Breathtaking scenery and delicious gourmet experiences are two of the things that I always seem to remember from holidays past and with Switzerland boasting an abundance of both, it’s the perfect place to plan a gourmet driving holiday.
As part of their recently-launched Grand Tour of Switzerland, Switzerland Tourism have named twelve idyllic drives around the country that have been declared as Dream Routes. With iconic views of Switzerland’s stunning alps, lakes and valleys, and a smorgasbord of culinary delights to sample, it sounds to me like the ideal holiday.
As you drive around Switzerland, gazing in awe at the stunning scenery, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to sample some of the nation’s specialties like Rösti, Raclette and Fondue but there are many more foods and beverages that really should be tried, too. Some are now commercially produced whilst others can be sampled at private farms and in alpine huts.
One of my fondest memories of Switzerland is buying home made yoghurt from the dairy shed of a farm just below Muerren. It was, without doubt, the best yoghurt I’ve ever eaten.
After perusing the Dream Routes of Switzerland, I’ve chosen the views I’d most like to enjoy and the foodie treats I’d like to try on my own driving tour of Switzerland. There are plenty more options, too, but I think you’ll agree that this gourmet food tour will satisfy all taste buds whilst also providing your fill of superb Swiss scenery.
And the great thing is, if you’re short on time, just pick one or two Dream Routes for your own personal Swiss gourmet tour.
Travelling from: Neuchatel to Bern
Dream Routes: La Sauge to Sugiez and Unterseen to Oberhofen
Best views: The drive from Lake Neuchatel to Lake Murten over Mont Vully promises spectacular views of the Three-Lakes Region. Further on at Unterseen, there are uninterrupted views of the ‘Big Three’ - the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains - which will take your breath away.
Gourmet delights: Chocolate and cheese are synonymous with Switzerland and there’s no better place to learn more about these gourmet treats than at the Cailler-Nestle factory in Broc and the Pringy show dairy where you can find out more about the world-famous Gruyere cheese.
Another local specialty is the meringue, traditionally baked in a wood-fired oven, and served with whipped cream. It’s a favourite of the folks of Fribourg.
Travelling from: Bern to Lucerne
Dream Route: Burgdorf to Affoltern in Emmental
Best views: This route passes through quiet country lanes and dense forest, before emerging at Lueg where there are superb views of the valley below. The little hamlet of Heiligenland is camera-worthy, too, with its pretty gardens and lush meadows.
Gourmet delights: Discover the art of fine biscuit making at the ‘Kambly Experience’ in Trubschachen, then find out how Emmental cheese gets its holes at the Emmental Show Dairy in Affoltern.
If you’re still feeling peckish, head to the Chocolat Frey Visitor Centre in Buchs. Chocolate Frey is Switzerland’s number one brand of chocolate with a 35% market share so it’s definitely worth a taste! It's just one of many tasty chocolate experiences you can enjoy in Switzerland.
Travelling from: Lucerne to Zurich
Dream Route: Greppen to Beckenried
Best views: Be sure to take the Hammetschwand lift, Europe’s highest outdoor elevator, to Burgentock. The lift rises 152 metres in less than a minute and once at the top, you’ll be rewarded with fantastic panoramic views of Lake Lucerne and the surrounding alps.
Gourmet delights: When in Lucerne it is essential to try Birnweggen, a sweet pastry roulade filled with pear. In Zurich, make sure you try the Zuri-Geschnetzeltes, a thin veal schnitzel served with an onion, white wine and cream sauce. I can confirm it is delicious!
Travelling from: Zurich to Maienfeld
Dream Route: Eschenz to Tägerwilen
Best views: There are plenty of amazing views available on this route. The picture-perfect medieval town of Stein am Rhein is worth a visit and for a spectacular view of Lake Constance (known as Bodensee in German), head to Berlingen. The Rhine Falls at Schaffhausen offer a different kind of view - that of Europe’s largest waterfall thundering below you.
Gourmet delights: You’ll be spoilt for choice on this route. In St. Gallen sample the local specialty, the Olma Sausage which was invented in 1438 - just don’t ask for mustard on the side!
Then in Appenzell, tantalise your taste buds with the local cheese and apples and take a tour of the Brauquoll Brewery to learn how Appenzell beer is created from fresh spring water.
Travelling from: Maienfeld to Bellinzona
Dream Routes: Thusis to Splügen and Zernez to Silvaplana
Best views: The crystal clear lake at St. Moritz provides views of nature at its best but for a higher perspective you can take a funicular from Punt Muragl to Muottas Mural for stunning views.
Another option is the Bernina Express train journey (it’s possible to travel part of the way and then return to your starting point if time is tight) which offers amazing views of mountains, glaciers and even an alpine garden.
Gourmet delights: The Bundner Nusstorte (nut tart) is perfect to enjoy with your morning or afternoon coffee. Various versions of this local specialty abound - all claiming to be the best. Perhaps you’ll need to sample a few and make your own choice!
Travelling from: Chiasso to Zermatt
Dream Routes: Airolo to Gletsch and Melide to Montagnola
Best views: Without doubt, the Furka Pass is one route every visitor to Switzerland should experience. Switchback roads and hairpin bends mean this drive isn’t for the faint-hearted but the views more than make up for the white knuckle ride!
Gourmet delights: A Ticino specialty, Gazzosa lemonade is refreshing, fizzy drink served in a retro bottle.
Travelling from: Zermatt to St. George (Lake Geneva)
Dream Routes: Corseaux to Lutry and Ardon to Saillon
Best views: The Route de la Corniche offers views of a different kind as it meanders its way through vineyard terraces that cling to the banks of Lake Geneva.
Gourmet delights: Once a bread for the poor, Roggenbrot (rye bread), a rustic sourdough loaf with a thick crust is now a real speciality and the perfect way to start the day. You’ll need to be well fed if you plan on visiting the Valais region’s wineries where over 50 varieties of grapes are grown.
A unique vineyard worth visiting is the Colline Ardente - it’s owned by the Dalai Lama and is officially Switzerland’s smallest vineyard.
Travelling from: Geneva to Neuchatel
Dream Route: Vich to Le Brassus
Best views: The Col du Marchairuz mountain pass rises high above Lake Geneva and provides superb views to both the lake and the nearby Alps. You can even see Europe’s highest mountain, Mont Blanc, from here.
Gourmet delights: If you’re visiting Geneva in December, you’re likely to see sweet shops displaying Marmite de l’Escalade, chocolate pots filled with marzipan vegetables. They are eaten to celebrate Geneva’s defeat of the Dukes of Savoy back in 1602.
At other times of the year, check out Holy Cow!, Lausanne’s burger restaurant that serves nutritious, locally-produced homemade food that is cooked in front of you.
Whatever tastes take your fancy, you definitely won’t be disappointed with the quality and variety of Switzerland’s gourmet produce. Your only problem will be restraining yourself from over-indulgence!
Images courtesy of Switzerland Tourism.