If you go to Switzerland and don’t visit the Cailler chocolate factory in Broc or the cheese factory in La Maison du Gruyère in Gruyères, then for shame. Switzerland is the land of cheese and chocolate, so not indulging yourself in the essential commodities of this neutral country must be some kind of taboo. Not only that, but it’s a fabulous day trip because of the nice walking town in Broc, the beautiful train ride to Gruyères, the castle in the plains on top of a hill surrounded by a glorious medieval town, and famous fondue.
I highly recommend you go to the Cailler chocolate factory in Broc first because you’ll be pumped for Gruyère cheese later in Gruyères (this isn’t a typo, the village has an ‘s’ on the end, but its cheese partner doesn’t). I also recommend you tour Broc before going to the chocolate factory because you will be pooped out from all the free chocolate, and the train ride to Gruyères will give you time to digest.
Things you will need:
- Walking shoes
- 50-75 CHF (Swiss Francs)
- A bag (a purse won’t be enough. Bring a backpack to hold your things)
- Water bottle
- Charger for your phone or camera (you will take a lot of pictures)
Broc is a lovely, French-speaking town with many tiny shops and cafés to carouse as the Alps peak out behind almost every building. Even if you don’t want go in the shops, sight-see the area a bit because it will be a beautiful walk. It will also get you pumped for chocolate, which is a plus. It’s about a fifteen-minute walk from the main train station, so if you’ll be able to sight-see on the way as well.
When you walk into the factory, you will be bombarded by the sheer amount of chocolate in front of your eyes. To your left will be a window where you’ll get to watch a chocolatier teach his students the Cailler chocolate making ways if you arrive at the right time. After you buy you tour tickets, the employee will hand you an audio guide, which can be programmed in English, and open the door for you to enter the story-telling walkthrough chamber with semi-interactive educational tools. By that, I mean there will be magical sound effects with lights and moving objects that will keep your eyes distracted as a deep voice tells you the historical side of chocolate in a Willy Wonka-esque fashion. It’s semi-entertaining for college students, so young kids will definitely enjoy it.
After the walkthrough historical tour is when Hershey-partnered Cailler educates you with an audio guide on their entire chocolate process, including how they get cocoa beans from their (slave-induced) sources in West Africa, the process of de-shelling and grinding the cocoa beans and added nuts, testimonies from workers and CEOs, and information at the all-you-can-eat chocolate at the final stop of the tour where an employee identifies each chocolate and gives a little explanation. The employee can speak English, so there shouldn’t be as much of a language barrier besides miss-translation. Stuff the two types of free chocolate in your bag during the tour because you won’t be able to take any at the end back with you. Don’t even be concerned by the judgmental looks people will give you–stuff your bag!
Transportation to Gruyères
The bus ride from Broc to Gruyères is half an hour and will cost you approximately CHF 10 for a one-way ticket. You can buy it in the train station at the SBB automated ticket master.
At this point in the trip, you will be hungry for fondue. Luckily for you, La Maison du Gruyère has a restaurant attached to the factory where you can get local fondue made from Gruyère cheese. The tour is CHF 9 for adults and CHF 6 for students. However, the tour is only worth it if you go during the cheese-making process. If not, it’ll still be a weirdly fun audio tour with sexual innuendos the adults will definitely understand by Cherry the Cow. It is a bit boring for college students, but if you want to bring your kids, they should have fun with the interactive tour filled with scents, quiz games, and fun dialogue.
The Gruyères castle is about a twenty-minute hike right across from the cheese factory. If you go during warm weather, it’ll be about a ten-minute hike because there will be no snow. By that, I mean that hill is so steep, you will struggle putting one foot in front of the other without slipping and possibly falling to your death down the hill. That being said, you should go when it’s not snowing so you don’t die, but if you do, it’ll still be beautiful.
When you enter the gates, the medieval times will bombard your mind as the architecture, the roads, the statues, everything is from that era. If you have played Skyrim, seen it, heard of it, or watched someone else play it, then you will absolutely geek out throughout your stay there, especially when you get to the Gruyère castle. It costs CHF 8 to tour the castle, and it is completely worth it. You get to see cool art in a spiral staircase, indulge your inner medieval nerd, see the architecture of the castle, almost re-live the castle scene, and get a magnificent view of the town with the Alps in the background.
H.R. Geiger Bar
Afterward, you can chill out in the H.R. Geiger bar in the middle of the town. I didn’t tour the H.R. Geiger museum, but it’s a definite must from what the bartender told me if you enjoy the sci-fi era. The museum is the same price as the castle tour if you’re interested. The H.R. Geiger bar is possibly the coolest bar I have ever been in. The architecture is a creepy weird, and will make you feel uncomfortable if you aren’t used to creepiness, but if you are, 10/10 would go again. Everything in the bar is filled with bones of various kinds, like the bar, chairs, tables, ceiling, and walls. Sadly, the glasses weren’t skeleton-designed, but it is an awesome place to chill in. It’s pricey, probably because you’re paying for the architecture and the drink, so I would get a small beer or a hot chocolate to save some money.