Perched on the eastern shore of Lake Geneva, backdropped by snow-capped mountains, this two-towered medieval Swiss château encircled by a moat is almost preposterously picturesque. Yet it’s made all the more charming by what’s inside.
Built in the 13th century as a defensive fortress, the château of Tour-de-Peilz spent centuries keeping watch on the traffic on the lake. The castle is now preserved as a historical monument, with a stunning view. Since 1987 it has also been home to Switzerland’s first and only board game museum.
The Swiss Museum of Games (Musee Suisse du Jeu) is a treasure trove of games played in different cultures around the world, from ancient times until today. Along with the classics—mahjong from China, oware from Africa, pachisi (later parcheesi) from India—the collection includes some unusual pieces like a Cold War spy table game and a collection of vintage slot machines.
There are card games, board games, puzzles, and casino games. All the classics are represented here: backgammon, bridge, checkers, Scrabble, Monopoly. And of course, there’s an entire exhibition singularly devoted to chess, including a life-size chess set you can play outside next to the lake. There’s also a library with some 5,000 game-related books. You won’t find video games or mobile games here, though. The curators believe old-fashioned physical games aren’t going anywhere, even as the digital age races forward.
The museum’s vision is to bring together the different cultures of the world through something we all share in common: play. Human beings have been playing games for thousands of years, starting with stone pieces, then beans, and becoming increasingly sophisticated and complicated as humankind did as well.
Know Before You Go
The museum in located in Tour-de-Peilz, on the lake just outside of Vevey heading toward Montreux.