Destination Guide


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Courtesy of Gstaad Palace

Known perhaps as much for its legendary list of über-glamorous vacationers from Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton to Madonna, Gstaad is as much about strutting your stuff après- (and avant-) ski as it is about showing off on the slopes.


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Deluxe Suite Living Room at Palace Hotel, Gstaad, Switzerland

Palace Hotel Gstaad

Nearly twice as large as the Alpina Gstaad (104 rooms vs. 56), the Palace Hotel is palatial in every sense of the word—from the fairytale turrets on the top floor (the penthouse has a sauna in one of the towers), to the rich velvets and sumptuous hides decorating the lobby lounge, to the seven in-house restaurants. Further buttressing the hotel’s regal character is its illustrious list of guests, which ranges from Hollywood royalty (Joan Crawford, Audrey Hepburn, Peter Sellers) to actual royalty (King Hussein of Jordan, Queen Anne-Marie of Greece.) The Palace, which will celebrate its centennial in 2013, has dominated the Gstaad social scene for the past century, but, at heart, it remains a family hotel—a place where guests who first visited as children now bring their own kids. (The hotel is, rather surprisingly, very kid-friendly.)

The room décor ranges from “Swiss glam” (brocade wallpaper, fluffy carpets, fur throws) to a more traditional Alpine aesthetic (exposed wood ceilings, hide rugs, cuckoo clocks) and all of the accommodations are comfortable and quite spacious. Many rooms have a balcony with a view onto the hotel’s pool (the first outdoor pool in Switzerland) and Gstaad town. The overall vibe evokes a fairytale fantasy—where classic Swiss luxury meets old Hollywood glamour in an extravagant all-inclusive five-star experience.

The Tower Suites, which are nestled into the hotel’s towers, each have two bedrooms and two bathrooms (one of which has a large tub perched right in the tower for an enviable bath-time view) as well as a spacious living room/dining area, made cozy thanks to the working fireplace, an excess of furry cushions, and a smattering of beautifully upholstered armchairs. Ten years ago, the top floor of The Palace was transformed into a penthouse—a colossal three-bedroom suite, accessible only by a private elevator. In addition to plush accommodations, those living the high life enjoy nearly 360-degree panoramic views from the balcony, which also houses a hot tub and sauna.

Redone in 2007, The Palace Spa pays tribute to its mountain location with a large wall made from rocks hewn from nearby quarries. In addition to eight treatment rooms, the spa also features saunas and steam baths, an indoor pool, a Pilates studio, and a state-of-the-art gym. One of the spa’s best features is the fact that it is bathed in glorious natural light owing to the floor-to-ceiling glass windows. The cardio room in the gym boasts a particularly impressive view of the mountain landscape.

Junior Suite fireplace at Alpina Gstaad, Gstaad, Switzerland

Alpina Gstaad

The first new luxury hotel to open in Gstaad in 100 years, the Alpina seamlessly blends state-of-the-art amenities and decadent creature comforts into a relaxed but chic “Alpine Modern” setting. Many of the handsome decorative elements adorning the hotel have been locally sourced (including leather, limestone, salvaged wood, crystal, and woolen fabrics), but it is the idiosyncratic homey touches that make the Alpina feel less like a ski resort and more like a stylish friend’s immense and ultra luxurious chalet. Room accessories like a hip collection of Taschen art books on the bedside bookshelf, a super-soft cashmere throw casually tossed over the armchair, and a potted plant on the nightstand give even the standard rooms an appealingly personalized feeling.

Each guestroom is equipped with an iPad (tucked inside the drawer of the red leather-covered desk), a state-of-the-art Bang & Olufsen entertainment system, silky Frette sheets, and delicious Acqua di Parma products in the bathroom (which includes separate shower and oversized tub.) Design details such as cowbell-inspired bedside lamps, a beautifully embossed leather headboard, and vintage black and white photographs of snowy Gstaad village, evoke the unique history of the town as both a ritzy Alpine resort and a traditional Swiss farming village. The walls of the guestrooms (and most of the hotel, for that matter) are rustic—made from raw wood salvaged from old farmhouses. The floors, by contrast, are quite decadently heated from below ensuring no cold feet. Every guestroom has a spacious balcony, some with incredible views overlooking Gstaad village and the mountains beyond.

Lavish but never garish, the Alpina’s suites take the well-achieved balance of modern and antique design to the next level. Here you will find the Bang & Olufsen entertainment centers discretely tucked away inside 19th-century Swiss armoires decorated with ornate inlays and original hand-painted patterns. The three-bedroom “Panorama Suite” duplex has a full kitchen as well as a private roof-top spa featuring a steam room, sauna, and outdoor hot-tub with an incredible outlook over the Bernese Oberlands—with Glacier 3000 at the top and the sparkling lights of Gstaad town below.

The heart of the hotel is the first floor lounge/bar area, where guests can settle in to comfortable couches for hot cocoa by the roaring fire or sip cocktails at the swanky bar. Here again, traditional Swiss design elements and materials meet with exceptional contemporary flair. In the lounge, local Ringgenberg limestone walls, embossed leather-wrapped columns, and a beautifully restored baroque ceiling mural (salvaged from a nearby home) create an unlikely, but delightful setting for a fashionable collection of international contemporary art by the likes of Tracey Emin, Dan Colen, and Carol Bove. The beautiful open space of the lofted lounge, which centers on a grand staircase leading down to the main lobby, manages to be both majestic and cozy. With plenty of romantic nooks and spectacular mountain views, the space works equally well for daytime lounging and late-night reveling (an in-house DJ spins on the weekends.)

The Six Senses Spa just off the hotel lobby on the ground floor is a cavernous (2,000 square meter), but tranquil oasis that features a state-of-the-art fitness center, a yoga studio, a hammam, a salt room, a juice bar and twelve private treatment rooms. The spa menu offers collagen and oxygen facials as well as a variety of massages (Shiatsu, Thai, Hot Stone, and Swedish.) The 25-meter indoor pool has LED lights, a skylight, and two Jacuzzi hot tubs.

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