One of the things I learned when I first moved in Switzerland is that in winter, weekends are meant for skiing/snowboarding. I’m horrible at skiing or any winter sports but I absolutely love going to the mountains and spending the weekend in a chalet with friends, snowshoeing while the skiers ski, fondue and just enjoying everything covered in snow. So, when friends visited and asked me to take them for a day trip in the dead winter in Geneva, that does not involve snow sports, I thought it was a hard question to answer. My friends suggested the Chocolate Factory and Gruyères since they’ve seen them in travel magazines. And it was a good suggestion indeed!
Visiting the towns of Broc and Gruyères is one of the most perfect day trips you can do on a weekend if you are based in Geneva. It is an enjoyable activity for families and friends. It is also very accessible by train.
So, what’s in Broc and Gruyères? The town of Broc hosts the Maison Cailler or the famous Swiss Chocolate Factory. Gruyères, on the other hand, is the home of the Swiss cheese, gruyère, and the double cream gruyère (if you have not heard of this absolutely amazing dessert, you should!)
I have been to Broc and Gruyères a couple of times and in those times, we drove going to these towns. So, as a first-timer in going to these towns by train, I can assure you that it was simple and painless. This was our itinerary. Take note though that there are more scenic and more straightforward trains/panoramic trains from Montreaux to Broc and Gruyères in spring, summer and autumn. I found out that these panoramic trains stop operating during winter.
Geneva to Broc – Fabrique
We took the 8 am train (direction: Luzern) from Gare Cornavin. We got off at Palezieux, the next stop after Lausanne. It was about an hour train ride.
From Palezieux train station, we took another train with direction to Montbovon. We had a very short transfer time – 4 minutes! At first, I was not comfortable with it but Palezieux is a small train station and the platform for the train to Montbovon was just a minute walk from the platform we arrived in.
After about a 40-minute train ride, we got off at Bulle. It was another transit. Next, we took the train to Broc-Fabrique, finally! This time, we had quite some time to wait, 32 minutes to exact. But the train was already there so we didn’t really have to wait in the cold. Plus, while waiting for departure, it started snowing beautifully.
The train from Bulle to Broc-Fabrique was for only 11 minutes. From Broc-Fabrique, Maison Cailler is just a 2-minute walk away. Look up at the train’s direction and you will see a big white signage of the Cailler Chocolate Factory.
In total, the train ride from Geneva to Broc-Fabrique is 1 hour and 28 minutes.
The Chocolate Factory
In my previous visits, we had to wait for 30 – 60 minutes in the queue to get in. I also read that in the weekends of summer, waiting can be up to 2 hours. This is why I decided to do the Chocolate Factory first before Gruyères – to avoid the long queue. When we got there, they look like they just opened. We only had to wait for 5 minutes before the tour started. Entrance fee to the chocolate factory is, I think, CHF 4 per adult.
The actual tour is about an hour to two hours – half of the tour is a self-paced. And yes, you will eat chocolates during the tour. But save some space for the finale! At the end of the tour, you will find yourself in a room with all the gorgeous Cailler chocolates, all for you to taste.
After the tour, we shopped for some chocolates. You will find selections there that you won’t see in your Coop or any shops. The chocolates are not cheaper there, even though they have sales. What you can get there are the factory-reject chocolate bars – nothing wrong with them except that they’re not perfectly shaped – that are sold in kilos and in very simple packaging, without the Cailler logo.
Broc-Fabrique to Gruyères
Next, we headed to Gruyères just in time for lunch. From Broc-Fabrique, we took a train back to Bulle. With a short transit in Bulle, we took the train going to Montbovon. We got off at Gruyères. It was a short, 10-minute ride.
From the Gruyères train station, we had a beautiful walk up to the Old Town. It was a good 15-20 minute walk, depending on your pace. In our case, we stopped quite a lot for photos. There are 2 walking trails available from Gruyères train station to the Old Town. We took the lower trail/road.
The centre of the Old Town provides a stunning view of the Alps. I never really bothered to look at the most recommended places for lunch there because I feel that being the hometown of swiss cheese, it will be blasphemy to serve bad fondue in that town. For lunch, we went to Auberge de la Halle. If you make a reservation, I think this place has an area with a view of the mountains. When in Gruyères, don’t forget to try their traditional dessert – double cream gruyère with berries. It is one of my favourite desserts of all time!
After lunch, we walked around the Old Town, visiting the Gruyères castle. We didn’t go inside the castle as my friends will visit the Chateau Chillon the following day and we were starting to feel the long day. Even if you don’t plan to tour the Gruyères castle, it is still worth going up as it gives a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains.
While waiting for the train, we stopped by the Gruyères factory. We didn’t do the cheese tour but we got some cheeses and meringue.
From Gruyères, we took a direct train to Palezieux, 1-hr ride. The ride back home also gave a beautiful view of the sunset.
From Palezieux, finally we took the train to Geneva. We were back in Geneva before 7 pm.
Buy your train tickets in advance at the SBB office in Gare Cornavin. It will help you schedule your day better and not worry about figuring out how to use the ticket machines. The tickets for Geneva – Palezieux – Bulle – Geneva was CHF 87.20 (CHF 43.60 if you have the half fare card) and the tram from Broc-Fabrique – Gruyeres- Bulle was CHF 8.80 or CHF 4.40 for half fare card holders.
You can get your ticket to the Chocolate Factory at the SBB station when you buy your train tickets. I don’t really know if this will give you a quicker entry to the Chocolate Factory if you already have tickets in advance (we still needed to exchange them at Maison Cailler’s ticket counter to receive a ticket number and stub for the headset). From what I understand though, you can get them at a discounted price at the SBB office if they have promotions.
People usually go to Gruyères first then to Broc. Itinerary-wise, the SBB staff said it is easier. I insisted on doing the other way around to avoid long queue as people tend to come to the Chocolate Factory at late morning or in the afternoon.
Get the SBB app so you can immediately see the train schedules and your train options.