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Switzerland’s cheese capital. Gruyères churns out an enormous amount of cheese for its small size. The small medieval town gives its name to Le Gruyère cheese and you can discover how it’s made at the local factory – with a cow narrating –  and sample it too of course. Afterwards you can visit the Château de Gruyères, or admire the views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. It’s charming and while the individual sites are all kind of average, the aggregate makes for a great day. French speaking.

Sites:

  • **Museum HR Giger (and the bar across the way): definitely not for everyone, but for Alien movie fans this is quite odd and interesting. Not very kid appropriate. The bar is a good substitute for the full experience.
  • (haven’t been) Tibetan Museum
  • **Château de Gruyères: the whole town is in the castle walls and feels quite “castley,” so it’s not strictly necessary to tour the castle itself. It’s a minor experience with great views and quaint local color.
  • **Maison du Gruyère: the “cheese museum”. A working factory plus interactive exhibit, narrated by a cow.

We usually have lunch at **Le Ramparts. **Hotel Fleur de Lys, directly across the street, has similar food and a slightly fancier setting, slower (but friendly) service. *Chalet de Gruyères has good ‘chalet’ vibes, but the menu is very limited (just fondue). **Auberge de la Halle has a broader menu than most, but call ahead for one of the limited tables with a view.

Not far from the town itself, there are many hiking options and the famous Cailler Museum.

  • **Maison Cailler Museum (“the chocolate museum”): This was a pleasant experience. It’s not worth a trip by itself, but close (by car) to Gruyere. Lots of samples, very sweet milk chocolate.
  • Le Sentier du Lac de la Gruyère (Route 261) is a nice 3-4 hour hike. There are a few steep parts, but the majority is a pleasant stroll around the lake. The route goes right by the chocolate museum, could be combined for a full half day. There are a few options for a snack or meal along the way:
    • Botterens, a goat cheese farm with picnic tables and a small grocery outfitted for picnicking with its delicious goat’s cheeses 
    • Also in Botterens, Restaurant du Chamois (just off the trail) looked like a classic Swiss family dining option.
    • **Goya Onda (https://goyaonda.ch), a very hippy-inspired “beach,” cafe, and hotel. My salad was very good. This isn’t the place I’d choose to swim – it’s more a fishing lake than a swimming one – but it does have the easiest access point on the lake.

Bulle

Bulle is “the bridge between Lausanne and Fribourg-Bern and the gateway to the Pre-Alps,” according to the local tourist office website. For most, it’s the not particularly pretty modern town you drive through to get to Gruyères – but if you’re in the area, take a little time to find the historic center: there’s a good museum, a lot of great architecture,  and I suspect a fairly vibrant dining scene.

This is a French-speaking town, but the historic houses are of the grand Swiss farmhouse style I associate with German Switzerland. Most date to around 1805, apparently – replacements after a major fire that destroyed nearly all of the town.

The **Musée gruérien is a well-above-average regional museum, with exhibits on village life and professions through the modern ages. There’s a large and impressive collection of cow bells and paintings of cows (at the farm, and on their way to and from the high pastures).

There’s an ancient historic walking path, *Le Sentier des Pauvres” (Path of the Poor) that’s decent – about two hours, missing some of the grand vistas of other hikes in the area, but a pleasant way to pass the time. Park at Moulin de la Trême and follow the signs. In the early 14th century, this path was used by poor people who walked once a week to the Carthusian monastery of La Part-Dieu to eat a plate of soup after Mass. Both the path and the monastery date back to 1307, the path having been used previously by the monks and oxen that went to the river in search of the rocks needed to build the monastery. This facility, for Carthusian trivia fans, was one of the central destinations for monks fleeing the ‘Grand Chartreuse,’ near Grenoble, during the French revolution. Today it can be rented for retreats, of secular or religious nature.

You’ll pass a small restaurant that looks popular, Buvette des Amis de la Chia, as well as the very small local ski hill – a single Poma lift.


Charmey

Charmey is about 6 miles up the Jaunpass from Gruyeres, and has lovely scenery and a large spa complex.

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