Did you know Switzerland is home to one of the world’s largest libraries devoted to gastronomy? Located in the city of Thun, in the Swiss canton of Bern, my children and I visited the Schweizerisches Gastronomie-Museum (Swiss Gastronomy Museum) last month, and we discovered some interesting titles and information about Swiss gastronomy.
Here are some quick facts about the Swiss Gastronomy Museum:
- This small museum opened in 1988, and is located in a section of the impressive mid-19th century Schloss Schadau Thun (Schadau Castle).
- The main feature of this small museum is its library — a collection of about 12,000 books about gastronomy that spans over the last 600 years. Many of these books were once part of the private collection of Harry Schraemli (1904-1995), who had a long career in the hotel and restaurant industry, and was particularly known for his bartending skills. He also started a journal in Switzerland called Schweizer Gastronom, and he served as the editor of this publication until 1981.
- It also has about 2,000 objects related to kitchens, dining rooms, hotels and restaurants. For example, the museum houses a duck press, a 1937 Coronation Gala dinner menu from the Ritz (founded by Swiss hotelier César Ritz) and a copy of the smallest cookbook in the world.
As we moved our way upstairs, from the first to the second floor, we found a small room filled wall-to-ceiling to food-related books, with a wide selection of titles. These ranged from ancient to modern cookbooks and culinary guides, and in multiple languages, such as French, German and English. For example, the library has a copy of the very first cookbook authored by a woman, who happens to be from Switzerland — a fact I learned from Martin Dahinden’s new book, Schweizer Küchengeheimnisse. Anna Wecker published her book, Ein köstlich new Kochbuch, in 1598. In sharp contrast to this early cookbook, the library also has a copy of the bestselling 2015 cookbook by Swiss author, Nadia Damaso — Eat Better, Not Less. And, on a completely different topic, I discovered my 8-year old son reading a book entitled Cooking to Kill: The Poison Cook-book, which had recipes that called for arsenic and other toxic ingredients!
I kept seeing more and more Swiss cookbooks with interesting recipes, so I will have to plan a return trip to the museum in the near future. If you are looking for a particular Swiss recipe, this is a good place to start your search.
Some practical information for visiting the museum:
- The museum is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission: CHF 7 for adults.
- Guided tours and other visits can be arranged outside of normal opening hours by appointment.
- Books can be viewed on site, but you cannot borrow them like at a regular lending library.
- You will also find the ARTS Restaurant on the ground floor of the Schadau Castle, which has an incredible view of the lake and the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains.
- During your visit, you could also check out the Thun Panorama, the world’s oldest surviving panoramic 360-degree painting, housed in a museum located on the castle grounds.
If you have a strong interest in Swiss food or have a particular research need, then I recommend a visit to the Swiss Gastronomy Museum. Please keep in mind that the displays in this cozy museum are written in German, and many of the books are in German or French. You can, however, arrange a tour in English of the museum collection and library in advance of your arrival.
Swiss Gastronomy Museum, Seestrasse 45, CH-3600 Thun, +41 33 223 14 32, email@example.com