Switzerland’s history as a wealthy (and politically neutral) nation has resulted in more than its fair share of castles, palaces, and fortresses—some real, some of the hotel variety, but all magnificent. At the castlelike five-star retreats dotted throughout the country, guests can enjoy every luxury amenity imaginable in superb settings allowing Swiss precision and service to shine. With ski season now under way, these palatial stays have the winter wonderland vistas they deserve. Herewith, six of the country’s most over-the-top castle hotels.
A fairy-tale-like property in the Alps, the 115-year-old Gstaad Palace is perched above stately, sophisticated Gstaad. (Most pronounce it incorrectly: Locals say “Sh-t-ahh-d.”) In a town where HRH sightings are common and the world’s most expensive boarding school is located half the year, the old-world Gstaad Palace is a hotel literally fit for royalty. Family-owned, the Palace plays host to traditionalists who return every year for white-gloved service and a myriad of activities—from snowboarding and snowshoeing to dog sledding and heliskiing. Privacy is a hallmark: During World War II, the Swiss government hid gold reserves in a two-story bunker at the hotel. Today, a visit to GreenGo is a must—the legendary basement nightclub features mega-DJs like David Guetta and has played host to A-list stars like Pippa Middleton, Madonna, and Bono.
It’s hard to decide which is more impressive at Zurich’s Dolder Grand: its museum-quality art collection or the 43,000-square-foot destination spa (one of Oprah’s favorites). At this resort in the hills overlooking Lake Zurich—celebrating its 120th anniversary in 2019—both amaze. The collection, assembled by owner Urs Schwarzenbach, includes scores of pieces throughout the property by artists including Keith Haring, Salvador Dalí, Takashi Murakami, Ferdinand Botero, and René Magritte, as well as Big Retrospective Painting, a show-stopping 36-foot-long Andy Warhol hanging above check-in. (Let’s not forget the Sylvester Stallone portrait prominently displayed on the way to the restaurant Saltz.) Over at the spa, there’s a spate of amenities, including such standard fare as steam room and Jacuzzis, as well as next-level offerings: ambient lighting, kotatsu foot baths, aroma pools, a meditation walk, snow paradise, a sanatorium, and Japanese-style Sunaburo pebble relaxation pods. A two-Michelin-star and 19-GaultMillau-point dining room—named simply the Restaurant—offers creative, visually stunning cuisine from Chef Heiko Nieder, creator of annual luxury food festival the Epicure and 2019 GaultMillau Chef of the Year. Although the resort looks like a centuries-old castle, the property is fully renovated and also offers two modernized, tech-forward wings, with sporting options ranging from golf and tennis to ice skating, ice hockey, and curling on the property’s own rink.
Opulence reigns at Badrutt’s Palace, a neo-Gothic-style castle overlooking Lake St. Moritz in the Engadin Valley. In glitzy St. Moritz, more is more, and Badrutt’s has catered to privileged one-percenters for more than 120 years. Don’t expect low-key: This is the type of place where guests wear their best furs and stroll through Le Grand Hall—a wood-paneled lobby with Persian rugs, wooden and marble floors, and wood-carved ceiling—dripping in jewels. Three Rolls-Royces (one formerly owned by Queen Elizabeth II) are on hand to fetch guests from the airport and train station, or to shuttle them between designer boutiques before returning to eat at one of seven restaurants. Dining standouts include Matsuhisa for sushi, Michelin-starred Igniv by Andreas Caminada for fine-dining shared plates, and the rustic 1930s farmhouse Chesa Veglia for traditional Swiss cuisine. More than 200 miles of skiing trails are close by, and the hotel is also renowned for its granite rock cliff, which thrill seekers can dive off into the pool below.
Mont Cervin Palace
Charming Zermatt is renowned for its epic views of the world-famous Matterhorn, and the rooms at the more than 160-year-old Mont Cervin Palace don’t disappoint—these are Instagram-worthy vistas on steroids. Guests are fetched from the train station in a horse-drawn carriage and dropped off at the Alpine-chalet-style property, located in the center of town and in the shadow of Switzerland’s highest ski resort. With more than 220 miles of slopes within minutes of Mont Cervin’s front door, here, skiing is the star. Activities such as tobogganing, sledding, ice climbing, heliskiing, and winter hiking are also within easy reach, and the hotel assists with equipment, transportation, and planning. For relaxation après-ski, there are multiple bars—including a cigar lounge with open fire, digestifs, and an ample selection of Cubans and Dominicans—plus a heavenly (and quite photogenic) 18,000-plus-square-foot indoor-outdoor spa.
Grand Hotel Kronenhof Pontresina
It’s no wonder the Grand Budapest Hotel is frequently name-checked when talking about the Grand Hotel Kronenhof Pontresina: It exudes the same sense of elegance and whimsy. Although it’s less than four miles from St. Moritz, it feels like an oasis of calm and refinement, tucked into the Upper Engadin Valley in sleepy Pontresina. Dating from 1848, the hotel’s status as registered landmark is evident in neo-Baroque details such as an imposing wrought-iron staircase in the central hall and remarkable restored ceiling frescoes done by Otto Haberer in the 1900s. Guests must wear jacket and tie for dinner at the two fine dining restaurants, the aptly named Grand Restaurant, and Italian-Mediterranean-French Kronenstübli. A visit to the wine cellar is a must—dating from 1867, the three-level cellar offers both an original collection of barrels and also vintage ski paraphernalia such as wooden skis and bob sleights. Other standouts include the spa—including flotation room with underwater music, saltwater grotto, and indoor infinity pool with counter-current system—and nighttime activities such as moonlight skiing and horse-drawn sleigh rides. Despite the pomp, it’s wildly child-friendly, with a stellar kids’ club and numerous amenities, plus a children’s spa area.
Beau-Rivage Palace Lausanne
Only 45 minutes from Geneva, the Beau-Rivage Palace Lausanne has been an iconic stay on the sparkling shores of Lake Geneva since 1861. (Audrey Hepburn, Charlie Chaplin, and Coco Chanel were fans.) It’s hard to choose which view is more mesmerizing from the pastel-hued palace’s 134 rooms and 34 suites—Lausanne’s serene lake or the majestic Alps beyond. Home to gastronomic temple Anne-Sophie Pic au Beau-Rivage Palace, the restaurant claims two Michelin stars and 18 GaultMillau points and is helmed by three-Michelin starred Anne-Sophie Pic, arguably the most celebrated female chef in the world. Like many Swiss retreats, the spa is a must: Cinq Mondes offers guests two heated swimming pools, women’s and men’s hammams, saunas, and a tropical rain walk. Hotel facilities include two tennis courts and a nearly ten-acre park; for guests wanting to explore, charming medieval city Lausanne is less than ten minutes away. brp.ch