Opened in December 1913 by Robert Steffen, a local schoolteacher in Gstaad, with investors from Lausanne and Geneva for the project originally called the “Royal-Hôtel and Winter Palace.”, Gstaad Palace impresses with its majestic castle-like iconic building which from its very early days proposed to its discerning guests the most complex offering, from several dining venues (including fine dining), a lounge which is the heart-beat of the hotel, a Bar, Ski facilities, an outdoor clay tennis court and wellness space with sauna and hammam.
Today, the legendary hotel also includes an indoor heated pool, an outdoor pool, an expansive Spa with several treatment rooms and a state-of-the-art gym. Besides tennis and stays by world class sports celebrities, Gstaad Palace is also associated with the renowned polo championships and the yearly Menuhin Festival, recognised as one of the musts of classical music.
Beyond its complex and diversified offerings, the hotel has achieved a positioning in a league of its own not only maintaining the highest standards of product and service but an incessant strive for excellence through innovation. It has become natural for guests to discover novelties each season. Most recently, the hotel has been impressing with the gradual renovation of its rooms and suites, further enhancing comfort and providing a WOW factor.
The Alpine inspirations (predominantly through the use of wood and Swiss heritage elements) are superbly blended with contemporary design with the finest quality of furnishings, decors and finishes.Ultimate soundproof indoor/ outdoor, perfect black out, heavenly comfortable beds and oversized glass enclosed walk-in showers (high water pressure) are just some of the ‘standards’. No details have been overlooked from intricate lighting, plush wool carpets, underfloor heating in bathrooms to high-thread Italian satin cotton bed linen as well as Swiss hand-made mattresses.
After the war, the hotel became a common vacation spot for royalty, including King Leopold III, the King of Afghanistan, and members of the Spanish royal family.
The following decade, the owners of the hotel, the Scherz family brought in prominent entertainers to perform at the hotel, including Maurice Chevalier, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Marlene Dietrich, and numerous others. Scherz’s son, Ernst Andrea, took over managing duties from his father in 1968.
Throughout the 1960s and 70s, the hotel gained a reputation as a celebrity getaway destination. Actors like Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Sophia Loren, Grace Kelly, Roger Moore, and many others spent a great deal of time there. In the early 1970s, the hotel opened its first nightclub, GreenGo. Exterior shots of the hotel appear in the 1975 film, The Return of the Pink Panther, with Peter Sellers in his role as Inspector Clouseau.
Unlike its pier luxury winter destinations of Courchevel and St Moritz has evolved into a more discreet destination, attracting guest who would primarily enjoy networking – making new acquaintances – mostly business related. The impeccable skiing that Gstaad is offering is not overlooked. Equally, guests are being drawn by the Spa but also a quality meal – from a snack served in the grand lounge to a most sophisticated dinner in the evening which imposes a black-tie attire (no compromises on jeans or lack of a jacket make no exception.
The quality of foods is flawless, the owner sharing that most ingredients are sourced from local farms. Breakfast is a feast, with a large buffet selection. As crispy as the impeccable of the staff, so is the service throughout the F&B venues. Make sure you do not miss the now legendary truffle and Champagne cheese fondue or a traditional raclette in the authentically decorated Fromagerie Restaurant of the hotel. A black-tie formal dinner at The Grill listening to a classic concerto ensemble.
In a candid dialogue with Gstaad Palace owner, Andrea Scherz, I was most impressed how he would personally know and interact with over 50% of guests. He proudly shared that during the highest peak season, 70% of guests are returning ones. He spoke so highly about the beautiful challenges of securing accommodations in such a way to please all guests – many of them have been staying in the same room or suite year after year. Mention must be made, that, although in the winter season, the hotel has among the highest rates in Switzerland, running full occupancy for the entire season.
Unlike many other resort destinations, Gstaad Palace achieves a longer season, being traditionally open during the summer season, allowing for a different client profile. While my attention drawn to children, Gstaad Palace is a very family friendly hotel. Thanks to a Kids program children will never feel bored on holidays in Gstaad, whether it is converting the outdoor pool into a skating rink or the Kids Club of the hotel.
The fact that securing a room in the winter season is virtually impossible is the essence of luxury – scarcity generating desirability. Many guests who would not be able to secure a room would stay at another hotel, however spending their entire day at the Palace.
Service is courteous and very respectful, allowing for a closer and more familiar approach.
Oliver Petcu in Gstaad
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