Visit the home of Swiss cheese — the Emmental Valley of Switzerland, where the well-known holey cheese is made in dairies throughout the vibrant green, hilly region. Spend the day exploring the cow-clipped pastures and traditional chalets of this agricultural stronghold, then visit its most well-known attraction, the Emmental Show Dairy.
The dairy, a modern producer of a great deal of Emmental cheese, runs a tour that demonstrates the long history of cheesemaking in the area. Start with the traditional methods of the 18th century, where raw milk is gently warmed, stirred and screened over wood fires. Then see how the methods have progressed through the centuries.
The tour culminates with a chance to see the modern facility in action, as it turns vast quantities of milk into the cheese you know. At the end of the tour, you can taste the finished product at various stages of its ageing process.
From your hotel in Bern, a driver will take you about 45 minutes out of the city into the Emmental Valley, a farming region where the original, holey ‘Swiss cheese’ is made. The gently sloping landscape, with its brilliant-green grazing lands, deep pines and characteristic wide-roofed barns, is the backdrop for the Emmental Show Dairy, where you’ll spend much of your day.
You’ll begin with a guided tour through the history of cheesemaking in the region, starting with a demonstration of 18th-century manufacturing methods inside a traditional Alpine chalet. The raw milk is slowly heated over an open fire before the necessary enzymes are added and the cheese screened and strained. You’ll also learn the best-kept secret of all: how the holes get into the cheese.
The tour continues through the various periods of the 19th and 20th centuries, as equipment developed and the rate of production increased. You’ll get a sense of how these cheesemakers managed to hold on to traditions while moving into the modern era.
In the final part of the tour, you’ll take an audio-visual journey through to the present day and have a chance to witness the modern process. The dairy is a working one, which has been open 365 days a year since 1989, producing cheese from 8,000 litres (about 2,100 gallons) of milk every day. While you watch, you’ll get to taste Emmental at various stages of maturity.
You can get lunch on your own here once the tour is through, and enjoy the predominantly cheese-based menu. Swiss macaroni and cheese is a popular choice, but the more traditional dishes of fondue and raclette are also served.
In the afternoon, there are various options for you to explore. At 2pm each day, you can make your own cheese under the tutelage of a master cheesemaker, and take the result home with you or eat it on-site. The dairy also includes a specialty cheese shop, a bakery and a restaurant, and there’s a playground and petting zoo for children.
If you want to get out into the countryside, you can rent an electric bike and ride through the nearby villages to explore.
Your driver will take you back to Bern at the end of the day.