A most memorable part of my recent visit to Switzerland was the time spent in and around Gruyères. In a lot of ways, the area was an ideal stomping grounds for me. Offering access to amazing art, great regional food, plenty of scenic beauty and fresh mountain air – I wish I could have had more than just a couple of days there, and I’d jump at any opportunity to visit again.
Situated among the rolling mountains of Fribourg Region, Gruyères is home to a stonking grand castle and a quaint and tidy medieval village, vast untouched forests with large lakes and fresh water flowing everywhere, one of the world’s favourite cheeses and Switzerland’s best loved chocolate factory, and the creepiest art museum I’ve ever come across.
Of course, the world famous cheese, Gruyère, comes from here. I had fun touring La Maison du Gruyère, a working dairy that doubles as a demo centre where guests can learn about how the cheese is produced while watching it happen. lamaisondugruyere.ch
It’s not just the local cheese that makes Gruyères such a delectable destination though. The area is well known throughout Switzerland for its meringues (one bite into one and I realised with good reason!), as well as the Cailler chocolate factory in the nearby village of Broc. Caliller is the country’s oldest chocolate factory still in operation – not to mention the second most visited cultural attraction in the whole country. cailler.ch/en
A couple of restaurants wowed my palate and ensured snacking between meals was not necessary during my brief visit. Dinner at La Pinte des Mossettes, about an hour’s drive away from the village, proved to be one of the best meals I’ve had all year. Set in an Alpine chalet surrounded by forests, pastureland and stunning panoramas, I was hooked the minute I arrived at Le Pinte. Its focus on locally sourced ingredients and seasonal dishes with a contemporary fine dining take on traditional recipes yielded scrumptious results. pintedesmossettes.ch
I also loved my hearty fondue lunch at homey and humble Le Chalet de Gruyères located in the heart of Gruyères village. gruyeres-hotels.ch/index.php?page=chalet
A lot less appetising and bucolic but phenomenally captivating is the art on display at the HR Giger Museum, just round the corner from Le Chalet. The museum boasts the world’s biggest collection of art by Giger, the artist who designed the monster in the movie Alien (but has done way more stuff than just that). His work is incredibly well executed – especially considering how prolific he was over his 74 years of life.
Not for the squeamish (or the prudish), the museum offered a sharp contrast to the otherwise wholesome feel of Gruyères. Movie buffs of all stripes – especially horror, sci-fi and fantasy geeks — along with anyone interested in the fringes of popular art should adore the time spent browsing its galleries. Despite the gloomy subject matter, staff at the museum is friendly. Next door to the museum is the HR Giger Bar, an immersive Giger-esque bar and café serving drinks and light meals. hrgigermuseum.com
But the best thing about Gruyères was being outside. An afternoon forage in the forests of Charmey with local wild herbs expert Françoise Rayroud was an eye-opening delight. Getting a taste of her homemade mirtle sauvage was an absolute treat.
Read more about Switzerland in My (Mini) Grand Tour series of posts.