If there’s something that the Swiss are famous for, it’s cheese. How could we visit Europe and not tour a cheese factory? La Maison du Gruyère is situated in the dairy-rich Gruyère region of southwest Switzerland.

This famous cheese-making institution has turned their factory into a tourist attraction by adding a giftshop, a café, a small interactive exhibit and observation panels to the factory floor and storerooms. We only needed an hour to explore everything, and in our family we have only one real cheese enthusiast who happily tasted the samples given to us by Gruyère.

La Maison du Gruyère, Switzerland, September 2014
The House of Gruyère is built around an actual cheese factory. In peak season, thousands of tourists would be coming through, so I'm glad we're here at a quiet time!

The exhibition

Once we collected our headsets and programmed them for English, we could move up the stairs and past the photos and small exhibits. Each of the girls received their own electronic guide, so we could each move at our own pace.

Browsing the interactive exhibits at La Maison du Gruyère, Switzerland, September 2014
Early on, the voice guiding us is revealed to be a friendly dairy cow. She directs us to program in the number for each display so she can explain it to us.

Calista browsing the interactive exhibits at La Maison du Gruyère, Switzerland, September 2014
By lifting the top of these cleverly-designed canisters, Calista can smell the scent contained within. They're supposed to correspond with the picture on the wall, but not all of them smell like pretty flowers!

Browsing the interactive exhibits at La Maison du Gruyère, Switzerland, September 2014
A wall of items — and a couple of convenient stools — invite us to touch and explore the historical accessories of the cheese-makers.

The factory

The factory floor is visible through large glass panes from one level above. The headset continues to explain the process for each row of machines within the factory.

Gruyère publicises its cheese-making timetable — i.e. when something interesting will be happening on the factory floor — and visitors to the factory should take this into account if they want to see some live-action instead of watching pre-recorded videos of each step of the process. We watched the cheese-makers playing with curds and whey, but I expect the filling of cheese-molds would be more exciting.

Viewing the factory floor at La Maison du Gruyère, Switzerland, September 2014
So much milk is processed to make cheese!

La Gruyère shared the facts of cheese production on the wall: A cow eats 100 kg of grass and drinks 85 litres of water per day, producing an average of 25 litres of milk daily; 400 litres of milk produce one 35 kg wheel of Gruyère cheese, and 12 litres of milk produce 1 kg of cheese.

The cellar

Depending on the season, between 4000 and 7000 wheels of cheese mature in the cellars. These 35-kg rounds are turned over and brushed with a mixture of water and salt every day for ten days. In the next two weeks, this process is reduced to three times per week, then twice per week over the next three months and once a week until they are offered for sale. (The cheese-makers are named individuals who sport industry accolades, but I think the real hero at this factory has got to be the person responsible for turning and brushing thousands of 35-kg cheese wheels every day!)

The cheese cellar at La Maison du Gruyère, Switzerland, September 2014
Another section of the building provides viewing access to the cellar where the large cheese wheels are maturing.

Cheese for sale at La Maison du Gruyère, Switzerland, September 2014
Sold for about A$20/kg, Swiss Gruyère cheese doesn't have holes.

Did you grow up with stories of Asterix & Obelix? One of my favourites is where they visit Switzerland and hide for a time in a cheese cellar. Ever hungry, Obelix complains that the cheese has holes and those holes don’t fill the hole in his tummy. Anyhow…

Outdoors

The large and spacious café offers all sorts of cheesy delights, but we simply threaded our way past the tables and out the back door to the playground. Brioni wanted some fresh air, and we had parked within sight of the playground and knew it would be a good place to run.

Out the back of La Maison du Gruyère, Switzerland, September 2014
Alongside the café, a large mural on the wall celebrates the dairy cows that contribute to the cheese factory.

Aisha tasting cheese outside La Maison du Gruyère, Switzerland, September 2014
Aisha tries out the cheese given to us in a sample pack. A sample each of three different maturities means we can open them all to taste the difference that time makes to the cheese-making process.

Playground outside La Maison du Gruyère, Switzerland, September 2014
Only vaguely cow-themed, the playground is small but adequate. We also like exploring the factory roof which is accessible with a staircase near the playground.

Playground outside La Maison du Gruyère, Switzerland, September 2014
We haven't ever encountered this type of swing before. After experimentation, Calista decides that standing up is the best position for getting it moving.

Beautiful Swiss house with flowerboxes outside La Maison du Gruyère, Switzerland, September 2014
Across the street, the owners of this beautiful house recognise they're representing Switzerland to the rest of the world and keep the flowers blooming.

Although I remember visiting a cheese factory in the Netherlands when I was seven years old, I don’t know if this experience was memorable enough for the girls, and in some ways I feel like I was just checking an activity off the list. Especially after the immersive experience of Glasi Hergiswil, I don’t think I’d recommend a visit to La Maison du Gruyère. Save your time for other activities (or perhaps another cheese factory).