Today: Review of Gstaad Palace Hotel (Switzerland)
- Location: Google maps
- Hotel website: Gstaad Palace
- Tip: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso
Perhaps best known as the Bernese Oberland’s winter paradise, the luxurious Gstaad Palace is a favorite among active travelers and those truly in the know. The palace has presided over the tiny village of Gstaad since 1913, with splendid views of the Swiss Alps. You’ll find 90 rooms and suites, five restaurants (one rated 15 Gault Millau points), two bars with live music, a renowned nightclub, and a full-service spa. The latter is a wonderful spot to rejuvenate with a soak in the hammam or a visit to the private spa suite after a day of skiing or golfing. A squash court, four outdoor tennis courts, and an Olympic-size outdoor pool (calld PISCINE) are available in summer.
The Gstaad Palace features in my top 10 list of the best luxury hotels in Switzerland.
Have you ever stayed at The Gstaad Palace? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.
In this review (more info and photos below my YouTube video):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- The Gstaad Palace is located in Switzerland’s postcard perfect village of Gstaad. Long known as a wondrous playground for the rich and famous, Gstaad provides a year-round Alpine vacation destination for couples, families traveling with children of all ages, jetsetters, celebrities, and groups of friends who are looking for a great time. The village is surrounded by towering mountains, holding vast expanses of varying terrain, ideal for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. Over 200 km (125 mi) of slopes, an modern network of chairlifts & gondolas, chic mountain bars & restaurants, and the only glacier ski area in the Bernese Oberland – Glacier 3000 – make Gstaad the preferred choice for snow lovers. In summer, the same mountain pathways – dotted with wildflowers and bell-collared cows – welcome hikers and mountain bikers, too.
- Towering above the tiny village of Gstaad, The Gstaad Palace enjoys a superb location on a hill, providing magnificent panoramic views of the surrounding valleys and mountains. Another advantage of its elevated position, combined with its orientation towards the south, is that the property enjoys a lots of sunshine, which is a huge bonus for guests visiting in the colder, darker winter months. Gstaad Palace’s exclusive location adds to the feel that the hotel is a destination on its own, yet it’s only a short complimentary shuttle ride or a 10 min walk down a wooded path to the center of Gstaad village. Here, guests can enjoy leisurely strolls on a pedestrianized promenade, lined by haute fashion boutiques (e.g. Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Hermes) and jewelry outlets punctuated by the odd pharmacy or cheese shop.
- Driving through the Swiss valleys, climbing up the steep and winding roads of Gstaad, the first view of Gstaad Palace – a fantasyland castle with pointed turrets – will take your breath away. The history of this “white castle in the Alps” dates back to 1905, when Robert Steffen – a local schoolteacher in Gstaad – recognized the potential for a grand hotel in the region and purchased his first plots of land. Steffen recruited investors from Lausanne and Geneva and his hotel – originally called the “Royal-Hôtel and Winter Palace – opened in December 1913, with a design from Dutch architect Adrien van Dorsser. The hotel’s first winter season was so successful that several extensions were built over the next years. During the World Wars, the number of guests declined rapidly though. The Swiss government hid gold reserves in a two-story bunker at the hotel (The Fromagerie restaurant is accommodated in this room today; more on that below).
- Financial struggles associated with low patronage during the Word Wars prompted the hotel’s majority owner to sell the property in 1947 to Ernst and Silvia Scherz-Bezzol. In 1969, Ernst Andrea Scherz took over the ownership from his parents and ran the property until 2001. Under his management, Gstaad Palace became a world-famous hotel and built a reputation as an exclusive vacation spot for jetsetters and celebrities. Today, Gstaad Palace is managed by the third generation of the Scherz family and is therefore one of Europe’s last family-run hotels where VIPs experience a first-class culture of hospitality. Under the ownership of the Scherz family, the property has been continuously renovated, refurbished and extended. The upgrading continues every year when the ultra-luxe property closes its door between its winter seasons (mid-December to mid-March) and summer season (mid-June to mid-September).
- The Gstaad Palace’s interior is as grand and impressive as its imposing castle-like exterior, mixing the classic features of a Bavarian castle with the cozily style of a Swiss chalet. The design of the public areas is much as it was in the hotel’s early days, though fresh renovations, some timed with the hotel’s centennial celebration, have added a contemporary touch. The intimate reception & concierge area, which is decorated with beautiful floral arrangements, leads into a huge lobby lounge flanked with stone pillars. Featuring a vast, painted ceiling depicting Switzerland’s 26 cantons and their decorative seals, the light-filled lobby is centered around a gorgeous bar area. After a day in the mountains, guests come here to socialize, relax and lounge on the sofas by the open fire or by the massive windows which offer great mountain views.
- The Gstaad Palace features 90 spacious rooms, including 30 suites and one penthouse apartment crowning the main tower. All rooms and suites boast new furnishings and most offer splendid views of Gstaad’s authentic chalets and the surrounding mountains. During my visit, I was upgraded to a ‘deluxe room mountain view’ on the first floor (number 114). Decorated in a soothing color palette, the room’s design exuded Alpine coziness and sophisticated elegance. It featured a walk-in wardrobe, kingsize bed, writing desk, and a comfortable sitting area. The ensuite bathroom was equipped with two sinks, a bath, and a separate shower; luxurious Molton Brown toiletries were provided. The room’s highlight was a huge terrace with dining table, facing the majestic mountains and enjoying sunshine for most of the day. Welcome amenities in the room included a (daily replenished) fruit bowl and a Gstaad Palace branded scented candle.
- The Gstaad Palace features one of the most impressive wellness areas in the Alps. The magnificent spa facility offers nine treatment rooms, a private spa suite, saunas and steam baths, a unique hammam experience, a striking relaxation area with Swiss-style fireplace, an indoor swimming pool, a state-of-the-art gym, and a Pilates studio overlooking the Alps. To enhance a mountain feeling at the spa, an imposing 60 m (200 ft) long granite wall using 50 tons of rock from the Blausee region was cut and painstakingly constructed. The spa’s highlight, though, is the outdoor pool, which begins inside and continues via a glass hatch out in the open air, offering superb views of the mountainous scenery between the plumes of rising steam. In the summer, tennis courts and an outdoor Olympic-sized pool – called PISCINE – are also available to guests.
- One of the best things about the Gstaad Palace(besides those Alpine views) is its dining scene. From an elegant dinner to a casual get-together, from original Swiss specialties to international haute cuisine, the resort offers several dining venues and bars:
- Le Grill is the property’s signature restaurant, awarded with 15 Gault Millau points. Top chefs prepare delicious dinners right in front of the guest’s in a show kitchen.
- Next to Le Grill is Gildo’s Ristorante, an Italian restaurant named after Maître d’hôtel Gildo Bocchini, who was one of the hosts at the Palace since the 1960s.
- Housed in a former Swiss gold vault, La Fromagerie serves typical Swiss specialities (e.g. truffle and Champagne cheese fondue or a traditional raclette) in a rustic setting with lots of wood and red and white checked decoration.
- Le Grand Restaurant is the Palace’s main dining venue, open for breakfast (served buffet style), lunch, and dinner. The latter mainly comprises international dishes as well as Indian cuisine on selected nights.
- The Gstaad Palace is home to one of the most famous nightclubs in the Alps: GreenGo Nightclub. The club’s unique design and decoration by Teo Jakob take guests back to the 1970s in a stylish setting. Resident DJs play popular and hip music, guaranteeing a thrilling party night for the hotel’s illustrious clientele.
- More than 100 years after it officially opened, Gstaad Palace retains a reputation as one of the finest luxury hotels in the Swiss Alps, attracting celebrities from all over the world. In the 1960s, Marlene Dietrich, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman and Ella Fitzgerald as well as Maurice Chevalier, Gilbert Bécaud, Dionne Warwick and Petula Clark stayed at the hotel. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton regularly holidayed at the Gstaad Palace Hotel back in the 1970s. Since then, a parade of celebrities – including singer Madonna, designer Valentino, Bollywood star Kareena Kapoor Khan, and actress Julia Andrews – have enjoyed the Swiss hospitality at the iconic property. In 2000, Michael Jackson offered to purchase the hotel, but the owners declined. Another fun tidbit: scenes from the 1975 film The Return of the Pink Panther starring Peter Sellers were also filmed at the Gstaad Palace.
- The Gstaad Palace Hotel is counted among the portfolio of the Leading Hotels of the World (LHW). The latter is an exclusive collection of more than 400 luxury hotels and resorts in over 80 countries. LHW does not own hotels; it rather offers a reservation service for independent hotels and supports sales and marketing, advertising and public relations, financial services, quality control, and hotel inspections for its member properties. LHW has many iconic properties in its portfolio, such as such as the 12 Apostles Hotel in Cape Town, The Datai Langkawi in Malaysia, Hotel Adlon Kempinski in Berlin, Le Sirenuse in Positano (Italy), Il Sereno Lake Como (Italy), Laucala Island in Fiji, the Setai Miami Beach, and The Ritz in Paris. From 1976 till 1989, Gstaad Palace’s owner Ernst Andrea Scherz was President of LHW; The alliance of leading luxury hotels grows with the addition of several hotels outside Europe under his auspices.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
- The Gstaad Palace is not a ski-in, ski-out hotel, although that’s not really a problem as the property provides complimentary shuttle service to and from the nearest cable car lifts (which are only a 5 to 10 min drive away).
- Enjoying a secluded hillside location, the Gstaad Palace is a strenuous 10 minute walk uphill from Gstaad‘s lovely center where you find several shops, bars and restaurants. But for those guests that don’t want to walk, the hotel provides complimentary drop off or pick up service upon request.
- Gstaad Palace is a glamorous winter fantasy come to life in one of the world’s most glitzy ski resorts, so the prices (room rates, dinner, etc …) match the lofty location as well the hotel’s stellar reputation.
- Gstaad Palace oozes old-fashioned grandeur, although many rooms have a more contemporary feel. If you’re more into an intimate boutique hotel with modern design, the Gstaad Palace might not be the best choice for you.
- What makes Gstaad Palace feel doubly rare and unique is the fact that it’s only open for select months of the year, through the heart of winter’s ski season (mid-December to Mid-March) and in the blooming height of summer (mid-June to Mid-September). This feels about right for a place whose clientele of well-heeled and discerning travelers don’t travel during the off-season.
- Location: 9/10
- Design: 9/10
- Pool: 9/10
- Rooms: 8/10
- Food: 9/10
- Breakfast: 9/10
- Spa: 10/10
- Service: 9/10
- Value for money: 9/10
- Overall experience: exceptional 9/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: get complimentary VIP perks at Gstaad Palace when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and $100 USD food & beverage credit).
- Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Gstaad Palace (and/or receive many free perks).
- Room tip: south-facing rooms have the best views and some of these rooms come with a balcony, which are worth their premium price.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Gstaad Palace is a seasonal hotel: it’s only open during the winter ski season (mid-December to mid-March) and summer (mid-June to mid-September).
HOW TO GET THERE
The journey to the hotel by car takes two hours from both Geneva and Basel, you need roughly 2 and a half hours from Zurich. The train station in Gstaad is just 1 km (0.6 mi) away from the hotel. Gstaad also has an airport that caters to private jets.
PHOTOS OF GSTAAD PALACE
Below is a selection of my photos of Gstaad Palace. To view more hotel photos (including meals), click here.