When you are in Switzerland you can freely forget about taking a cab or renting a car and motorbike. Switzerland is all about trains, buses, and boats.
The public transport is so well-organized that simply everyone, local or tourist, most often will purchase only one Swiss Pass that will include all the connections, and explore the country and travel worry-free.
There are a few beautiful scenic trains, with comfortable seats and big windows, that will take you right in the middle of the astonishing beauty of the Swiss nature and countryside.
One of the most popular of all is The Chocolate Train. Switzerland is a major producer of chocolate, so no wonder that they named one train as chocolate. As the name implies, it’s nothing like any usual train ride you may have. This one has the three of the top things Switzerland can offer that is best-known worldwide: cheese, chocolate and the beautiful scenery with the best-organized railway transport in Europe. Not a bad start for any visitor of Switzerland, I suppose, whether you are a first-timer or not.
This train route has some special feeling in itself. It’s like a fairy tale journey. There is even a castle in the story. Starting right from the beginning when you board on the train and sit in one of those beautiful, vintage Belle Epoque coaches, that will take you through the amazing Swiss landscapes in 1st class ride, all the way to the end when you’ll be able to visit the small medieval Gruyères village and famous chocolate factory in Broc, you’ll feel nothing but a pure enjoyment.
Here is what to expect on this ride
It’s a round trip, a full day excursion that begins from the Swiss city of Montreux at 9 a.m. and ends somewhere before 6 p.m. When you board on the train, a chocolate warm-up is on, right from the start. You’ll be served breakfast, a chocolate croissant with coffee or hot chocolate and then more chocolates.
In meantime, you can marvel over the window at some of the most beautiful sceneries in Switzerland, such as the Lavaux Vineyard Terraces facing Lake Geneva and Swiss Alps. This 30 km stretch of landscape is recognized for its outstanding universal value. Because it represents an example of how people have interacted with the environment in a very productive way for centuries, producing high valued wine, proudly has deserved its spot in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
After about an hour train ride you’ll arrive at Montbovon station from where, by bus, you’ll be driven to the first stop La Maison du Gruyères, the cheese factory.
Set up your cameras, it’s cheese time. So, while you’ll be tasting the delicious cheese examples you’ll be given to, here, in this cheese factory, at the same time you can find out how one of the world’s best-known cheese brands Gruyère AOP is made out of cow milk. All the secrets of the traditional cheese-making production will be revealed. The factory has a very long tradition in producing cheese. There are four types of Gruyere cheese, and while one of them is organic the other one that I like the most, Gruyère d’Alpage AOP is, in fact, produced only in the summer months when cows feed with lush vegetation and fresh grass in the mountains because of what their milk is better and richer which is why it tastes so good.
Afterward, at Marché Gruérien you can shop for more cheese and bring some of the taste at home with you or pay a visit to the nice restaurant that has all the typical regional dishes on the menu and taste some more of the Swiss cuisine.
From there on the bus, you’ll proceed to the charming Gruyères village where you’ll have just about enough time to wander around the cobblestone street, visit the shops, have a lunch in the gourmet restaurants and visit the medieval castle located up on the hill.
Since the Gruyere cheese is a basic ingredient for a classic fondue, you shouldn’t miss out trying one here. It’s a must-try, and where else if not in one of the charming restaurants of Gruyères village located in its own origin of production. You can’t have a more authentic experience than that.
*Fondue is a Swiss and French dish of melted cheese served in a communal pot over a portable stove heated with a candle or spirit lamp. French fondue is made of a medium heated dry white wine in which mix of half Gruyere and half Swiss Emmental cheese is melted. Then a flour, salt, and nutmeg are added. Fondue is served with cut up french bread in bite sizes. You dip the bread into the fondue using a fork and eat it.
Upon the hill of this village is where the famous castle of Gruyères is located. Built in the 13th century, Gruyères Castle today houses a rich collection connected to the past of the great people and times that pass through the castle. The visit of the fortress will take no more than an hour, but guided tours are also available on a daily basis. In the end, spare a few minutes to marvel the beautiful view from above, overlooking the town.
As every story has some kind of monsters, this is no exception. At my surprise here in this fairy tale kind of village, you can pay a visit to the HR Giger museum placed in the St. Germain castle. The museum is dedicated to the artist Hans Ruedi Giger, the inventor of the monstrous Alien character of the same popular science fiction movie the Alien. It contains the largest collection of art of the same artist.
Finally, at the Tibet Museum, you’ll find displays of Buddhist sculptures and ritual objects of the Himalayas.
After two and a half hours spent in Gruyères village, a bus will collect you and take you to the high point of the journey, the chocolate Cailler-Nestle factory in Broc. Next stop – visit to the MaisonCailler and chocolate tasting.
François-Louis Cailler, a Swiss guy, is the first Swiss chocolate producer and founder of this chocolate factory. Hence the name of the brand – Cailler. Later on, the company was bought by Nestle, which at the moment of writing, is the largest food company in the world. When you go into the factory, you’ll enter a multimedia exhibition, an interactive audio-visual tour where you’ll find out more about the history of cocoa. You’ll have a chance to touch, smell and taste the raw ingredients used to produce a chocolate.
While in the Swiss mountains cows can produce a very tasty milk with a high value, the other one of the main ingredients contained in the chocolate, the cocoa needs a more tropical climate to grow in countries such as Ghana, Ecuador or Venezuela.
Then you can see where and how the chocolates are produced and packed ready for consumption. You’ll be able to watch the whole process of making a chocolate and all the work and ingredients that go into.
In the end, endless choices and countless chocolates to taste. Variety of small chocolate examples with various flavors will be presented for chocolate tasting, leaving you to take and taste as much as you want. There are also chocolate classes held in the factory for anyone interested in learning how to make a first-quality chocolate like a pro. Finally, feel free to spend some time and money in the chocolate shop. The duration of the tour is about an hour or so.
On your way back enjoy the breathtaking scenery and views of Lake Geneva, the largest lake in Switzerland, as the train approaches Montreux.
*Train route: Montreux-Gruyères-Broc and back. The train ride, the transfers with the bus and the entrance fees for the factories are included in the price of the offer. Pre-booking and reservation of the seat are required.
If traveling with Eurail Pass this train route will be included in the price of your ticket. Find out more about Eurail and which Eurail Pass to choose here.