Gstaad – come up, slow down. The moment we set foot in this charming Swiss village that Julie Andrews has called “the last paradise in a crazy world,” the meaning of Gstaad’s slogan was immediately clear. Pine chalets topped with snow like icing on a cake, spectacular alpine views, and nary a sound but soft strands of classical music floating through the air and the occasional cow bell jangling in the distance. It’s so spectacular, Gstaad makes even the most active on-the-go adventurers like us slow down and take it all in.
The village oozes glitz and glamor and has long been a favorite amongst celebrities and royals. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton once owned a chalet here and the towering castle, which is the over-a-century-old Gstaad Palace Hotel, has discreetly played host to Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. Princess Diana attended finishing school nearby and Princess Grace of Monaco spent holidays at her family chalet. But you don’t have to be part of the international jet set to holiday in Gstaad; there’s plenty to do without breaking the bank.
Gstaad Mountain Rides features over 220 kilometers of downhill ski runs. With 53 ski lifts you will never been stuck waiting in line for a lift; I certainly wasn’t even on a Saturday with perfect ski weather! The Eggli cable car holds the honor of being the first cable car in Switzerland in 1954 and it swept us up to 1557 meters in a matter of minutes. Tim’s favorite run was the 10 kilometer run from the La Videmanette station at 2,152 meters to Rougemont at 992 meters. The views from the top of La Vidermanette were amazing.
Check out this short video of Tim’s day skiing Gstaad’s local mountain, Eggli:
The pistes aren’t just for skiers. Gstaad has seven different toboggan runs with varying levels of difficulty and when I was done pretending to be a glamorous ski bunny sipping on après-ski glasses of Swiss wine, I hit the toboggan run. 55 Eggli begins just behind the Eggli Mountain Restaurant and descends over an adrenaline-pumping five kilometers to the village of Grund. Suddenly I was a ski bunny turned giggling child as my toboggan sped down the hill.
Winter SportsWinter Hiking
Gstaad has over 30 winter hiking routes and while Tim was swooshing down the mountain, I decided to check out a morning hike. With the sun now peeking over the mountains, the trees glistened with the tiniest of icicles and pines were blanketed in snow. What a gorgeous way to start the day and breathe in the fresh alpine air.
Winter SportsSleigh Rides
I can think of few things more romantic than dashing over the snow in a two horse sleigh, snuggling all the way! The small family run Kutscherei Reichenbach offers several sleigh ride routes from around Gstaad with a stop for mulled wine to a moonlit sleigh ride through the Lauenenseerundfahrt nature reserve.
Each winter Château-d’Oex, about a 20 minute drive from Gstaad, is hot to an international hot air balloon festival. A number of events take place during the festival, including a special shapes rodeo and passenger flights.
For now we’ll still have to imagine how gorgeous the views are while ballooning over the Swiss Alps. Our long, unlucky history with hot air balloons is apparently still hanging over our heads, even after finally having a balloon flight in Myanmar, because the weather just didn’t cooperate on the day we planned to attend the festival.
Be sure to save some time to wander Gstaad’s car-free Promenade. Not only will you find fashion’s biggest labels like Louis Vuitton and Prada, but also interesting art. And if you’re in to more edible souvenirs, pop into one of the many shops selling Swiss chocolates, local cheese, and Swiss wine to bring home. We highly recommend a visit to Early Beck for their pastries and chocolate truffles. Also try the Hornberger Mutschli, a tasty though slightly stinky cheese from the region.
Foodies have come to the right place! Gstaad boasts unrivaled culinary delights with its more than 100 restaurants constantly earning the highest number of points by the renowned Gault Millau than any other Swiss region. Though I could have eaten fondue morning, noon, and night, we sampled a variety of Gstaad’s exquisite fare.
The best meal we had on our Gstaad holiday was without a doubt at the recently opened Hotel Spitzhorn (opened December 2013). We were met with a roaring fire, friendly staff, and an offer of the daily cocktail dubbed The Spitzhorny. Though the menu is only available in French and German, the staff were more than helpful in helping us choose. Try the Saanenländer Weisswein-Suppe unter der Blätterteighaube mit Rohschinkenstreifen, which is a really long German name for the most delectable white wine soup with ham and cream served with a baked puff pastry over the top. The filet and lamb chops didn’t disappoint and though stuffed, we knew dessert would no doubt be amazing. It was.
We also tried the half board option at Hotel Solsana and shared a fondue and rösti, a Swiss dish mainly made with potatoes (think hashbrowns), with farmer sausages and onion rémoulade. Both were delicious and we were glad not to have to head back out for dinner after an exhausting day of winter sports.
There’s no need to head back down the mountain in search of lunch. Chic Eggli Mountain Restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor sun terrace dining with a gourmet menu. Fish and chips and a Wagyu beef burger hit the spot after a morning of winter hiking and carving up the pistes, though fondue and Swiss specialties are also on the menu.
The menu at Au Montagnard in the center of Château-d’Oex is simple, yet delicious. Choose from the selections of fondue or rösti. We each had a salad and shared the chef’s fondue of the day. It was the perfect lunch portion in a charming atmosphere.
StayWhere to Stay
Hotel Solsana is situated at 1150 meters in the village of Saanen, just minutes from Gstaad. On its perch over the valley, we had stunning views of Gstaad and the Swiss Alps. Throwing open the curtains in the morning, we were met with scenes awash in shades of blue as the sun pushed above the snow-covered peaks.
Though I wasn’t a fan of the bathroom design, the spacious room and balcony with incredible views more than made up for the bathroom flaws.The hotel also has a fitness center and spa with saunas to soothe those aching bones after a day of skiing and tobogganing.
Disclosure: Our trip to Gstaad was hosted by Gstaad Saanenland Tourismus in order to bring you this story. As always, all opinions are entirely our own.