7 Things to do in a day in Gruyeres, Switzerland
Switzerland is one of the most picturesque countries in the world and the region of Gruyère is no exception. Located just over an hour away from Montreux, Gruyère is in French Switzerland and it’s famous for, you guessed it… gruyère cheese!
And while cheese is the big draw, there are other things you can see and do. Like most of Switzerland it’s great for hiking, offers scenic views and a charming cobblestone town to explore.
Gruyère has great outdoor summer activities but I got unlucky with my visit and experienced a day of heavy rain. To my surprise, I still had a packed schedule because there’s so much to do indoors too! So, here’s a helpful travel guide and itinerary with 7 thing to do in Gruyère for a day.
GO IF YOU LIKE:
Cheese | Green Rolling Hills | Medieval Architecture | Chocolate | Hiking
Witness Alpine Cheese Making in Moléson-sur-Gruyères
I got to Gruyères early in the morning to catch the cheese production which typically happens around 10am in most places. From the Gruyères train station I took a bus up to the village of Moléson-sur-Gruyères where I got to witness traditional, alpine cheesemaking.
The demonstration started at 10am and lasted about 45 minutes. We watched as the cheesemakers tested the curds for consistency and transferred them to the cheese moulds.
This took place in a small chalet and was one of my favourite experiences from the day. I loved the intimate atmosphere. I wrote an entire article about the alpine cheesemaking process including tips on how to plan a visit.
See modern cheesemaking at la Maison du Gruyère
A great juxtaposition from the intimate alpine chalet is the large-scale gruyere cheese factory - La Maison du Gruyère. The tour of this facility is self-guided. You’re given a headset in your chosen language and walked through the facilities with a narration by “Cerise”, a friendly Swiss cow.
The first part of the museum was interesting because it has different tubes containing local Swiss aromas. There were grasses, flowers and herbs - all scents which impact the flavour of the regional cheese.
Cows eat 100kg of fresh grass and drink over 85 liters of water a day. This allows them to produce roughly 25 liters of milk per day.
After the smelling tubes is the observation area. From here we can see the cheesemakers in action. I watched them sample curds for texture then date and compress the cheese in their moulds. The production follows these steps:
Step 1 - Heating of the Milk
The cows milk is heated to 32 degrees and natural yeast is added.
Step 2 - Coagulation, Pressurization and Cutting
The mixture is pressurized to create coagulation. Once the curds develop, large knives cut them into grain sizes.
Step 3 - Curd Testing
Once the curds become flexible in texture, without breaking, the heat is increased to 57 degrees.
Step 4 - Pumping
The curds are then pumped from the large boiler into their moulds - this only takes about 4 minutes.
The excess liquid (whey) collects under the moulds and is eventually turned into cheese called “Sérac”. The additional leftovers are given to the pigs.
Each copper boiler contains roughly 4,800 litters and this produces about 12 wheels of 35 kg each.
Step 5 - Identification and Marking
The cheesemaker marks the cheese moulds with a date and location stamp.
Step 6 - Closing of the Moulds
Pressure is applied to the moulds. The initial pressure is 300kg and over the next 16 hours the cheeses are regularly flipped and up to 900kg of pressure is applied.
Step 7 - The Salt Baths
The following day the cheesemaker removes the cheese from the moulds and takes them to the salt baths. The cheese wheel is left for roughly 20 hours in the salt bath where they absorb about half of their salt flavours.
Step 8 - Preparation for Aging
The cheese wheel is carefully looked after in the cellar for a minimum of 3 months while it develops its rind.
Step 9 - The Aging Process
After 3 months of the aging process, the wheels are transferred to an aging cellar which maintains a humidity level of 90% and 15 degrees in temperature. The cheeses are constantly turned and rubbed with salt water. They will age anywhere from 5-18 months depending on the variety.
After the tour is complete there are 6, 8 and 10-month aged cheeses to sample. Each one gets progressively sharper and richer in flavour.
Opening Hours: All days of the week
June - September 9:00am-6:30pm and October - May 9:00am-6:00pm. Last admission is 30 minutes prior to closing.
Cheesemaking demonstration: 9:00am-11:00am and 12.30pm-2.30pm
Cost of Admission: CHF 7 for adults. Discounts for kids, students, seniors and families.
Walk the Cobblestone streets of Gruyères
The town of Gruyères is about a 10-minute walk from the train station. It follows a beautiful and easy footpath that overlooks the surrounding mountains.
In the town are little souvenir shops, restaurants and some museums. The tourism office is a great place to stop for information especially if you’re interested in hiking trails.
For foodies, it’s home to the Fondue Academy (where you can make your own gruyère fondue) and the Gruyères chocolaterie. It’s also where you can find the HR Giger Museum & Bar and the Gruyères Château (both of which are highlighted below).
A Little Terminology Lesson
La Gruyère: The region which is home to Bulle, Charmey, Broc, Jaun, Moléson-sur-Gruyères and Gruyères
Gruyères: A medieval town filled with museums, restaurants, a castle and charming cobblestone roads
Le Gruyère AOP: The delicious cheese. The AOP being the label for the cheese produced specifically in this region.
Explore The medieval Château de Gruyères
The Gruyères Castle sits at the top of the hill in the town of Gruyères. The entrance opens up into a large courtyard which acts as the start of the visit.
Wandering through the historic rooms one can see art collections, frescoes, stained-glass and my favourite - windows with scenic views of the countryside.
The castle was initially built in the 13th century by the Counts of Gruyères, a noble family of the region. It stayed with them until 1554 when it had to be sold because of financial difficulties facing the family.
It then passed to government officials, followed by another private family who had a love for art and finally it was purchased by the Canton Fribourg in 1938 who made open to the public.
Don’t forget to walk along the outside rampart which goes to the back of the château. The back has some beautiful French gardens and views of the surrounding town.
Opening Hours: All days of the week. It takes roughly 1 hour to visit.
April - October 9:00am-6:00pm and November - March 10:00am-5:00pm
Cost of Admission: CHF 12 for adults. Seniors and students are CHF 8. Kids between 6-15 are CHF 4 and under 6 are free. Family and group rates are available.
Enjoy a Fondue in the Town of Gruyères
One cannot go to Gruyère and not have cheese fondue. So that’s exactly what I did. I also tried the chalet soup, which was milk based with veggies, macaroni, croutons and gruyère cheese to top it off. It was good but fondue wins every time.
When ordering fondue it can come with bread, meats or potatoes. My favourite is the bread and I love pairing it with a side plate of acidic pickles.
I ate lunch at La Fleur de Lys which is also a hotel in the town. There are other restaurants but there are several restaurants in the town.
Experience A Strange world at the HR Giger Museum
OK, I’m going to start by saying I had no clue who HR Giger was before coming to Gruyères. I never saw the movie “Alien” and this was his claim to fame as an Academy Award winner for special effects.
Because he was Swiss there is a museum with all his work (including paintings, sculptures and set design) on display in the town. Across from the museum is a bar that looks like something out of a sci-fi movie (which is kind of the point).
While some of his work was lost on me, I did go with some Alien fans and they quite enjoyed the museum. So if you’re into Sci-Fi or are looking for a weird and uncharacteristically-Swiss thing to do then check it out.
Note that a lot of his art is macabre and highly-sexual so it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
All-You-Can Eat Cailler Chocolate
Outside of Gruyères, in the town of Broc, is la Maison Cailler - a Swiss chocolate factory and museum. As soon as I got off the train the smell of chocolate wafted over to me. It only got stronger as I walked towards the factory.
The Maison Cailler offers an interactive tour that takes you through the history of how chocolate came to Europe and became a Swiss delicacy. It also covers the story of the Cailler brand.
By “interactive” I mean you’re given a headset, set to your language, then ushered into different rooms where the story is told through music, lights and moving props. It was a fun way to tell the story, more engaging than reading panels or watching a video and I could see the kids in the group really liked it too.
After the tour you can touch raw ingredients like the cocoa beans and cocoa butter. You can also see the factory workers in action making chocolate. Then comes time for the best part - the sample room.
It’s everything you could dream of - a room with about 8 different flavours of Cailler chocolate and they’re all free to taste. I loved the milk, dark and white chocolate. Milk chocolate is a Swiss favourite and is often the first to sell out in the store.
Opening Hours: All days of the week except January 1 and December 25.
April - October 10:00am-6:00pm and November - March 10:00am-5:00pm. Last tickets sold an hour before closing.
Cost of Admission: CHF 15 for adults. CHF 12 for students, seniors and disabled. Free for children under 16. Group rates available.
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Itinerary for A Day in Gruyères
I planned to visit the region as a day trip from Montreux. This was my itinerary however I recommend not cramming in everything because it was rushed.
9:09am: Bus from Gruyères train station to Moléson-sur-Gruyères
10:37am: Bus back to Gruyères train station
10:45 am: Visit La Maison du Gruyère, head straight to the cheese demonstration then see the remaining parts of the museum and factory
11:30am: Walk up to the town of Gruyères
11:45am: Visit the HR Giger Museum and/or Castle of Gruyères (you could do both but it would be rushed so I recommend choosing one)
1:30pm: Grab lunch in the town of Gruyères
3:00pm: Take the train from Gruyères to Broc-Fabrique (change in Bulle) and visit the Maison Cailler chocolate factory
3:45pm: Do the group tour of Maison Cailler (see above to reserve tickets)
Itinerary Changes: If the weather was nice I would have enjoyed taking the funicular up to the summit of Moleson-sur-Gruyères then hiking back to Gruyères. This means I would have missed the early morning cheese demonstration at La Maison du Gruyères but I could have gone into town, maybe visited the castle, then headed back to La Maison du Gruyères for the afternoon demonstration.
Getting To Gruyères
By Train and Bus
The easiest way to get around Switzerland is by train and bus and Gruyère is no exception. The trains are rarely late and easy to understand. The key is to download the free “SBB mobile” app on your phone. If you can access data on your phone then you’ll save yourself transportation headaches.
Within the app you can select your start and end destinations, input all your information (including if you’ve got the half-fare card) then purchase your tickets before you go. The best part is if you miss that specific train it won’t matter because your purchase is valid for that route for 24 hours.
The app also outlines the route so you can follow your journey and not stress about missing your stop. It also shows which cars and platform areas are first and second class so you are prepared to board the train at the correct place. Seriously, an incredible app.
Where to stay in Gruyères
Since I did a day trip from Montreux I didn’t spend the night at any hotels in Gruyères. Here are some highly-rated accommodation should you choose to spend the night, they’re all similar in budget:
Charming rooms and a central location.
It gets great reviews for its beautiful room views overlooking the surrounding countryside.
A no-frills hotel that gets good reviews on location and overall comfort. It's located right above a restaurant so you can enjoy fondue with ease.
Gruyères Photography TIPS
There is no photography allowed in the HR Giger Museum (I was allowed since I was working with Gruyères tourism)
In the Château de Gruyères you must carry your backpack around the front of your body. This makes shooting a bit cumbersome but not impossible.
The alpine cheesemaking demonstration is very dark and smokey. Read my photography tips for shooting this location.
La Maison du Gruyères is a tough place to shoot. The demonstration and cheese cave are all behind glass so you’ll be battling glare and dirty windows.
If you’re hiking, consider grabbing my favourite camera accessory - the Peak Design camera clip. It allows me to hike and attach my camera to my bag without any hassle.
My visits in Gruyère were provided complimentary from Tourism Gruyère. All thoughts and opinions are my own.