (Region of the Three Lakes). *

History of Murten

The first mention of Murten dates back to 515 – it was about the existence of a defensive place called “Muratum”. The town itself was founded by Duke Berchtold IV of Zähringen in 1159-1179 as a western fortification. Murten was then recognised as a “free imperial town” by the German Emperor Frederick II. In 1476, the Burgundian Duke Charles the Bold besieged the town but was defeated by the Swiss army – since then, 22 June has been celebrated as the anniversary of the Battle of Murten. In 1798 the town is occupied by the French and in 1803 Napoleon hands over the town of Murten, which for the last 300 years has been under the rule of both Bern and Fribourg, the canton of Fribourg.*

Although Murten has just over 6,000 inhabitants, it can still boast the status of a town, although normally a place with more than 10,000 inhabitants is considered a town. Numerous historical monuments have been preserved here, including a castle, fortifications, and the typical arcades that can also be found in Bern. The majority of the 6,000 inhabitants speak German (73%), while a minority (14%) consider French to be their mother tongue.

Old Town of Murten

We started our town tour at the Berntor town gate, whose tower is strikingly reminiscent of the Zytglogge in Bern (there is a large parking lot on the left side in front of the Berntor, parking is also available along Längmatt Street).

The historic centre of Murten is made up of three cobbled streets lined with arcades (Rathausgasse, Hauptgasse and Deutsche Kirchgasse), which mainly house restaurants and various shops. Unfortunately, the pleasant stroll is somewhat interrupted by car traffic, which is otherwise rather exceptional in historic city centres.

Castle of Murten

The interior of the castle is not open to the public, but at least the castle courtyard is accessible, from whose terrace you have a beautiful view of Lake Murten, Mont Vully, and the Jura Mountains.

Town walls

The highlight of the visit to the historic part of the city is the freely accessible 15th-century fortifications with a beautiful view of the rooftops of the old town and beyond. The ramparts were built in several phases and from a variety of materials such as gravel, tuff (which is a volcanic rock), and sandstone. The lower 15 layers of stone date from before the town’s construction (12th century).*

Murten in winter and summer

Swimming pool and lido

Swimming in the pool and the lake, this is the Schwimm- und Strandbad Murten, not far from the town centre. There is free parking right next to the swimming pool, a self-service restaurant (they even have pizza!) and a buffet on site. Children will love the waterslide and the playground on the beach by the lake.

Murten Lichtfestival

At the beginning of 2020, Murten had already had its fifth Festival of Lights, breaking the record of previous years with more than 90,000 visitors. I believe that after a covid break, another edition will be held in the second half of January 2022, because it is definitely worth a visit, even if the temperatures are going to be below zero at this time of the year 🙂

*source

As we almost didn´t fly
Affoltern im Emmental – cheese making factory

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