Lighthouses of Switzerland

Switzerland is an Alpine country with no seacoast, but it does have lighthouses on two large lakes. One is Lac Léman (Lake Geneva in English). The Rhône River flows out of Lac Léman at Genève (Geneva) to begin its course through southern France to the Mediterranean. Another large lake is the Bodensee (Lake Constance), located on the country's northern border with Germany. The Rhine River flows through the Bodensee before beginning its course northward through Germany and the Netherlands to the North Sea.

The lighthouses on the lakes are owned and operated by the respective city governments. Besides being decorative, they do have some function, since there is navigation on both lakes.

The French word for a lighthouse is phare, but it is usually reserved for larger coastal lighthouses; each of these Swiss lights would be called a feu (fire) in French. The German word for a lighthouse is Leuchtturm (light tower).

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights.

Special thanks to Michel Forand for providing much of the data on these lighthouses.

General Sources
Phares d'Europe
Photos of European lighthouses collected by Alain Guyomard and Robert Carceller.
World of Lighthouses - Switzerland
Photos by various photographers available from Lightphotos.net.
Lighthouses in Switzerland
Photos by various photographers available from Wikimedia.
Leuchttürme der Alpenregion
Historic postcard views posted by Klaus Huelse.

Feu des Paquis
Les Paquis Light, Genève, April 2008
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Bobby Hidy

Lighthouses of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva)
Genève Jetée du Sud (2)
1911 (station established 1875). Active; focal plane 3 m (10 ft); continuous red light. 7 m (23 ft) octagonal cast iron tower with an ornate domed roof. Tower painted white, lantern black. Victor Abellón's photo is at right, Nathalie Booth has a nice panoramic view showing the Feu des Pâquis (next entry) in the background, Huelse has a historic postcard view, and Google has a satellite view. Located at the end of the Jetée du Sud (south jetty) in the Parc des Eaux-Vives, near the famous Jet d'Eau, the world's tallest fountain (140 m (459 ft) high). Site and tower closed (this jetty does not appear to be walkable), but there are good views from the park onshore. Owner/site manager: Ville de Genève. ARLHS SWI-002.
* Les Pâquis (Genève) (2)
1896 (station established 1857). Active; focal plane 16 m (52 ft); white or green light, depending on direction; the lighthouse is also floodlit at night (see halfway down the page). Approx. 17 m (56 ft) octagonal cast iron tower mounted on an octagonal stone base. Entire lighthouse painted white. Bobby Hidy's photo is at the top of this page, Huelse has a historic postcard view, and Google has an aerial view and a distant street view. This well known lighthouse is the subject of countless photos. The first lighthouse was built as an experiment, to test the use of a primitive form of electric lighting in which the light was provided by an open arc of electricity. The tests were held in December 1857. The results were inconclusive at best, and the test lighthouse was abandoned until the present tower was built in 1896. At that time there was commercial shipping on Lac Léman, but only pleasure craft and passenger ferries navigate the lake today. The lighthouse is located at the end of the Jetée des Pâquis, which projects into Lac Léman on the waterfront of downtown Genève (Geneva), at the intersection of the Quai du Mont Blanc and the Quai Wilson. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: Ville de Genève. ARLHS SWI-001.
Geneva Lighthouse
Jetée du Sud Light and Jet d'Eau, Genève, September 2006
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Victor Abellón
* Morges Jetée du Sud
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 9 m (30 ft); continuous red light. 7 m (23 ft) square masonry tower with a steeply pyramidal, tile-covered roof; the light is displayed from the peak of the roof. Geoff Marston has a 2008 photo showing both lighthouses, another photo of both lighthouses is available, and Google has a street view of the two lights and an aerial view of the harbor. Morges is a town on the north side of Lac Léman a short distance west of Lausanne. The harbor was built in 1696 and the two jetty houses are believed to be nearly that old. It is not known when they were equipped with lights, but note that there's no light shown in Huelse's postcard view. Located at the end of the south jetty at Morges. Accessible by walking the pier. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS SWI-003.
* Morges Jetée du Nord
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 8 m (26 ft); continuous green light. 7 m (23 ft) square masonry tower with a steeply pyramidal, tile-covered roof; the light is displayed from the peak of the roof. Claudine Booth's photo is at right, a photo of both lighthouses is available, this lighthouse is on the left in Geoff Marston's 2008 photo showing both lighthouses, and Google has a street view of the two lights and an aerial view. Located at the end of the north jetty at Morges. Accessible by walking the pier. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS SWI-004.
Morges Jetée du Nord
Jetée du Nord Light, Morges, April 2011
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Claudine Booth

Lighthouses of the Bodensee (Lake Constance) (see also Germany: The Bodensee and Austria)
* Romanshorn
Date unknown (before 1910). Inactive. Approx. 12 m (39 ft) octagonal tower with a small square lantern topped by a square skeletal fog bell tower with bell. Tower painted white; roof is gray, lantern black. Klaus Potschien's photo is at right, Simon Frei has a closeup photo, Huelse has a historic postcard view, and Google has a satellite view. The building was formerly used as a customs house. The light is now on a post near the former lighthouse. Located at the end of the north jetty, one of two jetties enclosing the harbor of Romanshorn, about 16 km (10 mi) northwest of Rorschach. Accessible by walking the pier, and there should be good views from the ferries sailing across the lake between Romanshorn and Friedrichshafen, Germany. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS SWI-005.
Romanshorn Shoal
Date unknown. Active; light characteristic unknown. 8 m (26 ft) round lantern supported by piles; a fog bell hangs above the lantern. Lantern painted white with one red horizontal band. A 2013 photo is available, and Google has a satellite view. Located on a shoal about 700 m (0.45 mi) east of the Romanshorn harbor entrance. Accessible only by boat, but there are good views from the ferries sailing across the lake. Site open, tower closed.
* Rorschach
1869. Active (?); green light, characteristic unknown. Approx. 12 m (39 ft) square skeletal cast iron tower with a small gallery. A panoramic photo and a 2009 closeup are available, Huelse has a historic postcard view, and Google has a satellite view. Located at the end of the long, curving breakwater at Rorschach. Accessible by walking the pier, and there are good views from ferries sailing across the lake between Rorschach and Lindau, Germany. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS SWI-006.

Information available on lost lighthouses:

Notable faux lighthouses:

  • Oberalppass (2010). This lighthouse is a reduced-scale replica (about 2/3 size) of the Hoek van Holland Low Light in Rotterdam, at the mouth of the Rhine River. Built as a tourist attraction, the replica stands just below the Oberalppass in Tujetsch, very close to the traditional source of the Rhine. The pass has an altitude of 2046 m (6713 ft). The tower has a working light. Walter Brunner has a closeup photo, and another photo is available, but Google's satellite view does not show the tower.
Leuchtturm Romanshorn
Romanshorn Light, Romanshorn, July 2005
photo copyright Klaus Potschien; used by permission

Adjoining pages: North: Germany Bodensee | East: Austria | South: Côte d'Azur (French Riviera)

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Posted April 17, 2006. Checked and revised April 15, 2014. Lighthouses: 7. Site copyright 2014 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.