Gstaad is everything you could wish for in a traditional alpine town: chocolate-box wooden chalets, pine trees, mountain air, glaciers among the peaks and the clanging of cow bells as the dairy herds come in for milking. A handful of grandes dames hotels, called the palace hotels, continue to attract the jet-set for winter sports, but also for summer hiking.
The vibe: Le Grand Bellevue hotel and spa was originally built in 1912, and its new owners have renovated throughout to create a modern-day home-from-home. Keeping the elegance of five-star luxury they have introduced an air of playfulness (House of Hackney wallpaper) and warmth (soft velvet George Smith armchairs). Leonard is a giant upholstered camel welcoming guests to the hotel’s relaxed Michelin-star restaurant (“yes, guests do try to climb onto him,” says Swiss owner Daniel Koetser, “the record is seven at once”).
Getting there: There’s always a bit of travelling time getting up into the Alps, so thankfully flights with Swiss from City to Geneva are a shortcut. A train ride or two-hour drive brings you to the 57-room Le Grand Bellevue along the town’s promenade. Trains brought adventurous skiers to the doorstep of the hotel before the Second World War, and it’s an unforgettable trip on a sunny day around the banks of sparkling Lake Geneva and then on the Golden Pass scenic route along the steep-sided valley.
Out and about: In winter the hotel can drive you to the gondolas for skiing, or arrange for heliskiing adventures. A horse-drawn tour of the town fits right in with the traditional rural vibe. Hiking, climbing, biking and river rafting are all summertime ways to boost your mood, especially with 300km of paths and trails.
The spa: Le Grand Bellevue spa is vast, a place to pad about and explore, with a Finnish sauna, ice grotto, hammam, yoga studio, swimming pool with jacuzzi and more. The new owners fell in love with Bamford products on trips to the UK and these organic richly aromatic rituals are offered alongside Swiss brand Cellcosmet.
The yoga retreat: Clear your mind, stretch and cleanse the body with yogi Chantal Soeters on her Energy Balancing Yoga and Spa Retreat at Bellevue. The retreat costs from 920 CHF per person, based on double occupancy, including two nights’ accommodation, all meals, four yoga sessions and a mountain hike. Visit chantalsoeters.com for information.
Need to know: Le Grand Bellevue (bellevue-gstaad.ch) has doubles from 390 CHF B&B in summer, and from 650 CHF half board in winter. Swiss (swiss.com) has flights from London City to Geneva from £96 return. For weather and slopes reports and year-round activities visit gstaad.ch