Think of Swiss food and you’ll probably picture dunking bread into a gooey pot of fondue or sliding a triangle of Toblerone from its ubiquitous Matterhorn–logoed box. Whether your tastes lean towards the sweet or the savory, Switzerland has both boxes ticked, and the country’s many cheese and chocolate varieties are among the tastiest and most famous in the world.
Switzerland’s most renowned exports share one thing in common – they are both the product of the alpine dairy industry, using fresh, un-pasteurized milk taken from cattle grazed in the lush highlands. Cheese and chocolate making traditions date back to the early 19th century and historic factories are dotted throughout the villages of the Swiss Alps, with many of them opening their doors to tourists for tours and tastings.
There are over 400 cheese varieties produced around Switzerland, with some of the most famous including Emmental and Gruyère, named after the villages in which they are made and typically the principal cheeses used in fondue; Appenzeller, produced in the northern Appenzell region; and Raclette, produced in the canton of Valais and the main ingredient in the traditional dish of the same name. Those with a sweet tooth will also be spoiled for choice, with world-renowned chocolate brands like Lindt, Nestlé and the aforementioned Toblerone, as well as dozens of artisan chocolate makers.
There’s more to sampling Swiss produce than loading up your cart at the supermarket. Take a day trip to Gruyères, where you can discover the secrets of cheese-making with a tour of La Maison du Gruyère, the region’s most famous cheese factory, and stop off along the way at the Maison Cailler chocolate factory. Alternatively, a Swiss mountains or Swiss countryside and traditions tour from Zurich includes visits to the legendary Lindt chocolate factory and the Stein cheese factory in the idyllic Appenzell region, or you could opt for a walking tour of chocolate shops in Zurich’s Old Town, where you can indulge in handmade truffles, creamy hot chocolate and chocolate cupcakes along the way.