Gstaad Palace *****
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Menno, Founder of the blog Top With Kids, aged 47, married, father of Tess (11) and Wende (9), from Arnhem, Holland
Miles before entering the picturesque Swiss town of Gstaad, we already spot our place of destination rising high above the rest. We earlier informed our daughters that our next stop would be a ‘princess castle’. And so, full of anticipation, they sit with their noses pressed against the car windows right from the start of our journey. It takes quite some time, but then their waiting gets rewarded. “Look, mum and dad, there is a pink castle in the snow! Is that where we are going?”.
Gstaad Palace sure lives up to its name. The white-pink building complete with towers and crenellations is not your typical modern Disney clone. On the contrary, this is the ‘grande dame’ of luxury hotels in Switzerland. The construction of the railway line to Montreux in 1904 was the start of tourism in Gstaad and ever since building the hotel in 1913, Gstaad Palace has been the meeting point for the international jet set looking for sporty and other sorts of entertainment. The hotel lobby is completely decorated with stunning black-and-white pictures that refer to its illustrious past. Celebrities like Louis Armstrong, Marlene Dietrich and Roger Moore were frequent visitors.
The concierges and the ladies of the Communication team charmed us with a warm welcome. The special attention they give our girls shows that this is a place where they highly prioritise family life. That probably has to do with the hotel being run by the same family for three generations. During our stay, we frequently hear the staff say that they feel like being part of a big family.
When we later ‘inspect’ our room, our two connected rooms turn out to be very spacious indeed. The Gstaad Palace doesn’t use plastic room keys, but a beautiful old-fashioned key with a substantial tassel. Both rooms come with a sitting area, a bathroom with a giant bath and a steam cabin and the most delightful fluffy beds. Our daughters are quick to find out that the hotel offers two free films a day; a wonderful gesture as most hotels charge quite a lot for these amenities. Moreover, the walk-in closet is so big that you can easily swirl around in here for a waltz. Both rooms have French doors opening out onto a huge terrace. Not only a wonderful place to soak up the Alpine sun, but also the ideal spot to launch our drone. These magnificent surroundings are the perfect place for some aerial photos. Needless to say, all this comes with a considerable price tag.
In the lobby, we enjoy a welcome drink and some heavenly pies after which we start to explore the hotel. Evidently, our rooms have more than enough space for the four of us, but if you really want to feel like a royal, then book the Tower suite. This suite measures no less than 200 sqm, divided over two bedrooms, several walk-in closets, a private sauna and hot tub and a giant terrace. In case your extended family decides to join you, the Tower suite can even be combined with other suites. Although every room has a splendid view, there is always – so to speak –a king of the castle. The completely renovated Penthouse suite towers high up at the top. The happy few who are lucky enough to stay in this suite, are bound to enjoy some uninterrupted mountain views. A spacious living and dining area and three bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms guarantee a comfortable stay for large families.
Gstaad Palace knows how to create an interesting balance between classic, Heritage and innovation. The best example of this innovation is the beautifully designed Spa. The 60 m long back wall is made of local granite, the most beautiful wood species and marble. Spread over nearly 2,000 sqm, there is a spacious lounge with a fireplace, eight treatment rooms, several saunas and steam baths and a very special hammam. This unique experience takes you on a 2-hour journey through seven different rooms, each with their own treatment or experience. After a foot ritual, steam bath, oil massage and an almost weightless session in the floating pool, you feel reborn. Then get into the oversized hot tub that, via a sluice, gives access to a small heated outdoor pool where you have the most magnificent view over the surrounding mountains. If you want to treat someone special to a really unique experience, then book the private Spa where you can undisturbedly enjoy some quality time with your loved one. Needless to say, such a treat comes with a price tag.
In the meantime, our girls enjoy themselves with a wide range of toys and an enormous dolls’ house or, when they are older, with gaming computers. If weather permits, there is a large playground outside. A few hours each day, a qualified nanny organises activities for children. Our girls just love hanging out with her and work on their bead necklaces with their tongues stuck out. Despite all the fun, we need to move on to have our skis sized as we are planning to go skiing the next day.
And we’ve sure come to the right place for skiing. It is not without reason that Gstaad Palace has been awarded one of the world’s best winter sports hotels on numerous occasions. To begin with, the hotel has got its own in-house ski shop. In a very leisurely way, the girls and we get geared up in a fitting ski outfit that is stored until we need it for our skiing trip the following day. With the same ease, the hotel organises a private instructor, who even speaks Dutch, and who takes us under his wings. Ski passes, transport to the skiing lifts, a packed lunch, really nothing is too much and makes for a perfect day on the slopes. Our daughters are first-time skiers and we are taken by surprise how well they are doing. Luckily, it is not crowded on the ski slopes and, unhindered, we can slide down the mountain.
For the experienced skier who has seen and done it all, there is the possibility to have a helicopter drop you off on a high remote alpine slope. It goes without saying that a local guide is highly recommended. A more relaxed means of transport is a balloon flight. The view over the mountains and valleys is breathtaking.
Tired yet fulfilled, we return to the hotel where we are warmly welcomed by the staff and by the heated indoor swimming pool with a constant temperature of 29 degrees Celsius. A funny detail is that what seems like the cover of the swimming pool, is actually the dance floor from the neighbouring GreenGo nightclub. At night, the hydraulic comes down and is the place to show your best dance moves. The Gstaad Palace nightclub is internationally renowned. Nothing seems to have changed since the start in 1971; the complete decoration exudes the 1970’s. This is in contradiction to the music which is up-to-date with guest performances by world-famous DJs.
With two young children, we go for our bit of fun elsewhere. One of the highlights is dinner in the fondue restaurant “La Fromagerie”. In the laidback atmosphere of an authentic Swiss mountain hut, we enjoy the legendary Truffle Champagne cheese fondue while the girls are over the moon with the chocolate fondue with fruit we share for dessert. The next day, we do it all over again, but this time in the Italian restaurant “Gildo’s Ristorante”. Once again, we are impressed by the warm welcome we get from the staff. Nothing is too much for them and we savour the pasta prepared at the table by the chef.
Both restaurants are perfect for a family dinner. Restaurant “Le Grill” is more formal, with a show kitchen and a renowned wine cellar. The place to be for a romantic dinner where guests are expected in formal attire. The same applies to “Le Grand Restaurant”. Although each restaurant has its own cuisine and atmosphere, they are not far away from each other. This gives the feeling of a lively village square where there’s something to everyone’s liking.
As soon as the sun peeps out, the large terrace in front of the hotel is set up. A great place to have breakfast. This is just as much a culinary feast with fresh fruit, the most delicious cappuccinos, local cheeses and meat, pancakes, waffles, eggs every way you want them, and so on.
After all these culinary highlights and skiing and snowboarding, it’s time for a bit of ice skating on the ice rink in the centre of Gstaad. Here, you can put on your skates for a nice spin on the ice or maybe a game of ice hockey with some other ice lovers. Or, if you want to go up into the mountains: close to the hotel, there is the possibility to whizz down the mountain on a traditional wooden sledge. There are various sledge runs each with their own level of difficulty. Still, it also has got something to do with the quality of the snow. We opt for a sledge run that seems to have turned into a superfast slide as a result of frozen snow. The girls scream with laughter whereas we need to do all we can to reach the valley in once piece. An extra dimension is the night sledging descent on the Wispille where the sledge run is led by torches. True adrenaline junkies can fly down the slopes on an airboard and reach the valley in no time.
At the hotel, you can go for a round of squash or hit the ball on one of the three indoor tennis courts nearby. Yet, Gstaad Palace is not only the place to be for winter sports. The hotel’s outdoor Olympic swimming pool is very much in demand – apparently the first one ever with such dimensions in Europe. In the summer, there are no less than four outdoor tennis courts. Children who love to play tennis, can work on their tennis skills under professional guidance during the ‘Tennis and Mountain Week’ and explore the mountains and do all sorts of fun activities in the afternoon. Bike enthusiasts, and in particular mountain bikers, can also test their limits in this mecca for outdoor sports. And what about fishing, rafting or canyoning – all in close proximity to the hotel.
Golf lovers are lucky: just a stone’s throw from the hotel is one of the most beautiful golf courses in the Alps, the Gstaad-Saanenland 18-hole golf course. Hikers have the choice of over 300 marked trails. En route, you will find various small cafés for a cup of coffee or a wholesome meal. Real mountain die-hards have the whole of the Alps mountain range to pick from.
And if your activities turn out to be too strenuous after all, there is always a cable car nearby to take you back to the valley in the blink of an eye. Prefer a day of sightseeing? Then we highly recommend the Castle of Gruyères, the Cailler chocolate factory, the city of Montreux and Chillon Castle on the banks of Lake Geneva.
You really feel like a royal at Gstaad Palace. There is nothing the staff wouldn’t do for you. They are all very friendly without being submissive. A true family business where they all put their hearts into their jobs. It is the perfect place for ski and other winter sports lovers. The hotel is happy to organise everything for you – down to even the smallest detail. And after a fun day out in the snow, it is always good to enter the lobby for a hot drink or possibly something stronger. Make sure to visit the hotel in the summertime as well. The setting is then completely different which makes it a whole new experience. Also during summer, there is a whole range of activities.
Monday-Sunday: 9AM - 6PM.
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