We did not know much about Pays-d’Enhaut – Château-d’Oex before we visited. We’d seen pictures of the annual hot air balloon festival that takes place in Château-d’Oex, but other than that, it was a magical unknown region. Therefore when Vaud Tourism asked us if we would be interested in promoting the area, we did not have to think twice.
In a few words; special, authentic, charming, gourmet and most of all proud. These words summarize the regional nature park Gruyère Pays-d’Enhaut and its people.
Where is Pays-d’Enhaut – Château-d’Oex?
The area Pays-d’Enhaut is in Canton Vaud nestled between the Canton of Fribourg in the Gruyere region and upmarket Gstaad in the Bernese Oberland, along the Grand Swiss Tour.
Equally it is also reachable via Montreux /Aigle by driving over the Col des Mosses into the Vaudois pre-Alps.
On the map below I have marked where all our family activities were whilst staying at Château-d’Oex plus more.
You will find the following in this article.
- Where is Pays-d’Enhaut – Château-d’Oex?
- What to expect from Pays-d’Enhaut – Château-d’Oex
- What to do on a Family Visit in Château-d’Oex / half day
- What to do on a Family Visit in Château-d’Oex / full day
- Bike ride/Or hike over Pont Turrian and along to Cascade du Ramaclé
- The Grand Tour of Switzerland Photo Spot
- Where to stay in Pays-d’Enhaut – Château-d’Oex
- Where to eat in Pays-d’Enhaut – Château-d’Oex
- Suggestions & Tips
- Other Swiss Destinations
What to expect from Pays-d’Enhaut – Château-d’Oex
For us it was different from many places we had visited within Switzerland. The Vaudois pre-Alps are green and open and the whole area feels like the location from a children’s book. The locals have kept their traditions and maintained their authenticity through many generations.
Papercutting, Cheese and Hot Air Ballooning are the Pride and Joys of the Region.
We visited at the end of summer, therefore it was expectedly quiet which we loved a lot. There are many hiking and biking trails on offer. Whether you prefer to stay low and enjoy a family stroll or bike ride along the river La Sarine, or if you feel you need some altitude gain and prefer to go up high, the choice is yours.
As mentioned before, Château-d’Oex is very well known for its hot air ballooning culture and flights can be booked with the local office.
World’s first: It is here in Château-d’Oex, where the first around the world non-stop air-balloon flight started
It was in March 1999 and took 20 days.
What to do on a Family Visit in Château-d’Oex
Below I have listed our family activities whilst we were in Pays-d’Enhaut – Château-d’Oex.
The Village Château-d’Oex in Switzerland
We arrived in the area just before lunch and as we had been driving for quite some time, we started our Pays-d’Enhaut experience by Château-d’Oex. You should definitely walk through the small village and you will quickly see how all the shops are neat, tidy and well presented, ready for the passing tourists. Cosy bakeries/coffee shops and nice restaurants invite you to relax and enjoy the authentic Château-d’Oex.
To the kids delight there is a great playground with an adjacent crazy golf (mini golf) and a buvette at the lower end of the village right before the semi pedestrian zone. Why semi-? Cars are still allowed to drive through but at a reduced speed of 20km/h. Next to the playground you will find a large underground car park. Above it are tennis courts and a football field.
Before heading to our lunch venue we wandered up to the church which is situated on a small hill in the middle of the village. Definitely a magical place which affords a beautiful view over all of the village and beyond.
If you need any food shopping, in addition to the local artisanal shops you will also find a large Coop situated next to the Le Chalet Restaurant.
Cheese Making Demonstration at Le Chalet Restaurant
Château-d’Oex has many restaurants where you can choose to have lunch but what is special about Le Chalet is the cheese making demonstration. Therefore we opted to have lunch here.
Whilst you are enjoying a cheese fondue (made from their own cheese) you can at the same time observe the traditional cheese making process.
First the milk needs to be heated in a copper pot on a wood burning fire for at least 1½ hours. Once the right temperature is reached and curd starts to form, the cheese making process can begin. The curd extraction and pressing is quite a quick process so make sure you do not miss it.
The new wheel of 20kg cheese now needs to mature at least 135 days in the L’Etivaz Cave at La Maison de L’Etivaz. What I loved is that they are demonstrating the cheese making process up to 2-3 times a week, basically depending on their needs. All the cheese is either sold in their small shop or used in the restaurant. Our kids really loved to see how they “assembled” the cheese wheel and Chloe even tried the fresh curd. Despite the rubbery texture she enjoyed it very much. 🙂
Visit the Espace Ballon Museum in Château-d’Oex
You cannot leave Château-d’Oex without having visited the hot air balloon museum, Espace Ballon. I have to be honest, we’re not a frequent museum visiting family, but we all enjoyed this one very much. It is not too large and was perfect to keep the kids interested as well. At the top is even a kid’s corner where they can draw their own balloon. Make sure when you visit you watch the interactive film where they documented the 1st nonstop around the world trip in a hot air balloon. The trip was in 1999 and it took 20 days! What an achievement!
Outside of the Museum is the actual capsule they were flying in.
And if you never been in a hot air balloon, why not book a flight and make this visit even more memorable. Simply ask at the museum for more info and prices.
Late afternoon stroll at Lac du Vernex in Rossinière
Before heading to our hotel, we made a quick detour to Lac du Vernex in Rossinière, which is a max 10min drive from Château-d’Oex. You can drive down to the lakeshore, where we parked the car and spent some time during the golden hours by the water. The kids wanted to take their bikes along which was perfectly safe. You can actually do a tour of the lake and we set off for the dam. It looked like once you cross the dam the path continues on a small road, but as the kids were on their bikes we opted for the same route back..
This also gave us some time to sit by the shore, throw some stones and feel the warmth the sun was still offering at this time of the day. The perfect way to finish our 1st day in Pays-d’Enhaut – Château-d’Oex.
Experience the Cheese Production in La Maison de L’Etivaz
For our 2nd day we thought when you’re in an area that is so proud of their cheese that you must investigate this a bit more, right? The place for this is the L’Etivaz Cave – La Maison de L’Etivaz. A cooperative of 72 families who make their AOP mountain pasture cheese on the alpine pastures and bring it down to La Maison de L’Etivaz to finish the production process.
To see so much cheese in one place was astonishing. As a Swiss family we eat cheese pretty much on a daily basis, but how much do we actually know about it? Well, I can tell you from our family’s point of view, not much! Therefore, we really appreciated the just over one hour guided tour. It started with a film, followed by a walk through the cellars with explanations and information from a very knowledgeable guide.
The tour was short enough also for our kids to stay focused. The best thing for them was the robot that turned the cheese wheels and salted them again. Lucas was amazed and frankly so were we.
For a very small supplement to the ticket price you can then taste some of the delicious different cheeses finished in La Maison de L’Etivaz. It’s worth it.
Hike along the Gorges du Pissot from L’Etivaz to Château-d’Oex
Travel Tip; If your accommodation is in Château-d’Oex, I recommend to leave your car there and take the bus to arrive at L’Etivaz. This way you can hike back along the Gorges du Pissot to Château-d’Oex.
After our perfect morning at the L’Etivaz Cheese Cellars, we started our way back to Château-d’Oex on foot along the Gorges du Pissot. It is a 9.2km hike that brings you along the river La Torneresse through forest, meadows and finally along the open pastures to Château-d’Oex.
Although the hike is called Gorges du Pissot, you don’t actually walk in the Gorges. The path follows the river for a while but then brings you up allowing a view of the Gorges from the top. It then crosses the main road where it leads back over open farmland to Château-d’Oex.
Travel Tips: Where the path crosses the road, you will see on the other side the yellow footpath sign. But before you cross to take this path, walk along the road for about 50m with the Gorges on you left until you reach a layby area. Just be extra careful until you’re there as you will be walking the 50m on the main road. From this layby you have a nice view down the Gorges du Pissot.
At the same area there is a NEW crazy giant swing. You can see the ropes and the platform from where they want you to jump! We would have loved to see someone on the swing, but there was nobody there when we visited.[
There are plenty of places along the river to have a break, let the kids throw some stones and take some fun family pictures.
We loved the end of the hike the most, simply as it is completely different to others we have completed. The path went straight through an open pasture. It was green and spacious, just beautiful. You can see Château-d’Oex nestled in the distance.
When we got back to the hotel we were ready to relax, our minds filled with beautiful images.
Bike Ride or Hike over Pont Turrian and along to Cascade du Ramaclé
The morning of our departure we still wanted to visit one more place we had heard about, the Cascade du Ramaclé via the Pont Turrian.
When I checked on Google maps I saw that the whole path is fairly flat and that it would be a great idea to bike it.
We don’t have a bike carrier therefore we rented the adults bikes at the local bike shop Planète Sport, which is situated opposite the children’s playground in the village of Château-d’Oex. The kids bikes still fit in the car boot so we brought them with us.
From our hotel we could bike all the way down to the River La Sarine. It was the 1st time the kids had biked next to the road so I must admit I was a bit nervous.
But once you are on the forest path it is all fun. Just follow the sign for Cascade du Ramaclé.
Before we reached the cascade/falls, we had the fun of crossing the Pont Turrian, which is the oldest suspension bridge in French speaking Switzerland.
The bridge is a nice photo spot depending on the time of the day. We were pretty early in the morning and the sun had just started to peak over the tree line. Perfect and pretty.
Note: After the bridge turn immediately left and not uphill to follow the path to the base of the falls.
The path has many bridges which we all loved to cross on our bikes, especially the kids. Occasionally we had to push the bikes uphill but nothing too strenuous.
We spotted lots of great picnic places with tables, benches and fire pits. Some were right at the river bed some a bit inland. But they all looked amazing and for sure a fun day is guaranteed with family and friends.
We reached the Cascade du Ramaclé, the falls, after about one hour. This time included a lot of stops for photos 🙂 and some pushing of the bikes. The water cascading from high above and the bright green moss gave it a beautiful contrast.
It looks like the sun at this time of the year, September, is not reaching over the trees to warm and dry the left-hand side of the river area where the falls are. It gave a rainforest-like feeling that we loved. Not having the sun was ok as the other side was in full sunlight and with the autumn colours slowly shining through it was a magical spot.
We saw that we could have done a loop, but we returned the same way we came, as the kids wanted to cross all the bridges again.
The whole path is also pushchair friendly and ideal for little hiking legs.
We’re happy we made the decision to add this morning ride onto our 2 days visit in Pays-d’Enhaut – Château-d’Oex.
The Grand Tour of Switzerland – Photo Spot
As we knew Château-d’Oex is on the Grand Tour of Switzerland, we had to find out whether one of the distinctive red photo spot signs is located in the area. And we were in luck! One is stituated only a couple of minutes from Le Chalet Restaurant right opposite the Burger restaurant. The exact address is Route de Saanen 71 – 1660 Château-d’Oex.
So make sure to click your family at the PHOTO SPOT PAYS-d’ENHAUT.
It nicely frames La Pierreuse Nature Reserve that lies around the Gummfluh mountain you see in the back.
Where to stay in Pays-d’Enhaut – Château-d’Oex
Our stay was hosted by the Hotel & Restaurant L’Ermitage. Perfectly situated on the outskirts of the village of Château-d’Oex. The hotel has a kids play room with great toys, colouring station and if needed a TV and videos. Outside are some rabbits and chickens which were loved by our kids. You can book this place with halfboard or rooms only
The family suite at the L’Ermitage, was 2 rooms connected through the bathroom. Big and comfortable enough for a nice weekend.
Tip & Suggestion: The hotel is located right next to a large field where the Hot Air Balloons are taking off early mornings. A sight the whole family was happy to witness, especially the kids as they could not believe their eyes. 🙂
If you do not want to miss the whole setting up of the balloons before they are taking off you probably need to be outside at around 7am. But I suggest call the Espace Ballons office and ask if they have someone flying in the morning, so you can be prepared.
The 1st morning we missed the take off. Only when they were already in the air did we hear the propane burners and saw the balloons. It was still a nice sight. The next morning we were more prepared. As soon as we woke up we checked if there were some balloons on the field and we were lucky. There was only one but still great to see the crew prepping it and how it finally flew away.
Where to Eat in Pays-d’Enhaut – Château-d’Oex
Our first night we ate at our Hotel & Restaurant L’Ermitage. They encourage children to eat from the main menu and adapt the prices according to the children’s age. If you have fussy eaters one pasta dish is available.
Our 2nd night we enjoyed a very nice meal at Chalet Le Richemont. Personally, we found this place more family friendly for the menu choice. And as it was 2 min across the road from our hotel, the perfect place for a change of scenery.
Le Chalet Restaurant, where we had our cheese demonstration is also a great place to have lunch. Their house fondue was delicious and so was the dessert, meringue with double Gruyere cream. Glad we had that for lunch though! 🙂
Tips & Suggestions
- Check out the coloured boxes within this article. You will find there our suggestions for that particular section.
- There are many more hiking and biking options which you can find here.
- If you are interested in seeing the international hot air balloon festival which is held during the winter month of January, check out more information here.
Definitely a date we will keep an eye on! How magical must this be to see all the brightly coloured balloons against the contrast of the snow.
If you spend more then just a weekend in Château d’Oex then you might like to hike to Lac Lioson which is only a short drive away
You may also like the following Destinations within the Area
- The Refuge de Solalex – Family Winter Walk & Overnight at Refuge
- Villars-Grion – Les Diableret-The Perfect Family Winter Resort
- Ormont-Dessous, Les Mosses – A family Hike to Lac Lioson – Lioson Lake
- Zermatt – Ride up to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise – An Epic Family Experience
- Whitepod Eco-Luxury Hotel, a unique family experience
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