Behind the Medieval Walls of Murten

Thank goodness a friend of mine has an apartment in Murten (Morat in French).  To miss out on this medieval-walled village (and its little gem of a chocolate shop) would be a shame.

And this is why I love Switzerland so much… in every direction, in every canton and in every region, there are countless villages with picturesque old towns just waiting to be discovered.  And in most, a sweet specialty of its own.

Murten/Morat, SwitzerlandLa Violette, Murten/Morat, Switzerland

Sitting atop a small hill (affording fantastic views), Murten is between Bern and Lausanne in the canton of Fribourg.  For such a small town, it is simply fascinating how chock-full of culture, history and sights it is.  Walking up and down the main street Hauptgasse (formerly called Reichengasse), eying the buildings with undulating facades at varying heights, its stone fountain, flower boxes galore, arcaded shops and clock tower reminiscent of Bern, I was at first surprised to see shops with double signage, Metzgerei and Charcuterie (for butcher), for example.  Turns out we were literally walking on the Röstigraben, Switzerland’s infamous language border, a divide of linguistic differences, as well as cultural and culinary.  Swiss German on one side, French-speaking Romandie on the other.

Murten/Morat, SwitzerlandMurten/Morat, SwitzerlandMurten/Morat, SwitzerlandMurten/Morat, Switzerland

Murten is already on my list of ideas for when friends and family visit us in Zürich.  One thing I’ll do again with them, after roaming the small winding streets of the old town and having a slice of Nidelkuchen (more on that below), is walk along the town’s ramparts.  Views from the castle wall of sloping red roofs, stone chimneys and lush green gardens, as well Lake Murten and the Vully vineyards in the distance, are spectacular.  Also as enjoyable is heading down past the charming alleyways to the boat lined waterfront and going for a short stroll along the promenade, until my sweet tooth brings me back into town…

Murten/Morat, SwitzerlandMurten/Morat, SwitzerlandMurten/Morat, SwitzerlandMurten/Morat, Switzerland

Visiting a town for the first time, I am naturally curious about the local sweet spot.  So when my friend told me she found La Violette, a tiny chocolate shop making some of the most fabulous pâtes de fruit (fruit jellies), not only was I on the next train to go see her, but when she picked me up at the train station, we went right there.  On the other side of the tracks from the old town’s shaded arcades, the shop isn’t exactly in a prime spot for foot traffic, but that doesn’t keep locals from going back as often as they can.

Especially for those pâtes de fruit available in 8 varieties, including mandarin, blackcurrant, apricot and my favorite, raspberry (all natural fruit and no artificial coloring or preservatives either).  Unlike fruit jellies that can be more sugar than anything else, these are impressively heavy in fruit, jam packed with flavor and with a very dense, pleasing texture.  Luckily there were still a few packages left when we got there, as they are only available from June to August.  What is stealing the spotlight right now are marzipan chestnuts (top photo), with a gianduja filling dipped in dark chocolate.  They are gorgeous – and almost too pretty to eat.

La Violette, Murten/Morat, SwitzerlandLa Violette, Murten/Morat, SwitzerlandLa Violette, Murten/Morat, SwitzerlandLa Violette, Murten/Morat, Switzerland

Effortlessly switching back and forth between German and French, Christina Isenschmid described the fillings of her assorted pralines and told us about opening the shop in 2006. Using only high quality chocolate (Felchlin dark and milk and a secret source for white chocolate), she makes her chocolates in small one kilogram batches to keep freshness at a maximum.  There is no lack of choice in her small shop — orange flavored marzipan (above right), assorted chocolate bars with different nuts, spices and herbs, or one of the many house specialties, like “Zwetschgen im Vieille Prune,” half a plum macerated in alcohol, dipped in ganache then in chocolate and covered in powdered sugar (below right). As much as my friend raved about the latter, I went with thin bars of dark chocolate with wild berry instead. I have to leave a few things for next time…

La Violette, Murten/Morat, SwitzerlandLa Violette, Murten/Morat, SwitzerlandLa Violette, Murten/Morat, SwitzerlandLa Violette, Murten/Morat, Switzerland

Back in the old town, the “must” sweet is none other than the aforementioned and famous Nidelkuchen… think foccacia dough with a dulce de leche topping (yum !).  Eighty years ago, the Aebersold family created this recipe and it has been the local specialty ever since. Sitting outside the bakery with a slice, I lost count of people walking out with what looked like pizza boxes with individual slices or entire Nidelkuchen (gâteau à la crème in French). It’s a rather elaborate process to make, involving a yeast dough, multiple baking times and layers of cream, buttermilk, sugar and crème double de la Gruyère. (Listen to World Radio Switzerland’s Food Scout for all the sweet details.)  The soft dough had just the right amount of chew and the topping wasn’t at all sickly sweet as you might expect; pair it with a glass of Traminer du Vully and you’ll be asking for another slice – in German and French.

La Violette, Chocolaterie Artisanale
Freiburgstrasse 23
3280 Murten/Morat

Bäckerei Aebersold
Hauptgasse 40
3280 Murten/Morat

Other sweet shop discoveries around Switzerland:
Meringues & Crème Double de la Gruyère in Gruyères
Madame Chocolat in Zermatt
Sweets in the country’s oldest city, Chur
My favorite chocolate bars at Ballenberg
Not just cheese in Appenzell

23 Responses to “Behind the Medieval Walls of Murten”

  1. Kiki says:

    oh yeah; Murten is one of my personal soft spots too…. and you absolutely nailed it with your fabulous description. Murten tourist centre should pay you in Nidelchueche and Violettes for this perfect free PR upload!!!!
    What I love about Morat/Murten is just that you find everything to charm your heart on very little space, you have tons of history, charming buildings, bilingual people, much culture, beauty, friendliness, lovely food and boutiques of all sorts, all to be visited in one day – and still have time to take a few bags full of goodies on the train back to Zurich!!!!
    Thank you for stirring once again my heart and troubling it with homesickness… 🙂
    Bisous, Kiki

  2. wandering educators says:

    as always, i need to go. YUM!

  3. Samantha Angela says:

    Wow, Murten looks beautiful! I love finding out about all these small Swiss towns on your blog. I bookmark them for a future trip back to Switzerland.

    I love the sound of that Nidelkuchen. I think it’s something that I’m going to have to recreate at home (or at least work with the idea). I’m always making some yeast bread or another and i have a great foccaccia recipe I can use for it.

  4. Thanh @ eat little bird says:

    Ooh what a wonderful discovery! And not too far from Zurich … we might try to visit the next time we’re thinking of going to Bern. The Nidelkuchen sounds like it, itself, is worth the trip!!

  5. Kerrin says:

    Kiki, haha ! I hope the Murten tourist board reads this post – and especially your comment !! =) Sounds like a good deal to me. You summed up the town so perfectly as well, thank you. I love bring back memories for you, but don’t want to make you homesick ! 🙁

    wandering educators, yum indeed ! Go !! 🙂

    Samantha, glad to hear you’ve bookmarked a few places and I hope you do get to visit some of them. If you try making the Nidelkuchen, you’ll have to let me know how it goes. You should listen to the podcast I mentioned above, describes how it’s made in detail. Enjoy !

    Thanh, it’s less than two hours from here, and an easy half hour train from Bern. If you’ll be there, definitely worth the extra leg. Let me know if you go to Murten – and taste the famous Nidelkuchen ! Mmmm, my mouth is watering just at the thought of it…

  6. Katrin says:

    Love the look of the little green eyeballs with yellow nobbles on them – chestnut replicas with a dash of abstract expressionism!
    Thanks for the post; I wish I’d had time to stop when I wobbled by on my bike last summer 🙂

  7. Julia @ Mélanger says:

    I love the sound of the Nidelkuchen. Right up my alley. But mostly, I just shake my head at the sound of this little spot. What an amazing find. You certainly are lucky living in place filled with such rich culture, history and diverse specialities. This place certainly seems like it’s worth the journey!

  8. a lady's life says:

    These cities look like something out of disney land
    so enticing to check out.
    wish we had cities like this

  9. Virginia says:

    Lovely and perfect timing! I’m definitely taking my soon-to-visit friend to Murten. I look forward to walking on the ramparts and along the promenade, and especially to buying some treats at La Violette and Bäckerei Aebersold.

  10. Kerrin says:

    Katrin, a little reminiscent of Little Shop of Horrors, no ? 😉 You’ll have to redo your Tour de Suisse and with a few more sweet addresses in your pocket next time. I’ll start preparing the list…

    Julia, so so lucky, I tell myself that all the time. And Murten was definitely worth the journey as you said — *and* worth a return trip too !

    a lady’s life, haha ! It really does feel that way sometimes – in little charming villages in France and in Switzerland, they are just too pretty and perfect ! 😉

    Virginia, oh how perfect is right, I’m so happy about the timing ! Say bonjour to Christina for me at La Violette ! And definitely let me know what you and your friend think of all the goodies in Murten. Enjoy !!

  11. Jen Laceda says:

    Hi Kerrin,
    I’m currently pregnant with baby no. 3 (gasp!), and your post is NOT helping at all! I am going to have gestational diabetes if you keep posting all these sweet stuff and tempting me to eat over here!! Lol!! Anyway, Murten is calling my name! What a lovely place!

  12. Emma says:

    I was here! I was here I was here, eeeeeeeeeeee! And it was beautiful 🙂 🙂 🙂

    I stayed in Avenches, which was equally charming (treating myself to fondue at a lovely restaurant along a deserted street in the early evening), and made the language divide at Murten all the more clear.

    These photos make my smile so huge – the ramparts I walked in awe – the picturesques homes and squares I captured with my camera as well – the scenes I remember drawing into my heart and memory…. ah, wonderful!

    I didn’t make it to the other side of the tracks, or know about La Violette, but if I ever stumble into this town again, I will know which direction to head. I’m in love with everything here – – especially those gianduja-filled marzipan chestnuts;)

  13. Behind the Medieval Walls of Murten | MyKugelhopf | Food, history and trivia | says:

    […] Behind the Medieval Walls of Murten | MyKugelhopf Thank goodness a friend of mine has an apartment in Murten (Morat in French). To miss out on this medieval-walled village (and its little gem of a chocolate. Source: […]

  14. Lotta says:

    Hello Kerrin! Just wanted to say that even if I live in Switzerland I love reading your blog. It inspires me to go out and discover the beautiful country I’m living in. Hope you’re fine! It was a pleasure “working” with you. Even though I miss the lovely shops in Zürich and Baden, it was def the right decision to take 🙂 Take care! Lotta

  15. Kerrin says:

    Jen, haha ! Sorrrrry ! 😉 You make me laugh. And my my, baby #3 – MAZEL TOV !! 🙂

    Emma, ooooh you already went to Murten and didn’t tell me about it ?! [arms crossed in front of chest, chin down, eye brows curled in] You were hiding this amazing gem from us all ! 😉 So glad I could bring back some excellent memories for you. I hear Avenches is wonderful too – there are always so many interesting festivals and events going on there. Another one for the list…

    Lotta, what a wonderful surprise to see your name here – and to know that you read my blog too ! Thank you so much ! All is excellent on my end, Sweet Zürich tours continue, but I certainly miss having Vanille & Zimt as part of them; Blerina and Ursi were so great, miss them ! Glad to hear you are happy with your decision, and I hope all continues to be excellent on your end. 🙂

  16. Lani says:

    The beautifully written words of this wonderful town make me want to see it when the birds are singing and the flowers are blooming. It must be gorgeous in the winter too but I think I would rather see it when it is warm and I can just wander the streets you describe and taste those wonderful sweets to widen my waist!!!

  17. Dimitri (Newly Swissed) says:

    Your article gave me the final “kick” to check out more of Murten! I have only made it to the entrance gate of the Old Town so far 😉

  18. Lemon says:

    I’ve never been to Murten, but next time when I’ll be around Zurich I hope I can manage to go thereto. The photos look as if I should go. And then, all the sweets – well, no surprise in Switzerland, but these chocolates look like some of the “best of” category.

  19. Kerrin says:

    Lani, oh yes, I can only imagine this charming town in all white – I may have to go back to see ! But you are right, nothing quite like Swiss cities in the summer – bright sun, blue skies and flower boxes blooming instead of covered in snow ! 😉

    Dimitri, didn’t mean to *kick* you, but glad to give you some sweet inspiration – go through that gate ! haha !

    Lemon, well said – I think I may just put all of Murten on my “best of” category. Thanks for the comment and hope you get to visit one day !

  20. Amanda says:

    We’re hoping to make a visit back to Switzerland in the next year or so, and well, now we MUST make Murten part of that visit. WOW! And you too, of course 😉

  21. Food News Daily: September 16, 2011 | The Rambling Epicure says:

    […] Behind the Medieval Walls of Murten, My Kugelhopf […]

  22. A four canton tour : Valais, Aargau, Schaffhausen and Fribourg (Part Two) | Living In Geneva says:

    […] cake. Since her broadcast is no longer available I must quote another blogger’s description, My Kugelhopf, with whom I whole-heartedly agree: “Sitting outside the bakery with a slice, I lost count of […]

  23. Flick says:

    We will be in Murten in December but noticed that the Aebersold bakery is not open on Sundays/Monday (I think) so was wondering if you might be able to recommend another bakery in the area that does good Nidelkuchen as well?

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