Le Grand Bellevue, Gstaad, Switzerland
Summer in the Swiss Alps? Do it in high style by booking a stay at Gstaad’s most glamorous bolthole, Le Grand Bellevue.
02 August, 2022
Snug in the German-speaking part of the canton of Bern, around a two-hour drive from Geneva, sits the glamorous ski village of Gstaad. With its 14th-century churches, traditional chocolate shops, fairy-tale chalets and chic designer outlets, it's no wonder that some of the world's most famous faces flock here - Elizabeth Taylor, Brigitte Bardot and Grace Kelly were among those who helped put it on the map.
While there's plenty to be said for an alpine adventure in the crisp winter months, a balmy summer's day in the mountains offers a level of serenity we didn't even think possible until experiencing it for ourselves. Which is where Le Grand Bellevue - Gstaad's oldest palace hotel - comes in. Situated just a moment's stroll from the town's pedestrianised Promenade, surrounded by staggering peaks and lush meadows, the handsome property - originally built as a Cure House and Spa back in 1912 - was acquired on its centenary by visionary young Swiss couple Daniel and Davia Koetser. Romantics will appreciate knowing that the pair actually met at the Gstaad Yacht Club, located in the hotel's grounds, and held their wedding brunch there, too.
The lobby, left, and the living area.
In 2014, following a major renovation project, the design-driven duo relaunched the 57-room property, its original features complemented by art deco furnishings and playful touches throughout. From the thoughtful layout of the building to smaller elements such as the chandelier installation above the grand staircase, no attention to detail has been spared.
On arrival at Le Grand Bellevue - having been picked up by a chauffeur in a 1962 Bentley once owned by none other than Roger Moore - we're welcomed with a refreshing cocktail, before being ushered into the cosy library. In a hotel of this size, it's not too often that you find a team that genuinely strives to meet every request, but this feels more like the home of one giant family than a pit-stop destination. From the doormen to the waiters, every individual, it seems, has a magical story to share, spanning starry journeys on the Orient Express to whispered tales of parties in little-known Italian alpine towns. Also, you may notice the odd pineapple knocking about. The reason? The fruit is considered the national symbol of hospitality - we told you it's the finer details that count.
There are 57 light-filled rooms and nine stylish suites to choose from. Across all room types, interiors carry the same earth-tone palette: think houndstooth-print cushions, Earl Grey-coloured linens and chocolate-brown furnishings. We stayed in a Tower Suite, with curvaceous floor-to-ceiling windows that offer sweeping views of the surrounding greenery (and on a good day, the majestic peak of the Matterhorn). A retractable TV, comfy sofa, handy desk space and enormous built-in-wardrobe make for a practical living space. Tell us about the beds, we hear you shout… Put it this way, if we could have carried the headboard home through passport control with us, we absolutely would have - the delightful pillows, too.
Turndown looks a little different here. Yes, the team will undress your bed and draw the curtains, but they'll also dim the lights, pop on a soothing jazz soundtrack and place a chilled bottle of water beside your bed.
With mirrored doors, a twin vanity unit, generous shower head and huge bathtub stocked with richly perfumed Bamford toiletries, bathrooms, meanwhile, feel more akin to a treatment room than a place to come and freshen up. We're not complaining.
A tower suite on the first floor, left, and the bathroom.
What's for breakfast?
Skip past the life-sized tartan camel, Leonard, standing tall in the lobby, and head straight for one of the outdoor tables. En route, pause at the buffet (read: banquet) table to load up on flaky pastries, fresh fruit and yoghurt from the mountains. Otherwise, opt for a dish or three from the à la carte menu. Highlights include omelette, avocado on toast and smoked salmon.
How about lunch and dinner?
Michelin-starred restaurant Leonard's makes for sublime Swiss dining. Walls are painted in a subtle shade of blush pink, and sage-green ceilings sport neon-orange borders. Tables are laden with giant bouquets of flowers (shoutout to the in-house florist), pillars are lined with abstract artworks from Hauser & Wirth and tasselled pendant lampshades complete the sultry set-up.
Maitre d' Massimo (be sure to ask him about his stint on the Orient Express and his role in an upcoming movie) knows how to deliver the goods. Lunch is a laid-back, lighter affair with delicious sharing plates, while dinner, on the other hand, requires an elasticated waistband. From lobster to lamb and seabass to salad, there's a dish set to tickle everyone's taste buds. Save space for the dessert menu: the tarts, mousses and ice creams are well worth breaking any diet for. Cheese lovers should order the Le Grand Regional selection board.
Is there a bar?
Of course. Set in the same space as Leonard's, The Bar is rumoured to be the best spot in town for a club sandwich and cocktail. We can confirm that the rumours are true. Head down when it's quiet for a mid-afternoon tipple: that way, you can choose between a leather bar stool or the Chesterfield banquette seating.
Take a sneak peek inside Le Grand Bellevue, Gstaad
With a nightclub, cinema, state-of-the-art gym, boutique, mountain-bike hike, car tours and library at your disposal, we'd say that you're a little bit spoilt for choice. It's the subterranean, 3,000sq m Le Grand Spa, however, that's the real showstopper. Decked out in walnut wood and calming neutrals, the oasis has a large indoor pool and hot tub, 17 different heat experiences (including a salt grotto and hay sauna) and ice caves. After successfully peeling yourself away from the wicker egg chairs, take your time to read the purpose behind each wellness zone, which will ensure you make the most out of therapies designed to encourage blood flow and boost metabolism. You'll find us in the traditional Finnish sauna, before enjoying one of the treatment massages - organic Bamford products, here we come.
How about their green credentials?
Squeaky clean, from smaller initiatives such as a locally sourced and seasonal menu and the organic amenities used throughout, to bigger eco-friendly actions such as operating on 100 per cent Swiss hydropower, being a responsible recycling member of SapoCycle and offering guests electric charging stations for vehicles. Recently, the hotel launched its own app in a bid to reduce paper wastage - something it has already been working on with its digital guest directory.
What about accessibility?
There are a handful of specially converted rooms and suites suitable for those with mobility issues. All public spaces and bathrooms are also accessible. The attentive staff are on hand to assist around the clock.
What's the crowd like?
Achingly cool - and well-heeled. If there was ever a time to whip out your designer sunnies, it would be right about now. We spotted plenty of wildly-in-love couples on a long, lazy weekend trip away. Kids are welcome.
Things I should know
The in-house cinema is well worth a visit. Hop to the reception and request your preferred showtime and favourite blockbuster. You can even order nibbles (or a five-course meal) to be delivered straight to your seat.
Within a short walk I can find…
Lake Arnen. A 20-minute drive from Gstaad, this secluded Tschärziz valley beauty spot offers one of the most breathtaking views we've ever had the pleasure of laying our eyes on. Hike around the lake, or enjoy a peaceful paddle in the sparkling waters.