The Best Raclette in Switzerland

by Becky Mumby-Croft

As winter descends, it’s only natural that our appetites change from fancying fresh, leafy salads to craving heartier dishes. And what better dish to indulge in when temperatures drop than the Alpine classic, raclette? A European staple, especially in France, Germany, and Switzerland, raclette has become popular in Canada and the United States as well during winter. But if you really want to indulge in this cheesy, filling dish, you have to head to its birthplace of Switzerland, natch! 

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What is Raclette cheese?

If you’re not sure what raclette truly is, or how it’s different from fondue, then welcome, you’ve come to the right place. Here you’ll find your crib sheet on all things raclette so you can get up to speed. 

Raclette refers to both the cheese and the dish. Raclette cheese is made from hard cow’s milk that originates from the glorious Swiss Alps. Fresh, unpasteurized milk is curdled for about 24 hours after milking, making it the perfect ripeness in flavor and texture. Eminently meltable, the light yellow cheese can be heated to high temps and served over vegetables and meat. The best raclette boasts PDO status (protected designation of origin) and should have a stamp stating Raclette du Valais. 

How to melt raclette cheese 

Raclette, the dish, comes from taking this hard block of yellow cheese and heating it up to 100 degrees so it melts, then is scraped off onto a plate and served with potatoes, pickles and meats. It gets its name from the French-Swiss dialect word “raclet” meaning “to scrape.” A winemaker from the Valais region invented the dish decades ago after he ate a warmed up version of the cheese one winter instead of enjoying it at room temperature. 

At home (and in some restaurants) you’ll often get a little heater that is placed in the middle of the table. Each group has their own individual grill, called a raclonette, which they use to make their dinner. Cold cheese is put on an individual pan and melts under the grill. Although the DIY way can be fun, in fancier establishments, it’s more likely that the chef will take half a wheel and put the long side under a special grill and once warm, the server will scrape the melted raclette off the wheel and present it to you on a plate, ready to enjoy. 

Raclette cheese is famous for its pungent smell. The smell is so intense—think forgotten, damp gym towel and you’re close—that it puts people off from eating it entirely! However, once you heat this hard cheese, the distinctive smell dissipates and as it melts, the cheese texture changes into a viscous dairy delight that tastes of nutty caramel. 

How is fondue different from raclette?

It’s easy to get fondue and raclette confused as both are melted cheese delicacies, but there is a difference. Fondue often uses creamier cheeses such as Gruyere or Gouda, which are then heated in a special pot over a flame. The cheese is mixed with white wine, cherry liquor and some flour to help it thicken. Fondue forks are then used to dip small pieces of bread, meat, or vegetables into the sumptuous sauce. To simplify things, fondue is more like a bechamel sauce whereas raclette is more akin to cheese on toast. 

Where to eat the best raclette in Switzerland?

Whether you’re on a city break or you’re enjoying a relaxing retreat in the mountains, you’ll be spoiled for choice for raclette restaurants. But where to start? We’ve picked some of our favorite places to indulge in this artery-blocking dish throughout Switzerland. 

The best place to eat Raclette in Geneva 

Expect kitschy traditional decor at Auberge de Saviese, Geneva’s top raclette joint. Credit: Auberge de Saviese

Home to the United Nations and the International Red Cross, Geneva is known for its outward-looking approach to global issues. The city sits on Lake Geneva and under Mont Blanc’s shadow. The city offers modernity and luxury but is just a stone’s throw from the countryside.

Auberge de Saviese is very proud of its Swiss heritage (flags abound) but it offers a more French-inspired flare than your usual raclette joint—think bistro chairs and lamps made of wine bottles. As to be expected, wooden beams hang overhead and the space is styled in a retro chalet fashion. However, Auberge de Saviese is on the right side of kitsch—we adore the fondue-pot candle holders! 

Auberge de Saviese offers a range of specialty dishes such as rich but delicate, thinly sliced veal, or flavorsome smoked trout. When it comes to Swiss cheesy dishes the restaurant boasts plenty of options, including fondue, Malakoffs (indulgent cheese donuts) and, of course, raclette. You don’t need to worry about melting the cheese yourself as it’s prepared in the kitchen and comes with pickles, onions and a hearty jacket potato.  

The best place to eat Raclette in Gruyere

The Best Raclette in Switzerland

With stunning views of the mountains, Chalet de Gruyères is peak Swiss. Credit: Chalet de Gruyères

When you think of Gruyere, your first thought might be of its own delicious nutty cheese, however, there’s more to the quaint town than that—and that includes raclette! In the canton of Fribourg, this charming medieval town is definitely worth a visit. Dating back more than 800 years, Gruyere is recognized for its sprawling 13th-century castle, which sits on a small mountain dwarfed by the atmospheric PreAlps. 

The French-speaking town brims with cobbled streets, cute white houses with wooden roofs and charming squares. Being fully pedestrianized, it’s the perfect place to amble around and take in the fresh, Swiss air. 

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to Le Chalet de Gruyères. In the heart of the medieval town, expect a rustic experience with heavy wooden chairs and checkered red curtains. Offering full chalet vibes, head to the terrace for spellbinding mountain views. The fondue here can be served “half and half,” where they mix Gruyere cheese with Vacherin. However, the raclette only uses its namesake and is served with potatoes, pickles and bread—a true feast.

The best place to eat Raclette in Valais 

The Best Raclette in Switzerland

People travel from all over Valais to meet Eddy and to try his version of raclette. Credit Raclett’House

In the heart of the region where true raclette comes from sits Raclett’House. Situated in the small village of Bruson in Valais (about a 15-minute drive from the popular skiing resort of Verbier), you’re treated to endless rolling hills and fir trees near the Bisse des Ravines walking route. 

Inside this typical Swiss chalet, giant cowbells hang from the ceiling and pictures of bison adorn the walls. There is a deli counter so you can get your raclette to go or you can sit down and enjoy a moment of respite. 

The owner, Eddy, is personable and will happily talk you through his selection of cheeses, including raclette, all of which are made locally. He also prepares your tasty plate of raclette (made just down the road), which he serves with homemade pickles—Eddy is also considered a pickle expert, so expect only the crunchiest.

The best places to eat Raclette in Zermatt 

The Best Raclette in Switzerland

Romantic raclette: At Saycheese!, you’ll find an alleviated take on Swiss Chalet vibes. Credit: Saycheese!

On the border with Italy, Zermatt is one of Switzerland’s most bougie destinations and has the country’s most recognizable mountain peak, the Matterhorn, as its backdrop. Filled with boutiques and plenty of watering holes, Zermatt offers a range of places to enjoy raclette. 

Make a beeline to the fabulously named saycheese! restaurant, found in the Grand Hotel Zermatterhof. Saycheese! is an inviting mix of rustic charm and modern accents. Walls are clad in thick slabs of untreated wood and leather banquettes dot the environs. Expect warm lighting, perfect for a romantic night of feasting on raclette. 

The restaurant gets its cheese from the hallowed Horu Cheesery, a local cheesemaker renowned in Zermatt for its locally sourced dairy products. Waiters serve the raclette warm, which exudes a fresh aroma complemented with notes of hay. 

The best place to eat raclette in Zurich 

The Best Raclette in Switzerland
The Best Raclette in Switzerland

Raclette Stube in Zurich’s old town is a throwback to days of yore. Credit: Raclette Stube
Low light and rustic design will transport you straight to the Swiss Alps. Credit: Raclette Stube

On impressive Lake Zurich, the financial capital of Switzerland boasts clean streets and a modern way of life. However, one of the most popular areas in Zurich is its Old Town where medieval architecture and narrow streets twist and turn as you experience a lesson in history. 

While Zurich is known for its Michelin-starred restaurants and glamorous boutiques, it still pays homage to Swiss tradition. With its rustic sign with a traditional font, Raclette Stube looks like it’s been there since the birth of the city. Step inside the window-fronted building and you’ll find white and red checkered tablecloths, dark wooden furniture and dappled cream walls—it’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a Swiss alps chalet. 

Raclette is served “à discrétion,” which means it’s all you can eat, so make sure you come hungry! Raclette Stube serves their version of this national dish with boiled new potatoes and freshly made pickles.