For Americans, the idea of traveling by train is somehow quaint — a relic of another era used only for leisure and not for regular commuting. In Europe, however, nothing could be further from the truth: Trains are the lifeblood of the continent, whisking tourists, business folk, students, and leisure travelers to and fro, casting a web over almost every conceivable part of the European Union.
Given their ingenuity and penchant for invention, the train-tied Swiss took this rather banal mode of transport to another level entirely, creating the famed Chocolate Train. Yes, it’s just what you would expect, but let us tell you more …
What this delightful train trip offers
In short: a culinary adventure. Snaking from Montreux in the west (set on Lac Lemon) to the city of Gruyères and back again to Montreux, the day-long Chocolate Train trek actually folds in several historic and gustatory experiences.
First things first: a well-fed departure featuring pain au chocolat and rich Swiss coffee. A brief transfer later (you’ll hardly notice) and you will have arrived in the medieval town of Gruyères. For several hours, you’ll be set free to explore this quaint village, including the HR Giger Museum, filled with the artist’s unabashedly revealing paintings, films, furniture, and sculptures; the tea room and bakery known simply as Les Arcades; and several restaurants, including the exceptional Auberge de la Halle which is best experienced at a street-facing window coupled with a steaming bowl of bottomless Soupe de Chalet .
Whatever your chosen indulgences, make time for to visit the eighth-century Château des Gruyères — a monument to the region’s medieval importance, fitted with art, sculptures, stained glass windows, weapons, and more that were used throughout the centuries. As part of your tour, you’ll hear tales of regional heroes and heroines, like the local women who once used their own goats as weapons to protect the city. Admission costs 12 CHF ($12) and you can amble at your pace.
Most importantly, be back at the bus depot in time for a quick jaunt to the nearby town of Broc Fabrique where you will discover a charming little spot known as La Maison Cailler-Nestlé. Ok, it’s less charming and more sprawling —a vast campus, anchored by a bright white building, where chocolate is produced en masse.
Start by taking a museum tour, where interactive and multi-sensory experiences guide your trek through the long history of chocolate. You’ll learn all about the confection’s Aztec origins, information about the cacao bean, and how Cailler sources its ingredients. Then, assemble for a chocolate workshop like none other, savoring the nuances of white, milk, and dark chocolates and what sets the quality lot apart from the rest. If you’ve brought some creative kids, let them go to town on the chocolate lab where they can add fruit, nuts, or more “exotic” ingredients to their own bars, then decorate the final product with candy, more chocolate, and candied fruit.
At this point, you’re likely tuckered out and chocolate-stuffed. Good news: the bus will be waiting to shuffle you back down to Montreux, just a 45-minute ride away.
Pricing and specifics
The cost of this delectable chocolate experience is 99 CHF ($102) per adult and 69 CHF ($70) for kids. This covers transportation (train and buses), the museum and factory tour, and the morning café with pain au chocolat. Meals in Gruyères and entrance to the Gruyères castle are not included.
For more details about this fun culinary adventure, visit the Chocolate Train website.