6 Destinations for Cheese Lovers Around the World

From the rolling hills of Wisconsin to the lush valleys of France.

May  8, 2023
Photo by MJ Kroeger. Prop Stylist: Megan Hedgpeth. Food Stylist: Samantha Seneviratne.

This article is a part of Cheese Week—seven days of recipes and stories, all cheese—presented by our friends at Proudly Wisconsin Cheese.

Loving cheese can have a big effect on how you live your life. Maybe your birthday wishlist gets overtaken by specialty knives and fondue pots, or perhaps your grocery budget is monopolized by rare wedges from your local monger. You might order cheese fries as your entrée, or opt for the after-dinner snack board as dessert.

This effect is perhaps most pronounced in a turophile’s travel itinerary. For the curd nerd, trips are best when organized around visiting a town’s coolest cheese counter, trying new wheels, and, ideally, petting cows. While there are cheese traditions lurking in nearly all corners of the globe, there are a few spots with so much to offer a cheese lover that they’re worth planning a whole trip around. If cheese is your love language, here are six top travel destinations you won’t want to miss.

1. Wisconsin, United States

The U.S. has a lot to offer cheese heads, as evidenced by our twice-yearly Cheesemonger Invitational pitting sellers from every state against one another. But nowhere is cheese more integral than Wisconsin, home to some of the country’s most beloved cheesemakers (like Upland’s Cheese, Roelli Cheese Haus, Sartori, and Carr Valley, to name just a few). Cows dot the pastoral landscape, as do fairs that offer you a taste of fresh or fried cheese curds and the timeless art of butter sculpture. Other highlights include the National Historic Cheesemaking Center in Monroe, Fromagination in Madison, and Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha.

2. Somerset, United Kingdom

Nestled along the Bristol Channel coast, Somerset is known for its crisp air, sandy beaches, and historic market towns. It’s also home to the village of Cheddar—famed birthplace of the eponymous cheese—and Cheddar Gorge’s natural caves, which visitors can hike, climb, or drive through. Cap your visit off with a tasting at the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, then tour one of three Slow Food-authorized Somerset cheddar makers (Montgomery Cheese, Westcombe Dairy, and Trethowan’s Dairy). And if you go in autumn, don’t miss the annual Frome Agricultural & Cheese Show.

3. The Alps

It almost feels like the Alps were gerrymandered to sweep the best-cheese-destination power rankings. The region encompasses France, Italy, and Switzerland and a shortlist of the cheeses made here includes Comté, Gruyere, Emmentaler, Fontina, Raclette, Appenzeller, Beaufort, Asiago, and Taleggio. With that line-up, it’d be worth visiting even if it was hideous—but of course, it’s not. Its dramatic snow-crested peaks and lush green valleys are full of charming villages that host parades to regale their cows with attention and flower crowns, devotion you can see for yourself in stunning Annecy, France at their annual autumnal La Fête de l’Alpage. In Italy, you’ll want to shop the Alpine cheese selection at famed Piedmontese monger Giolito Formaggi, while a visit to Switzerland should include fondue, chalets, and a tour of the famed Kaltbach caves.

4. The Iberian Peninsula

Idiazabal, Roncal, and Ossau-Iraty in the Basque region. Manchego and Zamorano in central Spain. Cabrales in the north, Queso de Murcia in the south. And on the western coast, a centuries-old tradition of Sephardic Jewish cheesemaking that uses cardoon thistle rennet to craft scoopable wheels with a pudding-like texture. If you love sheep’s milk cheese, you’ll be in heaven here. More of a cow or goat’s milk person? Don’t worry—they’ve got those in spades, too. Schedule your trip around the Trujillo National Cheese Festival to try it all in one go.

5. Mexico

There are exciting cheeses to try all over Mexico: Quesillo in Oaxaca, Asadero in Chihuahua, Queso Fresco in Jalisco, Cotija in Michoacán. Experience them all together at Mexico City cheese shop Lactography, where Carlos and Georgina Yescas have built an ode to Mexican artisan and farmstead cheesemaking. And if you find yourself in Baja California, aka Mexican wine country, be sure to visit the largest cheese caves in the country at La Cava de Marcelo and shop the collection at Tienda de Quesos y Vinos los Globos in Villa de Juárez.

6. Emilia Romagna, Italy

No cheese travel itinerary is complete without the king of cheeses, Parmigiano-Reggiano. If you’re looking to cross items off your cheese bucket list, it doesn’t get more epic than the birthplace of one of the world’s oldest cheeses. Come see where the monks started it all in the 13th century on a tour of the Museum of Parmigiano-Reggiano—and while you’re there, taste the region’s plentiful and equally lovable alternates like Robiola, Provolone Valpadana, Raviggiolo, Formaggio di Fossa, and Grana Padano.

Where are your favorite cheesy destinations? Tell us in the comments below!

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Linni Kral is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has been published in The Atlantic, Slate, The Village Voice, Atlas Obscura, Marie Claire, and Condé Nast Traveler, among others, and she has served as editor-at-large for food magazines GRLSQUASH and Put A Egg On It. She learned her way around food in commercial kitchens, restaurants, and farmers' markets, and as a buyer and cheesemonger in specialty retail. She's happiest in the company of cows, books, and groceries.