Places to visit in Bellinzona includes beautiful churches and European structures, a must visit for architects.

Bellinzona, a paradise unfolded at the foot of the Swiss alps is the southernmost capital of the beautiful country of Switzerland. It is the capital of the state (Canton) of Ticino- informally established as the Sunroom of Switzerland.

Apart from its fortified character, Bellinzona also has a charming reputation as it stretches along the river valley of the river Ticino, dwelling under the alps.

The location of the town is such that, to the south lies the ever beautiful swiss alps and to the north is an access to Italy. This gives Bellinzona an ideal destination, and makes it a favourite, especially with the tourists.

Bellinzona encapsulates the beautiful neo-classical architecture, grand castles and churches colourful alleys and decorated houses, reflecting the historical and socio cultural background of the region.

One of the main features of this town is that the rich history perfectly harmonizes with the modernism, as one can observe contemporary food culture and gathering spaces.

Rabadan (Noise) – is an annual carnival in Bellinzona. It’s a major tourist attraction for residents of surrounding areas and tourists.

The significant geographical location of Bellinzona was understood by the Romans and hence one can witness the medieval defensive architecture here, for example the fortification of Bellinzona.

The infamous architectural marvel “Tre Castelli” is the symbol of the town. The three castles-

  1. Castelgrande
  2. Montebello
  3. Castello di Sasso Corbaro .

1. Castelgrande:

Castelgrande, an UNESCO world heritage site, is one of the oldest castles of Bellinzona. Due to geographical significance of the town, Bellinzona was considered as a significant defence line by romans. According to Archaeological surveys, its inferred that this castle has been fortified since late 1st Century BC.

Castelgrande was also known as Castello di San Michele or Burg Uri. Until 13th Century BC it was the only fortification in Bellinzona. There are two main towers in the castle namely, white tower or Torre Bianca (27 m), with best of the castle premises. The second tower is the black tower or Torre Nera. The excavation that took place in 1984-1985 proved that it was one of the initial examples of defensive construction, the castle site was being occupies for several purposes dating back to neo-lithic ages, Roman existence was also one of the major discoveries of the excavation.

The construction of the castle was in several stages including the initial construction in 13th century, the enlargement in 14th century and restoration in 17th and 19th centuries. The latest restoration was carried put in the year of 1984-1991 by Architect Mr. Aurelio Galfetti. Castelgrande also has a museum open to all tourists exhibiting the medieval and Romanesque elements, which takes the visitor back to roman ages.

2. Montebello

Castle of Montebello(UNESCO world heritage site), is located on the hills of Montebello and rule the skyline of the town as it is at an elevation (90 metres) from Castlegrande..

Castle of Montebello, is also known as Schwyz or San Martino. The castle was built by the Rusconi family. The fortification and construction of defence walls was initiated here. The castle was protected by deep moats. The central part of the castle was said to be built in the 13th and 14th Century. The external courtyards and towers are said to be constructed following the central part in 14th and 15th centuries.

Apart from the fortified walls and towers the castle also plays host to the Archaeological and Civic Museum. The museum houses both archaeological and historical sections. One can witness the rare and unique 13th century Baptismal fonts and sketches, and several unique items from the 1400-1500 BC .

3. Castello di Sasso Corbaro:

The Castle of Sasso Corbaro (UNESCO, World Heritage Site), constructed in the year 1479 is the only castle which has a definite period of construction in Bellinzona.

Sasso Corbaro is located at a height of 230 m above the city and hence serves as the best location for a great panoramic or 360 degrees view of the skyline of Bellinzona.

The castle of Sasso Corbaro is been named so, because of its location on a rock which was as “dark as a crow’s feather “which is called as “corbatt” in the local dialect.

It was built over a quick period of six months by architect Benedetto Ferrini. It was originally meant to be used as defensive barrier.

It was known as Unterwalden Castle in 1818 ( swiss occupation) and later it was called as Santa Barbara Castle.

The castle was later restored in the year 2004, by Architect Paola Piffaretti.

The castle of Sasso Corbaro houses temporary exhibits and display of international artists.

4. Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie

It is one of the most beautiful churches in Bellinzona.

Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, was constructed in the 15th century, according to the records. One can observe 17th and 18th century art and architectural elements in the church. The cloister convent has been converted into an old age home now, houses ancient frescos which are open to the visitors.

The church is the part of the Franciscan order and traditional Franciscan elements can be observed, for example, a transverse wall with beautiful frescos in the interior of the church.

One of the most striking feature of the church is the Renaissance fresco of the Crucifixion and other fifteen frescos related to the same.

With its ancient frescos and wrought iron gates the church takes one back down the journey during the 15th century.

Source- www.fiveprime .com

5. Collegiate of SS. Pietro e Stefano

The church is a celebration of 15th century style architectural elements, a true treat to an avid architect. As one walks in front of the church, the most extraordinary feature of the church meets the eye, the rose window. The rose window is twelve segment window, approximately 5 metres in diameter, reflects the 16th and 17th century design style. The façade is made of the white stone. The portal of the structure has two doors and bears the town’s crest. The interior is the rectangular, single nave room, with frescos adding to the beauty and sanctity of the church. This church was designed by sculptor Master Tomaso of Maroggia. The church is decorated with various ancient paintings and works of the legends and is a true amusement for the art lovers.

6. Church of S. Biagio

One of the oldest church in Bellinzona, church of S. Biagio, was constructed in 12th and 15th century. The structure includes the main church building and a bell tower at the back. The interior of the church has three naves and the walls have been decorated with frescos, some by infamous artists, some by unknown artists.

The church showcases both baroque architectural art works as well as medieval.

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7. Church of S. Barnard

Originally, serving as a small Romanic oratory, the church was re-established as the current size church in late 12th century. The church is graced with different frescos in the interior as well as exterior.

The church was originally a single building, later an addition in the nave, apse – choir and altar was done. The bell tower was added later. The entire construction took the present day form in 16th century with the addition of San Nicola chapel and sacristy in the cloister convent.

One of the main feature that the church adorns is the painting “Last Supper” on the wall in northern direction.

8. Augustinian Monte Carasso Monastery

The monastery, closed down due to unfortunate reasons, saw the dawn when it was reconstructed in the 20th century. Architect Luigi Snozzi, converted the monastery into an institutional and religious building.

The community centre functioned as gathering space for residents of the village as well as a platform to showcase the socio-cultural aspects of the town.

This concept and ideology and its implementation was rewarded the Wakker prize and Prince of Wales award.

9. Piazza del Sole

Piazza or square in the city or town one of the magnificent features of Europe.

Piazza del Sole is no different, it is also known as the Square of the sun. This area was subjected to constant flooding by Ticino river and was amidst a close clustered housing. In 1981, Architect Livio Vacchini redesigned the Piazza.

The Castlegrande and the housing surrounding the castle needed a transitional space, which could bring together all the urban elements harmoniously.

The Piazza del Sole, was designed to fulfil the same need. The square defines simplicity in all the elements it possess, for example the underground car parking, the level differences created to make it a cohesive space, simple and user friendly exit points, etc.

The material used are in conjunction with the background.
Its one of the must visit place for architects in Bellinzona.

10. Lido di Bellinzona

A contemporary takeover on the ancient concept of public bath. Architect Aurelio Galfetti, perfectly creates the public swimming pool amidst the valley of Ticino. The public swimming pool, is located on a location which enjoys the view of all Bellinzona’s jewels. Castlegrande, alps and the valley.

A futuristic thought process, design with the scope of future expansion and ideal use of public space, Lido di Bellinzona can be considered as an epitome.

11. Town Wall of Bellinzona

One of the first fortification and constructed during roman reign , the town wall of Bellinzona has a historical significance. With its northern front opening up in Italy, and the Swiss alps overlooking the town , Bellinzona was the key location for the romans and hence become the capital of defensive medieval architecture in Switzerland.

The town Wall of Bellinzona is one of the earliest examples of architecture regarding line of defence.


12. Old town of Bellinzona

The old town of Bellinzona, is a breath-taking experience in its own.

The combination of medieval, Romanesque and baroque architecture is observed.

Houses with its distinct medieval features and churches with beautiful frescos creates an exquisite indulgence of the visitor in the magnificent architecture.

13. Teatro Sociale, Bellinzona

The Teatro Sociale, is the only theatre which was constructed in 19th century and is restored, in Switzerland.

The theatre carries its traditional Italian architecture, arched doors and decorative pillars, handrails with Italian motifs being carved on, with grace.

It was constructed in the year 1847, by Architect Giacomo Moraglia and Engineer Rocco von Mentlen. In 1992 it was refurbished by Architects Giancarlo and Pia Durisch.


14. The ruins of the Prada’s village

Prada village is a part of municipality of Bellinzona. The village was inhabited in 14th century, but was abandoned soon after.

The reason for abandoning the village is still a mystery.

Efforts of restoring the ancient ruins of buildings is being done by the municipality. One can observe that the buildings were approximately three storeys high, roofs were pitched and in some cases double pitched . Building material used, was mostly wood.

The church of Saint Girolamo and Rocco, is the best preserved building in Prada.


15. The new Federal Criminal Court Building

Bellinzona is also home to contemporary building concepts.

The new Federal Criminal Court Building, is one of the examples  of public and contemporary architecture.

It is designed by Durisch + Nolli Architetti + Bearth & Deplazes Architekten.

According to the architects, the design aimed to blend the neo classical theme with the function of the court.

Use of exposed concrete in the interiors, white concrete in the exteriors and perfect use of natural light, this contemporary piece of art reflects, respects and retain the original sanctity of the town of Bellinzona.


A firm believer of J.K Rowling’s famous quote, “Words are, in my not so humble opinion, the most inexhaustible source of magic”. Samruddhi Kulkarni is a 23 year old architect, an ardent reader, coffee enthusiast, loves to explore places and preserve them in her diary.

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