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Travel around Switzerland and you’ll find a surprisingly wide range of gastronomic delights. Square Meal takes a gourmet tour
Delivering a heady mix of spectacular scenery and gourmet cuisine, Switzerland is a paradise for foodies. With a host of ways to sample the country’s finest produce – be it chocolate, cheese, wine or one of 350 types of sausage – there’s something to suit all tastes.
For those seeking vinous pleasures, a visit to Switzerland offers a rare opportunity to try the wine, which is normally so popular with the locals that there’s none available for export. More than 50 different grape varieties – including some not found anywhere else in the world – are grown here. The largest winegrowing areas are along the valley of the Rhône in the Valais, where the Visperterminen vineyards are the highest in Europe, and in western Switzerland, on the shores of lakes Geneva, Neuchâtel, Biel and Murten. The 800-year-old vineyards of Lavaux above Lake Geneva are particularly lovely and were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. Elsewhere, you might explore the vineyards of Ticino, following the wine trail between Gudo and Biasca – and stopping at grotti (traditional inns) along the way.
It goes without saying that Switzerland is a dream destination for chocoholics – the Swiss invented milk chocolate and have been crafting it into all manner of sweet treats ever since. Many top
chocolatiers, including Cailler-Nestlé, Alprose, Maestrani and Chocolat Frey, are open to visitors. Other recommended foodie tours include a visit to Läckerli-Huus in Basel, home of the eponymous
biscuits, or an excursion to
Val-de-Travers, the birthplace of absinthe.
There’s plenty on offer for those who prefer a more DIY approach, too. At least once a week, every town holds a market showcasing regional fresh produce – those in Bellinzona, Chur, Basel and Solothurn are particular favourites. If you have a hankering for Swiss cheese, be it creamy Vacherin, sharp Appenzeller or nutty Emmentaler, why not take one of the tours and tastings organised by many of the dairies. And if you find yourself in western Switzerland’s Gruyère region, a visit to the AOC dairy next to the ancient castle of Gruyère is a must. Here, you can watch the famous cheese being produced, before tasting and buying samples to take home.
To fully appreciate the country’s stunning scenery, it’s best to get on the move. Hikers will find that the high path between Chasseral and Frinvilliers near Biel not only offers spectacular views, but along the way they’ll get the chance to visit a dozen or so métairies – alpine huts where regional specialities such as cheese, rösti and ham are served. On the railways, favourite excursions include travelling to the peak of the Brienzer Rothorn on Switzerland’s oldest steam-powered cog railway and the trip from Zweisimmen to Montreux on the GoldenPass Classic, a dining car shaped like a wine barrel. Climb aboard Mount Rigi’s vintage electric cogwheel railway, dating from 1911, or the Gourmino, a 1930s dining car. For something more offbeat, take the cable car to the top of the Schilthorn for the ‘James Bond Breakfast’ at the Piz Gloria revolving restaurant (where On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was filmed) or opt for a fondue cruise on Lake Constance.
With so many regional specialities on offer – from rösti (potato cakes) in Bern, raclette (melted mountain cheese) in the Valais and geschnetzeltes (creamy shredded veal) in Zürich – your visit will be a gastronomic adventure you’ll never forget.
For further information and to order or download the ‘Gourmet Travel’ brochure please call freephone 00 800 100 200 30 or visit: www.myswitzerland.com/en.cfm/interests/food_and_wine
Editorial feature from Square Meal Lifestyle Magazine Autumn 2008