Swiss chocolate travel to Gruyeres

No other country lives and breathes chocolate like Switzerland. The Swiss are among the highest consumers of chocolate in the world, consuming an average of 9.1 kilograms (more than 20 pounds) of chocolate per person each year. That equates to about 200 small chocolate bars per person, giving the Swiss the top spot for chocolate consumption in the world, according to a recent story by CNN.

So it is no surprise that this magnificent alpine country lured me back to discover what is new in Swiss chocolate and what kind of Swiss chocolate travel experiences I could add to volume II of Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate Adventures.

swiss-chocolate

Switzerland is filled with cows of all colours! They are revered with a special status of love. After all, without their milk, there would be no Swiss Chocolate!

exploring Gruyères, Switzerland

It had been seven years since my last visit to Switzerland. That first Chocolatour to discover the world of Swiss chocolate in 2009 had primarily taken me to Zurich where I visited a few chocolate shops and a couple of large factories where excellent commercial grade swiss chocolate is made. But the 2016 Chocolatour was comprised exclusively of unique chocolate experiences discovered in the small cities and villages of Gruyères, Broc, Montreux, Vevey, Lucerne, Root, and Weggis. What a delicious journey that turned out to be!

gruyeres-switzerland

Gruyeres, Switzerland, is a magical place to transpose yourself back to the 12th century of continental Europe.

I arrived in Zurich by air, but my real journey began in Gruyères, just a three-hour train ride from the big city to a tiny village in Western Switzerland, truly a world away. Gruyères is a medieval walled village best known for its namesake cheese that forms the basis of most cheese fondues. We toured La Maison du Gruyère–the local cheese factory situated in the modern part of Gruyères–and it was interesting to see how Gruyère AOP cheese was made, formed into large rounds, and aged up to 10 months. It is also interesting to note the name of the village has an “s” on the end of it; the name of the district of La Gruyère and its namesake cheese do not.

gruyere-cheese

These rounds of Gruyere AOP cheese will be aged to three different types. The mildest Gruyere is aged to six months. The medium strength Gruyere is aged to eight months, and the strongest flavoured Gruyere is matured to an age of 10 months. It’s all delicious–especially melted in a cheese fondue.

The French Gardens at the Chateau de Gruyeres reminded me of the beautiful French Gardens at the Louvre in Paris.

The French Gardens at the Chateau de Gruyeres (also called the Castle of Gruyeres) reminded me of the beautiful French Gardens at the Louvre in Paris.

gruyeres-switzerland

Gruyeres, Switzerland, is a wonderful place to be swept back in time. There are just over 2,000 residents of Gruyeres, but far less than that actually live within the old village.

It’s marvellous how the Swiss have managed to preserve the historic part of the village while incorporating a thriving economy of small inns, restaurants, galleries, shops, and one fantastic chocolate maker all inside the historic wall. I stayed just outside the wall at the Hotel Gruyeres and loved it. Here is just one of the amazing views from my room.

hotel-gruyeres

My charming little room at the Hotel Gruyeres had a small balcony that offered me great views of the valley and the chateau.

Thanks to AlpenWild Swiss travel specialists and Swiss Tourism for making this trip possible.

Please join me back here next week for more about the evolution of Swiss chocolate. It’s not just milk anymore!

 

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

95 Responses

  1. Donna Janke
    Twitter:
    says:

    Gruyère looks very charming. I’d love to see how the cheese is made.

  2. Esther
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    says:

    Wow, with stats like you quoted, I would agree that the Swiss certainly do love their chocolate! How I do love the view of the town of Gruyère.

  3. Tuhin
    Twitter:
    says:

    Thanks for improving my general knowledge. I never knew chocolates are so famous in Switzerland. The view from your room is enchanting. I love hills and would have been in trance to get such a view from the balcony.

  4. Catarina says:

    Switzerland is wonderful when it comes to chocolate and Gruyère. Imagine how much my sister, brother and I loved what we were able to eat when we spent a lot of time there as children.

  5. Linda Paul
    Twitter:
    says:

    I do like Swiss Chocolate. But I like Belgian chocolate even better. Not sure why. Love this post. You really captured the feel of a small European village.

    • Thx so much, Linda. When I get a compliment from you, it really hits home, as I love your writing as well. 🙂

      Regarding the primary difference between Swiss-made and Belgian-made chocolate. My understanding is that the primary difference is that most Swiss companies mix a milk powder in to the cocoa to create their famously smooth milk chocolate. And most Belgian chocolatiers mix cream into their couverture to create their ultra-creamy chocolate. Both are definitely delish.

  6. Wow, love all the facts at the start! I’m hoping to visit Switzerland next year but to be honest, I’ve done zero research so far. Would you recommend the tour company you mentioned? Going to look at their website!

  7. Michele Peterson
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    says:

    I think I should have been born in Switzerland – I could easily enjoy 20 pounds of chocolate annually! Gruyeres looks like a fascinating place and quite heavenly with all that delicious cheese

  8. We often think of Swiss, and German chocolate. It does make me question why? Countries that must import the raw product, are known for producing a finished product? And literately half way across the world from where it originated.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi William. You are absolutely right! I mentioned in a previous post about how chocolate made in destinations away from where the cocoa is grown should really be referred to as Belgian-made chocolate and Swiss-made or Swiss-style chocolate. Technically, those are the correct terms, and it is only in the countries that the cocoa is grown that we can call it Peruvian chocolate or Ecuadorian chocolate. But then if a country is making chocolate using Peruvian cocoa beans but they are based in another country (such as the US), the correct way to refer to it would be ‘American-made chocolate using Peruvian beans.’ It can get pretty technical!
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…Swiss chocolate travel to GruyeresMy Profile

  9. Phoenicia
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    says:

    What beautiful views. I am sure the air was fresh.

    I did not know Switzerland were big consumers in chocolate. I do recall travelling to Austria (absolutely beautiful country) with girl guides and seeing the selection of chocolates.

  10. noel says:

    It’s been too long since I visited Switzerland, but I have never been to this beautiful city or toured some of its most delicious sites. Those would definitely be two of my favorites foods I would eat daily when I go back!

  11. Denis Gagnon
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    says:

    What a wonderful trip it must have been to travel to Switzerland and visit towns like Gruyeres. We lived for a few years across the border in Besancon, which makes the French “equivalent” of Gruyeres cheese called Comte, so I very much enjoyed reading your posting. Thank you.

  12. Jeri
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    says:

    As with the parts of Switzerland I’ve seen, Gruyere looks a pretty as a postcard. That the Swiss consume 20 pounds of chocolate a year is indeed impressive. Where do Americans fall on that spectrum?

  13. Ken Dowell
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    says:

    I’m reading this post right before dinner. And I’m thinking how great it would be to have an all-fondue dinner. Gruyere cheese for the main course and Gruyere chocolate for dessert.

  14. Sabrina Quairoli
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    says:

    I love gruyere cheese. I make fondue almost every new years eve. The swiss has it right, cheese and chocolate go well together. Now I am going to have to buy some gruyere this week. =) Beautiful pictures too. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Beverly says:

    What marvellous photos! I love the one of the old city with people leisurely strolling by as they pass the time. Oh yes, the one of you hugging the red cow is pretty unforgettable also.

  16. lenie
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    says:

    I must say your quest for the world’s best chocolate does take you to some amazing places. I’m not a traveler but looking at your photos I wish I was. I think it would be fabulous to spend some time in Gruyere – wouldn’t it be great to have a chocolate fondue made with Swiss Chocolate and Gruyere Cheese?

    • Hi Lenie: I’ve had chocolates made with Blue cheese and Goats’s milk cheese. I’ve had chocolate paired with some cheeses and particularly like the aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese paired with a dark chocolate flavoured with the essence of orange. But nowhere have I ever had Gruyere in the same mouthful as chocolate. I’ll have to investigate that! Thx for the idea!

  17. Gruyères–a medieval walled village with cheese and chocolate–I’m sold!

    • I know what you mean, Carole. There wasn’t anything about Gruyeres that I didn’t like! It’s truly an incredible destination for those of us who like tantalizing places off the beaten path that feature noteworthy food and culture.

  18. Alessandra says:

    You just wrote about my biggest passion of all: chocolate! Thank you for sharing such a lovely post which made me want to pack my bags and visit this beautiful place 🙂

  19. Carol Colborn says:

    What an experience you had. A visit to Gruyeres looks like a great little side trip, especially for a chocaholic like me!

  20. Susan cooper
    Twitter:
    says:

    Wow that is a beautiful garden. What a great picture. Swiss chocolate is fabulous. How fun to travel from village to village trying all the wonderful chocolate and Gruyères cheese. Sounds like a fun time.

  21. Another wonderful adventure Doreen. I’ve only been as far as Zurich and the surrounding countryside but would love to return and explore the country more. Gruyère looks like a perfect place to start. Thank you for these beautiful glimpses into the world. 🙂

    • You’re most welcome, Marty. Zurich and surrounding area is definitely lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed my Chocolatour of Switzerland back in 2009. But this trip was leaps and bounds better due to the magical settings in the villages. Wait till you see the posts on the Montreux Riviera and Lucerne!

  22. What a great trip. You’re so fortunate to be doing what you love — seeing great countries and eating the best chocolates. I envy you. Gruyere is one of my very favorite cheeses. I’d love to sample them in Switzerland — if I ever get there.

  23. Chris
    Twitter:
    says:

    200 chocolate bars per person!

    That’s ridiculous.

    …true, I could probably top that volume with cheese though! 🙂

  24. Amazingly, I managed to visit Switzerland earlier this year without trying the chocolate! On the other hand, I did manage quite a lot of cheese (Gruyere is one of my favourites…)

  25. Erica says:

    Well of course whenever I think of chocolate, I think of Switzerland. Though I now know from your blog that Switzerland isn’t the only place in the world for fine chocolate. I know someone who moved last year with her husband to Switzerland. I haven’t asked her yet if she eats a lot of chocolate, or for that matter Gruyere.

    • Interesting, Erica. I think I could very happily live in Switzerland. Do you recall where your friend moved to? I would love if you’d refer her to my site, as I will be having a series of posts about the different places I visited while in Switzerland and would welcome some comments from people who actually live there.

      • Erica says:

        Doreen, I’m not exactly sure where she lives as she was more of a work acquaintance. I’m sure I knew when she moved, but I guess I forget now. I do have some email correspondence with her currently so I’ll pass along your blog to her.

  26. Emily
    Twitter:
    says:

    Wow, what a view to wake up to! You would feel so refreshed and free there!

    Emily | http://emilytrinh.com

  27. As if beautiful scenery and chocolate weren’t enough enticement to return to Switzerland, you have to show me Gruyere? What a gorgeous looking place. Love the idea of visiting where one of my favorite cheeses hails from.

  28. Cheese and chocolate! I’m signing on! Would love to return to Switzerland~

  29. Mar Pages
    Twitter:
    says:

    ah the land of my favorite cheese which I haven’t made it to. The village looks so fairy tale-like , thanks for sharing it, this really convinced me to go, not just for the cheese!

  30. Sushmita
    Twitter:
    says:

    A lovely experience you had! Will definitely be looking ahead to know more about the evolution of the swiss chocolate. Cheese & Chocolate things I love a lot.

  31. Vanessa
    Twitter:
    says:

    It sounds like you had an awesome time! I would love to visit Switzerland! It looks beautiful AND I’m addicted to chocolate so it sounds like a match made in heaven to me

  32. Gruyeres is such a beautiful small ancient town. I love chocolate but even more the Gruyeres cheese which is luckily also traveling all over the world!

  33. As such good makers of chocolate, it’s little wonder the Swiss are some of the biggest consumers of chocolate! Interesting to hear Gruyeres is known for more than just its cheese :-).

  34. Michele
    Twitter:
    says:

    What a beautiful village it is always nice to discover special places that have retained a bit of their magic. I had always just known it for it’s cheese next time I am in the area will definitely check out the chocolate.

  35. I have my chocoholic husband wondering how many pounds of chocolate he consumes a year. 🙂 I would love to taste the Gruyere cheese as much as the chocolate! The gardens at the Chateau de Gruyeres look so beautiful. Lots of reasons to visit this area!

  36. Rachel Heller
    Twitter:
    says:

    Gruyeres looks absolutely lovely. I’d eat nothing but fondue and chocolate if I went there!

  37. I love the cobblestones and the medieval architecture. What a beautiful village.

  38. Sue Reddel
    Twitter:
    says:

    How interesting! I love Gruyere cheese and we often use it in mac and cheese and au gratin potatoes. The town of Gruyeres looks very quaint and worth a visit. Can’t wait to hear more about Swiss chocolate. I thought it was all milk chocolate…I’m anxious to learn more.

  39. Cathy Ries
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    says:

    It’s wonderful how often you’re visiting all these places in the sole name of chocolate!

  40. Suzanne Fluhr
    Twitter:
    says:

    Ahhh Switzerland. So lovely. I admit to doing my part to make the United States the country that by far consumes the most ice cream per capita of any country in the world. I’m not sure I could keep up with the Swiss and their chocolate consumption, but my traveling partner, Mr. Excitement, could certainly give them a run for their money. I buy gruyere cheese the one or two times per year that I make French onion soup, which happened to be 2 weeks ago and now you have made me want some right now.

    • Hi Suzanne. Great to welcome you back here on the blog. It’s been awhile . I’ve never used Gruyere cheese on my French Onion soup, but I will certainly do so next time I make it. I noticed our local grocery stores now carry a Swiss-made fondue kit. Am tempted to try it …

  41. Vyjay
    Twitter:
    says:

    Switzerland is definitely the land of chocolate. Gruyeres sounds so charming and beautiful. Switzerland never fails to surprise me with its beauty and charm, on my couple of visits to Switzerland, I have discovered so many relatively unknown gems, this is one which is new to me, hope to get there next time.

  42. A whole tour based around chocolate is my kind of travel! It’s fantastic that they’ve retained the classic village. It would be a shame to see a place like that gentrify!

    • So true, Kevin. Gruyeres has really done a fine job in preserving its special personality. There are some surprising inclusions such as a Buddhist Museum and an Alien Art Museum (wish I’d time to go into both!) But they have limited the number of permanent residents within the wall to 55 in an effort to retain the tranquility.

  43. Ami
    Twitter:
    says:

    I love Switzerland for its green surroundings and pristine lakes. And this is an absolute bonus…Swiss chocolate. Seems like a fun experience and a beautiful place too. Cheers
    Ami recently posted…Magic of Mount Kelimutu in Flores, IndonesiaMy Profile

  44. Mansi K.
    Twitter:
    says:

    Your posts always make me drool! Though I’ve had the chocolate train (from Montreal to Gruyeres) on my bucket list, I think I like your approach better. The slower the travel, the more time I have to savour chocolate. Drool!

    • Hi Mansi. Don’t you just hate auto-correct? They changed Montreux to Montreal. 🙂
      I had that problem all the way thru Switzerland when I was Instagramming. I did indeed take the train for part of my journey and we did see the “Chocolate Train” but I didn’t ride it. Cheers, and thanks for stopping by.

  45. Indrani
    Twitter:
    says:

    I have visited Switzerland twice and each time I have come back with loads of Swiss chocolates. 🙂 Felt so content. Besides modern cities like Zurich the country side too is worth visiting. I would want to visit again for that. 🙂
    Indrani recently posted…New Tata Hexa Different Drive Mode Experiences at HyderabadMy Profile

    • Hi Indrani. Yes, the countryside of Switzerland is so quaint and charming, with all the cattle farms along the way. We know that the milk they produce is what makes Swiss chocolate taste so very, very good! 🙂

  46. Alan
    Twitter:
    says:

    Wow what a great subject to base your travels around

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