Switzerland are world leaders in a lot of things – cheese, chocolate, watches, skiing, trains, mountains, politics, and even tiny knives. Fewer people know that the Swiss are actually masters of hospitality too, and The Alpina Gstaad is perhaps the finest example.
High above the shores of Lake Geneva in a desirable and striking hilltop location, close to cultural hub and summer hotspot Montreux, is The Alpina Gstaad. On first glance, the building is traditional, with the typical aesthetic of alpine ski lodges – timber-clad, rustic, and probably covered in snow. However, open the doors to begin an entirely different story.
Imagine if you took some of London’s trendiest hotels out of the city and transformed them into an alpine retreat, that’s what we have here, and it works perfectly. The attention to detail sets The Alpina aside from nearby luxury hotels, from the cool basement cinema to the Acqua di Parma toiletries in every bathroom.
In a hotel where you would absolutely expect the best of the best, what would you expect from a restaurant other than a Michelin-star? Award winning Executive Chef Martin Göschel supervises the Alpina’s three restaurants: Sommet, Megu and Swiss Stübli.
Megu is known as the best Asian restaurant in Switzerland, and for a good reason. Head Chef Tetsujiro Ogata and Head Sushi Chef Tsutomu Kugota serve up a modern take on authentic Japanese dishes, with lavish presentations and some of the rarest ingredients in the world, let alone Switzerland. Among its many accolades, the restaurant also holds the title for having the largest sake collection in the country, which for me was very appealing news indeed.
If, like me, you succumb to the siren call of the dramatic landscapes of the mountains but you’re not actually a skier, you’re in luck. The Alpina is a resort in itself, and the world-renowned spa was what put this hotel on my radar initially.
There’s no way to describe the Six Senses Spa without using some form of cliché, so here’s a few: nirvana, sanctuary, haven, refuge, oasis… and so on. It’s all of those and more. Gstaad isn’t remote by any stretch of the imagination, but The Alpina’s spa transports you to another world, one that’s remote, calming and free of the humdrum of daily life. Health and wellbeing is the core of all the activity here, and their staff are world experts in the treatments they provide, from core beauty that transforms your façade, to specialist treatments that change the waves within to make you feel at one with your body and soul.
There’s also a hammam, a Salt Room, Oriental Room and our favourite, the striking Cave Room, which looks like it’s made from chunks of Himalayan pink salt. A wellness studio is the centre of class-based activities like Tai-Chi (definitely try this), and there’s even hydrotherapy in the changing rooms themselves, with saunas, ice showers (be careful to try this!) and plunge pools (again, worth it but brace yourself).
To make sure you get the absolute most of your stay, the spa encourages a Wellness Screening at the start of your stay to help you on your ‘way to wellness’. This non-invasive screening analyses your key physiological biomarkers and enables the experts to build a personalised program that blends high-tech science with ancient healing traditions, alternative therapies, holistic spa treatments and wellness activities.
Besides being at the absolute height of luxury and serenity, a real standout for The Alpina is the touches of personalisation. One if the key services they offer is an ‘Alchemy Bar’, which offers guests the opportunity to blend together your own scrubs and oils to your liking, which are then later used in your treatments upon your spa visit.
The spa’s centrepiece, and our favourite place, is the outdoor pool which in summer becomes a real focal point of activity. It’s surrounded by gardens designed by Jean Mus (known as the gardener who draws happiness) and has some of the most impressive views of the Alps you’ll experience in your lifetime. Whether you’re watching the sun come up, or down, it doesn’t matter – time simply fades away and you own the moment.