Welcome to Murten, the beautiful town that is also a great place for tourists. It’s a small medieval town in the Swiss midlands. Located on a gentle hill 450 meters above sea level, the attractive, 800-year-old town of Murten has become a popular tourist destination.
Located on the southern shores of Lake Murten, Murten is a bilingual municipality and the capital of the canton Fribourg’s lake district. Murten/Morat is its double bilingual name, and it’s on the language border between German and French. Cobblestone streets, shady arcades, and picturesque alleyways give it a medieval feel.
A Quick History of Murten, Switzerland
This town gets its name from the Celtic word moridunos, meaning “lakeside fortress”
Originally called Muratum in 515, it was fortified by King Rudolph III of Burgundy in 1013. Landri de Durnes or Duke Berchtold IV of Zähringen founded it sometime in the 12th century. After that, it was declared a city and a free imperial town.
From 1484 and for 300 years, Murten was ruled by two cantons: Bern and Fribourg. In the second half of the 17th century, the city grew rich because it was on the trade route from Bern to Vaud. But this didn’t last long, as trade routes increasingly went via Fribourg. With the 400th anniversary of the Battle of Morat in 1876, tourism took off.
Old Town of Murten
If you love to explore old towns and feel good about ancient things, then Murten will be a perfect choice. Murten’s old town offers a variety of things to see, from its impressive ramparts and arcades on the main street.
There are tons of things to discover, like viewpoints of Murten and arcades with unique shops. It is lined by windows filled up mostly with shops catering for tourists from all over Europe who come here looking for some relaxation. I am sure you will enjoy exploring the old town at your own pace.
The historic center of the city is surrounded by a wall, which is one of the main attractions. The tourist office is right along Hauptgasse, the main street in the old town.
The center of Murten is small, and you won’t need a bus or car to go around it. Another popular landmark is the Berntor, a medieval clock tower first made in 1239, and rebuilt in the second half of the 18th century.
Rampart Walls of Murten
Murten has a city wall called a Ringmauer built to protect the city. It has taken several stages to build these walls with different types of materials. These walls and structures have been restored or modified over time. Despite being restored, the rampart walls still retain their medieval appearance.
From the city wall, you can see the roofs of the Old Town. You can walk around this wall and also admire the view of the lake and all the mountains in the distance.
While the inner city used to be a place for protection, it’s now where most of Murten’s business takes place. It’s a very well-designed small town with lots of restaurants and shops.
The Castle Tower from Murten
The almost perfectly preserved Castle Tower is one of the remaining towers in Switzerland that you can walk around and see from every angle. Still, invaders have not tested it for centuries.
Instead, visitors are offered an amazing view of its bustling lake as well as old roofs adorning many buildings within Murten’s historic center.
The Castle Tower is open from the end of June until the end of October to visitors.
Pile dwelling sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage
Murten is home to one of the prehistoric pile-dwelling settlements around the Alps featured on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. It can be found at Segelboothafen. While there are 111 lake-dweller villages recognized on the UNESCO’s World Heritage list, five sites are around the Fribourg region.
The Segelboothafen site is located along the lakeshore at the old town’s foot. This ancient harbor dates to the Middle and Final Neolithic periods. Some of the historic piles located here date around late 3552 BC to 2534BC.
The site was first dug in 1883-84 by Süsstruck. Later findings include pottery and stone tools and a field of wooden piles that are up to 40 cm (16 inches) thick.
Among the materials found are the following, as noted from the Historical Lexicon of Switzerland (see resource note):
Lake Murten and the Three Lakes
Lake Murten, also known as Murtensee in German and Lac de Morat in French, is a lake in the Fribourg Riviera. On each of its sides are vineyard slopes where they grow wine.
It is a shallow lake, warmed quickly by the sun, and much loved for swimming in summer. The biggest swimming area is Strandbad Murten (Piscine Morat) with its 50-meter swimming pool, kids pool, and beach. While the swimming pool is open the entire year, the beach opens from mid-May until mid-September. They also have a paddling pool, table tennis, a solarium, a sauna, a playground, a grill area, and a beach volleyball field.
Due to the waterways in the region, you can definitely sail with the boat through the Three Lakes region. The boat will go via the Broye canal from Lake Murten until Lac de Neuchâtel further on to Lake Biel. The boat cruise around Lake Murten takes around an hour and the trip to Neuchâtel around two hours.
Best Time to Visit Murten
Murten has an average of 127 days per year with rain or snow, making it one of the wettest cities in Switzerland by far.
The best time to visit Murten will be in summer from July to August. This way, you can enjoy the gorgeous weather and take a cruise around the Three Lakes region. You could also go in February if you want the least chance of rain.
Summary: Visiting Murten, Switzerland
You can do a lot in the charming little town of Murten, Switzerland. Get a view like no other by walking around the rampart walls and admiring the well-preserved history surrounding you. You can walk around the old town, too.
For those who love water, summertime is the perfect time to swim in Lake Murten. Early in the season, the water temperature becomes nice and warm. So you could definitely swim in here. It is also a great time for sailing and windsurfing. You could also go by boat and explore other nearby regions, like Vully, where they grow wine.
No matter what, we hope you have a good time in Murten, Switzerland.
- Mauvilly, M and von Cranach, P (Translation). Murten – Segelboothafen. Historisches Lexicon der Schweiz, 2019. Accessed on 27 January 2022. https://hls-dhs-dss.ch/de/articles/058006/2019-04-03/.
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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.