Discover Gruyère — Part 2: The Town

© swiss / christoph sonderegger

A trip to the Gruyère region and visit to the show dairy La Maison de Gruyère (see the companion post, “Discover Gruyère — Part 1: The Cheese“) would not be complete without a visit to the medieval town of Gruyères. Perched on a hilltop, the charming little town, with its picturesque architecture, is completely car free. So whether you arrive by train or by car, you will either have to walk up the winding road to the town (about 15 minutes) or you can take a trackless little train from the train station to the town’s entrance (there is plenty of parking near the train station). Its idyllic location allows for beautiful views of the nearby Alps, the rolling hills and pastures, as well as of the Saane river and valley below. A gentle stroll along the central road (Rue du Bourg), which is lined with shops, cafés, and restaurants, will lead you to a castle that towers above the medieval town, the Château de Gruyères. In addition to the castle, museum, galleries, and 800 years of history, the town is especially well know for its gastronomy, with a plethora of restaurants highlighting regional specialties. To download a PDF in English of a guide to the town with all of the important sites, click on

Château de Gruyères (Gruyères Castle)

Gruyères Castle, which has been standing proudly atop a verdant hill since the 13th century, is today a museum depicting 800 years of regional architecture, history, and culture. Surrounded by the magnificent panorama of the Alpine foothills, the medieval fortress has been home first to the counts who built it, then to the bailiffs of Fribourg, and finally the Bovy and Balland families from Geneva, before opening its doors to the public in 1938. Today, the castle houses prestigious collections that bear witness to its long and rich history. Its treasures include the capes of the Order of the Golden Fleece, intricate stained-glass windows dating from the Middle Ages, frescoes commissioned by the bailiffs under the Ancien Régime, paintings by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, and the troubadour decorations of the Knights’ Hall, created at Gruyères in the 19th century by a colony of passionate artists. From its ramparts to its French-style gardens, from the guardroom to the romantic salons, Gruyères Castle takes you on an adventure through eight centuries of art, history, and legends. Visitors can also discover the history of Gruyères Castle through the story of Chalamala, entertainer of the counts. There is a new augmented reality audio guide that allows you to explore the nooks and crannies of the counts’ residence and discover the castle as you have never seen it before. Available in French, English, and German, you can download the app on Apple Store or Google Play for free. A complete visit to the castle should take about 1–1.5 hour.

The castle is open daily from 9:00–18:00 from April to October, and 10:00–17:00 from November to March.

Entrance costs CHF 12 for adults, CHF 8 for students, and CHF 4 for kids ages 6–15 (kids under 6 are free). Families of 2 adults and 3 children up to age 16 pay only CHF 25. You can combine your trip to the castle with a visit the show dairy (La Maison du Gruyère) for CHF 16, or with a visit to the Giger museum for CHF 19.

Museum HR Giger

The museum dedicated to Swiss-born artist H. R. Giger is located in the nearby small castle, Château St. Germain, also in the town of Gruyères. Giger’s most famous book, “Necronomicon,” which was published in 1977, served as the visual inspiration for director Ridley Scott’s film “Alien.” The movie was Giger’s first high-profile film assignment, which earned him the 1980 Oscar for Best Achievement in Visual Effects for his designs of the film’s title character, including all the stages of its lifecycle, plus the film’s extraterrestrial environments. Giger’s other well-known film works include his designs for “Poltergeist II,” “Alien 3,” and “Species,” as well as the legendary but never produced film by Alejandro Jodorowsky, “Dune.” The HR Giger Museum, which opened its doors in June of 1998, is the permanent home to many of the artist’s most prominent works, including the largest collection of Giger’s paintings, sculptures, furniture, and film designs, dating from the early 1960s to the present day. In addition, the top floor of the four-level building complex houses prime examples of Giger’s vast private art collection, which includes works by Salvador Dali, Ernst Fuchs, Dado, Bruno Weber, Günther Brus, Claude Sandoz, François Burland, Friedrich Kuhn, Joe Coleman, Sibylle Ruppert, Andre Lassen, as well as works by many other of the artist’s accomplished contemporaries. Located in the adjoining wing of the museum complex, above the HR Giger Bar, is the HR Giger Museum Gallery where Giger exhibits the work of other artists on a regular basis.

From April to October, the museum is open daily from 10:00-18:00 (18:30 on weekends); from November to March, it is open Tuesday to Friday from 13:00-17:00 and weekends from 10:00-18:00.