The beautiful holiday destination of Gstaad is for those who love the good life. Whether for a luxurious relaxing break, wellness, for adventure or for family bonding, the place has exclusive and numerous holiday experiences to offer to the young and old alike. With an unimaginable number of activities offered all year round, this destination is also the capital of various cultural and sporting events. It has retained its authentic alpine charm and invites visitors to “come up, slow down”.
We offer glimpses into a handful of experiences from the vast treasure trove of activities that Gstaad offers.
The right cut
Gstaad is regarded as a stronghold of the Swiss art of paper cutting and almost all houses here have examples of this art adorning them. Not surprisingly, the number of artists is also on the rise. “Often paper cutting art is derided as documenting a ‘perfect world’,” states Beatrice Straubhaar, one of the masters of paper cutting art in the region. However, she says that she sees in these fine works fascinating craftwork and a beautiful old folk art that she wishes to maintain.
This is just one example of the storehouse of possibilities that exist in Gstaad. There are numerous activities and experiences spanning the areas of luxury, adventure, culture, arts and the like that tourists can undertake.
This idyllic lake is above the small authentic village of Lauenen. It is best known to offer seclusion and tranquility amidst the most picturesque surroundings. It is also a paradise for waterfowl and therefore for birdwatchers too. This is an ideal spot for hikers and nature lovers. Boats are available for hire from the Restaurant Lauenensee.
Gstaad’s glacier offers a view of 24 summits. The mountain station with the restaurant Botta designed by star architect Mario Botta is worth the visit not only for the spectacular view but also for the host of wonderful rides that tourists can do. In winter, guests can enjoy skiing on Gstaad’s longest ski slope or visit the snow park. In summer, guests experience the Alpine coaster, snow bus, husky tours, hiking and many other activities. There are excellent gastronomic options for gourmets.
The Alpine Coaster offers the world’s highest toboggan run with a track up to 6 meters off the ground and running close to the sheer drop. Visitors are sure to enjoy this exhilarating and thrilling ride. It is one of the great attractions of Glacier 3000.
The Snow Bus, a specially designed vehicle, offers guests a ride over the glacier. This is another unique way to experience snow in all comfort! It is one of the special summer highlights.
The Refuge l’Espace is one of the most spectacular bistros in the Alps. It offers stunning views of the mountain glaciers that have to be experienced to be understood. One can reach this haven by foot, skis, bus or even by helicopter. The breathtaking setting is only rivaled by the mouthwatering cuisine and delectable wine selection offered here.
The Glacier 3000 is a special Gstaad experience for guests to relish.
Grand slam Gstaad
Gstaad hosted the sixth of the 10 double gender Grand Slam events on the 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour in July 2013. It was the 14th straight season that Gstaad hosted a men’s Grand Slam tournament and the 13th holding a women’s Grand Slam event.
Indeed, this Swiss village is a player and spectator favourite on the World Tour.
In the center of the village lies a sanctuary for food lovers. Rialto’s bistro, bar and terrace are open to indulge in a carefully chosen selection of dishes, local platters, seasonal pastries and wines. The skills of the talented chefs combine with the long gastronomic tradition of the area in order to produce dishes that delight the taste buds!
Talking of Chocolates…
Being in a country known for chocolates means that a trip to Switzerland is incomplete without a visit to a chocolate factory. Within an hour’s drive from Gstaad, the Maison Cailler takes visitors into the world of chocolates. Staring from the history of the chocolates, to understanding the processes involved in production, this sweet journey culminates in a tasting session. Guests can also board the Chocolate train that runs from Montreux to the Gruyère region to complete the experience.
Golfing and Pleasure
Gstaad combines fine dining and golf in the much awaited and exclusive Davidoff Saveurs Gourmet Week. This year, under the title “Golfing and Pleasure”, the invitational tournament of the Davidoff Saveurs Gourmet Week took place in the Golf Club Saanenmöser. Co-owner Michael Kneubühler, also an experienced chef, was in the kitchen together with top chef Robert Speth from the “Chesery”, the chalet-style, cosy and elegant restaurant with a small bar right in the heart of Gstaad. Together they concocted innovative refreshments on the course as well as the evening’s gourmet menu, including wine and drinks.
Hikers, swimmers and anglers have found a sort of dreamland in the heart of the mountain at this scenic lake, which is rightly called the “Pearl of the Saanenland”. There are also a number of BBQ areas to enjoy a meal, including the Berggasthaus Huus on the lake itself. Boating is another popular activity enjoyed here.
Visiting cheese factories is an interesting experience offered by the region. Alpine cheese, Hobelkäse and mountain cheese are the top products at the agricultural companies in Gstaad. Cheese producers have to adhere to very strict regulations that ensure quality control. These regulations start right with the cow feed. Processing into Alpine cheese is done in a ‘Kupferkessi’ (copper pot) over a wood fire, adhering to strict hygiene regulations. This is followed by a number of specified steps that leads to the ultimate production. To transform Alpine cheese into the world-famous Hobelkäse, the cheese is washed, rubbed with oil and stored. After two to three years, the ‘gold of the Alps’ has reached an optimal stage of maturity.
Life of a mountain farmer
It is fascinating for visitors to know about the life of locals. The life of farmers in the mountains is in sync with the rhythms of nature, the seasons and needs of animals. Johann von Grünigen from Turbach is one of many mountain farmers from the region of Gstaad. “Running a business in harmony with nature and respecting it in spite of the harsh daily life is the source of my satisfaction,” says Grüningen.
As the snow melts in April, it gives way to the outdoors. It is then time to prepare for the Züglete. Donning the famous cowbells, the herd moves towards Vorschess or Maienschess, an Alpine station halfway down to graze on fresh young grass that will produce more and tastier milk, which in turn improves quality of cheese. Further up the mountain, the Alpine operations are in full swing with on- site cheese production. When days start getting shorter again the animals move upwards often decorated with beautiful flowers.
Tourists want to be a part of this spectacle but the farmers do not want their Züglete to be marketed as a tourist attraction. Since the path leads through popular tourist spots and even the promenade, farmers do register their Züglete with the municipality, in order to ensure that the street sweepers can clean up the road as quickly as possible. Keeping all animals together is an exciting but strenuous adventure for the helpers involved.
For Johann von Grüningen, synchronizing with nature has been a way of life. He does not fall into the temptation of concentrated feed and vitamin preparations to increase production of milk of the cows. He would like to pass on the art of livestock breeding to his children, just as it has been passed down from generation to generation for centuries. He also does not want to give up this hard life and sell off the land for huge profits.
“Agriculture and Alpine authenticity are the main characteristics of our region – that is exactly what tourists appreciate so much about it”. He concludes.
Guests must experience the sun setting on the Mount Rellerli. A cable car transports visitors into this magical area. This mount is also a starting point for several hikes. The 620 meter long summer toboggan run provides plenty of thrills. Visitors can also quickly scooter down into the valley.
Live 5 Star
In the recent years, there has been an influx of travellers who patronize luxury properties. Gstaad is a hotspot of the 5-star hotel sector.
The Grand Hotel Park is one of the oldest hotels in the region. Extensive renovations accompanied its centenary celebration. According to Jean-Yves Blatt, General Manager, The Grand Hotel Park, “Our reinvented, contemporary chalet décor, the variety of restaurants, the trendsetting activities and events each season, our Spa – a blissful heaven of wellbeing – and more simple the smile of each of our employees represent the region perfectly. We are also partners of numerous events and involved greatly in the local life. We would like to act as a liaison between a region we deeply love, and the guests from all over the world who wish to enjoy Gstaad as it remains one of the leading international destinations”.
Gstaad Palace too is the flagship of the Swiss luxury hotel sector, almost like an emblem of the region. “We have a familiar, laid-back yet sophisticated and luxurious atmosphere. Dedicated staff fulfilling the guests’ every wish (which is proven by the fact that 80% out of our guests are repeaters) and a unique ambiance – the hotel is run by the Scherz family for 75 years, owned by them as well and thus not part of a hotel chain. The service is still very classic” says the General Manager, Gstaad Palace.
The Grand Hotel Bellevue is built in the style of the belle époque, designer chic with Asian influences. General Manager Mr. Kotser states that “The Bellevue is elegance redefined. Extraordinary facilities and luxurious services delivered in a world of lavish materials and colour, but emphasizing the casual comforts which today’s luxury traveller requires. It is the only palace in the center of Gstaad, on the Promenade, and one, which provides an intimate, personalized and exclusive experience. The Spa is the finest of the region, the Lounge serves high tea with scones, and the Chef has a one star Michelin, and all this for only 57 rooms”.
The Wellness & Spa Hotel Ermitage, Schönried has a clear focus on wellness & spa. In addition to that, Stefan Walliser, General Manager, believes that the hotel offers authenticity. “If you would like to know more about authenticity, Ermitage is the right place. Here, we are original and not artificial. We treat our guests in the best way possible and try to meet all their expectations. Most of all our products are from Schönried and we are always accepted by the people of the village. If you are seeking nature and authenticity this is the place to be” he says.
One of the newest additions to the luxury stay options in Gasttad is the Alpina. Elaborating on their experience with Indian travellers, the Managing Director says “Our past experience shows that the Indian travellers count among the most active-seeking and adventurous ones. This in all aspects of a great holiday experience: from active and light sporty activities such as hot air ballooning, canoeing, paragliding and hiking combined with mountain railways over cultural discovery tours such as the nearby Cailler chocolate museum or the unbelievably authentic medieval village and castle to gastronomy experiences, our Indian guests simply want to experience it all. We strongly believe that the times where Indian travellers were somehow hesitating to indulge in our culinary worlds are over by now. With our unexpected wide range of gastronomic offerings from authentic Swiss (Stübli Restaurant) to gastronomic cuisine (Sommet Restaurant) to contemporary and fancy Japanese (MEGU) and a highly flexible staff having vegetarian alternatives ready, there is anyhow nothing to fear of…”.
Indeed, with the variety of activities that Gstaad offers and the luxurious stay options available here, one would agree with Julie Andrews that this is indeed the “Last paradise in a crazy world…”