With fervent fans including the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Madonna, plus the occasional hoard of extravagant billionaires, Gstaad has seen just as much stardom on the ground as the luminous sky above.
I pay a visit to the Swiss hotspot to find out why it boasts such celebrity clientele magnetism – and find gourmet opulence galore
Pristine, picturesque and full of poise. Gstaad is the town equivalent of a 1960’s Hollywood starlet. Found nestled between the snow-sprinkled mountains of Switzerland, it’s the sort of place that transports you to a time of vintage glamour when strolling through the wide cobbled streets. And yet, the hedonistic traditions are mingled with the modern – there’s state-of-the-art technology, stylish hotels and gleaming designer stores galore.
“People don’t come here to look at the mountains.” A local tells me on my first day whilst helping me with my luggage. “They come here to be looked at.” There’s no doubt about it – with just as much chance of spotting a Porsche as a person, this is one suave place.
Where to stay
With deluxe five-star hotels on most corners, there’s a multitude of splendid places to rest your head in Gstaad – but if it’s charming quirkiness you’re after, book a room at Le Grand Bellevue, a beautifully manicured hotel in the middle of town. From the giant camel in the lobby to the hanging birdcage seats in The Lounge, expect plenty of fun touches throughout. The rooms are big and beautiful – snare a view of the front gardens if possible for cinematic surroundings.
Although considered a well-cherished hallmark of Gstaad for over 100 years, it’s been recently refurbished after a grand reopening in 2013. With 48 rooms and nine suites, this spacious property retains the feel of a refined grand hotel with the warmth of a country home. Home is the key word here; staff are friendly, welcoming and immediately inviting – the owner even greeted me in the library as I sipped on a ruby red welcome drink.
Must-tries for guests include a taste drive of the speciality hot chocolate menu (Don’t miss The Snow White – think smooth white-milk chocolate with almond-crisps) and a long afternoon at the Subterranean Le Grand Spa, one of Switzerland’s largest with 3,000sq metres of indulgent relaxing. Later on post-dinner, head downstairs to the Bouquet for an in-house nightclub filled with Champagne bottles of every sort.
Alternatively, for something Swiss and swish, opt for a stay at Park Gstaad. This majestic hotel sits at the top of town on its own hilly throne – and boasts the title of being Gstaad’s inaugural 5 star property. It also offers sublime sweeping views of the surrounding landscape, plus cosy outdoor log fires that demand a marshmallow or five melted over them.
Rooms embody alpine chic style with large windows, wooden decor, fairy light entwined terraces and traditional Swiss interiors. Luxury here is understated – but Park Gstaad still brims with chic detail throughout.
Expect dance music during dinner, helpful staff and endless amusement in the form of the hotel’s own ice skating rink and outdoor bar complete with animated wooly mammoths and resident DJ. Only archaic in age, it’s anything but stuffy.
What to eat
You can hardly move for fondue in Gstaad (not that anyone’s complaining) but there’s plenty more to try too. Gildo’s Restaurant at Gstaad Palace offers flavours of Sardinia whilst no visitor can leave without parking their plate at the Ermitage hotel’s Culinary restaurant. With seven bespoke dining parlours to choose from, this beautiful venue is worth a trip for the interiors alone. Order the Lake Trout for something local and wash it down with a glass or two from the outstanding wine cellar.
Dessert fans should pay a call to The Alpina Gstaad for a cosmopolitan dining experience with sweet treats aplenty – whilst the health conscious crowd can delight in the plethora of sushi venues across town, the Bellevue’s being especially good. One thing’s for sure – you won’t go hungry here.
What to do
When not dining or reclining, try one of the many activities on offer. Enjoy a brisk winter hike or pull on a helmet and go Fat Biking – a scenic cycling experience in the snow. The ski crowd can shimmy their way across 200km of ski slopes, whilst those with a love for the great outdoors should hitch a ride to the Glacier 3000 – the Swiss glacier that boasts everything from dog sledding and hiking to skiing, climbing and its very own roller coaster.
If visiting for the full day, trek across to Refuge l’Space for lunch. With a tiny terrace hovering above amazing scenery and an indoor restaurant so small that advance bookings are impossible, it’s a real diamond in disguise. Indulge with cheese platters heaving with local specialities and don’t miss out on the homemade soup.
If you’ve got your heart set on fondue, there’s no better way to indulge your cheese habit than with a horse and cart experience. Ride around town whilst devouring pots of bubbling goodness (there’s even gluten-free options) and don’t miss the ultra-Instagrammable photo opps.
As Coco Chanel herself once said, “Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.” If it’s a gorgeously gourmet getaway you fancy, grab the nearest suitcase and head to Gstaad – the town that offers everything for the modern Bon Vivant.
For more information and to start the adventure, visit www.gstaad.ch.
This feature was originally published on goodthingsmagazine.com