Hotel Kristiania, Lech, Austria

Bypassing the need for marble-clad bathrooms and stiff ski butlers, expect retro design touches, fireside raclette and exceptional cocktails at family-run hotel Kristiania.

Once you've been to Lech, you'll wonder why you haven't been before. You probably got swayed by the social lights of flashy Gstaad, bouji St Moritz and blingy Courchevel. But with its spectacularly better skiing over a vast and varied area, superlative food in innumerable locations (fondue is an exception here) and such comfortable, modern ski lifts that you could be in the US, Lech is a stellar ski resort that stands the test of time and trends.

A chocolate-box village at the end of a valley that gets cut off in wintertime, Lech offers a smattering of bars for après-ski antics, though the rowdy crowds are banished to St Anton, aptly named and positioned like San Antonio in Ibiza (i.e. a good 20-minute bus ride away). There are 15 hotels with five-star status and myriad more catering to all levels, including pensions. All are stylish and housed in beautiful chalets - no apartment blocks to be seen here. But if you want to be made to feel like you're in the bosom of your own home, check into the family-owned Hotel Kristiania, run by the two fabled Mrs Schneiders - mother and daughter - who are the most discreet yet effective hosts you will ever meet.

At Kristiania, nothing is too complicated and within minutes the divine staff will know you by name. Each and every meal is brilliant and your every whim is catered for, often before you even know what you want. It's like staying with close friends - better, because if you're not in the mood to talk at breakfast, you don't have to. The Kristiania is like Lech itself: cosy, elegant but not fastidiously so, warm, welcoming, fun, and relaxed. It encapsulates the very best of Austrian hospitality.


Each of the 29 rooms are quirky, fun and surprising. Personally decorated by both Mrs Schneiders, they draw inspiration from exotic travels laced with Marie Antoinette heirlooms and traditional Austrian touches. Take your pick from classic to "themed" - or plump for the penthouse suite with loft-style living room and views across the mountains. All come with the usual hotel amenities but in a homely format - no tennis-court-sized bathrooms swathed in marble here.

What's for breakfast?

Anything that takes your fancy as the Kristiana eschews the ubiquitous hotel-style buffet for an a la carte menu. Local eggs with speck and cheese are unmissable and will energise you for the day ahead, as will the daily fresh juice shots.

How about lunch and dinner?

Take your pick from the Kristiania Restaurant with its fine-dining Austrian cuisine, the cosy and romantic Kaminzimmer for raclette or fondue next to the wood-burning fire, or eat in the fabulous bar. The food is top-notch across the three - we'd recommend taking half board for at least some of your stay. The wine list is impressive, not in the usual show-off way but because it is full of gems at good prices.

Is there a bar?

The Rote Bar is so good that if you're not a barfly you'll take up drinking just to be able to hang there. The superstar barman mixes a sublime old fashioned - particularly the bacon-infused one. You can also get an excellent club sandwich.


There is a lovely albeit small spa with a sauna, steam room, jacuzzi, glacial shower and treatment rooms. If you're in a group, you can book out the whole space. Transport to anywhere into or out of town is very handy, although it's only a 10-minute walk back from the centre if you've eaten out and fancy a post-prandial stroll.

Things you should know…

There's a cosy little corner called Kleine Halle just by the entrance with a discreet little kitchen-style space which is a divine spot to have tea and read a book. If you want to really know what Lech is all about, spend time with either Mrs Schneider - both will regale you with tips and tales.

Within a short walk you will find?

Restaurants galore, both for lunch and dinner, sometimes at the end of an easy gondola ride into Uber Lech, sometimes just around the corner. Fux, Griggeler, Goldener Berg, Bergkristall are all fantastic, though our favourite has got to be Murmeli. A bit further away is Rote Wand Chef's Table in Zug, which is also not to be missed.

Alessandro Tomé is a contributing editor at Spear's Magazine

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