We’ve discovered Gstaad’s grande dame, and it’s not just for ski season
Words by Tracy Ramsden
‘Come up, slow down’ is the official tagline for Gstaad, the picture-perfect alpine resort in the Bernese Oberland region of the Swiss Alps. And they’re not kidding. Stepping off the train and taking that first, fresh gulp of mountain air, you feel your shoulders drop away from your ears immediately.
For unadulterated glamour, all year round. There’s no doubt this is an upscale resort – Gstaad has been the playground to royalty and Hollywood’s most glamorous snow-seekers for decades (Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were regulars) and much of that old-school glamour remains. But thanks largely to one of the oldest palace hotels in the region, Le Grand Bellevue, which underwent a seriously stylish renovation in 2014, it has gained a chic reputation for cutting-edge design and big-time foodie credentials.
When to go?
Anytime! We visited in ski season (which can run from October to May) where hundreds of kilometres of all-levels pistes give real bang for your megabucks. Glacier 3000 offers nearly year-round ski and snowboarding, and cable cars connect seamlessly to surrounding ski areas such as Wispile and Rinderberg.
We took a twee open-top carriage ride around town and soaked up the meditative clip-clop of hooves on thick snow. Passing Chopard, Vuitton and Hermes (this is the Bond Street of Switzerland), as if we needed any more fabulousness, our drivers’ dog, Niko wore sunglasses due to an eye infection and cruised around looking like a celeb in his own right.
Come summer, when the hills are all Sound of Music-green, the resort morphs into a wellness paradise with mountaintop yoga, hiking and an epic 26,900-square foot spa, Le Grand Spa. It has 17 different thermal experiences, including a hay sauna and Himalayan salt inhalation. If you’re brave/ bonkers enough, go for a foot bath using local goat’s milk.
Where to stay?
Le Grand Bellevue hotel, one of the oldest and grandest of the palace hotels, was originally built in 1912 as a cure house and spa and was lovingly restored in 2014 by owners Daniel and Davia Koetser. Thanks largely to Davia’s impeccably chic eye for interiors – think bold, House of Hackney print wallpaper, colourful artworks and design-led furniture – it has become the go-to for Gstaad’s cool crowd.
Housing 57 bedrooms, a swimming pool, 18-seat cinema, sushi bar, cigar lounge and a nightclub, Bouquet, it oozes glamour and decadence without compromising on style. Guests lounge in suspended birdcage chairs that swing from the ceiling, and bright, bold furniture replaces the usual beige fluff of your average ski hotel. It’s the stuff Pinterest board dreams are made of.
Our favourite bit? The Krug Carnotzet – an upturned barrel fashioned into a pine and glass pod that seats 2-4 people for a champagne picnic with a twist. We’re pretty sure that people have proposed marriage in this little spot because, frankly, why the hell wouldn’t they?
Where to eat?
Restaurants don’t come finer that Leonard’s. Bistro-style classics sit on the menu alongside delicious sharing platters and homemade pastas, all with a delightfully modern twist thanks to chef Marcus G. Lindner – who has two Michelin stars to his name. The menu changes with the seasons but expect unfussy dishes that are big on flavour and low on pretension.
We opted for something more low-key and headed for Le Petit Chalet, a super-cute log cabin hideaway that serves up quite possibly the richest and tastiest raclette in the Alps. The goat cheese fondue is out of this world, and just the ticket after a leg-burning day on skis or in hiking boots. We left 10 per cent human, 90 per cent cheese.
Fancy going extra?
It’s not difficult to upgrade from luxe to epic in Gstaad but if you’re of the adrenaline-fuelled nature, take a tandem paraglide over the Saanen mountain range or ride the Alpine Coaster, the world’s highest toboggan run. No snow? Try grass skiing for a new take on slopeside sports.
Never has a ski trip felt more Bond. There’s nothing basic about Gstaad and it might just be the jewel in Switzerland’s crown.
Rates at Le Grand Bellevue Gstaad start from about £295 per room, per night. Expect a two-hour transfer from Geneva.
With thanks to Gstaad Saanenland Tourism; visit gstaad.ch/en