Gruyeres, the most beautiful medieval town in Switzerland

Gruyeres, the most beautiful medieval town in Switzerland
Gruyeres, the most beautiful medieval town in Switzerland

In its pedestrian streets, houses with sturdy oak doors, fountains adorned by colorful petunias, and its pastel-colored dwellings, will excite you and stimulate you to learn more about Gruyères, one of the swiss towns more picturesque. The best way to get to know the town is to walk through its peaceful streets and see how the passage of time kept its appearance and essence unchanged.

Origins of the people

If something will attract the attention of the traveler, it is the air loaded with the history of this Swiss town and it is not for less, more than 2000 years of tradition that guarantees that presumption. Already in the Bronze Age it was inhabited, remains from 325 to 250 BC were found in Epagny, dating from the Hallstatt and La Tène era. On one of the hills, a Roman location from the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD was located.

Vestiges of a cemetery remain from the Middle Ages. The imposing castle of Gruyères at 830 meters high, bears a “crane” as a heraldic shield, from there derives Gruyéres, whose foundation is attributed to Gruerius. The first historical mention of the place dates back to 1138-1139 when it is named Grueri. From its construction little by little at its feet, the city developed.

Of course, a church could not be missing. In 1254 Count Rudolph III authorized one to be erected on the left bank of the Saane/Sarine River, giving rise to the Church of Saint Theodul. Under the altar of San Miguel, the successive counts of Gruyeres were buried. Only in 1397, based on the Moudon template, was there a copy of the oldest city (confirmed by Count Rudolph IV of Gruyères).

In 1431, the St. Moritz Chapel was built in the hospital. Nor could the warlike part be missing in the city’s long history. In the battle of Morat against the Duke of Burgundy “Charles the Bold” and with the backing of the “Swiss Confederation” on June 22, 1476, they defeated the Burgundians obtaining a series of trophies.

The end of the Gruyeres dynasty.

In the 16th century (the year 1554) the last count that inhabited the castle went bankrupt and the State of Freiburg bought it. From 1555 to 1798 it served to house the Friborg prefects and bailiffs. In 1612 a plague struck the region killing 140 people and, as was customary at the time, La Chapelle du Berceau was erected for protection. The first school dates from the 15th century and was aimed especially at children.

Listed for sale, the castle was purchased by the Bovy and Balland families in 1849 and restored. In 1938 the canton of Friborg bought it back and, since 1993, it has been managed by a foundation that is in charge of maintaining the collection and the building. Currently, it works as a museum, where you can appreciate the culture, history, architecture and eight hundred years of Swiss tradition.

How to get to Gruyeres

The closest cities to Gruyères are Zurich and Bern, therefore they are the most recommended. To get there you will have to combine train and bus in both cases.

Travel to Gruyères from Zurich: To get there from Zurich we will have to make a journey of almost 3 hours with various combinations in between. Starting from Zurich Central Station, take the Line 1 train (Zurich-Freiburg) with an approximate duration of 1 hour and a half. The frequency of these trains is 1 hour

Once we arrive in Freiburg we will have to take another train to Bulle. We can take any exit from lines 138-Y, 145-Y or 155-Y with the Freiburg-Bulle route. The duration of this trip is 40 minutes and they have departures every 30 minutes. Finally, when we arrive in Bulle, we will take a bus of lines 260 or 264 to Epagny (Bulle-Epagny with the terminal in Gruyères). This bus trip lasts 10 minutes and there are departures available every 30 minutes.

Travel to Gruyères from Bern: If we want to arrive from Bern, we will have almost 2 hours of travel and we will have to make a combination by train and bus. First, we must make the Berna-Bulle route from the Bern station, with line 145-Y. This trip lasts approximately 1 hour and the train departures are every one hour. Once we have arrived in Bulle, we must board a bus on lines 260 or 264 (Bulle-Epagny with the terminal in Gruyères), to make a short 10-minute journey that takes us to Gruyères. The frequency of these buses is one hour.

Where can you stay?

There are various accommodation possibilities in Gruyères, from a typical chalet to luxury hotels. One of the best located is the Au Soleil de Gruyères chez Chantal, which is just 80 meters from the castle and has mountain views. Nearby you have campsites for camping with tents, caravans, and motorhomes.

View accommodation options in Gruyères

What to see in Gruyères

If we visit the surroundings of this medieval town we can practice countless activities that have to do with: historical and cultural, physical, culinary, recreational, relaxing activities, water sports and everything that can stimulate your curiosity.

Historical and cultural attractions

Gruyéres Castle

This imposing building from the 13th century is truly impressive and is one of the most famous castles in Switzerland. It is located more than 800 meters high and you can see its impressive structure from far away. Its compact towers, its mighty walls and its captivating gardens will amaze us just by seeing them from the outside. From there you will dominate the entire medieval city and have a privileged view of the region.

Louis II de Grueyeres erected it in 1493 in the typical Italian style and treasures eight centuries of history. You will see beds with beautiful wood carvings, wooden chests, paintings by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and even “Hand of Egypt” (a somewhat strange mummification). Although it is not an exceptional castle, the panoramic views seen from its large windows are. If the day favors you, you can walk along the path that surrounds it and oxygenate yourself in the green meadows that surround it.

Tibet Museum

Located in the Chapel of San José and managed by the Alain Bordier Foundation, the Museum of Tibet houses more than three hundred objects from the 6th and 7th centuries. Paintings, silks, sculptures and elements for Buddhist rituals make up a remarkable collection based on meditation and Zen doctrine. You will be able to observe the perfect harmony between the Catholic religion and the exceptional beauty of the Himalayan art with its Buddhist and Tibetan traditions.

Upon entering you will receive an instruction manual explaining what the exhibited objects mean: a copper “stupa” or “stupa” represents the speech, mind and body of “Buddha” and all the enlightened ones and helps the union of nations and the universal peace. Interestingly, in a wonderful comparison, a fresco depicts the image of Milarepa (a Tibetan monk) who loved birds and Saint Francis of Assisi talking to birds. The museum is housed in a chapel from the late 19th century, and is a great cultural attraction that you can see in Switzerland.

HR Giger Museum

In the center of the pretty town of Gruyères, in the castle of St-Germain, you will find the most important and largest collection of HR Giger. But who was Hans Rudolf Giger?

In 1979 Ridley Scott hired him to design an extraterrestrial being: Alien. This surrealist artist marked a milestone in the representation of terrifying images. He was a painter, draftsman and knew how to represent the worst and lowest feelings of the human mind. Winner of an Oscar for its visual effects, in the museum you will see paintings, sculptures, movie sets and furniture created in the fantastic world of Giger.

Already known for his eccentricity, he bought the Château Saint-Germain and in 1998 he installed his museum. You will be fascinated if you understand Giger’s strange thoughts and extravagance, or you will flee in awe of the horror of his characters. In front of the museum you will find a bar with the walls, ceilings, chairs and accessories designed by this talented and extravagant artist, it is the “Giger Bar”. When you see the Alien statue on your way, you are well on your way, you are heading to the museum.

Church Saint-Théodule

Turning onto Rue de l’Eglise we will see the bell tower of the church of St. Théodule. From there we can contemplate the beautiful landscape and rest from the maelstrom of the city center of Gruyères. This church was built in the 13th century (1254) and destroyed twice by fires (1679 and 1856).

In 1860 it was fully restored and consecrated according to ecclesiastical tradition. Located next to the Castle of Gruyères, the sobriety of its façade is striking. Already inside we see that it consists of two lateral naves and a main one, in it we will admire the stained glass windows made by a great craftsman from Freiburg, we refer to Émile Aebischer (Yoki).

Recreational activities in Gruyères

The lake of the Gruyère (Lac de la Gruyère)

Photo: Pierre Schwaller

In 1948 between the cities of Friborg and Bulle the Rossens dam was built, giving rise to the lake that ranks second in size in Switzerland. The containment dam is 83 meters high and 320 meters long and the lake’s water mirror reaches 10 square kilometers, with a length of 13.5 kilometers, which makes it the longest in the country.

In the center of the lake, on a small island (Vers les Tours), you can see the remains of an old castle with the ruins of a chapel. The flooded area was the seat of the city of Pont-en-Ogoz until the 15th century, leaving only the ruins of the islet visible. In addition to the natural beauty of the place, it is a must for lovers of water sports. You will see rowers of all kinds, canoes, kayaks, canoes and boats of all kinds, even stand-up paddle boarding has been put into practice.

It is ideal for children of all ages and there are different companies that take care of boat rentals and guides for excursions. If you wish, you can walk over the dam, and after traveling the 320 meters of its length. In addition, you will find the Pont-la-Ville golf course from where you will have an impressive view of the Pre-Alps and the lake. If you continue walking you will arrive at the port of La Roche to rest from the walk. The average time to enjoy the lake is 2 to 4 hours and it is one of the best things to do in Gruyères.

Cailler Chocolate Factory

This prestigious factory was founded by Monsieur François-Louis Cailler in 1818, which qualifies it as the oldest existing chocolate factory in the world. His creativity and dedication mean that, after buying other factories, Cailler gradually forged the image and prestige that he still holds. Now retired the founder, his son-in-law Daniel Peter in 1875 created milk chocolate and in 1890 he developed praline.

In 1898 Alexandre Cailler opened the factory in Broc that is still producing today. During the crisis of 29, it was associated with the largest food factory in the world Nestlé (created by the apothecary Heinrich Nestlé in 1839). We will be able to know the origin of chocolate, how the Aztecs used it for offering in sacrifices and as a means of payment, and also how it entered through the Spanish conquerors to Europe.

What will we see in the factory?

Through the different rooms you will be able to see the manufacturing process and the little “secrets” to achieve the perfect aroma and texture of chocolate. You have a room where you can savor all types of chocolate and the walk ends in the store, where you will surely buy industrial quantities of chocolate. Cailler, in addition to his own, has registered trademarks Frigor, Lindt and Tobler. It is a perfect place to visit in Switzerland, if you are a lover of chocolates.

  • The visit in groups of 10 or 12 people, lasts approximately 20 minutes and includes Spanish-speaking guides.
  • The entrance fee is 12 CHF for seniors.
  • Children under 16 years old do not pay, but must be accompanied by an adult.
  • It can be visited from 10 am to 4 pm from November to March and from 10 am to 5 pm from April to October all year round except Christmas and New Years.

Moléson village

We can reach this beautiful and charming town, located 3.8 km above the level of Gruyères by boarding a bus and, in a few minutes, we will be in Moléson-sur-Gruyères. Upon arrival we will go up to a comfortable and modern funicular that will take us to the top of a spectacular Swiss mountain.

We will ascend from 1100 meters to 1500 meters in just five minutes, but we wish the time were much longer because a world of beautiful landscapes of the Swiss Pre-Alps will open before our eyes. With green meadows, countless fir trees, cows grazing peacefully and a postcard-blue sky. The biggest attraction that the place offers is that we can develop recreational activities both in summer and winter.

Summer activities in Moleson

During the summer season in the Moléson we will be able to do, among others: “summer place”, taxiing on grass, participate in the “Alpine Dairy Demonstration”, walk along a large number of trails, practice “via Ferrata” and finish on the platform observational.

Moléson mountain cheese factory:

Every day during the summer at 10:00 am in a beautiful chalet from the year 1636, the demonstration begins. There we will see how the varieties of traditional cheeses from that alpine area are made. Twice a day using wood stoves, at 1,132 meters above sea level you will see the centuries-old technique that made Swiss cheeses famous.

To get there, just follow the signs that indicate how to do it. While you arrive you will enjoy a long walk along the slope of the mountain, but at the same time you will be making an unforgettable route through Switzerland and its corners.

The via Ferrata:

If you are looking for hiking trails in Switzerland it is a great option, but in addition, this sport will also serve to stimulate your adrenaline. It is that walking on the void (on rock steps) at 400 meters high will cause you a sensation that cannot be described in words. Although you will be provided with the most modern security elements (fixed steel cable with a hook to a harness), nothing and nobody will be able to erase the emotion of doing so.

  • You must weigh more than 40 kilos and less than 100 kilos and be at least 1.50 meters tall to perform this activity.
  • If the weather is not good, the excursion cannot be made, and the elevator company will reject the rental of the equipment if the weather is unfavorable.
  • From June to October, every day from 09:00 to 18:00.
  • Equipment rental is until 3:00 p.m. and you must pay it back at the latest at 6:00 p.m.

In addition to having a myriad of bicycle and pedestrian paths, the most beautiful of destinations is the summit of Moléson. There you will find some wonderful terraces that will allow you to see all your surroundings at 360 °, making out all the magnitude of the landscapes of the Swiss Alps, the fields and the towns of the place. It also has a refuge and a mini astronomical observatory and, of course, a restaurant.

Winter activities in Moléson

The largest area of ​​Freiburg for skiing is the Moléson, it has 35 kilometers of slopes and 8 ski lifts. Its tracks are of medium complexity, being suitable for beginners. It is ideal for families.

La Maison du Gruyère

Gruyère cheese gave Switzerland the privilege of being “the cheese capital of the world”. Next to the railway station is the cheese factory. Through headphones they will tell you step by step the manufacturing process. In the factory you will see how the cheesemakers give it shape, they will tell you the history of these Swiss cheeses and the techniques for their elaboration. There you can buy meringues, clotted cream and regional gifts in a specialized store.

Curiosities of Gruyères

Gruyères is not just cheese

In this charming town in Switzerland you will find in addition to its famous cheeses: gruyere, vacherín and emmenthal (later you will know something about this cheese) you will see the variety of Holstein cows whose milk is ideal for local cheese production, a multitude of fir trees, cherry trees, hams cured meats, sausages, their local dessert: chestnut paste with meringue and whipped cream and a wide variety of local dishes. We cannot fail to mention the fondue and double cream, which are delicacies of Swiss gastronomy.

The Gruyère cheese that is not Gruyère

Gruyère cheese is not the classic that we are presented with in the drawings. The authentic one does not have holes, the pasta is light yellow, compact, crass and its rind is hard. Its weight is 25 to 40 kilos, its diameter is 55 to 65 centimeters and its height is 9.5 to 12 centimeters. Usually what is shown is actually Emmenthal cheese (It bears that name because it comes from the valley of the river Emme).

It is made in the same way as Gruyère, only the fermentation process is different. Their lasts weigh between 75 and 120 kilos, reach a diameter of 80 to 100 centimeters and a height of 10 to 13 centimeters. It is the cheese with the characteristic holes that can be the size of a cherry. Emmental AOC, is the authentic Swiss cheese of the holes.

The chapel that is not a chapel

La Chapelle à Calvaire (The Calvary Chapel) was built in the 16th century. At first glance it looks like a small church, but it was never used for that purpose. It was a fire brigade, a salt and grain deposit and a guardhouse. Today it is an art gallery. If you want to visit this curious place in Gruyères, it is located at Rue du Château 2, 1663 Gruyères, Switzerland.

After having enjoyed your walk through the city of Gruyères, having enjoyed the beauty of its landscapes, the pleasure of having tasted its chocolates, its cheeses and its typical dishes. After practicing all the sports you can imagine and knowing the wonderful history of a dream place, you will know that Gruyeres … is not just a cheese

Written by Editorial Staff

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