Lake Hallwil (Hallwilersee) is one of the largest and most beautiful Swiss lakes in the middle land of Switzerland and worth a visit.
Text and photos by Marc Gottwald
Magical moments at Lake Hallwil
Lake Hallwil (Hallwilersee) is a highlight among the Swiss lakes. Whether a hike, water sports or some good food. Lake Hallwilersee has a lot to offer. With an almost unspoilt lakeshore, it is one of the few Swiss lakes that can be circumnavigated almost completely uninterrupted, apart from a nature reserve near Hallwyl Castle (Schloss Hallwyl). This naturalness gives the lake a high status. In this ultimate guide about Hallwilersee we cover everything you need to know about the beautiful Swiss lake.
History and Ecology of Lake Hallwil
Like most Swiss lakes, Lake Hallwil was created by a glacier and its moraines. The creation dates back to the Würm Ice Age (115,000 – 10,000 years before today), whereby according to the glacier simulator from ETH Zurich it can be assumed that the „Hallwilersee“ was last covered with ice around 17,000 years before today.
Findings from the Stone Age prove that people already lived here a long time ago. Settlements from the Bronze Age have also been found near Hallwyl Castle. A pile-dwelling house only about 10 minutes from Hallwyl Castle in Seengen shows what the houses at the “Hallwilersee” used to look like.
The Hallwyl Castle – the most beautiful in the Canton of Aargau
The famous Hallwyl Castle (Schloss Hallwyl) has been around for 800 years and belonged to the Habsburgs at that time. It was first a castle and the centre of a noble family. When Bernese troops attacked the castle, the front part burnt down. The castle was converted into a palace at the end of the 16th century. During the Helvetic Revolution in 1798, the noble family lost their rights as nobles. Today, Schloss Hallwyl at Lake Hallwil is a museum.
Today, in addition to tourism, agriculture is also very important in the Seetal, which includes Lake Baldegg (Baldegger See). But in the 1980s, Lake Hallwil and its neighbouring lake were so heavily over-fertilised that apart from algae, almost no aquatic life lived in the lake. For this reason, the „Hallwiler See“ has since then beeing artificially aerated by pumping water up from the depths and enriching it with oxygen. In the meantime, the lake has solved the problem, also thanks to stricter federal regulations regarding the use of fertilisers.
Especially in summer, but also on beautiful weekends in spring and autumn, the „Lake Hallwilersee“ is very popular because it is only 1 hour from Zurich or 30 minutes from Lucerne or Aarau. I therefore recommend arriving during the week if possible.
The „Hallwiler See“ offers many activities on the water, especially in summer. Whether it’s a renting a pedalo boat, kite surfing, swimming, or doing activities like a hike, barbecuing at a fireplace by the lake. Or eating in one of the Hallwilersee restaurants such as the Seerose in Meisterschwanden, the Schifflände Birrwil or the Seehotel Hallwil in Beinwil am See. There are no limits. The only exception is that biking directly on the lakeshore is prohibited.
For water sports such as pedalos, there are two rental services: In Beinwil am See near the Seehotel Hallwil and at the Badi right next to the Seerose Meisterschwanden.
By the way, you can also enjoy a great boat trip on Lake Hallwil (SGH Hallwilersee), which operates scheduled boats and round trips between April and October. A really great experience!
Lake Hallwil Hikes
Lake Hallwil is a hiker’s paradise, I must admit. There is probably no area that I know better in Switzerland than the “Hallwiler See”. That’s why I would like to share my experiences and tips with you. There’s something for everyone here: whether it’s a leisurely stroll or a real hike.
1. Lake Hallwil circular walk
The circular hike around Lake Hallwil is the king’s stage of all hikes on this Swiss lake. With a distance of 22 kilometres and 5 hours, the lake circuit has a certain length and duration. But on a beautiful spring or autumn day, when the temperatures are not too hot, it is the ideal thing to do.
Of course, you can also take a leisurely swim during your circular hike around the “Hallwiler See”. There are plenty of opportunities. And the best thing is: you don’t even have to go to a paid swimming pool. For example, in Beinwil am See, in Birrwil, at Hallwyl Castle, near the Seerose Meisterschwanden, there are perfect free opportunities for a swim.
Another ideal option is to stop at a restaurant. I particularly recommend the Seerose Meisterschwanden with its take-away and beautiful terrace. But the Seehotel in Beinwil am See or the Schifflände Birrwil also offer great dishes.
Highlights of this hike are the pile dwellings in Seengen or the Schloss Hallwyl, which is one of the most important and beautiful moated castles in Switzerland. Also very interesting are the many nature reserves on the shores of Lake Hallwil, where, among other things, orchids can be observed in the month of May.
2. Hike Beinwil am See – Birrwil
There are so many sections I could recommend here. But the hike from Beinwil am See to Birrwil is definitely my favourite. It takes about 50 minutes, is almost entirely flat and has everything to make you happy. Whether it’s a restaurant like the Seehotel Hallwil in Beinwil am See or the Schifflände in Birrwil. Or you can swim, either with admission in Beinwil am See or for free on the way in direction to the Schifflände Birrwil. There is also a beautiful wooden bridge on the hike where you have a view of almost the entire “Hallwiler See” and the Alps. A dream! And with a bit of luck you can see squirrels in the forest just before Birrwil, but unfortunately there are fewer every year.
3. Hike Seerose Meisterschwanden – Hallwyl Castle
The hike from the “Seerose Meisterschwanden” to Schloss Hallwyl (Castle Hallwyl) also has everything you will love about this Swiss lake. There are two restaurants here as well, of which I can highly recommend the Seerose in Meisterschwanden. The other one ist he Hotel Delphin, also in Meisterschwanden. Similar to the Beinwil am See to Birrwil hike, there are various bathing options, both paid baths and free lakeside baths. The pile dwellings in Seengen and the Hallwyl Castle are also highlights. By the way: if you like castles, it’s worth going one lake further to Lake Baldegg and visiting Schloss Heidegg (Heidegg Castle) there.
There are so many options to choose the right hike. But I can tell you one thing: they are all beautiful.
Restaurants Lake Hallwil
You will also find some restaurants on Hallwilersee. I would like to talk about my four personal favourites.
1. Seerose Meisterschwanden
The Seerose is located directly on the “Hallwiler See” and is also a hotel. Depending on the season, there are up to five restaurants in this hotel, two of which are outdoors. In addition to Thai cuisine, the Seerose also offers Swiss cuisine. In summer, you can sit on the terrace or get something from the take-away restaurant
2. Eichberg Seengen
Eichberg in Seengen is a restaurant above Lake Hallwil but with a beautiful view over the Swiss lake. The Eichberg’s farm tries to produce as much food as possible directly; the rest is sourced from regional producers whenever possible. Therefore, the food is mostly Swiss cuisine, although world cuisine is offered as well.
3. Seehotel Hallwil
Another restaurant is the Seehotel Hallwil that treats guests to a lake view the „Hallwiler See“. Partially closed in winter, it is extremely popular during the summer months and a great place to stop during a hike. The restaurant serves mainly Swiss cuisine.
4. Birrwil boat station
The Schifflände Birrwil is the fourth restaurant that I can highly recommend. In the new building, which was completed only a few years ago, the design is captivating, combined with a great lake view over the “Hallwilersee”. Here, as well, the cuisine is mostly Swiss, with various menus from all over the world.
Hotels Lake Hallwil
Since the restaurants are usually linked to hotels and I have never stayed in one of them, I would just like to list the most popular “Hallwilersee Hotels” here.
– Seerose Meisterschwanden
– Seehotel Hallwil
– Birrwil Schifflände
Of course there is also camping at “Hallwilersee” for those who don’t want to stay in a hotel. I can recommend Camping Mosen for this. You can find more information under the following link
Conclusion Lake Hallwil
Lake Hallwil is a Swiss lake you have to experience. With its phenomenal view over the Swiss Alps when good light conditions, the limitless possibilities for activities such as hiking and watersports and the restaurants, it has something to offer for everyone.
You can travel to the Swiss lake by car or by public transport. For example, a train runs from Lenzburg or Lucerne to Beinwil am See or Mosen, which is a perfect starting point for a hike. Meisterschwanden or Schloss Hallwyl can be reached by bus. The so-called Seetalbahn, which serves the villages on one side of Lake Hallwil, has been running since 1883, the boats since 1888.