Through this summer’s Swiss staycation, our family decided to explore Zermatt. However, this article is not about Zermatt, but a beautiful small town that we visited on our way back, called Martigny.

Located in Valais, the wine region of Switzerland, Martigny has a definite Mediterranean air to it. The drive from Täsch (where we parked while in Zermatt) is about 1 hour 30 minutes.
Our main purpose of going to Martigny, was to visit ‘Barry land’ – the Musée et Chiens du St. Bernard.

Photo of ‘Barry land’ - the Musée et Chiens du St. Bernard

The Barry foundation breeds the famous St. Bernard dogs – Switzerland’s national dog, named after a famous St. Bernard named Barry who lived between 1800-1812 and was credited with saving the lives of more than 40 people.

Before getting into Barryland, let’s travel back to the 11th century when St. Bernard of Aosta and other monks founded a hospice for travellers and pilgrims on the 3rd highest road pass in Switzerland. This pass connects Martigny in Switzerland with Aosta in the Aosta region of Italy.

Back then, these large dogs were used for carrying loads, and later as search and rescue dogs in the mountains. They have been used at the hospice since the mid-17th century to guard and protect those who stayed there. At Barryland, one can trace the history of the great St. Bernard pass and of the hospice, and view these magnificent dogs from close quarters.

Photo of a St. Bernard at The Barry foundation

The Barry Foundation is committed to ensuring the well-being of the dogs by finding suitable dog-friendly occupations for them. Since 2007 the foundation has successfully provided animal-assisted interactions in the social field, including school and home visits, therapy, etc.
The interactive museum has an impressive collection of artwork, along with life-sized statues in outfits from that century on display.

There’s also a big indoor play area for children, as well as a small arena to watch short animation films on the rescue work of the dogs.

Photo of indoor play area for children at St. Bernard museum

The cafe and souvenir shop are located on the ground floor, along with the main attraction- the dogs themselves.

Due to current (Covid-related) restrictions, petting the dogs has been discontinued until further notice. There are, though, plenty of ways to see them up close, without touching or petting and are a delight to watch, especially the pups. Photography is permitted. Masks are compulsory on the premises. Free parking is available outside the premises.

Apart from Barryland, Foundation Pierre Gianadda is the most important cultural attraction in Martigny. It holds several exhibitions and concerts year-round. If you’re an art enthusiast, you must visit this place. A restored amphitheatre, Roman thermal baths, temples and living quarters can also be admired in Martigny. The town has a quaint centre, with restaurants and cafes.

It also happens to be a popular gateway to Chamonix (in France), which is accessible in one-and-a-half hours while travelling on the narrow-gauge tracks of the Mont Blanc Express.

This region is definitely worth a revisit.

Author: Khushnum Aibara

Photo of Khushnum AibaraKhushnum is originally from Calcutta, in Switzerland for the last 8 years. She is a mum to an almost 6-year-old, who keeps her on her toes. She loves books, travelling, sports, and taking pictures (she believes it is probably due to some hidden Japanese genes). She is also an Usborne children’s books organiser in Switzerland and can be reached here.

(all pictures are taken by me on an iPhone)

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