Located on top of a hill in the Swiss canton of Fribourg, the medieval town of Gruyères is so pretty it could come straigth out of a fairy tale book. It is less than an hour’s drive from Bern. Therefore, it is a popular destination for daytrips and shorter stays in Switzerland. Without any doubt, walking around in the old town and exploring the 13th-century castle is a must do. And of course, a visit to Gruyères is not complete without going to the cheese factory at the foot of the hill.
Historical city center of Gruyères
The small city-center of Gruyères is car-free and has plenty of restaurants and souvenir shops. In summer months, alphorn blowers are playing music at the charming market square, making it the perfect lunch spot. Just keep in mind that it can be busy in high season and that restaurants are quite expensive, even for Swiss standards. We’ve spent about 60 CHF (around 60 euros), just to have a quick lunch.
Three different types of museums
Although Gruyères is just a tiny little town, there is a lot to see and do. There are three totally different museums located within the city walls. Fans of fantasy and science fiction can indulge themselves in the HR Giger Museum and the accompanying café. The museum exhibits the works of the Swiss artist Giger, who is best known for his work for the film Alien. Something completely different is the Tibet Museum, exhibiting one of the largest collections of Buddhist art in the world. However, if you’re mainly interested in regional culture and history, you definitely should visit Gruyères Castle. We decided to only visit the castle, as we were just spending one afternoon in Gruyères and we didn’t want to rush.
Perched high up in the old town of Gruyères, the 13th-century castle is a majestic reminiscent of the past. It was the property of the Counts of Gruyères for a long time, until Count Michel got bankrupt and had to leave the castle. Afterwards, Fribourg took possession of his lands and settled the bailiffs in the castle. The bailiffs were responsible for managing the region’s finances and for collecting taxes. In the 19th century, the castle eventually was put up for sale. The Bovy brothers restored the castle and used it as summer residence.
Today, Gruyères castle is furnished as a museum, exposing some unique collections from different eras. Visiting Gruyères castle is like taking a trip back in time. One of the first rooms you will enter is the medieval kitchen, where little daylight comes in. On the upper floors, however, rooms are turned into bright, colorful saloons. The large castle windows are offering visitors a beautiful view of the castle garden and the surrounding landscape.
Gruyères is particularly known for its cheese, of course. ‘Le Gruyère AOP’ is a traditional Swiss cheese, made of raw cow’s milk. The AOP label is a quality product certification mark, referring to the Protected Designation of Origin.
If you would like to learn more about the production process, you should definitely go to the cheese factory at the foot of the hill – ‘La maison du Gruyère’. An interactive exhibition was set up there to introduce visitors to the secrets of Le Gruyère AOP with all of their senses. Just imagine – you can smell the alpine fragrance, while listening to interesting facts by using the audioguide. If you plan your visit in the morning, the production process is live going on. You can extend your visit by going to the restaurant and shop, where you can find a wide range of regional specialties.