Gruyeres is a small medieval town in the Freiburg canton, and perhaps one of my favorite towns in all of Switzerland.
It is best known for the namesake cheese that originates here, as well as a couple other unique sights that you would perhaps not expect in a quaint, historic Swiss town. Gruyeres is one of a very few places in Switzerland to have a bar designed by Hans Ruedi Giger, and it’s the only place in the country to boast an entire museum dedicated to the works of this rather “out there” Swiss artist.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re planning to visit this medieval Swiss town anytime soon, our guide to the best things to do in Gruyeres is perfect for you!
Now, this is not going to take you long. However, before you get side-tracked and jump into the Giga Museum or the Gruyeres Castle, I recommend you just take a walk around the town, and even head down to the town walls.
The town is actually a tiny village, consisting of really only two streets. The main street you see above, and a small side street that leads to the church and walls below the castle. It should only take you 15 minutes to half and hour and is well worth just soaking up the atmosphere of this insanely well maintained medieval town!
Standing proudly atop a hill overlooking the namesake town, the Gruyere Castle is one of the oldest buildings in this region. It is the best known attraction in this part of Switzerland – whether you’re into spectacular panoramic views or artefacts from the Middle Ages, you’ll see something of interest here!
The 13th century castle is a heritage site that holds national significance and it is easily the first spot you should visit in Gruyeres. The rooms inside the castle are very well preserved and look absolutely amazing. And even if you don’t want to go inside – which you definitely should – you can spend hours roaming around the castle grounds, admiring the spectacular views from the castle walls and enjoying the beautiful gardens.
Inside the ornate castle rooms you will stumble upon various art exhibits. From the stained glass windows that date all the way back to the Middle Ages, to famous landscape paintings by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot – the Gruyere Castle is full of interesting sights.
Hans Ruedi Giger was a famous Swiss artist best known for his work on the Alien movie. He was part of the special effects team that won an Oscar for their work on the sci-fi horror film. The significance of Giger is best seen in the fact that even people who are not fans of sci-fi or horror films are acquainted with the legendary Alien.
The HR Giger Museum is just a quick stroll away from the famous Gruyere Castle. The exhibits inside predominantly focus on the artist’s work on the Alien movie, with sculptures and paintings that are familiar to everyone. It’s absolutely incredible seeing them in person – you get to admire all those little details up close. Even avid fans of the movies will probably notice some details for the first time!
In case you’re not familiar with Giger’s work, you might want to prepare yourself. The exhibits are quite morbid and gruesome, and they just get worse if you make it over to the Giger bar next door.
The Giger Bar in Gruyeres is one of three such bars in Switzerland that were designed by the famous artists. It is not open late – the bar closes at six, so it’s best to make your way there earlier in the day for the best experience.
When you step inside the Giger bar, you will really feel like you’ve come to a different planet. The chairs, tables, ceiling, windows, walls and everything else in the bar is inspired by the artist’s work on the Alien and Dune movies, and it all looks incredibly strange.
A lot of the ornaments resemble human bones and one wall is lined with sculptures of sleeping or dead babies. It is very intriguing and it’s definitely not a place for people with weak stomachs. But they do have great bears and amazing hot chocolates, and it’s definitely worth it to pop in just for the drinks!
Gruyere cheese gets its name from this charming town and it’s definitely on the menu when it comes to things worth exploring in Gruyeres. One of your first stops should be the Cheese Factory, where you can see and taste everything related to the process of manufacturing the tasty goodness.
You can tour the actual factory where the cheese is manufactured and see massive pots full of melted Gruyere cheese – no, you can’t go for a dive in them. We checked. What you can do is taste a few different cheeses and we’d highly recommend you try the fondue. Switzerland is known for having some of the best cheeses in the world, and nobody does fondue quite like the Swiss.
Pro tip: if you want to see the actual process of making the cheese, you should head to the factory early in the morning
There’s also a shop on the premises where you can buy virtually any cheese your heart desires, as well as lots of other foods and drinks that go really well with them.
Gruyeres has just one proper chocolate shop, and it’s the best place in the town to hit if you’re having chocolate cravings. The shop sells artisan chocolate that is quite pricey but absolutely delicious. I still have a block from my recent visit in the fridge, and I am trying not to devour it in one swoop!
Also, it’s worth noting that you are visiting a proper chocolatier, and not just a shop that sells mass-produced items. You can even sign up for a workshop that teaches you how to make your own chocolate. It is definitely worth it if you are a sweet tooth – you get to learn a lot about the history of the chocolate and you taste everything, from the raw cacao seeds to the delicious finished product.
If you visit in the summer you can even try some of their tasty homemade ice creams! It’s also important to note that they make the best hot chocolate you can find in the area, and they have bottled chocolate stout – absolutely a must-try for beer connoisseurs.
The Tibet Museum is a very unique place in Gruyeres. It is the only museum of its kind in the country and as such it’s definitely a must visit for anyone who is travelling to Gruyeres. The museum boasts one of the largest collections of Buddhist art in the world, which is absolutely incredible considering how small the actual museum is.
From the first time you enter you feel like you’ve stepped into a different world. It’s is very peaceful and quiet inside, and it’s so easy to enjoy the serene atmosphere.
The exhibits in the museum include more than 350 pieces of art that date between the 6th and 18th century. These include ritual objects, sculptures, and paintings from various Himalayan countries. A lot of the works of art in the museum are religious in nature, either representing the deities or qualities of devotion.
What’s even more fascinating is that this tiny museum is actually housed in the former chapel of Saint Joseph, hence the frescos and the stained glass.
It is necessary to make a reservation before you visit, because of the museum’s small capacity. It’s also important to note that the working hours vary depending on the season, so be sure to check how long it’s open for visits before you book your visit.
We’ve mentioned that Gruyeres is all about the cheese – well, that even includes a hiking trail that takes through the entire town and all the way up to a cheese haven on the Moleson. The trail itself is moderately difficult and it’s best for people that are already familiar with half-day hikes. It takes about four hours to cover the entire trail with a total ascent of a little over 700 meters, so definitely prepare yourself adequately.
The trailhead is near the Cheese Factory in town and it takes you all the way to the Alpine Cheese Dairy on the mountain and then back to the town. The place is absolutely amazing – if you didn’t have time to try the local cheeses before, this is an excellent opportunity. You can see how the cheese is made, taste some delicious fondue and other local cheeses and even spend some time with the cows that make all this possible.
The views from here are just spectacular so be sure to bring your camera. Also, there is a shop where you can buy some of the cheeses you loved the most, as well as a few other souvenirs. Just bear in mind that you have to hike all the way back into town with everything you bought, so don’t go too crazy on the quantities.
One of the best places to see a chocolate factory is in Broc at the Maison Callier. There is actually a full trip here on a train, called the Chocolate Train, from Montreux, that is otherwise worth considering. However, if you are already in the area, drop by for an hour or two and see what Callier has to offer.
They offer an approximately one hour tour of their Chocolate museum, that shows you the unique history of chocolate, gives you a look inside the everyday operation of the factory, as well as giving you a chance to sample the goodies at the end!
Gorges of the Jogne is a nature preserve in Broc, Switzerland, just up the road from the Maison Callier! It offers an easy hike, well worth exploring. The village of Broc is actually just outside of Gruyeres, and quite literally a 15-minute drive to the nature preserve. It’s actually only about an hour from Gruyeres on foot, so you could even hike all the way from the town if you are here on public transport.
The trail follows the gorge of the river and offers spectacular views along the way. You can see waterfalls, walk through a forest and even pass through a few rock tunnels. The longer version of the hike takes you all the way to the dam on Lake Montsalvens – it’s absolutely worth it to put in the effort because the views from the dam are breathtaking. We hit the hike after a big day of rain, so you can see in the image above the river was unusually brown. Normally it’s quite stunningly blue (or so we are told :>).
It’s about two hours from Gruyeres to the lake, so it’s not a ridiculously difficult hike. And you get to pass through Broc along the way; definitely make time to visit Maison Cailler, which happens to be the largest chocolate factory in the area. You might also enjoy a short visit to Electrobroc – a museum dedicated to electricity and our use of it.
If you’re looking for a relaxing hike to Moleson, I suggest you go back to the Cheese Hike – this particular one is suitable for experienced hikers and Alpinists who are looking for a proper challenge.
The Via Ferrata that leads to the top has K4 and K5 ratings, meaning that it is only for people who have significant climbing experience. It features overhanging sections and the total ascent is well over 1300 meters, so you’re in for a thrilling adventure! This Alpine via ferrata is across the North wall so it is mostly shaded except in the afternoon hours.
The starting point of the hike is a bit more complicated to reach than you’d think. Remember the village you reach on the Cheese Hike? There’s a funicular there that takes you to Plan-Francey. From there you descent a bit into the saddle and then continue to climb diagonally until you get to the wire ropes at the foot of the North Wall. That’s a good place to start, but it’s technically not the official start of the via ferrata – that would be at the base of the vertical wall, even higher up.
The views from the top of the summit are spectacular, and they make the climb completely worth it. It’s a very fun experience that you will certainly enjoy if you love climbing, and the best part is that it is perfectly safe. And there’s a cable car that can take you down the mountain, if you’re not up for descending an extra hour.
Another easier option, although still quite a hike, is the walk up to the top of Moleson from the funicular car park. We did this on quite a cloudy day, so missed the view from the summit, but the views on the way up the hike and from the funicular going down were still worth it.
Gruyeres boasts a recreation center that’s perfect for everyone who is looking to have some fun. They offer a wide range of activities that include canyoning, rafting, paragliding, pendulum jumping, helicopter rides and more. If you want that adrenaline rush, this is the place in Gruyeres to find it.
The recreation center is actually in the town next to Gruyeres (Le Paquier), but it’s just a ten minute train ride from Gruyeres’ main station. The actual recreation center is across the street from Le Paquier’s train station.
It’s also worth noting that this entire area also boasts a big football field as well as a children’s playground. If you’re looking to spend a day out in the nature with your little ones, it’s definitely not a bad idea to make this trip.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.