Culinary Travel: Switzerland’s Gastronomy Museum

UPDATE: The Swiss Gastronomy Museum (Schweizerisches Gastronomiemuseum) has closed. The foundation that supports this collection is searching for a new home. For more information, please visit the museum’s website (in German).

Schadau Castle in Thun, home of the Swiss Gastronomy Museum

Did you know Switzerland has one of the world’s largest libraries devoted to gastronomy? Located in Thun (canton of Bern), I visited the Schweizerisches Gastronomie-Museum (Swiss Gastronomy Museum) last month. I 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. It’s 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. The collection includes 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). Mr. Schraemli 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, serving 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 and a 1937 Coronation Gala dinner menu from the Ritz (founded by Swiss hotelier César Ritz). It also has a copy of the smallest cookbook in the world.
Books, culinary tools and other objects on display at the museum

As we moved our way upstairs, we found a small room filled floor-to-ceiling with food-related books. 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 first cookbook authored by a woman, who happens to be from Switzerland. I learned this fact in the pages of 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. I also saw a book entitled Cooking to Kill: The Poison Cook-book. It has recipes that call 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.

Bookcases full of food-related books at the Swiss Gastronomy Museum
A reprint of Ein köstlich new Kochbuch, by Anne Weckerin — the first cookbook written by a woman.

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.
  • During your visit, check out the Thun Panorama, the world’s oldest surviving panoramic 360-degree painting, housed in a museum near the castle.
The spiral staircase up to the entrance of the Swiss Gastronomy Museum.

If you have a strong interest in Swiss food or a particular research need, I recommend visiting the Swiss Gastronomy Museum. Please keep in mind that the museum displays 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,

Swiss Gastronomy Museum, Schloss Hünegg, Staatsstrasse 52,CH-3652 Hilterfingen, +41 033 223 14 32,

Updated: December 30, 2022

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