Switzerland, the land of cheese and chocolate, offers groups a cornucopia of foodie tours—with peeks into how favorite foods are made
Those plump cows grazing in idyllic Alpine pastures create more than just the postcard-perfect scenes that give Switzerland its pristine image. Their milk, delivered fresh to food-processing plants, is an important ingredient in many of the country’s signature edibles—from candy to cookies to cheese.
A Culinary Tour of Switzerland
Groups traveling in Switzerland for foodie tours have a wide choice of factories and production areas where they can see how foods are made. This includes some world-renowned brands that have been around for generations. These manufacturing facilities are prime tourist attractions for authentic culinary experiences.
Besides behind-the-scenes glimpses of what goes into making cheese, chocolate and other favorite comestibles, visitors come away with insights into the company’s culture. Through museum exhibits, demonstrations and hands-on activities, visitors ascertain food history. And let’s not forget the taste samples, which can be quite generous. Almost everyone loves chocolate, and Swiss chocolate is second to none. Milk or dark, studded with nuts, filled with liqueur—chocolate is the ultimate happy food. Whether in the form of a praline, truffle or bar, chocolate can cure just about anything. The Maya and Aztecs believed the cocoa bean to be the food of the gods; beans were so precious they were used as currency.
Maison Cailler Provides the Full Foodie Experience
Heavenly aromas of chocolate greet visitors to Maison Cailler, the interactive museum of Cailler. Maison Cailler is a Nestle firm based in the village of Broc in the La Gruyère region. Founded in 1819 by Francois-Louis Cailler, Switzerland’s oldest chocolate brand has been made in the historic Broc factory since 1898.
Maison Cailler’s exhibition is a self-guided experience employing audio headsets for an educational time. The experience reveals the secrets behind chocolate making, provides a live look at a mini production line and includes lots of sampling. Cailler is the only Swiss chocolate manufacturer using condensed milk instead of powdered milk. As a result, the formula gives its product a rich milky flavor and smooth, melt-in-the-mouth texture.
Milk comes from nearby farms in the Fribourg Alps. Here, cows spend spring through autumn in mountain meadows and winters in fields around Broc. The milk is so fresh that chocolate connoisseurs can tell the difference between summer and winter milk.
Workshops at Cailler’s Atelier du Chocolat let visitors design their own chocolate creations to take home. Cafe Cailler serves its famous hot chocolate and tempting desserts crafted by the chocolatiers. The boutique also sells the entire range of Cailler products.
All Aboard at the Aeschbach Chocolatier
At Aeschbach Chocolatier in Root-Lucerne, a 10-minute train trip from Lucerne, groups on guided factory tours get to watch the artisans up-close. Afterwards, guests can explore the ChocoWelt (ChocoWorld) exhibition, with tastings included. The ChocoStudio offers novice confectioners a chance to decorate their own pralines. The third-generation family business also has a ChocoStore and ChocoCafe.
At Lucerne’s Swiss Museum of Transport, a 20-minute ride called the Swiss Chocolate Adventure features a multimedia show explaining the origins and production of chocolate. Delectable Lindt chocolates are served after the ride.
Northwestern Switzerland and Camille Bloch
In northwestern Switzerland, Camille Bloch is a third-generation enterprise famed for its Ragusa and Torino brands. They welcome groups to the visitor center across the road from its factory in Courtelary. The self-guided Discovery World experience includes films, demonstrations and samples. Groups can book a chocolate-making workshop with a master chocolatier, and chocolate treats can be enjoyed at the Bistrot.
Chocolarium at Maestrani’s in Eastern Switzerland
In the eastern Switzerland town of Flawil, about 20 minutes west of St. Gallen, the Chocolarium at Maestrani’s chocolate factory offers tours. In addition, tastings and hands-on kitchen fun are encouraged. (A visit to Maestrani’s could be combined with a tour of nearby Appenzeller Show Dairy, known for its spicy, herb-flavored cheeses.)
Lindt Home of Chocolate
Lindt Home of Chocolate, a newer attraction in Kilchberg, opened in September of 2020. Located at the Lindt & Sprüngli factory, it features museum exhibits and an audio-guided multimedia experience that follows the process from bean to bar. Enjoy a pralines tasting room and a show production facility that demonstrates Lindt’s latest manufacturing technologies.
In the world’s largest Lindt chocolate shop, watch as a master confectioner puts finishing touches on freshly produced pralines, bars and other delicacies. Guests can indulge in Lindt drinking chocolate at the Lindt Chocolate Cafe and gaze at the striking chocolate fountain soaring nearly 30 feet tall. Chocolate-making courses let guests make their own creations. Kilchberg is about 20 minutes south of Zurich.
Authentic Le Gruyère Cheese of Switzerland
World-famous Le Gruyère AOP, ideal for sauces and fondue, takes its name from the French-speaking region from which it comes. La Maison du Gruyère is a modern show dairy at the foot of the castle-topped town of Gruyères. It tells the story of this rich, creamy, strongly flavored cheese, which has been produced in the Fribourg Alps since at least the 12th century.
AOP stands for “appellation d’origine Protégée,” or “protected designation of origin.” This means the product complies with stringent specifications for processing that’s awarded to high-quality Swiss specialties. They must also have a strong link to their region of origin. Each wheel (up to 48 made daily) is marked with the notation “Gruyère AOP” to assure its authenticity.
On the self-guided tour through the interactive exhibition at La Maison du Gruyère, headphone-wearing visitors learn—from videos and commentary by Cerise the friendly cow—all the ins and outs of cheese production. Gaze through gallery windows to see the cheesemakers at work.
1) The raw milk (unpasteurized milk) from black-and-white Fribourg cows is delivered by 36 farmers twice a day to the dairy (actually located in the village of Pringy).
2) After the cheese is pressed into a mould, the wheel is plunged into a salt bath and aged in a cellar containing 7,000 other wheels. A tour highlight is tasting Gruyère at three different stages of ripening—six, eight and 10 months.
Cheese Dairy Trail
The Le Gruyère region’s Cheese Dairy Trail (Le Sentier des Fromageries) passes by cow-dotted pastures and shingle-roofed Alpine chalets. This is where cheese is made the old-fashioned way – in wood-fired cauldrons. The hike from the modern show dairy in Pringy to Moleson takes about two hours. Include a fondue meal at an 18th century chalet in Moleson. Groups also can enjoy fondue and other cheese dishes at traditional eateries in Gruyères and at La Maison’s restaurant. For a light-as-air dessert, try a regional treat—crisp, doughy meringue topped with double cream.
Explore the Alpine Cheese Trail in Engelberg
In the Engelberg countryside of central Switzerland, the Alpine Cheese Trail links eight mountain dairies on a hiking/biking route. The scenic adventure affords chances to chat with local farmers. Take a tour, buy cheese and perhaps have a meal featuring fondue or raclette. A Swiss specialty, raclette is melted cheese scrapings served with small potatoes and pickles. Doing the whole trail takes two or three days, but it can be done in sections, and cable car rides shorten the trip.
In the town of Engelberg, groups can arrange a tour or an artisan cheesemaking demonstration or class at Kloster Engelberg, the only Swiss monastery with a show dairy. They also can dine on fondue or raclette in the restaurant and shop for cheeses. Before leaving, grab some world-famous Engelberger Klosterglocke, a mild cheese pressed into the shape of a monastery bell.
Emmental Valley Treats
To Americans and many others around the world, the term Swiss cheese means the kind full of holes. Officially known as Emmentaler, the “King of Cheese” comes from the Emmental Valley in the heart of Alps. On a tour of Emmentaler Show Dairy in Affoltern im Emmental, groups can learn how the holes (or “eyes”) form during ripening.
Kambly Family Cookies
The Emmental Valley also is home to Switzerland’s most popular cookie brand—Kambly. The iconic Swiss family company was founded in 1910 and is run today by the fourth generation of the Kambly family. Kambly makes dozens of cookie varieties (many with chocolate) at its plant in Trubschachen, but the simple Bretzeli is the most famous. A thin disc made with fresh butter and eggs from Emmental farms and flour from the village mill, the Bretzeli is produced according to the same recipe that founder Oscar Kambly I borrowed from his grandmother.
Kambly Experience Visitor Center in Emmental Valley
The Kambly Experience visitor center offers a multimedia presentation and a show confectionery where visitors can watch master confectioners at work. The factory shop invites guests to sample as many of the 100 different cookie and cracker varieties as they want. Groups can book a baking class conducted by a master confectioner.
The Kambly Train offers easy and direct access from Bern and Lucerne to Trubschachen. The “Kambly Roundtrip” is a picturesque five-hour trip by train and boat that is covered by the Swiss Travel Pass.
Emmental Valley Combination Tour
The Emmental Valley tourism office markets a one-night package ideal for faith-based groups. Titled “Living History: On the Path of the Emmental Anabaptists,” the tour combines multiple intriguing aspects. The Kambly Experience and Emmentaler Show Dairy, along with visits to a farmhouse and castle are on the docket. The farmhouse was a hideout used centuries ago by Anabaptists and the castle is where members of the persecuted religious sect were imprisoned. Groups stay overnight at Sumiswald Castle, built in 1225 and now a modern B&B.
Cheese and Chocolate Tours with GoldenPass-MOB
Chocolate & Coffee Train
The GoldenPass-MOB line’s Chocolate Train, popular with groups, provides a day-long foodie adventure (May-October) indulges passions for cheese as well as chocolate. From Montreux, tour participants travel in first-class Belle Epoque carriages to Montbovon, enjoying coffee and chocolate bread en route. Then they are transferred by bus to La Maison du Gruyère, with time to explore the streets of medieval Gruyères, and La Maison Cailler. Return to Montreux by road in the late afternoon.
Cheese & Wine Train
The Cheese Train (Train du Fromage), another GoldenPass-MOB special from Montreux (or Zweisimmen), takes passengers to the Pays d’Enhaut area in the Lake Geneva region. Here, taste fondue and watch a demonstration of traditional cheese making over a wood fire at a rustic restaurant in Château d’Oex. Cheeses and regional wines are served on board, and the program includes a folklore or hot air balloon museum. The Cheese Train runs every Friday-Sunday between January and April.
Feldschlösschen Brewery in Rheinfelden
Beer aficionados can gain insight into Switzerland’s brewing industry in locations throughout the country. The country claims more breweries per capita than any other. Every fourth glass of beer drank in Switzerland is a Feldschlösschen brand of Feldschlösschen Brewery in Rheinfelden, a short drive east of Basel.
Tours of Feldschlösschen Brewery
Two-hour tours with beer tasting await groups at the nation’s largest brewery, which also brews other brands. The company boasts one of the world’s most beautiful brewhouses, a castellated 19th-century building containing 12 original copper tanks. Separate tours spotlight the brewery’s vintage car collection and stables. See the draft horses that pull beer wagons in parades and appear at other special events (reminiscent of the Budweiser Clydesdales in America).
Tours with Kirschstrasse for Fruit Brandies
For something with a higher alcoholic content, kirsch (or Kirschwasser) from the cherry-growing region of central Switzerland is worth investigating. The organization Kirschstrasse (translated “cherry schnapps street”) conducts tours, with tastings of the clear brandy, at the Arnold Dettling Kirschwasser Distillery in Brunnen. Another option: Make your own cherry schnapps at a farm in Arth with a distillery dating back to the 17th century. In Zug, tours of Etter Sons Distillery also reveal what goes into its kirsch and other fruit brandies.
Kirsch in Chocolates
Kirsch makes its way into some Swiss chocolates as well. It flavors Zug cherry cake (Zuger Kirschtorte), a specialty of Zug for nearly a century and a favorite delicacy throughout Switzerland. On a program organized by Zug’s tourism office, foodies watch the bakers at Confiserie Speck craft the “Queen of Tarts.” This is a torte with layers of hazelnut-almond meringue, sponge cake and butter cream—and a generous dousing of Zug kirsch. After the demonstration, they enjoy a piece with coffee or tea in Zug’s oldest tea room.
How appropriate that we conclude our discussion of Switzerland’s culinary landscape on a high note—with dessert.
For more information, visit MySwitzerland.com/Food.
By Randy Mink