When most people think of Switzerland, the first things that come to mind are mountains, chocolate and cheese. Gruyère provides all three in equal measure, and throws in a beautiful medieval town to keep you busy.
The area is famous for its namesake cheese – Gruyère – and you can visit an authentic, working factory where the cheese is made, La Maison Du Gruyère. You can observe every angle of the cheese making process, which takes place in a single room and is ongoing throughout the day. The gallery area has full height glass windows giving you a great view of the action. There is also a small exhibit which explains what makes the Gruyère cheese so special. The factory produces up to 48 wheels a day, and has its own cellar with the capacity to mature 7,000 wheels at any given time. Given the size of the factory the output is very impressive.
Not far from Gruyères in the small town of Broc is the Cailler chocolate factory – Maison Cailler, set in the valley against a stunning mountain backdrop. François-Louis Cailler was the first producer of chocolate in Switzerland, and in partnership with Henri Nestlé was responsible for some of the greatest innovations in the production of chocolate that we take for granted today. The brand has a very interesting history which you can learn all about as part of their interactive tour. It really brings the history to life and it’s fascinating to see the production line machinery creating the Branche chocolate bars right in front of your eyes. As if that wasn’t enough at the end of the tour there is a great opportunity to taste as many chocolates as you’d like. Isn’t that the reason everybody visits a chocolate factory?!
Gruyères is a small, medieval hilltop town with a stunning castle – Chateau St. Germain – built between 1270 and 1282 and historically occupied by the counts of Gruyères. There are fantastic views to be found in every direction, down into the valleys and across to the mountains beyond. The castle contains a mummified severed hand which is shrouded in mystery. It’s thought that the hand was likely smuggled to Switzerland for the wealthy owners of the castle who bought the item for its healing qualities. But nobody can say for sure and you’ll find a number of interesting and more exciting theories that explain how the hand came to be severed and end up in Gruyères. You can also visit what has to be one of the most unexpectedly placed museums in the world – the H. R. Giger Museum. Giger was responsible for much of the design work in the film Alien, and this museum is a showcase of his work. Aside from the castle and museum there is a lovely square with plenty of small shops and cafes to wander around. You really get the feeling that the town of Gruyères has been left relatively untouched by time which is a rare and special thing. It’s a magical place that should be on the itinerary of anybody visiting Switzerland.
Want to know more?
If you’re interested in reading more about Switzerland you can visit my blog Flights. Camera. Satisfaction. If you’d like to read more about Gruyère you’ll find some useful links below.