“Come Up, Slow Down” – This has been the official motto of the Swiss mountain town of Gstaad for as long as anyone can remember. The relaxed luxury it offers has captured the imaginations of serious skiers, society figures and stars alike – making this once sleepy village the social epicentre for the jet-set’s winter holidays.
At the centre of it all are two storied institutions: the Palace – a majestic hotel perched high above the town – and Le Rosey, a school so exclusive (and expensive) that it is commonly referred to as the “Eton of the jet set”. Whilst the latter has drawn in names like Casiraghi, Rothschild, Rockefeller and Casablancas to forge long-lasting affinity with Gstaad, the former has kept them coming back.
The Palace’s famously uncompromising luxury reshaped the reputation of a town once known as the “baby sister to St. Moritz”, largely taking over its older sibling as the go-to destination to ‘ski and be seen’. Luxury boutiques such as Louis Vuitton, Loro Piana and Hermès followed and subsequently other incredibly high profile hotels followed, most notably the Alpina, Ultima and Le Grand Bellevue along with an endless stream of private chalets dotted across town.
Choosing where one will post up during one’s sojourn in Gstaad is of paramount social importance, with reservations often are made years in advance. The most coveted locations are the top suites at the best hotels and luxury chalets in the main drag. Parties abound throughout the festive season so securing the right location is essential to getting around town easily and in comfort (especially after a night at the GreenGo – but more on that later).
DDW takes a look at the very best suites, places to eat & drink and who to speak to when you get there:
The Penthouse Suite – Gstaad Palace
The preferred hotel of stars like Robert de Niro, Valentino, Liz Taylor, Richard Burton, Roger Moore, Brigitte Bardot, Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly, Nicholas Foulkes, Robbie Williams… and innumerable other stars is synonymous with luxury and Gstaad itself.
Although the landmark building is five star throughout, its top Penthouse Suite is truly the central gem in the crown. At 2,583 sq. ft. (239.9 sq m) of living space with three bedrooms (with en suite bathrooms of course), two steam baths, private sauna (in the tower), fireplace and a giant 1,615 sq. ft. (150 sq m) rooftop terrace with a whirlpool – this is one of the most sought after rooms in town. If the panoramic views of the Alps do not take your breath away, the attention to detail and services will.
The guest relations team, led by Barbara Branco-Schiess, will bend over backwards to meet any request – including adding a Normand Fir pine Christmas tree to the suite for those celebrating Christmas holidays.
Who to speak to: Andrea Scherz, General Manager and scion of the Scherz hotel dynasty runs the place like a Swiss clock – precision and luxury at every turn.
The bill: In the winter, the room rate for the Penthouse starts from $9,881.27 (£8,902) a night …
Suite Le Grand Bellevue – Le Grand Bellevue
Le Grand Bellevue is Gstaad’s best located hotel, nestled right off of The Promenade and set within its own private parkland – it is also Gstaad’s oldest hotel, dating back to 1912 which accounts for its charmingly preserved exterior.
Inside, the hotel has been fully refitted to accommodate the contemporary exacting tastes of its guests – complete with award winning spa, Michelin starred restaurants and exceptionally proportioned rooms. Most spectacular of these is the Suite Le Grand Bellevue a sprawling 1829.86 sq ft. (170 sq m) two floored suite with uninterrupted views of the snow capped mountains. The suite comes with four large en suite bedrooms as well as a Jacuzzi, dining, lounging and dressing areas.
Who to speak to: owners Daniel and Davia Koetser are the hands on managing directors of the hotel. Find them at the Leonard’s restaurant or at the Bouquet nightclub after hours.
The bill: Peak season means peak prices, expect to pay from $9,700 (£7,136) a night …
Panorama Suite – The Alpina Gstaad
The largest suite in the plushest hotel in Gstaad is without a doubt the Panorama Suite at the Alpina. Coming in at 4,300 sq ft. (400 sq m) this monolithically vast hotel room is practically a private chalet placed atop of a five star hotel than anything else.
With two floors, three bedrooms, a gym, jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and even its own spa – this is the suite to end all suites. And if that isn’t enough to sway you, the jaw-dropping scenery will; with 360 degrees vistas of the surrounding valleys and mountainscapes on full floor-to-ceiling display.
Inside the hotel is a world-famous Six Senses spa and an array of dining options, including Sommet – a Michelin starred restaurant.
Who to speak to: Send Ewout Lionarons a message, the well known reservations manager at the Alpina
The bill: The starting price is $21,000 (£15,451) per night during the winter season …
The Presidential Suite – Ultima Gstaad
If you have ever wondered what would happen if Louis Vuitton and Hermès built a hotel – you need no longer imagine; the Ultima is as close to it as it gets. Inside – marble, furs and leathers adorn the luxurious interiors with no expense spared whilst giant suites offer quiet luxury. Should you wish to leave the comfort of the hotel and its sleek spa (by La Prairie no less), their complimentary Maybachs can chauffeur you to the ski lifts or to the Promenade for a spot of shopping.
However the most impressive feature is the Presidential Suite, an appropriately grand name for a 1,722-sq-ft (160 sq m) suite with every amenity carefully considered – from the perfectly curated interiors to the private entrance, two bedrooms, central fireplace, balconies and kitchen.
The Ultima prides itself on standing above the competition providing innovation to a largely traditional atmosphere. In line with this, they are currently hosting a pop-up of the celebrated COYA Peruvian restaurant… could it get any better?
Who to speak to: General manager Simon Le Cossec is always on site to ensure guests are looked after.
The bill: Prices start at $8,100 (£5,957.67) per night
My Gstaad Chalet – Park Gstaad
Classic elegance meets refined wholistic luxury. The Park Gstaad’s health focus sees it busy across the year, from summer through to winter. Although slightly further out than the aforementioned competitors, this hotel’s spa, considered cuisine and perhaps most significantly – enormous penthouse suite – make it a contender to seriously consider.
The My Gstaad Chalet top suite is billed as the largest in the Swiss Alps (although our calculations put it just under the Alpina’s Panorama suite) with four large bedrooms, jacuzzi, 24/7 butler service, marble bathtubs (all en suite) and large balconies to take in the scenery.
Who to speak to: Romane Cusin is the guest relations manager
The bill: Starting prices for the winter holidays go from $14,510 (£10,669.93) per night
La Fromagerie – Gstaad Palace
Underneath the Palace is La Fromagerie – a traditional Swiss restaurant hidden away in what were once security vaults built to store state gold during WW2. The menu features many Swiss staples such as raclette but by far, the most popular dish is the legendary truffle and Champagne cheese fondue; a suitably decadent take on the traditional Alpine meal.
Interiors are simple with wood panelling and red chequered table cloths reminiscent of those found around the Swiss countryside, however the crowd is anything but. Schnapps shots and champagne are commonplace and the general vibe serves as a lighthearted alternative to the more formal restaurants in town.
Who to speak to: maître d’hotel, Massimo Borile is the man to know, he’s been at La Fromagerie for the past 30 years and has hosted everyone from Madonna to Monaco Royalty.
Similar venues: Fondue and raclette are everywhere in Gstaad and all the other marquee hotels offer an alternative should you wish to get some variety. Check out the Park Gstaad’s Chalet Waldhus and the Le Grand Bellevue’s Le Petit Chalet as alternatives.
Gildo’s Ristorante – Gstaad Palace
Gildo Boscini has been at the helm of this Italian restaurant for 45 years – he is a Gstaad legend and a convivial familiar sight at the Palace. Boscini, in conjunction with Maurizio Paglino and his team, deliver an indulgent atmosphere which is popular with hotel’s regulars. Particularly sough after during the winter season is the epic New Years celebrations where lobster and endless champagne are served.
Who to speak to: Gildo! Who else?
La Bagatelle – Hotel Le Grand Chalet
This restaurant at the Hotel Le Grand Chalet is famous for its (local!) wines and elegant cuisine. A firm favourite with holiday makers it is particularly popular on sunny days when one can sit on the terrace and bask in the winter light. Chef Stève Willié serves French-style regional specialties and enjoy the view.
Who to speak to: Pedro F. is the Manager at La Bagatelle
La Vue Restaurant – Huus Grand
As the name implied, La Vue is all about the view. Large windows exhibit the majesty of the Alpine surroundings, with ski slopes and pine trees bringing together an almost postcard looking scene. Located at the design-led Huus Gstaad Hotel (known for having one of the best views in town) the food is local and made with fresh ingredients grown on-site.
Who to speak to: Thomas R is the Guest Relations Manager at Huus
Megu – The Alpina
Alpina’s Japanese restaurant is the Michelin-starred Megu. With interiors by Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance that incorporate antique kimonos, Alpine fir wood, accents of vermillion, slatted wood partitions inspired by the temples of Kyoto and traditional Japanese houses – this restaurant brings the big city luxury of the original NYC Megu to the Swiss slopes.
The food is perhaps predictably gorgeous, with Head Chef Tetsujiro Ogata and Head Sushi Chef Tsutomu Kugota taking diners on a journey through some of Japan’s most elegant cuisine. And as a bonus – it also offers one the largest sake collection in Switzerland…what a combo.
Who to speak to: General Manager Tim Weiland is the best point of contact
GreenGo – Gstaad Palace
As far as nightlife goes (outside of a boozy dinner – for which there are many alternatives) the GreenGo is the place to be and be seen. Although small and seemingly basic-looking at glance, this small nightclub has hosted some of the wildest parties in Gstaad over its 49 year tenure (including a disco dancing Princess Diana, a hard-partying Peter Sellars and a lip-syncing Tina Turner).
Resident DJ Jim Leblanc is the man at the centre of the party with upbeat mixes of popular songs, electronica and classic favourites.
Wait for: 4 or 5 am … maybe Massimo will treat you to some steak tartare.
Similar venues: Bouquet at Le Grande Bellevue is the best available alternative to GreenGo.