I’ve been living in Zermatt from 2010 until 2016 – that is until my boyfriend decided he wants to move back to where he is from. You probably know Zermatt, Toblerone mountain – all mighty Matterhorn? Yes. Moving to Gruyère? Damn. Let me tell you. It was actually one of the best decisions in my life. So I followed him.
If you’re flying from, well, wherever, the best flight destination would be Geneva which is about 1,5 hour drive from Gruyère. That is if you rent a car. If you want to take a train (trains are quite expensive here in Switzerland as you’ve probably already read) – take a train from the airport to the capital of La Gruyère region – Bulle. 2 hours and 48 Swiss francs later you will reach your destination. From Bulle to go to Gruyères or any other villages the easiest option is to take a train or a bus or sometimes even better a walk.
What to do?
La Gruyère is not a huge region but with enormous possibilities. A bit of everything for everyone.
FOR SPORT FANATICS
Hiking and via ferrata
Hiking is a big thing in Switzerland. That’s not a revelation. Hiking in Gruyère is for everyone. If you’re looking for an easy and stunning hike you should walk from Gruyères (breathtaking medieval village) to Broc and then through the Gorges of the Jogne up to Montsalvens lake where you will find yourself next to a dam. If you still feel fit enough – continue your walk with ‘Tour du Lac’ up to the village of Charmey. Have a drink, walk around and just breath in the mountain air.
As is goes for easy hikes you can also walk next to the river Sarine (starting in Broc for example), stop in Grandvillard in restaurant Pic Vert which also has a huge playground for the little ones and then continue your hike. Easy, direction: straight all the time.
Lake of Gruyère offers a minimum 15 km hike almost all the time along the lake shore. If you’re motivated enough you can hike along the lake for about 45 km.
For more advanced hikers a must do is a hike around mighty Swiss Dolomites – Gastlosen. No question about that. If you’ve been in the region and haven’t visited Gastlosen then, well your fault.
Dent de Broc is another mountain to summit but be cautious. Looks easy, surprise: it’s not. View of lake of Gruyère and surrounding mountains guaranteed to make your day.
Moléson – a mountain that rises just above Gruyères village. There’s a funicular which might make your life easier if you don’t feel like sweating too much but still want to enjoy the view from the summit. Via ferrata is also to be found on the mountain so if you’re a cable climb lover – go for it. It’s quite demanding but there’s also a route for less experienced bunch. After that feeling all tired and maybe you took your kids with you – well, there’s a little fun park for the kids with karting etc.
Lakes, rivers…For water lovers there’s enough to do in the region as well. Head up to Corbières, rent a kayak or a stand up paddle and take a day on the lake of Gruyères. Don’t forget to visit Ogoz Island with its ruins and restored chapel.
Heard of canyoning and rafting? There’s few companies that offer excursions like this.
Charmey, Jaun, Grandvillard and some other villages can be your starting point of once in a lifetime flying experience. If you’re not scared of heights – it’s a must do. Taking a look on the region from another perspective. Bird perspective you could say. Bucket list material.
In Neirivue you can go trout fishing without any special licence. Easy and tasty as that.
FOR CHOCOLATE AND CHEESE LOVERS
Gruyère? Yes, cheese! In the village of Pringy there’s a cheese factory that is open for tourists. Remember to go early since then you will be able to see all the process of cheese making. Check with tourist office in Charmey- they do organize hikes to ‘chalet d’alpage’ where cheese is being made ‘oldschool’ style.
Broc? Heard of it? Probably not. Cailler? You know the chocolate? Well, there’s a chocolate factory in Broc worth visiting as well. The tour takes you through the whole history of how the factory started and then you can admire the step by step production. What is the best thing? You can try chocolate at the end of the tour! Yummy. Nothing for people on a diet.
VILLAGES AND TOWNS
Bulle- the capital of the region. If you’re interested in the local history, tradition and art then visit Musée gruérien. Take a walk around Grand Rue- do some shopping, sit on one of the terraces and have a look at the castle. Every Thursday there’s a market on the Market Square.
Gruyères- this one is just a must visit when you’re here. Stunning medieval village on the hill with a castle and a romantique atmosphere. What makes it even more interesting is a Giger museum. You’ve seen the movie ‘Alien’? Giger is a man who is behind it. A true artist with a bit of a twisted vision. Next to the museum have a drink in Giger bar. You won’t forget it for sure.
Charmey – a little village next to the lake that is just nice to walk around. Have a bite, go to the thermal baths if it’s raining or you just feel like you need it.
I love food, I love eating, I love everything. Gruyère has some specialities not to be missed when here.
Bénichon is one of the traditions that is still much alive here. It used to be more of a religious tradition when people said their ‘merci’ to the God for what has been harvested during the year. Now you eat, drink and dance! Traditional Bénichon menu might give you a big cholesterol rash, but it’s amazingly delicious.
The menu changes a bit depending on the place, restaurant, village. When here check where you can go to celebrate it and let yourself loose for one day. You can always start your diet next Monday.
Other dishes that you should try while here: soupe de chalet (soup with wild mountain herbs, milk, potatoes, macaroni, double cream and Gruyère), macaroni de chalet (macaroni with onions, double cream and once again cheese – all that goodness on one plate), fondue (no brainer. Honestly where is the best place to eat fondue in Switzerland? Would be Gruyère, where this amazing cheese is produced. Go for a fondue vacherin if you’re not scared of a bit of a stronger taste).
Restaurants worth eating in:
– Auberge du Chamois in Botterens: this place made me a snail lover. Must eat when there. Otherwise, everything they’re serving is always delicious. From different cuts of meat to more traditional regional cuisine.
– La Couronne in Sâles: bistro with a very high standard, serving seasonal local food. Attention to detail of presentation and the taste make it one of the best restaurants in the region.
– Le Gruyérien in Morlon : just next to Bulle in the village of Morlon you will find this little gem. As the restaurants I wrote about before it serves local, seasonal food. The owner who is helping during service and greeting the guests is just a little plus.
– Hotel zur Hochmatt in Im Fang: on the way to Jaun where you will find the Gastlosen there’s a little village with this restaurant. Specializes in charbonnade (a huge grill that is put on your table, high quality beef and home-made sauces), trout and has a delicious cordon bleu. Every Sunday musicians gather and play accordion and some Swiss traditional instruments. A bit of a folk stop.
– Auberge de la Croix de Fer in Allieres – well, honestly, it seems like it’s the end of the world. Little village with a restaurant hidden between the mountains in a stunning valley. Local specialities with rosti etc made by a self taugh chef with an incredible palette.
–L’Abri des Marches in Broc – with its stunning terrace overlooking the castle of Gruyères is a must stop. Feel like having paella when in Switzerland? No worries, they have it (minimum 2 people and need to reserve in advance) and it was the best paella I’ve ever had. Even better than the one I had in Spain. They also have traditional Swiss dishes, steaks etc. Everything yummy.
–Fribourgeois in Bulle – this old bistro where food is being served by a bit elderly ladies is a hit. Traditional food, huge portions and the buzz all the time.
–Fleur de Lys in Bulle – love meat? That’s where you want to end up! Order rodizio – a Brasilian style all you can eat meat goodness. Top quality of meat, really nice service and tons of food…
–Le Baron in Charmey – a little restaurant with a charm and delicious regional specialities. They sometimes serve pork feet for a true conaisseur. Delicious cheese dishes and steak wrapped in bacon.
–La Pinte du Pralet Motélon – not that easy to find and a bit hidden but worth a trip. Simple, delicious Swiss food in a mountain surrounding .
During winter and summer (mostly in summer though) in the region there’s lots of ‘buvettes’ open which offer nice easy dishes that are perfect for ‘just after a hike and starving as hell’ kind of hunger. If you see one, stop by, they’re charming and yes, you won’t leave hungry.
I hope I sold La Gruyère region at least a bit. It is a place that stole my heart (even after living in Zermatt!). Tradition that is still alive here, green fields and majestic mountains. It offers much more than I have written about and there’s always something new to explore just around the corner. So do it, go out there and explore and I’m sure you will enjoy it.
P.S. When here don’t forget to check La Gruyère region website for info on what events are taking place.
Text: Agnieszka Wajs