We’re very fond(ue) of luxury hotel Le Grand Bellevue in picturesque Gstaad; it has a classic pale-goldenrod-hued palace exterior, and a modern chalet interior. Rooms have views of the surrounding Alps, which you can zip down at will, if you’d like, or the cobblestoned city centre. Indulge in a hot chocolate (the specialty menu has flavoured and spiked numbers) and raclette, or refresh your body and mind in the sprawling subterranean spa. We'll take this Swiss stay over a box of chocolates any time.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £528.93 (CHF625), including tax at 3.8 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of CHF4.20 per person per night on check-out.
Rates generally include à la carte and buffet breakfasts (otherwise CHF35 a person), a welcome drink, unlimited spa access, roundtrip transfers from Gstaad Train Station. Winter rates also include a daily three-course dinner at Leonard’s restaurant.
Daily afternoon tea is held in the sitting room; don’t miss out on the selection of mini madeleines and cakes.
The hotel is closed from mid-October to mid-December and from the start of April to mid-June every year.
At the hotel
Spa with sauna, hydrotherapy pool, outdoor spa pool, expansive thermal suite, steam room and hammam; fitness centre with personal training and Pilates, yoga and fitness classes; tennis courts; on-site ski hire; kids’ club, playroom and cinema; free WiFi throughout. In rooms: minibar with free bottled water and non-alcoholic drinks, tea-making kit, Nespresso coffee machine, and Bamford bath products.
Our favourite rooms
We especially love top-floor Suite Etoile, which is set in the eaves; a portion of its massive ensuite bathroom has a glass roof, so you can take après-ski soaks under a canopy of twinkling stars – when it snows it’s even more romantic.
The serene and subterranean indoor pool is part of the spa, and has an adjoining hot tub that’s particularly inviting après-ski. Well-behaved little Smiths are welcome in this massive pool until late afternoon, and child-friendly splash hours are from 2pm to 4pm. From 5pm, it’s adults only in the pool. There's also an outdoor relaxation pool in the Thermal Oasis.
Subterranean Le Grand Spa is one of Switzerland’s largest. This sprawling (3,000sq m) spa has 10 treatment rooms (two kitted out for pampering à deux). All treatments (massages, facials, wraps, scrubs, aromatherapy, and more) use Bamford and Cellcosmet products. The spa also has a Thermal Oasis – 17 interconnecting hot-and-cold zones that include a herbal sauna, Finnish sauna, salt inhalation grotto, Turkish steam bath, ice fountain, and outdoor spa pool. Beauty treatments and hairstyling can be arranged in the on-site hair salon, and hot-and-cold hydrating and detoxifying drinks can be ordered anywhere within the spa. There’s also a spa garden where you can practice yoga and a fitness centre offering personal training, reformer Pilates, and yoga sessions.
In the winter, bring your most stylish ski jacket and snow boots to pop on for strolls around Gstaad; in the hotel, make yourself at home in cosy Fair Isle knits and tailored plaids.
Ski kit hire can be arranged with the hotel, so you can focus on hitting the slopes.
All ages are warmly welcomed – with treats. There are several playrooms, the Polar Bear Kids’ Club (December - March), and even escorted skiing. Each restaurant has a children’s menu and highchairs on loan; babysitting is available for CHF35 an hour.
Grab a booth by the windows to watch the snow fall with your meal at Leonard’s; and book any cosy table you’d like in advance at Le Petit Chalet and the Sushi Bar.
Dress in après-ski casuals: elegantly understated cashmeres and stylish knit scarves.
You’ll be spoilt for choice by Le Grand Bellevue’s trio of restaurants. Michelin-starred Leonard’s is a mod-European bistro decorated in tones of pale mint and cream; enjoy laidback sharing plates or dinners of black-lobster taglierini, tender beef fillet, risotto, schnitzel, and burgers topped gruyère. Buffet breakfasts of seasonal fruits, granola and muesli, and cooked-to-order à la carte options – porridge, waffles, eggs many ways, and fluffy pancakes – are served too. Cosy up for raclette and fondue evenings in charming log-cabin restaurant Le Petit Chalet; keep things merry and bright with cockle-warming hot drinks too. Refresh your palate with a lighter meal at the tucked-away Sushi Bar, where the master will deftly whip up maki rolls, sake-spiced shrimp and sashimi plates.
Order expertly crafted cocktails in the Thirties-style art deco bar, then lounge away on the huge chesterfield sofa. Watch out for the mobile whisky trays too. In the lobby, there’s a library area and laidback lounge bar; while there, try anything (or everything) from the specialty hot-chocolate menu. Gstaad’s social scene is particularly fond of the fashion-forward bouquet cocktail lounge; order basil-infused whisky cocktails or home-made jasmine vodka and nibble on popcorn, olives and other moreish snacks. It’s only open in winter, from Wednesday to Saturday (9.30pm to 2am), and hosts karaoke nights, themed evenings and mixology classes.
Breakfast is served from 7am to 10am, lunch from 11.30am (noon in the chalet and sushi bar) to 3pm, and dinner from 6.30pm (6pm in the chalet and sushi bar) to 10.45pm (10pm in the sushi bar).
A pared-down version of the bar and Leonard’s menu is available 24 hours a day, so go ahead and order that on-a-whim burger at 3am. Non-alcoholic drinks from your in-room minibar are included in your room rates.
Le Grand Bellevue is surrounded by parkland in the centre of Gstaad, just a minute’s stroll from the boutique-lined and pedestrianised Promenade.
Direct flights from hubs across Europe land frequently at the international airports at Geneva and Zurich; transfers by private Mercedes E-Class are around CHF550 each way. Call our Smith24 team and they can arrange your transportation faster than an Olympic speed-skier flies downhill.
Transfers to and from the Gstaad train station are included in your room rate. The scenic train journey from Geneva takes two-and-half hours, with two changes; a frequent service runs from Zurich to Gstaad in just under three hours, also with two changes.
You won’t need a car for strolling around the pretty city centre, but if you’d like to venture further afield in your own set of wheels, there’s on-site valet parking available for CHF25 a day. Bern is a 90-minute drive from Gstaad.
If you’re flying in on your private bird – because why wouldn’t you? – our Smith24 team can arrange transfers from the private airport or helipad, just five minutes outside of Gstaad.
Worth getting out of bed for
At the hotel, spend silly amounts of time in the spa, indulging in herbal-scented massages and meandering through the numerous steam rooms, saunas and pools. Pick up some slicing-and-dicing skills with a lesson from the hotel’s sushi chef, or arrange a private screening in the cinema room.
Part of Le Grand Bellevue’s pull is its proximity to the seemingly endless acres of Alpine ski slopes – the area has over 130 miles of ski routes – so pull on your most stylish thermals and get to zipping down those mountains. Thrill-seekers can also head up to Glacier 3000 (the faint of heart or the vertigo-prone should avoid) and cross the suspension bridge that hangs between two mountain peaks; the daring will be rewarded with jaw-dropping panoramic views. You can also explore the slopes via snowcat or dog sled. Take a carriage ride for two in town, or test your balance at the outdoor ice-skating rink; a fortifying hot chocolate (with rum) awaits when you’re done.
In warmer months, hike the Alpine slopes, stroll along the designer boutique-lined Promenade unencumbered by a puffy coat, or have our Smith24 team arrange hot-air-ballooning flights, for a bird’s-eye view of the lush, green, chalet-dotted landscape.
Set in the heart of town, on the site of a former dairy, chalet-style restaurant The Chesery is more regional haute cuisine than cheesy – although it does serve a mop-uppable, truffle-filled brie de Meaux? Start with terrine of game with wild local cranberries before mains of home-made pumpkin gnocchi with regional mushrooms or venison with spätzle. The restaurant houses a formidable wine cellar too. We’re batty about belfry-set local favourite The Restaurant 16; the menu at this laidback eatery changes daily, but always features grilled meats cooked over an open fire. The molten chocolate cake is reason enough for a visit.
For all it’s promise of glamour, the alpine town of Gstaad in southern Switzerland is a bit of a faff to get to. The train journey from Geneva or Zurich requires one change and can take between three or four hours. You could, of course, hire a car, but then you’d miss out on the Golden Pass, from Montreux to Gstaad, which offers dramatic, panoramic views of the Alps. And the welcome from the staff at the Grand Bellevue is all the more sweeter for the relief you’ll feel at finally having arrived. They’ll even pick you up from the station if you can’t face that final five minute tramp across the road.
It’s early December when Mr Smith and I visit. The peaks have had a light dusting of snow but it isn’t hard to imagine how picture-perfect this place might be once winter’s grip sets in. Door key in hand we head to our Deluxe Chic room on the first floor. It is simple but spacious, the perfect Alpine retreat with pine floorboards, red and white houndstooth furnishings, big bath and separate shower. There’s a nod to Britishness in the form of Bamford organic skincare products and the mini bar is stocked with complimentary water, juices and soft drinks. Our balcony with wooden sun loungers makes me suspect this place is just as alluring in the summer months as it is in the winter.
The evening kicks off with a drink in the glitzy art deco bar and then we make our way into the hotel’s buzzing Michelin starred restaurant, Leonard’s. I eat a sublime miso cod and Mr Smith is silent as he devours his rack of lamb. The hotel has alternatives to Leonard’s but the food is so impressive we’re reluctant to forfeit a meal here. If you do want to branch out, downstairs there’s the Sushi Bar and Le Petit Chalet, a small little log cabin at the entrance to the hotel’s curved driveway, boasts Swiss specialities including raclette and fondue. Peckish in the afternoon? You can purchase a gigantic slice of whatever cake the chef has rustled up.
The following morning we’re up early and return to Leonard’s for breakfast. I expect to find plenty of overly zealous skiers lining their stomachs before hitting that first lift up the mountain but there isn’t a ski boot in sight. The other guests, like us, don’t seem intent on over exerting themselves. The pastries and bread rolls with accompanying jams are little bites of deliciousness but Mr Smith, who prefers something savoury, works his way through the gloriously varied selection at the meat and cheese stations. Eyes bigger than stomachs, we order waffles and poached eggs to follow.
I could tell you more about the hotel’s chic décor – for example the 57-room hotel has floor-to-ceiling windows and a life-sized tweed camel commands attention in the lobby. I could wax lyrical about Leonard’s extensive menu and the joy of seeing kaiserschmarrn amidst the desserts but, in fact, it’s Le Grand Spa that makes this place so memorable.
After a day of building up lactic acid in your calf muscles, through summer hiking or off-piste skiing, you’ll be aching for the spa. And even if you’ve done nothing more than meander round the town, you’ll be aching for it too.
There are no less than 17 zones which include a traditional hammam, a Himalayan salt room and a Roman laconium. There’s an indoor pool, kept at a temperature that will encourage you to knock out a few laps, and an outdoor jacuzzi where you can be pummelled by hydro jets as your breath frosts and clumps of snow fall to the ground with muffled thuds. There’s even a salt inhalation grotto, a foot bath and an ice fountain where you can give a shock to your circulation with a splash of ice crystals.
Mr Smith and I are booked in for treatments and, after announcing ourselves at the reception, we slip back into swinging wicker chairs. While waiting for the masseuses we nibble on dried apple slices and sip on grapefruit flavoured water. I’m almost disappointed to be led away from my rocking cocoon but there are knots to be kneaded and my skin is soon oiled into a baby soft state.
In the afternoon we make for Glacier 3,000 and take two cable cars to reach the summit. The views are breathtaking and so is the wind so it’s not long before we’re watching the skiers descend from the comfort of a cafe. Later, the realisation that I’ve lost a glove thousands of metres above sea level compels us to leave the afternoon comfort of the hotel and venture into the tiny village. The streets of Gstaad (the ‘g’ is silent by the way) are lined with chic shops including Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Cartier and, given the cost of everything I’ve seen so far during 24 hours in Switzerland, I am braced to hand over a week’s wages for a replacement pair.
Mr Smith suggests we dip off down one of the side streets and we are rewarded with the discovery of a natty little shop selling oversized black thermal gloves. Stylish they are not but they're a snip at £35, even if you’d pay no more than a tenner for them at home. We also discover a cafe, Charly’s, on the main promenade and we briefly trade the five-star hotel high life for a reasonably priced galette and baguette.
After a weekend at Le Grand Bellevue what strikes us most is the ambience. It is an incredibly friendly hotel; the owner is on hand each day to chat to guests and the staff go out of their way to make you feel at home. The hotel is awash with languages – French, English, German – and the guests are a mix of couples old and young, as well as large groups of friends and families. Plenty of little cherubs mill about and, while the hotel caters to children (there’s a playroom, a kids’ menu and they get their own splash hours in the pool) at no point does the balance tip from sophisticated retreat for adults to raucous children’s party. Give those parents – and the staff – a medal.