The HR Giger bar is in the old town of Gruyères, just below the castle and directly next to the HR Giger museum. It is pretty much impossible to miss. His grave (which is must easier to miss) is also just around the corner and has his signature style.
HR Giger – of the Alien of Alien design fame – was born in Chur on the far side of Switzerland (where they also have a Giger bar). He bought the Château St. Germain in Gruyères which makes something of a surreal location for the bar/museum. It seems there is no special reason why it is there beyond Giger just really liking the area and wanting to buy something in the village.
Gruyères is a little bit awkward to get to from the main tourist centres: especially by public transport (which will require 3 different trains just from Bern). But there is a high density of museums and things to do in the area, and you can link it in to a trip in the Voralps. See my previous post for that.
The Giger Bar
In short it is a mediocre café with bloody impressive decorations. however, you are of course just going for the decorations so it doesn’t really matter anyway.
It is fun to visit, though it is a “once is enough unless you are taking other people” sort of place. I have been here three times; once for myself and then to show it to others. The best time being when I arrived in the village on a snowy morning in early February and the place was deserted (for an hour or two anyway). That said on another visit it was busy enough that is was hard to find space on a Sunday afternoon in February, so I dread to think what it would be like in August.
- Visually it is utterly stunning (street view link of the inside). The amount of detail put into everything from the ceiling spinal columns, to the seats, to the floor pattern is really impressive.
- The actual product served is ok but not exceptional. They don’t like having their menu online it seems – but here is the best I could find. The prices are slightly more expensive than standard in Switzerland which isn’t surprising. Whilst I didn’t have any food there, it looked to be bland but acceptable (and a seriously uninspired selection of boring options for such a unique location).
- There isn’t really much of an atmosphere. It feels like it should be something out of a Blade film full of leather clad vampires who are drinking away with techno music playing in the background. But the music seems to always be light jazz and every other patron is a tourist who is snapping away with photos of the walls or taking selfies with their cappuccino (just like you are).
- It is tiny. There is seating for maybe 45 people at a very cosy maximum.
- It is a popular destination in a popular tourist village. Between 11am and 5pm it will likely be rammed.
- Try not to sit directly next to the door. It will be opening and closing constantly, and they never seem to fix the squeak/bang as it closes.
- The service was more “tolerant of your existence” than friendly. Oddly for Switzerland they want payment on delivery of your drink.
- The toilets are awkwardly across the street, kind of in-but-not-in the museum.
The Giger Museum
- At 12.5CHF for adults it is fairly standard by Swiss prices (certainly you can pay more for less).
- Children are a mere 4CHF, but it is not really a child friendly museum.
- There is a seemingly endless amount of biomechanical-alien-sextoy-insertion art.
- You have a mix of drawings and sculptures. Some standard Alien images, various other sorts of biomechanical stuff, his own private collection of other peoples art, and endless alien vaginal penetration.
- There is very little about the man himself, so you won’t learn much there.
- It stretches over 4 or 5 levels with a fair bit to see. Figure about an hour if you are slowly walking about taking your time.
- Did I mention the strange biomechanical alien sex pictures enough yet?
- No photos allowed, but they do have lockers for you bags.
Other Giger stuff in Switzerland
I have not been, but the Giger bar in Chur looks to be much less interesting: it has the fancy seats but the rest of the room doesn’t have anywhere near the level of design that you find in Gruyères (street view link of the inside). The big open windows looking onto a bland shopping area seem to especially take away from the atmosphere. It is also not in the centre Chur, but rather on the outskirts of town in a commercial/industrial area surrounded by car sales lots and fast food outlets. Though given how small Chur is it only takes 10 minutes on the bus from the station, and it is presumably much quieter than the Gruyères bar at least.
Whilst in the area you can see Giger’s birth house in the old town of Chur, and there is a square named after him.
Some people talk about going to both bars in quick-succession. But unless you are super-hardcore Giger fan it would just not be worth it.
There are a few less exotic Giger places in Switzerland such as the Ailleurs sci-fi museum in Yverdon. Likely the only time you will ever go there, or even hear of the town.