Gruyères, voted as one of the “Best Tourism Villages” by the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) in 2021, is a cutesy medieval town in the Fribourg canton of Switzerland. It’s famous for its cheese bearing the same name. Being a massive cheese fan and looking for an easy day trip from my house sit in Switzerland, I knew I had to visit.
How Did Gruyeres Get Its Name
According to legend, Gruyères was founded in 400 BC by the Vandal King Gruerius. He spotted a crane flying across the crimson evening sky and decided he must build a town on that very spot like you do. The word for a crane in French is “Grue’. All makes perfect sense now. And this is also why the coat of arms of Gruyères has a crane on a red background.
Walk The Cobblestone Street Of Gruyeres
It’s a tiny town – it won’t take you very long to walk from one side to the other. The Main Street that runs from one side to the other is only 300 metres long. The medieval town is very much a tourist town, but it’s charming, especially on a sunny Wednesday afternoon in January surrounded by snow-capped mountains and very few visitors. Maybe in the height of the season with tour busses and crowds, I might think differently.
Fortunately, the town is pedestrian-only. So, if coming by car, parking is outside the town, followed by a short walk uphill. You will find plenty of restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops in the village.
Gruyeres Castle was built during the 13th century for the counts of Gruyère. Originally built as a fortified castle, it was later converted to a stately home during the 15th and 16th centuries. The counts of Gruyere ruled for many centuries, but financial difficulties during the 16th century led to the castle being signed over to the bailiffs of Fribourg and Bern.
In 1849, the wealthy Bovy brothers from Geneva bought the castle as a summer retreat and art space. It turns out renovating a castle is pretty expensive, so in 1938, the Canton of Fribourg bought back the castle and opened it as a museum.
I love wandering around castles, but it was so cold inside. I don’t think I could handle living in a place like this for very long.
The Severed Hand
Being attracted to all things macabre, my eyes were immediately drawn to the severed hand on display in Gruyeres Castle. I needed to know more.
All sorts of legends surround the severed hand. Could the hand have been brought back from the first crusade in 1099 as a talisman?
Or was the hand a token to celebrate winning the battle of La Tine in 1476?
In 1493, there was a terrible fire in the castle, and all that remained was the hand?
Maybe it belonged to a witch or a thief?
However, recent research from Bruno Kaufmann from the anthropology research institute in Aesch says that the hand had been subjected to the classic mummification treatment used by wealthy Egyptians up to the third century.
Mummified limbs were quite popular with museums and private collectors, and it’s believed the Bovy brothers who lived in the castle in the mid-1800s brought it. I think the legend explanations were better.
Walk The Ramparts
There’s just a tiny part of the medieval ramparts left. Located just by the entrance to the old town – you can’t miss them, especially if you are walking up from the train station. They were all covered in snow when I was there. Living in hot Malta, I find it quite exciting to come across snow.
HR Giger Museum
If you have seen any of the Alien movies, you will be familiar with Swiss artist HR Giger. He actually won an Oscar in 1980 for his visual effects for the movie Alien.
He has also designed album covers for Debbie Harry, Emerson Lake and Palmer and Korn.
Some of the exhibits in the museum are very sexual in nature – made me blush! So, visit with caution if you are easily shocked and don’t bring the kids.
Taking photographs of the exhibits is not allowed.
Just opposite the museum, there is now a gothic style museum bar by Giger. Alas, it wasn’t open when I was there.
Next door to the Giger Museum is the Tibet Museum. It has good reviews on trip advisor, but I didn’t go in because I plan to see Tibetan art on a trip to Tibet.
Can’t Come To Gruyeres And Not Have Fondu For Lunch
It was winter when I visited. It’s chilly, and the town of Gruyeres is famous for its cheese. This can only mean one thing – a fondu for lunch. I had a fabulous fondu at the Chalet Restaurant.
Chocolaterie de Gruyere
On the other end of town stood a delicious smelling chocolate shop but shocking for me, after that massive fondu lunch, I couldn’t imagine ever eating again. But I enjoyed a good sniff and grabbed a couple of bars for the journey home, just in case.
Learn How Gruyere Cheese Is Made At La Maison du Gruyere
Just opposite the train station is La Maison du Gruyere. So, if you are curious to know how the Gruyere cheese is made, this place is for you. There’s also an interactive exhibition. Headsets are provided, and you learn all about Gruyere cheeses from the point of view of Cherry the cow! Yes, it’s a bit cheesy – no pun intended.
Cheesemaking demonstrations are held in the morning, so best to visit before heading up the hill to the old town and pick up some cheesy nibbles.
Just In Case You Were Wondering – Gruyères Or Gruyère? La or Le?
Gruyères, spelt with the s, is the name of this lovely town which is home to about 100 hundred. Yes, it’s not very big.
La Gruyère is the name of the district that includes Bulle, Charmey, Gruyères and Moléson.
Le Gruyère AOP is the name of the famous cheese produced in our region.
How To Get To Gruyeres From Lausanne
For details on train schedules, check the SBB website. I usually book train tickets using the OMIO app. The journey is around one hour 15 minutes from Lausanne and involves changing trains in Paleziuex and Bulle, but this is Switzerland, and train connections work. The SBB website will let you know which platform you should be on.
Gruyères Station is located just a short walk from the old town centre. The village itself sits on a hill.
Gruyères old town is car-free. There are several car parks near the town. The journey time from Lausanne is around forty minutes. Check here for deals on rental cars in Switzerland.
There is an option of taking a bus from Paleziuex, but it’s going to add quite a bit of time to your journey, so not really an option, unless, of course, you really love long bus journeys.
Join A Tour
It’s also possible to take a tour from Lausanne.
Gruyeres makes a great and very easy to do day trip from Lausanne. Interested in knowing more about Lausanne, I have a more detailed post right here.
Are you interested in other day trips from Lausanne? I highly recommend visiting Chaplin’s World in Vevey. Vevey on Lake Geneva is just a 20-minute train journey from Lausanne or Montreux and visit the picturesque Chillon Castle.
Interested In Housesitting?
I was house-sitting for two gorgeous cats in Switzerland when I took this day trip to Gruyere. I usually use Trusted Housesitters to find my house sits and sitters for my dog when I travel. This link will give you a 25% discount off membership if you’re interested in becoming a house sitter.
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