When the prospect of visiting Gstaad looked close to materialise after the disruption of Covid-19, it was a welcomed relief and an indication that life might be getting back to some normality. The prospect of flying to Geneva lightened our mood, and when the Geneva Tourist Board graciously invited us to organise the train journey from Geneva Airport to our destination, the renowned Gstaad Palace, it only heightened our enthusiasm. It would be a summer visit, so warming up at the fireplace with hot chocolate after a day on the slopes will be for another day.
Situated on a hill above the village centre, the Gstaad Palace has a privileged location with a breath-taking view over the Bernese and Valais Alps. The luxurious five-star superior Gstaad Palace hotel, which opened its doors, for the first time in 1913, is owned by the third generation of the Scherz family and is, therefore, one of Europe’s last family-run hotels where VIPs and mere mortals alike experience a first-class culture of hospitality. The 90 rooms and suites at the seasonal hotel with exceptional panorama over the Bernese Oberland skilfully combine contemporary glamour with alpine cosiness.
Despite the enviable list of celebrity guests found in the Palace’s books, it had humble beginnings. The opening of the railway line from Montreux to Gstaad on 20 December 1904 heralded the start of tourism in Gstaad and a local secondary school teacher, Robert Steffen (1878 -1923), recognised the potential for a grand hotel on the Oberbort hill purchasing the first plots of land, receiving the required funds from his future father-in-law. After tumultuous times during wartime, in 1947, the Palace’s director, Ernst Scherz, managed to buy the shares in the public company formed early to run the Palace, hence saving it from speculators and ensuring its continued success.
When you step through the doors of the Palace, you sense this history; the tradition maintained, not least when it comes to the culinary arts. This Gstaad’s landmark serves Swiss, Italian and international specialities and gourmet cuisine, awarded 15 Gault Millau points in its five restaurants with fantastic variety, from original Swiss specialities to international award-winning cuisine. On the spur of the moment, observing flamboyant cooking in front of guests at the next table, we inquired about the exotic dish. It turned out to be a humble seafood pasta but having this simple but delicious dish made at our table will be one of the fondest memories of our stay.
The hotel’s own GreenGo nightclub, famous for its legendary parties and illustrious clientele, has understandably not been open during recent seasons. Still, we are told everything is set for a booming winter season with lavish partying, as has been here since 1971. The preserved original interior design by Teo Jakob will again provide a stylish atmosphere and resident DJ Jim LeBlanc likely to fuel a thrilling party night. The Lobby Bar is also a trendy meeting place for external guests and is rightly called Gstaad's crossroads. The saying is, if you’ve never been to the Palace, you’ve never been to Gstaad.
A visit to the Palace SPA opened in December 2007 might well balance such indulgences. With its exclusive alpine interior design, the SPA area blends well into the hotel’s overall appearance with a heated indoor pool and a large therapeutic Jacuzzi outside. For the seasoned swimmers, the Olympic 50 metre pool is opened to guests during the summer season, worth a visit if only to admire the art deco pool, opened in 1928, and some coffee or light refreshments at the pool bar. Both of us enjoyed the Jardin des Monts Energizing Massage, a therapeutic massage using a special beechwood massage stick to energise muscles optimally. Jardin des Monts, we were informed, is a natural mountain herb garden in Pays-d’Enhaut above the nearby Rossinière municipality. The precious herbs, dried, fresh, or as an extract, develop their full potential in the massage applied and teas and syrups we enjoyed after this most remarkable massage experience.
Although Gstaad Palace will be most appealing during the winter season, there are, of course, pastimes to be enjoyed during summer; a visit to the hotel’s peaceful refuge, Walig Hut, might be a good choice, an authentic alpine hut from 1783. Or playing tennis or golf on the hotel’s courses. If so inclined, you might want to check out the remarkable choice of concerts at the Menuhin Music Festival Gstaad scheduled from mid-July to early September. We think it quite possible we might take a leaf out of the Pink Panther’s book. On one of his many returns, in 1975, he stayed at Gstaad Palace. We will too.