Description: The town’s name is derived from the Celtic word moriduno, meaning “lakeside fortress”. Fire in 1416 led to rebuilding in stone, a useful move since, shortly after, in June 1476, Murten allied itself with Bern and Fribourg against the Burgundians and found itself facing down a concerted siege from Charles the Bold. The town hung on for thirteen days, whereupon a Bernese force arrived from over the hills, weighed into the Burgundian army and massacred the lot – some 10,000 were slaughtered, and local legend tells of bones being washed up on the lakeshore even eighteen years later. A runner took news of the victory 17km to Fribourg, but expired after recounting his tale – his exploit is commemorated today by thousands who take part in a fun run between the two towns on the first Sunday in October.
Murten’s Old Town is a simple three-street affair, full of picturesque medieval vaulted arcades and facades. You’re most likely to enter at the castle, which, although closed to the public, has a peaceful internal courtyard with lake views. Rathausgasse leads east, packed with hotels whose rear terraces afford prime views across the lake to the Vully vineyards. Parallel to the south are Hauptgasse, crammed with bars and eateries; and tranquil Schulgasse/Deutsche Kirchgasse, providing some relief from the hubbub. One of the best ways to see Murten is from the ramparts, accessible at a number of points along Deutsche Kirchgasse. The main eastern gate is the Berntor, or Porte de Berne, with a distinctive clock face.