It stands to reason that our first day trip in Switzerland brings to mind melty, gooey, rich, fragrant cheese. All the cheese. Give me the cheese.
I was worried that, given its famous name and easy access from Geneva that Gruyères was going to be, well…cheesy. I envisioned scads of tourists and tacky signs and kitschy gift shops.
Instead, it’s a beautiful medieval town perched atop a hill, with a stunning alpine backdrop and a chill feel. It definitely helped that we were visiting at the end of March before tourist season really cranked up, but overall I found myself pleasantly surprised and totally charmed by Gruyères.
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Once we got our bearings, we decided to take a walk around the outer edge of the town and the castle. Because of the town’s height, you can see forever on a clear day. While its history appears to date back way further from archaeological remains they’ve found (like BCE-type stuff), what you can see there now dates back to the Middle Ages.
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Château de Gruyères dates back to the 13th century and is very well preserved (it’s a national historic site). You can actually enter the castle for a fee (I believe 10 Swiss francs), but we decided we’d rather just peek inside and be on our way.
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The views from the entrance are gorgeous, and the little entry plaza area is stark and beautiful and quirky…it has these little more modern artistic elements and the Whomping Willow-like trees that are common to the Lake Geneva area. The combined effect is odd and compelling.
This is possibly the most stereotypically-Swiss picture that exists. Also Sound of Music-y.
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After getting our fill of the view, we wandered back down into the village. The mixture of different little decorative elements on the buildings were so cute!
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Finally, our tummies were telling us that it was time to try some of the famous Gruyères fondue! We headed into Auberge de la Halle, which our hosts had visited before. They sat us at the window and we ordered our cheesy goodness (and I ordered a glass of wine because…cheese and wine).
The region’s famed Moitié-Moitié fondue is made using two cheeses—Le Gruyère and Vacherin Fribourgeois. And wine of course. Interestingly, they only give you boiled potatoes to eat it with. I judge you, Swiss people!
All the delicious things in the world you can dip in melty cheese, and you use 100% boiled potatoes?? We dipped our bread in there too, but I definitely found the lack of variety puzzling.
Finally, stuffed to the gills with delicious cheese, we moseyed back up to the mouth of the town and down the hill to the car, ready to head to the famous Cailler chocolate factory for dessert.
How to visit Gruyères, Switzerland
- It’s an easy day trip (or even half-day trip) from Geneva (see other great day trip ideas). A car is recommended, but you can also take the Chocolate Train, which includes stops at both Gruyeres and the Cailler chocolate factory.
- Things to do include walking around the town, visiting the castle (you can take the tour inside too), eating the famous fondue, visiting the odd Giger museum (all about aliens and Buddhist stuff), and during strawberry season there’s some lovely strawberries and cream on offer
- There’s a parking lot down the hill before you reach the town, and you’ll have to walk up from there—no cars are allowed in the medieval town itself
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