Cheese, Castles and Aliens: Travel & Photography in Gruyeres, Switzerland
Gruyeres is much like any medieval village in Switzerland. It’s cobble-stoned, there’s a castle, there are lots of fondue eating tourists, and there’s an “Alien” bar. Err, OK maybe the last bit is a bit unique, and it’s the reason I decided to make a day trip out to the town in the French-speaking region of Switzerland. In 1998, H.R. Giger – the Academy Award winning artist behind the Alien Movies – bought a castle in Gruyeres and turned it into a museum and gallery of his work as well as his private collection. Across the street from the museum there is also an “Alien Bar” which was designed under close supervision by Giger. The alien bar in Gruyeres is one of two of Giger’s Alien-themed bars in Switzerland with the other being in Chur.
Anyways, the day went the way you can expect any day to go as a tourist in Switzerland. We explored a castle, devoured a fondue, visited a cheese factory, and then had an afternoon drink a midst the aliens. The trip wasn’t exactly tailor-made for travel photography, but I did what I could.
Check out my “On Location” video for a glimpse into the day. Also, there’s information on Gruyere below.
Getting to Gruyeres
Most people come to Gruyeres on day trips from other places in Switzerland, as we did. Coming from Bern, it’s about a 45 minute drive; from Geneva it’s about an hour and a half. You can also catch the train from Bern to Gruyeres by heading to the nearby town of Bulle and then swapping trains for the final stretch. If you’re driving, there is free parking all over Gruyeres which is great considering the high cost of parking elsewhere in Switzerland.
What to do on a Day Trip to Gruyeres
Although I think we might have spent a little bit longer in town than most tourists, we pretty much did the same things all the others do. The stuff we did is all listed below:
Visit the Chateau de Gruyeres: It’s not unlike other castles in Switzerland. It has a bit more of a museum feel than others though. There is also a nice garden out back. The cost of entry was 10 Swiss Francs.
Get a Fondue or Raclette: The town’s square is simple, but quite “cute”. The center point is a flower-ringed fountain. All along the edges of the edges of the square are souvenir shops and restaurants. As a tourist, you’re almost obliged to get either a fondue or a raclette. Of course, you have to try it with the local “Gruyeres” cheese. Actually, the local specialty of the fondue is moitié-moitié (half/half) between two types of cheese. That’s what we had. It was amazing. I believe it cost 24 Swiss Francs per person.
Visit the Cheese Factory (?): Down the hill in town there is a cheese factory called “La Maison Gruyeres”. Personally, I thought it was extremely overrated. Moreover, it was packed with tourists and you don’t really get to see anything special. At 7 Swiss Francs for entry, you’d be better off just spending the money on a bit of the cheese from the gift shop and moving on with your life.
Check out the H.R. Giger museum: Without even considering it’s only 5 francs more than the cheese factory as 12 Swiss Francs, the museum is well worth the price of admission. The small castle is packed with the amazing, and often disturbing, works of H.R. Giger. With everything from paintings to sculptures, the museum is easily worth an hour of your life. But, no photos or videos!
Have a Drink at the Alien Bar: Right across the alley from the museum, the Alien Bar is one of the coolest places you’ll ever grab a beer, coffee, or double cream meringue. It’s a bit smaller than you might want,but packs enough coolness to make up for it. Walking into this bar from the streets of a medieval Swiss city is one of the most surreal experiences in Europe.
Where to Stay in Gruyeres
Though I visited Gruyeres on a day trip from Lucerne, it’s definitely a place worthy of a couple nights. In fact, I’d highly recommend spending at least 2 nights here. There’s lots to do and see, and as you’ll see from the images below, there are a lot of photo opportunities for the photographers out there.
Asking some Swiss friends where they would stay in town, they all recommended La Fleur de Lys. It’s a great location and it won’t break your budget, despite being a very nice hotel.
Travel Photography from Gruyeres
Though we were shooting in the middle of the day, we had some fun shooting in Gruyeres. Obviously, things would have been easier in better light. But, I can’t really complain too much. Here are some of the shots.
What’s up Next?
Since I’m back in the Western World for the first time in ages, I have a bunch of new photography gear. Thus, there will be a bunch of gear reviews over the next little while. The first of those reviews will be of a product called Trigger Trap which is a remote for my DSLR. I’ll be using it to do a timelapse of Lucerne. It should be fun, so stay tuned for that!