This is a lovely hidden gem, which we came across last summer. Emma is always on the lookout for new places to visit on our trips to Switzerland and the Napoleon Museum was her inspired choice for our last visit. The museum is housed in Arenenberg Castle, which lies on a hillside overlooking the Lower Bodensee and is not far from the southern German city of Konstanz. We drove there and from the car park you can make a detour through the park and gardens of the castle. Which we did and were rewarded by some delightful sights, a few of which are below.
The path through the gardens takes you down towards the lake which leaves you with the obligatory ascent to reach the castle itself. But it is well worth the effort, as the castle is a fine example of French style, as you can see here.
How did this lovely castle become a Napoleon museum? The estate was bought in 1817 by Hortense de Beauharnais, the wife of Louis Bonaparte, the younger brother of the great Napoleon. It was to be the summer residence of herself and her son, Louis Napoleon. She completely redesigned the grounds and rebuilt the castle in the form it is now. After the death of Hortense in 1837 the estate was sold. However it was repurchased it in 1855, by Eugénie de Montijo as a surprise gift for her husband, who was by then Emperor Napoleon 111 of France. After Napoleon 111’s downfall in 1870, the estate remained in the family’s possession, until 1906, when his widow, the Empress Eugénie donated it to Kanton Thurgau. Since then it has been the home of the Napoleon museum.
The castle is quite small and has an intimate and homely feel about it. Which is in keeping with its main attractions, which include furniture, paintings, tableware and other personal belongings of three generations of Napoleon’s – Empress Josephine, Hortense’s mother and first wife of Napoleon 1, Hortense herself and her son, Louis Napoleon. There is a bit of Upstairs, Downstairs to the collection, though in this case the maids all lived upstairs in the attic. You are not supposed to take photos inside the castle, but I managed to smuggle away one, of a piece of embroidery on a chair.
The Napoleon museum is well worth a visit if you are ever in this part of Switzerland or nearby southern Germany, It also has its own website for more information. A fascinating aspect of the museum is that this is the sole museum devoted to the Napoleon family in the whole of the German speaking world. The castle has a lovely setting with delightful views over the Lower Bodensee and across to the island of Reichenau. I end with some photos of these views.