by Telegraph Luxury Travel Editor and John O'Ceallaigh, The Telegraph, September 1, 2017
Named by The Telegraph’s luxury-travel magazine Ultratravel as one of the world’s 50 best hotel suites, The Alpina Gstaad’s vast Panorama Suite is the most beautiful suite in Switzerland. More a private chalet embedded in one of the country’s most exclusive hotels than a conventional suite, the two-storey, three-bedroom abode incorporates everything needed to make it a legitimate home from home, but its most impressive feature is indicated by its name. On the uppermost levels of this elevated hotel, it is enveloped by rolling meadows, dainty chalets and a grand sweep of the Swiss Alps.
The suite: Unpretentious and tasteful – never a given for top-tier accommodation within Europe’s most elite ski resorts – the Panorama Suite is, like much of the hotel, finished with reclaimed timber and pays subtle tribute to Swiss heritage and landscapes. Old wooden cabinets are embellished with traditional hand-painted insignia; intricately detailed illustrations, painstakingly cut by hand over a period of months by elderly artisans, decorate the walls; gently raised tufts in a rug reference the kaleidoscopic pattern of enlarged snowflakes.
There are more obvious focal points too. Flanked by an extended terrace, the lower-level’s vast lounge is designed for cosy group get-togethers, its various couches, armchairs and chaise lounge centred around a central stone fireplace (with stockpile of logs to hand) and facing each other rather than the TV. An adjacent dining table accommodates eight, and impromptu dinner parties can be easily arranged – a fully equipped kitchen with separate staff entrance stands discreetly to the side.
Most impressive, however, is the 400sq metre (4,306sq ft) suite’s upper level. Alongside the most private of its three bedrooms, it holds a sauna, steam room, treatment room, miniature gym and covered outdoor hot tub – all the makings of an exclusive spa are at guests’ immediate disposal. With another log fireplace at its centre and plump day beds set along its borders, a central atrium connects these disparate spaces and makes an inviting place to read at leisure or doze post-massage.
The hotel: The most beautiful of Gstaad’s luxury hotels (in my opinion at least), five-year-old The Alpina Gstaad has made exceptional efforts to entice the region’s incomparably indulged and particularly demanding visitors from the town’s established grande dames and ultra-discreet private chalets.
Dining options are extensive and varied and include refined but unpretentious restaurant Sommet, which serves consistently enjoyable European dishes, complemented by an interesting selection of Swiss wines. Sophisticated Japanese cuisine is offered at beautifully styled Japanese Megu, with its slate-grey carpet raked each day to resemble a temple garden and its best table hewn from an illuminated slab of shimmering white onyx. These and other eateries and bars have extensive mountain-facing terraces that come into their own each summer.
Though my massage was passable rather than pleasurable (and disrupted by construction noise from a site next door), the facilities at the resort’s Six Senses Spa are excellent and include separate indoor and outdoor pools, a yoga pavilion in the property’s peaceful garden and a ‘healing grotto’ finished with bricks of dusty-pink Himalayan salt. Secreted in the basement, a kids’ club keeps younger guests entertained; it abuts the hotel’s spacious, soundproofed cinema, available for hire for fun, private film nights.
What to expect: Panorama Suite guests often stay for weeks at a time – understandable given a weekend break leaves barely enough time to explore its ample facilities and enclaves. Positioned by the lounge, the master bedroom immediately beckons with its fireplace and generous bathroom with standalone tub, but I preferred the lone bedroom upstairs. A flick of a bedside switch each morning sees its curtains unfurl to reveal a spread of meadows below and distant mountain peaks beyond.
And the suite’s capaciousness means even larger groups can find quiet enclaves in which to rest and reflect. Sustained by Swiss chocolates and other complimentary snacks generously piled in the kitchen, guests can easily lose hours reading and chatting on the balconies, lounge and relaxation area upstairs.
Standout feature: Within, the abundant amenities, space and sense of privacy means this is a genuinely cosseting space; spending cold winter evenings cocooned indoors and warmed by one of the wood-fuelled fireplaces is a simple, wonderful pleasure. But still it’s trumped by those views. Whether spending a summer’s evening reading on the balcony, as dragonflies flit along its tumble of pink geraniums, or watching the snow fall (ideally with drink in hand) from the top-floor hot tub, seeing the surrounding Swiss Alps, laid so majestically before you, never ceases to be truly breath-taking.
Not so keen: That the suite has been named by Ultratravel as one of the 50 best in the world indicates its exceptional quality; it’s hard to find fault. That said, there are some quibbles: it seems strange that a butler isn’t allocated to a suite of this calibre, or at least that an unpacking and packing service isn’t automatically provided; a CHF20 charge to watch films on demand in the suite should be waived; and during my visit the remote used to close the upper-level bedroom’s skylight blinds was irritatingly unresponsive.
Location: Set on a hillside about a 10-minute walk from central Gstaad, the property provides prompt access to all the town (a scenic three-hour train journey or 30-minute helicopter flight from Geneva) has to offer, but it’s what lays beyond its boundaries that is most significant. The team is adept at arranging access to all the expected winter-sports activities, but just as significantly the concierge desk can in summer facilitate hiking excursions (for all levels) that reveal the most spectacular Alpine scenery. Soundtracked – so charmingly – by the soft lilt of Alpine horns echoing up from a plateau below, my own three-hour amble including sightings of Alpine chalets garlanded with flowers, curious, bell-wearing cows aplenty and ancient, momentous peaks at every clearing, and concluded with a rejuvenating swim in a placid lake at the nook of a brilliantly green, forest-filled valley.
How to book: Wellbeing Escapes (020 3735 7555) offers a four-night Alpine Flexible Fitness programme at The Alpina Gstaad from £2,059 based on double occupancy. The rate includes includes B&B accommodation, flights, wellness consultation, various fitness activities, E-bike rental and spa treatments. The Panorama Suite starts from £4,380 per night pp, based on two sharing, including breakfast and return flights.
This article was written by Telegraph Luxury Travel Editor and John O'Ceallaigh from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].