Visiting a cheese factory is something special you can do in Switzerland. Cheese is produced in Switzerland in about 600 cheese dairies. These range from smaller, family-run alpine farms to large industrial operations. Each year, cheese dairies produce more than 190,000 tons of cheese. Some very well-known names for Swiss cheese are Appenzeller, Le Gruyère AOP, Tilsiter or Emmentaler AOP.
The attentive observer of a menu of the Swiss cuisine quickly recognizes that a certain canditate runs like a red thread through our culinary arts.
We are, of course, talking, about Swiss cheese.
There is no consensus on how many types of cheese there are in Switzerland. Some sources say there are 450 varieties, while others claim there are over 700. So let's agree that there's a sheer abundance of Swiss cheese. Technically, you could make a New Year's resolution on January 1 to try a different cheese every day and you still won't have gone through the whole range by New Year's Eve.
All those masses of cheese have to be produced somewhere, too. Fortunately, there are some show dairies that will introduce you to this process and give you an insight into their production facilities.
In this article, we will introduce you to nine Swiss show dairies that are spread all over the country and open their doors to visitors.
Ask a child to draw you a piece of cheese and the result will most likely be a piece of Emmentaler. This cheese with holes is the reason why most people think that Swiss cheese always comes with holes.
Emmental cheese comes in various degrees of strength. Starting with the mild AOP Classic and ending with the recent AOP Cave-Aged.
There's something for everyone at the Emmental Show Dairy. You have the opportunity to watch cheese being made, to make your own fresh cheese, to take part in a guided tour or to learn all about this traditional cheese brand on the King's Trail. The restaurant of the show dairy offers a wide range of classic and fancy dishes, with the cheese part of course.
A visit to the Emmental Show Dairy is free of charge. For the special offers, such as the public guided tour or your own cheese making, individual prices are charged.
For example, you can make one or two loaves of Stöckli cheese from 200 liters of fresh raw milk with up to 20 people. The recipe dates back to 1741 and such a loaf weighs 8-10 kg. For two hours of manual work with a cheese maker, the group pays 250 CHF. The first loaf costs 240 CHF, a second loaf 200 CHF. The cheese comes to your home after 4 months.
A public tour costs 150 CHF as a basic price for the group of maximum 25 people. In addition, each person over 12 years pays an individual price. For young people up to 17 years this is 5 CHF, for adults 8 CHF per person.
The name already gives it away. The origin of this cheese is in the Emmental in the canton of Bern, where you will also find the show dairy. Affoltern im Emmental is easy to reach by car and by public transport.
Gruyère is a classic Swiss hard cheese that always finds its way into fondue mixtures. It has been produced for over 900 years and should not be missing from any classic cheese platter.
In the Gruyère Empire show dairy, you will experience with all your senses what is in this tasty candidate and how it is made. The tour starts with an interactive museum where all aspects of Gruyère cheese are explained to you.
Among other things, you will hear cowbells and mooing cows, smell the scent of alpine flowers and hay, feel a cowhide or a cheese brush and get various varieties of Gruyère cheese between your teeth. You will also get a direct insight into the cheese production and into the gigantic cellar where thousands of cheese wheels are in the ripening process.
For the tour, you will be given an audio guide right at the entrance, which will explain everything to you in detail. Afterwards, you have the opportunity to stock up on various delicacies in the store - be it a souvenir stuffed cow, a pack of fondue, a cheese knife or other regional dairy products.
La Maison du Gruyère also has a restaurant that leaves few culinary wishes unfulfilled.
Admission to the museum costs CHF 7 for adults. If you would like to visit the castle in the nearby old town of Gruyères afterwards, there is a combined ticket for 16 CHF.
As the name suggests, this cheese originated in French-speaking Switzerland - the Gruyères region in the canton of Fribourg. The show dairy is located just behind the train station. The easiest way to reach Gruyères by train is from Fribourg via Bulle.
For access by car, la Maison du Gruyère is very accessible as it is not far from the A12 freeway between Bern and Lake Geneva.
The recipe of this cheese is top secret. This is made clear again and again on every billboard and in countless video clips. Mostly in a very creative way, as you can see in the following funny videos.
What is no secret is that Appenzeller, being a rather strong cheese, is not for the faint-hearted. Although the range includes all gradations between Mild and Extra, there really is no such thing as a truly "mild" Appenzeller. So get ready for a flavoursome cheese that gives itself away pretty quickly by its strong smell when you open the packaging.
In the Appenzell show dairy, everything revolves around "the spiciest secret in Switzerland". In the show area you will learn everything that is not secret.
You'll find many interesting facts about the traditions of the Appenzellerland, get an insight into the cheese cellar, where up to 12'500 loaves are stored. You can watch the professionals at work and even have the opportunity to compose your own herb mixture.
If you're looking for inspiration for your next hike in the area, the virtual 360-degree panoramic view with binoculars into the Alpstein mountains is just the thing. In the traditional Appenzell-style restaurant, there's an extensive selection of typical cheese dishes, and in the store you can pick up a fondue mix or a piece of your favorite Appenzeller.
Adults pay CHF 12 for admission to the Schaukäserei, although there are various discounts for students or families. If you combine your visit with a culinary excursion to the Chocolarium in Flawil, you can get a combination ticket for 20 CHF on site.
The show dairy is located in Stein in the canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden. The easiest way to get there by public transport is via St. Gallen followed by a post bus ride to Stein. By car you can also drive either via St. Gallen, or directly from the highway via Gossau via Herisau to Stein.
This small show dairy is located in the heart of the Neuchâtel Jura in western Switzerland. Besides Gruyère cheese, they also produce other cheeses such as the blue cheese "Bleuchâtel". Here you have the perfect opportunity to observe step by step the production of one of the most famous cheeses in Switzerland. Of course, you can also taste the finished cheese at the end.
In this small cheese dairy cheese is made every day from 8:00 to 10:00. During a visit you will learn everything about the production of the famous Gruyère AOP and other cheeses. In the exhibition with explanations you will be introduced to the craft of cheese making.
For children there is a playground. There is also a restaurant and a store on site.
The dairy is open Monday to Saturday from 7:00 to 12:00 and from 17:00 to 19:00. On Sunday it is open from 8:00 to 11:00 and from 17:00 to 19:00.
The entrance to the cheese dairy les martel is free. If you book a tasting, you pay 6 CHF. With breakfast, the entrance fee is 15 CHF.
The cheese dairy is located in Les Ponts-de-Martel. From Neuchâtel you can reach the cheese dairy in about 45 minutes by public transport.
The vast majority of all cheeses can be eaten in a very uncomplicated way, without worrying about the preparation. Just cut off a piece and put it in your mouth. But then there is a part that requires a certain infrastructure. These include, on the one hand, the two classics fondue and raclette, and on the other hand, the Tête de Moine.
This curious cheese, which translates to "monk's head", is skewered onto a wooden plate and scraped with a knife in a circular motion. The result is the spicy cheese rosettes that no cheese plate should be without.
La Maison de la Tête de Moine is a combination of museum, cheese dairy, grocery store and café. In this large stone building, you are immediately transported back a few centuries and can easily imagine how this traditional cheese was made here in the past. The museum is located opposite the abbey where the famous cheese was first made over 800 years ago.
Admission to the museum costs CHF 6 for adults. Group tours can also be organized, which also include a drink for each participant and two Tête de Moine loaves, which will be sent four months after the visit.
La Maison de la Tête de Moine is not easy to reach. It is located in Bellelay, a small village in the Bernese Jura, which has only a few post bus connections. The ideal way to visit the museum is in combination with a hike, for example from Saignelégier, Moutier or Tavannes. By car, the fastest access is via the A16 via Biel to Tavannes or Moutier.
The cheese produced in the Casaeificio del Gottardo in Airolo is not as well known as the Appenzeller, the Emmentaler or the Gruyère. But this does't have to mean anything. From soft to semi-hard to hard cheese, various types are produced in the Ticino Alps - including raclette and fondue mixtures.
Thanks to the large-scale glazing, visitors to the Gotthard Show Dairy can observe all the stages of cheese production live - from milk delivery to completion. The best time for this is between 8:00 and 12:00, as this is when the milk delivered daily is processed.
The show dairy is one of the first of its kind in the region. It is combined with a restaurant and a store that sells much more than cheese. You can also find cream, milk, butter, yogurt and ice cream here in abundance.
Admission to the Gotthard Show Dairy is free of charge. Guided tours in different languages can be organized on request, for which you will have to calculate about CHF 50.
The Gotthard Show Dairy, which is called "Casaeificio del Gottardo" in Italian, is located in the village of Airolo in Ticino. You can reach Airolo by public transport either from the Ticino cities of Bellinzona, Lugano and Locarno - or from the north via central Switzerland by regional train.
By the way, this is where the Gotthard Panorama Express passes before it sets off through the old Gotthard tunnel towards Göschenen. For a detailed description of this panoramic journey and an option on how to include a stopover on this trip, see our article on Switzerland's panoramic trains.
By car, the journey is also made through the Gotthard tunnel from the north or from the south on the A2 highway via Bellinzona.
The Entlebuch has not only a UNESCO certified biosphere to present, but also its own cheese dairy. In Marbach all kinds of cow's milk cheese, but also cheese from buffalo milk are produced.
In the very attractively decorated visitors' gallery at the Marbach Adventure Dairy, you can find out how milk is turned into cheese, where Switzerland's first buffalo mozzarella came from, and much more. You will also get an insight into cheese production and can taste one or the other delicacy in between.
In addition to the visitors' gallery, there is a store in the cheese dairy with various dairy products from cows and buffaloes. Guided tours including an aperitif can also be booked if you want to learn more about the operation. If you would like to combine your visit to the cheese dairy with the two-hour adventure trail, you have the opportunity to do so during the summer months. This trail leads through the beautiful landscape of the Entlebuch and is particularly suitable for families.
Admission to the visitors' gallery of the adventure cheese dairy is free of charge. For a guided tour, a flat rate of CHF 50 is charged for up to ten people.
The adventure cheese dairy is located in Marbarch, a village in the middle of the Entlebuch. By public transport you can reach it by train from Lucerne or from Bern in less than an hour. By car, too, many roads lead to Marbach via Thun, Bern or Lucerne.
What would an article about cheese-making in Switzerland be without mentioning this important branch of production? In summer, cheese is produced en masse in the Alps with the milk of grazing cows and sold either on the spot or in the valley.
The assortment of the Morteratsch cheese dairy includes Heutaler Bergkäse, Gletscher-Mutschli and fresh Molkenziger.
The traditional show cheesemaking in Morteratsch only takes place during the alpine season between June and October. During this time you can watch daily from 9:30 to 11:00 and from 13:30 to 15:00 how the cheese maker carries out his craft without the help of machines.
In the restaurant there is the possibility to eat all day long. Be it with the popular and reservation-required alpine brunch, the alpine lunch or a small refreshment in between. If you want to treat your skin to a special kind of care, the show dairy also offers whey baths including prosecco and aperitif.
Watching is free of charge at the Morteratsch Alpine Show Dairy. So you can save the entrance fee and afterwards have a meal in one of the many offered ways. The whey bath costs 60.- CHF per bath - alone or as a couple - and you get three hours bathing time for it. Towels are also included in the price.
This is where it gets a little tricky. The Alp-Schaukäserei Morteratsch is not just around the corner and the journey may take a little longer. Of course, this is always calculated in Swiss terms.
By train you can reach the cheese dairy within 30 minutes from St. Moritz via Pontresina. It is on the route of the Bernina Express, another popular Swiss panoramic train. The trip to the cheese dairy can therefore be ideally combined with a trip to the Bernina Pass or even to Tirano in Italy.
The show dairy is located right next to the Bernina Pass road and is therefore easy to reach by car, bike or motorcycle.
If you're more interested in the history of cheese, but don't necessarily want to get directly involved with it, the National Dairy Museum might be a good alternative for you. This small museum has a lot of interesting content on display about the history of cheese.
On the one hand, there's an old cheese kitchen that shows the production conditions of 200 years ago, a video about the creation and production of Emmentaler, and various objects and pictures about the beginning of commercial cheese production. Or did you know, for example, that in the past cheese was only made in the summer on the alp?
Admission to the National Dairy Museum is free of charge.
As already mentioned, cheese is diligently produced in the Alps during the summer and almost all of them sell their products directly from production. If this is the case, there is usually a sign on the side of the trail advertising the products. Normally, the operators of the alp sell fresh milk, goat or cow cheese and sometimes wood oven bread.
There is hardly a better opportunity to get a glimpse of mountain life and exchange ideas with the locals. And if you get lost or have questions about the hiking area, you will usually be gladly helped here.
If you don't have time to visit the alpine pastures, or if the weather throws a wrench in your hiking plans, you still don't have to miss out on the delicious alpine cheese. Swiss alpine cheese is sold in almost all grocery stores - from small village stores to large supermarkets
While the experience isn't the same as buying cheese straight from the cheese cellar and walking past the milk-giving cows, it's still a worthy alternative.
Before the cheese journey comes to an end, we have some last helpful tips and information about the spicy Swiss trademark for you.
With the Swiss Cheese Passport, you'll enjoy various benefits and discounts at the first five show dairies in this article. These include, for example, price reductions of 10% on cheese purchases at all locations, discounts on admission prices of up to 30%, and many other discounts
In addition, there is a contest for those who submit a stamp on the entry card from each participating show dairy. The passport including the competition card is available at all participating show dairies or can be downloaded online from the Swiss Cheese website
Aside from the cheese passport, there's tons of additional material on the Swiss Cheese website. Starting with information on production and stopping at a variety of recipe suggestions. My favorite on the site is the Cheese Finder, which gives you a remarkable overview of the extensive range of Swiss cheeses.
Whether you're looking for inspiration for your cheese board, want to discover new cheeses, or can't remember the name of your favorite cheese, the Cheese Finder with its handy filter will help. A more comprehensive cheese encyclopedia will be hard to find.
This offer currently only exists for people living in Switzerland or Liechtenstein. But it is too ingenious not to mention it here.
On Cheezy's website, you have the option of having a carefully crafted cheese box delivered to you every month. You have a choice of eight different boxes in different strength and price ranges, so you can keep trying new varieties that you might not otherwise buy.
The subscription has no minimum term and can be interrupted or cancelled at any time. If you just want to give it a try, there is also a single box that doesn't tie you to a monthly recurrence