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HR Giger Museum & Bar in Gruyeres, Switzerland: Goth sci-fi travel guide! Alien movie art, Necronomicon paintings.

hr giger museum entrance sign

Star Beast achievement unlocked. I made it to the HR Giger Museum and Bar in Switzerland! 

While in Europe last fall, I made a weekend detour to Gruyères to see the museum dedicated to one of my favorite artists: H.R. Giger. I’m sure you’ll recognize his surrealist concept art for Alien, Species, Poltergeist 2, the never-made Dune, and other sci-fi horror films.

If you share my fascination with Giger’s biomechanical visions, then this travel story will make you want to drop everything and fly to Switzerland. Read on for a tour of the Giger museum and bar, including exclusive photos of his rare artwork inside the chateau!

cybergoth goth dancer fashion

This unassuming Swiss castle houses a motherload of dark biomechanical creatures. Open since 1998, the museum contains some of Giger’s most famous works, as well as rare early pieces and erotic art. We’re grateful to La Gruyère Tourism for the warm welcome and help with journalist access to the museum.

Outfit Details: It seemed appropriate to dress cybergoth for the occasion. My outfit is 100% Cyberdog: I layered their semi-sheer bodycon dress, alien “yogalien” tank top, and black mesh hooded long sleeved top. Cyberdog’s futuristic sci-fi fashion is sold online, as well as in their giant Camden Market store.

museum bar h.r. giger gruyeres

Giger museum access / How to get here: Photographer Joey Wong and I came from London, and it only took us 1.5 hours to fly to Geneva. We then traveled from Geneva to Gruyeres by train, using the First Class Swiss Travel Pass from Switzerland Tourism. This gave us unfettered access to the country’s trains, buses and boats; it turned out to be a beautiful journey through the countryside, which I’ll show you in an upcoming post.

Musee HR Giger address: Château St. Germain, Rue du Château 2, 1663 Greyerz, canton Fribourg, Switzerland. Gruyeres is a small town with only about 2000 inhabitants, so the museum is easy to find.

giger birth machine Gebärmaschine

The cosmic horror begins outside the museum, which is flanked by several ominous sculptures. The front entrance has a metal adaptation of his painting Gebärmaschine (“Birth Machine”) from 1967. Giger created this work as a commentary on population growth.

hr giger statues museum switzerland

The “birth machine” depicts goggled babies holding guns, sitting on bullets inside a larger pistol. Giger meant to convey that the babies would be shot out, but in fact, only their heads would be (the decapitated bodies would remain in the bullet casing). Somehow, that seems more fitting for this master of sci-fi terror!

On the left, the front staircase has the coolest handrail ever — a twisting alien spinal cord. 

visiting hr giger art museum

Starting with the exterior, the museum evokes a feeling of dark, otherworldly mystery that is quintessentially HR Giger.

(My silver futuristic hair clip is Hair DesignAccess by Sylvain Le Hen.)

hr giger biomechanical sculptures

These extraterrestrial figures convey Giger’s signature aesthetic, which he called “biomechanical.” The term describes his surrealistic approach, which fuses organic elements with the mechanical. Part human and part machine — melded together in a beautiful yet uneasy alien hybrid. 

giger alien sculpture

Giger’s forms tend to resemble human bodies, but with a deadly twist. It’s surprisingly powerful to stumble across these cosmic creatures in Gruyeres, an otherwise quaint Swiss village.

goth cyberdog cyber dress shoes

Science fiction, double feature. My magenta to purple ombre hair is by Chad Evans in Vancouver, BC.

My black leather Gothic shoes with silver buckles are similar to these boots; click below for more options.

travel guide gruyeres giger musee

This elegant building is Château St. Germain, which dates back to 1663. HR Giger visited Gruyeres several times, and had an exhibition in the village. He fell in love with the scenic region, and bought this Swiss castle in 1997.

hr giger museum outside statues

Since there was massive demand, Giger turned St Germain Castle into a museum with architect Roger Cottier. In 1998, the H.R. Giger Museum first opened its doors. It remains the permanent home to most of his key works, as well as the largest collection of his furniture, paintings and sculptures from over the years.

hr giger alien film concept art

Visitors aren’t allowed to take photographs inside, but we were lucky to have media access. Read on for exclusive images of Giger’s works within the museum. But first…

hr giger bar exterior design

… let’s head next door to the The Museum HR Giger Bar, which opened in Gruyeres in 2003! 

My dress and collar are by Cyberdog. Silver radiator bracelet by Alex Streeter.

giger bar spine shell chairs

Step inside, and your jaw will drop — it’s like entering another universe! H.R. Giger designed the bar in a way that preserves the 400 year old Gothic architecture. He heightens the cavernous effect with dramatic skeletal arches that sweep over the ceiling. 

Beneath these bony vaults are high-backed shell-like chairs. They were originally designed as a Harkonnen throne for the Dune film that never got made. (Keep reading to see another variant of the seats inside the museum).

spine roof arches giger bar

I love how Giger turned the Medieval cathedral-like space into a bio-mechanical vision of the future. What an incredible feeling to curl up in one of these spinal chairs at the circular windows, and feel like you’ve been swallowed up by an intergalactic beast.

giger bar tables windows interior

Tip: the Giger bar is extremely popular with tourists, so try to avoid lunch time and other peak hours. You may have to wait a while to get a seat at your preferred table. Above are photos from their website to give you a sense of the space and custom furniture; it was difficult to capture with all the visitors around.

h.r. giger bar seats restaurant cafe

The Gruyeres Giger bar is actually the fourth one ever built. Only one other location remains open: the H.R. Giger Bar in Chur, Switzerland (his place of birth), established 1992. The Chur interior has a similar backbone design, but it’s not as impressive as the bar beside the museum, which is the most famous one.

hr giger bar gruyeres interior skeleton

There was also a Giger Bar inside Peter Gatien’s legendary Limelight club in NYC, the site of many decadent Gothic and Club Kid parties. Sadly, when it closed in the 1990s, the bar did as well.

The earliest HR Giger bar was built in the late 1980s, in Japan! It was located in Shirokanedai, the Minato district of Tokyo. However, Giger grew dissatisfied with the Japanese builders and strict codes (for example, they couldn’t realize his idea of having private booths that doubled as individual elevators, moving up and down the bar). He ended his involvement with the Tokyo Giger bar, and it closed soon after.

bar hr giger menu alien coffee drinks

As you can see from the menu board, Bar HR Giger serves drinks and small snacks, including themed items. You can sip a Giger mojito, or dare to order the mysterious “Dark Shadow.” My Gothic preference is the HR Giger Absinthe, whcih I tried in Osaka, Japan.

The most visually interesting dish is the Alien Coffee, which comes on a wooden tray with little meringues, and honey herb liqueur.

cybergoth gothic fashion blogger

Ready to head inside Chateau St. Germain, and take a tour of the Giger Museum? Let’s do it.

chateau st germain gruyeres

Just beware… xenomorphs lurk in the ceiling corners, waiting to attack you!

So, who is this twisted genius behind these creations? Hans-Rudolf (HR) Giger was born in 1940 in Chur, an Alpine city in the eastern part of Switzerland east. He moved to Zurich to study architecture and industrial design, and became known for illustrations and paintings that fuse humans and machine.

hr giger facehugger alien art

H.R. Giger is best known as the concept artist behind Ridley Scott’s “Alien” movie, which came out in 1979 and revolutionized science fiction horror films.

Above is his visualization of the “face hugger,” the portion of the Alien’s life cycle where it attaches to your face, and implants larvae through your mouth. When the babies mature, they burst through the human host’s chest in a bloody explosion — and continue to mature and stalk more prey.

hr giger necronomicon satan devil baphomet

H. R. Giger was making terrifying imagery well before he joined the Alien movie. In 1977, he published a compendium of his art in a tome called the Necronomicon (much like HP Lovecraft’s collection of horror stories). During pre-production, director Ridley Scott got hold of the book, and immediately hired Giger to create the visuals for Alien.

The Gruyeres museum contains Spell IV, the gigantic work that graces the cover of Giger’s Necronomicon. It’s a painting of Baphomet the Sabbatic Goat, with Satanic pentagrams and serpents in his signature color palate.

alien movie ridley scott art design

Alien’s impact earned the Swiss artist an Academy Award in 1980, for Best Achievement in Visual Effects. The Oscar statue is on display if you look closely, beneath one of the ancient staircases in the museum.

Ridley Scott liked Giger’s 1976 painting “Necronom IV,” which shows a being with an elongated skull, steel-like ribcage and pointed teeth. He asked Giger to create the alien based on the design…

Xenomorph alien set props horror

… and so, Giger gave birth to Xenomorph XX121! (The name refers to the alien species, and translates to “strange form” in Greek).

The museum has several xenomorphs of various sizes, ready to pounce on you. The largest one stands tall inside this glass display case (but if you recall the Prometheus birth scene, that wouldn’t even hold a newborn alien for long…)

If you’ve seen the Alien series, you’ll know to watch out for the segmented blade-tipped tails, burning acidic blood — and double-jawed set of teeth that extend out to pierce your flesh!

li ii giger painting woman

As you walk through the museum and take in the wall-to-ceiling art, you’ll realize that Giger has an entire pantheon of dark creatures. Above is Li II, inspired by his lover at the time, actress Li Tobler. She tore up the original Li painting because she thought it made her look ugly!

giger rare art prints museum

The HR Giger Museum is larger than you’d expect from the outside. Since it’s located in a 17th century castle, there are unexpected stairwells, rooms and hallways to navigate.

I enjoyed seeing Giger’s earliest works, from the 1960s: biomechanical otherworldly forms in  acrylic and India ink on paper on wood. He truly was ahead of his time.

hr giger alien xenomorph sculpture

These busts made me think of the Alien movie tagline: “In space no one can hear you scream.”

adult erotica art hr giger

One section of the museum is adults only, and hidden behind a black curtain. Inside, the room is illuminated in red light and lined with his raciest works. Many of these sketches and sculptures have graphic imagery and Satanic overtones.

weird alien statues giger

These cyborg fantasies were particularly shocking to conservatives of his time. Looking at his works today, it’s amazing to realize how much Giger has inspired everything from cyberpunk to tech design.

Harkonnen Capo Chair hr giger Jodorowsky's dune

One of the largest rooms contains black Harkonnen Capo chairs around a table with biomechanical legs. This was one of Giger’s designs for Alejandro Jodorowsky, who was set to direct a movie adaptation of Dune, Frank Herbert’s influential sci-fi novel (and one of my personal favorites). Unfortunately, the 1976 film never got past pre-production and eventually was passed on to director David Lynch, who did not use Giger’s conceptualizations.

hr giger prints book

Where did Giger’s demonic imagination come from? Partly from night terrors. The Swiss artist kept a sketchbook next to his bed, and would jot down these visions.

hr giger satanism occult pentagram

Giger (pictured above) was known to incorporate Satanic and occult imagery into his work. He even released a Baphomet Tarot card deck. 

alien movie cosplay ripley

I channeled Ellen Ripley (played by Sigourney Weaver) and got into a close encounter with a Xenomorph… maybe too close. On the left, Giger’s concept art for Species, the 1995 movie starring Natasha Henstridge.

hr giger artwork sculptures surrealist

Giger had always worked with various media, but started focusing on sculptures in the mid-1990s. He’s even designed album covers and computer games over the years, always with haunting hybrids of human and machinery.

species film sci-fi design

It was a treat to see Giger’s lesser-known works, including mirrors and light fixtures… and even giant wristwatches.

hr giger self portrait

On the top level, there were these two portraits of the artist. HR Giger worked up to the end of his life in 2014, when he died from injuries after a fall on the stairs.

switzerland weird strange bizarre art

The top floor of the museum houses Giger’s personal art collection. There are works by Salvador Dali, mixed in with creepy totems picked up during his travels.

The H.R. Giger Museum Gallery also exhibits rotating works by contemporary artists, who share his love of fantasy and surrealism.

gruyeres switzerland cheateau view

Don’t forget to look out the top floor window, for this gorgeous view of Gruyeres. No wonder Giger stayed in Switzerland and built his museum here, even though he could have lived anywhere.

xenomorph head alien

As you leave, check out the Giger gift shop. It sells books, prints, cups, absinthe… or how about a giant alien head?

visiting giger museum tickets admission

Mind blown after stepping into the dystopian world of Giger. It’s amazing to have so many of his seminal works in one beautiful village.

hr giger bar chur switzerland

In the words of Alien director Ridley Scott: “At its essence, Giger’s art digs down into our psyches and touches our very deepest primal instincts and fears. His art stands in a category of its own.”

hr giger bar tokyo japan

I hope you’ll have the chance to make the journey to Gruyeres, and take photos with his deadly star beasts!

giger museum floor carvings aliens

For visiting info, here’s the website for the H.R. Giger Bar. Don’t forget to allow a lot of time in Gruyeres, as there may be a lineup. You can always hang out outside, and take photos with the alien-sculpted floor!

museum hr giger exterior entrance

And here is more info on the Museum HR Giger website, including opening hours, admission rates, tickets and more.

surrealist surreal giger art

I leave you with a line by HP Lovecraft, from his horror story “Pickman’s Model,” as I feel it captures Giger’s power.

He’s an artist who “knows the actual anatomy of the terrible or the physiology of fear — the exact sort of lines and proportions that connect up with latent instincts or hereditary memories of fright, and the proper color contrasts and lighting effects to stir the dormant sense of strangeness.”

japanese giger bar alien

Are you also a fan of HR Giger’s oeuvre? Would you want to visit his Swiss bar and museum? Coming up, I’ll show you more from Gruyeres, including the chateau and cheese.

If you enjoyed this in-depth post, I hope you’ll take a minute to share it on Facebook and social media. I appreciate it, and am excited to bring more travel stories like this to you!

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22 Comments

  1. Sass
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    Friggin incredible place.
    Sass

  2. noori ♡
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    Jeeeeepers you always one-up the posts to the next level! Cherrio!

  3. Anneliese
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    Woah, what a museum!

  4. Bruce
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing, LaC!

  5. Jacqui H
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    That outfit looks really good on you..

  6. alita
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    nice work .

  7. ZDD
    Posted January 18, 2018 at 12:38 am | Permalink

    Want to travel there!!

    • lacarmina
      Posted January 18, 2018 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

      I hope you do, it’s a beautiful town! More to come from Gruyeres.

  8. GeminiBelle
    Posted January 18, 2018 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    iconic .

  9. Lara
    Posted January 18, 2018 at 4:15 am | Permalink

    It was my bucket list dream to go there too, and I did it a few years ago!

  10. Yaww
    Posted January 18, 2018 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    Cooollnsss

  11. Trxy
    Posted January 18, 2018 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    Magnificent.

  12. Zuya
    Posted January 18, 2018 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    Cool!

  13. Caroline Ortiz Åsgård
    Posted January 19, 2018 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    I hope to be able to go there sometime!

    • lacarmina
      Posted January 20, 2018 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

      <3 it's so worth the trip! and Gruyeres is beautiful too. <3

  14. Wyat
    Posted January 22, 2018 at 12:44 am | Permalink

    words fail me!

  15. TH
    Posted January 22, 2018 at 12:44 am | Permalink

    Love this

  16. lacarmina
    Posted January 24, 2018 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    ^^

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