Switzerland: Chocolates and Cheese in the Alps
Zürich , Lucerne, Montreux
Zürich: 3 nights
Lucerne: 3 nights
Montreux: 3 nights
10 days Itinerary:
Switzerland is synonymous with chocolates and cheese. It is also a country of unparalleled natural beauty with its picturesque lakes and the breathtaking Alps. It is a favourite holiday destination of tourists across the world. The public transport system is excellent and being a small country, it is easy to reach different places within a few hours.
Switzerland makes some of the best chocolates and cheese in the world. These Swiss culinary delights are famous internationally for their high quality and varieties. Cheese was first made in Switzerland in the 15th century. Over the years, its popularity abroad has led to exports worth over 700 million US dollars.
Zürich is the largest city in Switzerland and a global center for banking and finance. The Old Town, located on either side of the Limmat river, is very picturesque. Medieval and Renaissance architecture as well as Lake Zürich make it a very attractive city. Zurich ranks amongst the top cities in the world in terms of quality of life.
Keeping Zürich as a base, it is easy to make day trips to the Lindt Chocolate and Appenzeller Cheese factories.
In September 2020, Lindt opened a new visitors’ centre in Kilchberg. It is called Lindt Home of Chocolate and it is very impressive. Inside the main entrance is the world’s tallest chocolate fountain (over 9 m high) which has1500 kg of chocolate flowing into a giant Lindor. The whole experience in this centre includes an interactive tour about the Swiss cultural heritage of chocolate, the history of cocoa in Europe, a look at the manufacturing process and a most gratifying tasting section.
You can also take a short course on creating chocolate with a Lindt Master Chocolatier. And then, you end up in the world’s biggest chocolate shop to buy chocolates to your heart’s content. At the museum’s café, delicious desserts are served.
Appenzeller cheese is a specialty cheese from Switzerland. It is a hard, cow’s milk cheese produced in Appenzellerland. It is straw coloured, with small holes and a rind. The cheese has a strong smell and a flavourful nutty taste, ranging from mild to spicy depending upon the ageing period. The recipe dates back 700 years and is still a guarded secret! It is one of Switzerland’s gastronomic delights.
At the factory, the tour showcases the process behind the cheese making, the ingredients used, and a visit to the cellar, which stores up to 12,500 wheels of cheese. There is a shop which sells around 80 different varieties of cheese and other regional delights. A cheese making course is offered for those who are interested. The stylish restaurant serves local specialities and is worth a visit.
If you have spare time, the House of Läderach Chocolates in Bilten is worth a visit. This family business is famous for their artisanal ‘broken’ chocolate spiced up with all kinds of interesting ingredients. They also opened a new visitors’ centre in November 2020 where a guided tour is available.
Apart from the day tours, Zürich city has many attractions including the Old Town, Museums and Medieval buildings. Some of them are:
Niederdorf and the Old Town:
A lively area with narrow streets, boutique shopping, charming squares, restaurants and cafés.
One of Europe’s top art museums with a large collection of quality works, especially from the Impressionist period.
A Romanesque church, built between the 11th and 13th centuries. The twin towers are Zürich’s most prominent landmark.
Some of the best restaurants serving Swiss cheese specialities:
Lucerne, located on the beautiful Lake Lucerne, is often used as a base for travelling around central Switzerland. It is also a splendid destination in its own right, with the surrounding panoramic mountains, the picturesque squares, churches and the historic old town.
From Lucerne, the two famous cheese factories that can be visited as day trips are : Emmental and Marbach.
The Emmentaler is a yellow, hard cheese, first produced in the 13th century in the valley of River Emme in the canton of Bern. It is Switzerland’s oldest cheese and is identified as Swiss cheese due to its characteristic ‘eyes’ throughout the world.
It is a full flavoured, dense cow’s milk cheese with a piquant taste and a pungent odour. Only the cheese produced in this designated central Swiss region is considered the authentic Emmentaler. At the cheese village, the production can be watched live daily, disclosing the process behind the creation of the famous ‘holes’ in the cheese! The tour also features the history of the brand, an opportunity to make your own cheese, a picturesque restaurant and a specialty cheese shop.
This dairy is located in the beautiful Entlebuch area, which is a Unesco biosphere reserve. The first Buffalo Mozzarella in Switzerland was produced here and the whole process is explained in the visitors’ gallery. There is a tasting available too and fine cheese specialities are sold in the shop. In the summertime, you can combine this visit with an adventure trail for 2 hours from right outside the dairy.
Day trips to Alpine peaks from Lucerne:
Known as ‘Top of Europe’, this is Europe’s highest train station. The journey going up and the views from the top are magnificent. A Unesco Natural World Heritage site, this is an alpine wonderland of glaciers, ice and snow all the year round.
Titlis is the most popular glacier excursion destination of central Switzerland. There are a range of different activities to enjoy depending upon the time of the year. Skiing, Tobogganing and Snowboarding are amongst a few of them. The other attractions are Cliff walk (on Europe’s highest suspension bridge), Ice Flyer chair lift and Titlis glacier park.
Montreux is a picturesque resort town, nestled between the alps and Lake Geneva. It is famous for its mild climate and the Montreux Jazz Festival which is held in July every year. The lakeside promenade is lined with flowers and sculptures and flanked by grand architectural buildings. There are many trails for hiking in the summer and the terraced vineyards of Lavaux are popular amongst the wine lovers.
From Montreux, the Gruyère Cheese factory and the Cailler Chocolate factory can be combined as a day trip.
Grùyere is one of the most famous cheeses from Switzerland around the world. It is a hard, slightly salty cheese originating from the town of Gruyères in the canton of Fribourg. It is a good melting cheese, hence used a lot for baking and in fondues.
At La Maison du Gruyère, there is an audio tour which takes you through the interactive exhibition focused on the world of Gruyère cheese. Tasting of cheeses at different stages of maturity is offered. From the gallery, you can watch the cheesemaking and later taste the regional specialities at the lovely restaurant. Various cheese products and souvenirs are sold at the shop on the premises.
Cailler is one of Switzerland’s oldest and best known chocolate brands. Founded in 1819, Cailler has created irresistible chocolates with a deep respect for tradition and using the best quality ingredients. At Maison Cailler, the visitors’ centre has an interactive tour that walks you through the history of Cailler Chocolate. You can also watch the production line and the best part is the tasting of a variety of flavours!
At their chocolate workshop, tourists can learn to create chocolate from their chocolatiers. At the café, you can savour a range of their creations and at the boutique, one can buy from the entire range of Cailler Chocolates.
Popular Cheese dishes in Switzerland:
Fondue and Raclette are the most famous cheese preparations in Switzerland and now enjoyed the world over.
Fondue is made by melting a combination of cheeses along with whitewine in a common pot heated with a candle or spirit lamp. It is eaten by dipping bread or potatoes into the cheese using long stemmed forks. The cheese combination is mostly Gruyère and Emmentaler with some regional variations.
This dish is made with a specific Raclette cheese which is a cow’s milk, slightly hard and mildly pungent cheese. Bread and a variety of vegetables are served over which melted cheese from individual small pans heated over a grill is scraped.
Having enjoyed the holiday to Switzerland, this culinary journey ends by taking an onward flight from Geneva (1hour by train or 1 hour 30 min by road from Montreux).