Gruyères: a romantic castle and medieval signs in a lovely French Switzerland town

As those who follow the blog alredy know, a month and a half ago I had the possibility to pass some days in Switzerland. I’ve been a guest in German Switzerland (curious about the food I tasted there? Read this article as well: Sketching around – New food I tasted in Switzerland), but I had the luck of visiting also a famous and historical town in the French part; it is in the Fribourg Region and it’s called Gruyères…does it remind you of something?

Of course it does! The first thing that everyone thinks when the name is pronounced is the famous Gruyere cheese, that comes from this zone: at the entrance of the town, in fact, there is one of the cheese factories where Gruyere PDO is produced and inside there is a museum completely dedicated to it.

However, we didn’t travel for more than two hours through Switzerland to know more about the cheese produced in these valleys, but to visit a museum that was in my bucket list from around 20 years: I’m talking about Giger Museum, that has its location in the strange, a bit romantic and fabled, frame of this medieval town.

If I think of Hans Ruedi Giger, creator of Alien and of many dark and gloomy artworks, surely I don’t link him to a place as Gruyères is. I would expect Giger Museum to be in a medieval village as those that often I visited in Liguria’s backcountry: made of sudden lights, but most by shadows, of sharp alleys and stones, eaten away from the weight of time and of past lives, worn out among their buildings.

The centre

Instead, on the top of the hill that takes to Gruyères (82 meters!), rigorously walked after leaving the car in the parking lot, you find yourself in a little fairy-tale town: many painted and decorated buildings, mostly hotels, restaurant and little tourists’ shops, look out on a main square, with a delicate fountain in the middle.

The castle

The hill doesn’t end at the entrance of the town; all Gruyères is uphill, and on its peak there is the castle dating back to the XIII century, today a museum: from its walls is possible to enjoy a breath-taking view, in which green and stone joins to gift a typical swiss latandscape.

Château_de_Gruyères
By Michael Ehinger (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The signs

des rempartslOne of Gruyères peculiarities surely are the many signs scattered around the town: they are the original historical sings, mostly in wrought iron. I couldn’t resist to draw some of them 😉

On many of them, as painted on some buildings, we find the representation of a crane; it is the grue – in french it means “crane” – that gives its name to the city and that can be found also on the heraldic symbol of the House of Gruyères, one of the most ancient in Switzerland.

The walls

Another peculiarity of Gruyères are the walls: the town, rich during medieval times and for long location of the local market, is surrounded by fortifications; partly they are the buildings itselves, but there are also defensive walls, on which is possible to walk.


As I said before, my visit to Gruyères was linked to a precise purpose; however, since the town has been a marvellous surprise, I thought it deserved an article on Bohemian Wanderer. In one of the next posts I will write about the impressions I had from the longed visit to Giger Museum. If you are a fan of its work as well, continue to follow me and check it out 🙂

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