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The Historic Town of Arbon, Switzerland

Last Updated on October 22, 2023 by Darla Uhl

There’s a charming, historical port town on the shores of Lake Constance (Bodensee in German) called Arbon.  This town is in Canton Thurgau and makes a great holiday destination. It has a population of close to 13,000 people. It is about 163 kilometers northeast of Bern. You can enjoy biking, historical tours, and water sports in the area.  

Image of Arbon from the ship by TouringSwitzerland.com

Thurgau was taken over by the Swiss Eidgenossen in 1460, but Arbon was kept by the Bishop of Constance. After the Swabian War in 1499, they lost their civil rights in Arbon, only keeping the primacy of the church. Arbon’s official language is (the Swiss variant of standard) German, but the primary spoken language is an Alemannic Swiss German dialect.

Among the places in Arbon which are listed as Swiss Heritage Sites of National Interest are Bleiche (an ancient settlement on the shores of the lake), the Gallus Chapel, the Catholic Church of Saint Martin, the Arbon Castle, and the old Roman fortress.

Arbon’s Historic Old Town

There’s a lot to do in Arbon, but the best thing is to visit the Old Town. Arbon had thick walls from medieval fortifications, which were frequently used as foundations for houses. This town was occupied even by the Romans.

Arbon Old Town

Arbon was famously occupied by the Romans. There’s a Roman watchtower in the old town that was built in 280. The Romans occupied it until 420. Furthermore, during the excavations of 1986, a Roman Bathhouse was discovered beneath the Church of St. Martin.

Next to the watchtower is the Catholic Church St. Martin, probably the oldest Christian church in the region. The oldest section of the church is the chancel from 1450. Beside the church is a small chapel called Gallus Chapel (Galluskapelle in German). It was made to honor Gallus, who died in Arbon in 640. The chapel is closed to the public for preservation reasons, but you can peek through the window to see how it looks. 

Arbon Castle

Image of the Arbon Castle by TouringSwitzerland.com

In the medieval castle of Arbon with its 33-meter-high defense tower, visitors will find Thurgau’s largest local and regional history museum – the Arbon Castle. The Archives Museum of Arbon (Historisches Museum Arbon in German) was opened in 1967 after Arbon renovated and expanded the castle.

Arbon Castle is owned by the Town of Arbon, but it used to belong to the Bishop of Constance. A lot of the current structure dates back to 1515-1518 when Bishop Hugo von Hohenlandenberg expanded it. The building has since been renovated and turned into a regional cultural and historical museum. Landenberg Hall is named after Hugo von Hohenlandenberg. Various events take place there, like weddings. There are other rooms that can be used for festivals, lectures, concerts, and receptions.  

Museums in Arbon

Aside from Arbon Castle, you can also visit two museums in Arbon:

  • The Saurer Museum
  • The Swiss MoMo Cider & Distillery

For old-timer fans, the Saurer Museum presents 20 historic vehicles produced in Arbon (trucks, buses, military vehicles, and fire trucks). Saurer Museum takes you through the history of motor vehicles made in Arbon, and later textile machines. The Saurer Museum displays restored, street-ready vehicles from Arbon’s famous Saurer manufacturer, from 1903 to the Caminhao in 1911. Another part is the textile machines such as the Chlüppermaschine made in 1860. This machine is the oldest embroidery machine used to embroider beautiful St. Gallen Embroidery. Saurer Museum can be visited every day. You can also book private tours in Saurer Museum for groups of up to 25 people.

In the museum Swiss MoMo Cider & Distillery Arbon you can learn about apple growing in Canton Thurgau, as well as fruit juice production. The museum can be viewed alone, or you can also visit the fruit pressing. 

Beautiful Buildings and Places

There are some beautiful, well-preserved houses in the Old Town, especially in Untertorgasse. And the Bohlenständerhaus and Storchen are really pretty, too.

Also, check out the picturesque places called Fischmarktplatz and Posthof. The Posthof is also a popular spot for markets and festivals all year long. 

Guided tours of Arbon (Duration: 90 minutes) take place every Tuesday and Sunday from mid-June until mid-September. You can also book private tours for up to 25 people. The meeting point is Schmiedgasse 5, Arbon Tourist office. 

Lake Constance

Image of one of the ships of the Bodensee Schifffahrt by TouringSwitzerland.com

Being on Lake Constance, Arbon is a popular spot for water sports. They have a nice public beach with a huge lawn for sunbathing and a kid’s pool. The beach restaurant is open from March to October. You can get there by bike, train, or car.

There’s also a modern pool right on the lake with a giant slide, a 10-meter diving platform, a pool for little kids, a paddling pool, and a restaurant.

For those who want to ride the ship, you can also do so. Arbon is one of the stops of the Schweizerische Bodensee-Schifffahrt. From Arbon, you can reach Horn, Rorschach, Romanshorn, Uttwil, Altnau, Bottighofen, Kreuzlinge, Konstanz, and Meersburg during the main season.

Final Thoughts: Arbon, Switzerland

There’s something for everyone in Arbon – culture, history, water, hiking, and biking. There’s a lot to do. While you are there, there’s no way you can miss the Old Town in Arbon. Old houses and historical buildings abound. There are also museums where you can find out about history, culture, machines, and fruits. 

For those who love water, you can cruise or swim. There’s a huge playground between the lake and church for the little ones. There is also an aviary nearby with birds such as the Western Rosella, King quail, Grey parrot, Rose-hinged parakeet, and more.

Aviary in Arbon by TouringSwitzerland.com

Thurgau, where Arbon is located, is known for its apple crops. But it also has a vineyard area of around 250 hectares. Thurgau’s wine regions are Seebach Valley, Lower Thur Valley, Untersee, Rhine Area, and Lauche Valley.

Even though Thurgau doesn’t have the spectacular glaciers and waterfalls that you see in the Bernese Oberland, Graubünden, and Valais regions, there are still a lot of beautiful villages and historical monuments here.

I’d encourage you to visit Arbon and other parts of Thurgau. Those of you in Zurich should find it easy to get to. And if you want to see more beautiful towns on Lake Constance, check out this article Wonderful Towns To Visit on Lake Constance.

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Darla Uhl is the owner of TouringSwitzerland.com. Her home is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Having lived almost 20 years in Switzerland, she's traveled extensively all over the country.

Darla's favorite regions to visit in Switzerland include Engadin, Lake Geneva, Bernese Oberland, Ticino, and Valais. She loves spending time with her family, hiking, visiting museums, and reading books.

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