The picture-perfect town of Gruyeres in Switzerland invariably falls on the list of must visit places in Switzerland for the chocolate factory and more popularly for the unlimited chocolate tasting offered at the end of the tour in the chocolate factory. Gruyeres is a medieval town in the district of Gruyere in the Fribourg canton of Switzerland. The town of Gruyeres also gives its name to one of the finest and popular cheese in the world, the Gruyeres cheese.
The bird crane is the emblem of the Gruyeres town and you will find it almost everywhere in the village on hotel signboards, windows and in facade decoration of buildings. In French, a grue is a crane and that is how the town gets its name ‘Gruyeres’.
Gruyeres is a two hours train journey from Geneva and Zurich and less than an hour from the Switzerland capital Bern. Gruyeres is a perfect day trip but if you want to spend some more time exploring the town then the town also offers several accommodations in the beautiful historic setting. You can find some great accommodations on the tourism site.
Things to do in Gruyeres Switzerland
There is definitely more to Gruyeres than the chocolate factory, here are top things to do on your visit to Gruyeres and a perfect itinerary to make the best of your day trip to Gruyeres.
1 Gruyeres Cheese Factory
We started our day with some delicious and mouth watering cheese tasting. The Gruyeres cheese factory or La Maison du Gruyere is right in front of the Gruyeres station. On arrival, we were welcomed with cheese samples of different flavors and aging months. We picked the audio guide and started our tour. The tour provides information on cheese processing and information on the feeding of the cows and aging of cheese.
You can also have a look at the cheese processing and cheese storage through glass walls of a raised platform. There is a shop where you can buy some delicious Gruyeres cheese and lovely Swiss souvenirs. There is also a restaurant where you can devour on some scrumptious Swiss specialties. The cheese factory opens at 9 am which is the best time to visit with no crowd and lets you explore at your own pace. More details here.
2 Gruyeres Castle
We next boarded a bus right opposite the factory to the Gruyeres castle. The bus drops you at the Gruyeres Ville (Gruyeres village) and the castle is some 10 minutes walk uphill from here. All along the way the picturesque landscapes and vistas on either side of the street and the historic buildings are awe-inspiring. The 13th-century medieval castle houses interesting collections in ornate rooms from the glorious bygone era and a multimedia show to walk you through the history of the castle.
It is recommended to visit early when we visited there were hardly any tourist but by the time we finished our castle visit and returned to the square it was jam-packed.
3 Devour on Swiss Traditional Dishes – Fondue and Raclette
The square that leads up to the castle has several restaurants and cafes where you can have lunch or simply relish some Gruyeres Cheese specialties. The restaurants and hotels surrounding the square are overflowing with bright flowers makes it a postcard perfect picture. Do not miss the signboards with cranes which we talked about before about how the name ‘Gruyeres’ was derived.
Must try are Fondue a Swiss traditional dish. The pot of cheese on the stove is served with bread which you dip and roll in the cheese pot before devouring on it. Raclette is another dish indigenous to Switzerland where the cheese is melted in front of an open fire and eaten along with potatoes, meat, and pickled onions.
The town is home to a couple of interesting and unique museums both of which are located close to the castle – the HR Giger Museum and the Tibet Museum.
4 HR Giger Museum
The HR Giger Museum is a museum created by the Swiss artist Hans Ruedi Giger and houses an extensive permanent collection of his paintings, furniture, and sculptures from early 1960’s till date. It is said that Hans Ruedi Giger held an exhibition at the Gruyeres castle in 1990 and fell in love with the medieval town, bought the 400-year-old Château St Germain and opened a museum for his work in 1998.
Take a tour of the surreal museum exhibiting some rare and quirky otherworldly pieces of art of the artist including his important works of ‘The Spell’ and the ‘Passages’ series. Giger was popular for the design of the aliens for the movie Alien which won several accolades. The museum also houses some of the original models and works of the Alien movie series.
There is a Giger bar next to the museum which has a quirky interior inspired by Hans Ruedi Giger’s work. Dining in this restaurant is definitely one of its kind of experience.
5 The Tibet Museum
The Tibet museum in Gruyeres is part of the Alain Bordier Foundation. The museum houses around 300 fascinating collections of historic Buddhist sculptures, drawings, paintings, religious and ritual items. The museum exhibits the sculptures in a calm setting and an ambiance with a background music which reminds us of the Buddhist monasteries we visited in Ladakh region of north India.
We were handed a guidebook which walked us through each of the sculptures and paintings with detailed information which we believe would have more intelligible to a specialist in the field. Nevertheless, we enjoyed marveling at the beauty of the sculptures some of which had exceptional artwork.
These items are said to be collected by Alain Bordier mostly from Tibet and other Himalayan countries like Nepal, India, and Burma and date back to the period between 6th and 18th century. Museum also houses a chapel with remarkable stained-glass windows.
The lady incharge at the museum provided us an insight into the history of the museum. As per her during the time of turmoil in the 1960s when a lot of refugees from Himalayan countries especially Tibet were seeking shelter in Switzerland. Alain Bordier was appointed to understand the actual condition of the Himalayan countries and many who trusted Alain Bordier handed over these sculptures and idols from temples which they believed would be safe with Alain Bordier in Switzerland.
Alain Bordier later opened up the museum exhibiting his wonderful collection.
For information on opening timings and entry fees click here.
6 Chocolate Factory
Our last stop on the day trip to Gruyeres was the most popular stop – the Cailler Chocolate Factory. The factory is just 5 min walk from the Broc train stop. On the issue of the entrance tickets, we were allocated a time which was same for a group of around 10 more visitors. While you wait for your turn take a look at the chocolate collection in factory shop where you can buy from a wide range of range of Cailler chocolates and some interesting souvenirs.
The tour starts with an interesting narration of the history of chocolate and information on the founders of the famous chocolates. The tour walked us through the ingredients and manufacturing of chocolates. And ends with the most awaited free unlimited chocolate tasting which we enjoyed the most especially Chhavi.
Gruyeres Chocolate Train
Though Gruyeres chocolate and cheese factories are well connected with different regions of Switzerland by regular trains, traveling in one of the chocolate-colored Chocolate trains is indeed a delicious treat. The train running between Montreux and Gruyeres is a must experience for a chocolate lover. While the train chugs through the picturesque landscapes of Switzerland you can indulge in some cheese and chocolate delicacies like fondue and croissants. The coaches are first-class style travel and include a visit to the Cailler chocolate factory at Broc, a visit to the Gruyeres cheese factory and a bus to the Gruyere village and castle. The Chocolate trains run only from May until mid-October so plan accordingly.
The medieval town of Gruyeres is one of the most beautiful places in Switzerland, the brown chalets overflowing with bright flowers, the jingling of the cowbells and the lush forests making for the backdrop of the landscapes seems out of the world. Take some time to stroll around the town taking in the stunning views and the peaceful aura.
We visited Gruyeres twice once in June and the second time in October, we loved it the most in October when the lush green forests were awash in vibrant orange, yellow and red colors of fall one of the spectacular sights to behold. The Gruyeres weather may get chilly at dusk so be prepared and get some warm clothes along.
Have you visited Gruyeres what has been your favorite part of the trip? We definitely cannot choose between chocolate and cheese, can you?
Many Thanks to La Gruyere Tourism for supporting our Gruyeres tour. All the museum tours were complimentary. As always, all opinions are our own.