Gstaad Palace: A Summer Sojourn
Perched majestically atop the town of Gstaad, is Gstaad Palace, and the so-called ‘secret season’ – the period between mid-May and mid-August – is fast becoming the most favoured time to visit it. Indeed, lashings of snow aren’t the only prerequisite for fun: lush mountains, crisp air and temperatures north of 25 degrees celsius make for ideal summer pursuits. From the Swiss Open Tennis Tournament and the Polo Gold Cup, hiking trails to hot air balloon rides, there’s plenty going on. And there’s no better place to experience them, than at this grand dame.
Entering the castle, one has a sense of being spirited back in time. Photographs of Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn and Roger Moore et al, adorn the walls - few hotels have hosted such glamorous guests. These days it’s more Swiss nationals and fastidious businessmen than the glitterati, but the Palace’s star is shining brighter than ever.
High windows are swathed in thick curtains, and though cavernous fireplaces speak to skiing sensibilities, they’re a welcome addition to any interior buff. Despite the absence of natty mod cons (room keys are keys, not cards, and the blinds don’t open by themselves), rooms are supremely sumptuous, with plenty of plaid fabric and wood. Those which are south facing are without doubt, the best, offering panoramic mountain views from balconies big enough to park cars on.
The old-world values of the Palace are redolent in every aspect of its service. On the veranda, waiters in white coats stand on ceremony and pre-empt your every request. The food is delicious, sensible and classic, and mouth-wateringly good. As evenings roll in, so too does a five-piece band. With the addition of twinkling fairy lights, it’s nothing short of magical.
Days are filled basking on beds around a sleek pool, playing tennis, mooching in forests past burbling streams, or downward dogging alfresco. Seasoned spa goers won’t be disappointed either: treatments are delivered in the seclusion of thick-walled treatment rooms, and the menu is wonderfully extensive. It’s somewhere in-between a hammam, and a sundown Aperol, that the hotel’s motto ‘come up, slow down’ is realised.
There’s even something for those seeking respite from the ritz. A short journey from the Palace, past meadows of alpine cows, is the 230-year-old Walig Hut. Since the Palace bought this hut from a farmer, little has changed. It has a back-to-basics, rustic sort of charm, though a private chef and a sheepskin-strewn bed soon make you forget the Glastonbury-esque loo. For dinner, there’s bread bathed in unctuous melted cheese, and bottles of crisp wine pulled straight from a cold-water trough.
So don’t go to Gstaad (pronounced Sttttard, by the way) for the powder and the pistes, go for the Palace’s summer time charm, and everything you would have never experienced had it been blanketed in snow. Not least, the chauffer-driven 1960s Bentleys that give way to horse-drawn carriages.
"Entering the castle, one has a sense of being spirited back in time…"
"It’s somewhere in-between a hammam, and a sundown Aperol, that the hotel’s motto ‘come up, slow down’ is realised."
Rooms at Gstaad Palace begin at 740CHF a night.
Visit www.palace.ch to book.