The lowdown Gstaad’s institution of a hotel is not called a palace for nothing. One glance at its fairytale castellated turrets and you’re thinking Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. The palatial impressions continue at dinner: white-jacketed waiters tote platters of oysters and caviar to the tinkling sound of champagne flutes. Modern day Princes Charming come in the guise of 20-something dotcom millionaires who like to hang out over (flawlessly mixed) cocktails in the bar.
The celebrities Back in the day Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, and Elizabeth Taylor, who lived in the Palace until she bought her own chalet in Gstaad. These days Madonna and Lourdes, Robin Williams, and Emma Watson. Fashionistas like it too, including Cara and Poppy Delevingne, Tali Lennox, Arizona Muse and Jefferson Hack.
The rooms Book one of Junior Suites Tower if you can (their bathrooms are in the tower bit and have baths overlooking spectacular alpine views – v romantic). But even the Junior Suites Deluxe have sweet little outdoor balconies where you can drink in the views, plus vast walk-in wardrobes (so pack plenty of luggage). The immensely rich can, and do, book the entire hotel.
The spa A warm, softly lit womb of a space. Its gym, treatment rooms, sauna, steam room and chill-out room are set around a spacious lounge, complete with reindeer rugs and cushions, plump chaises, and a big, open-hearth fire. It is so tempting to snuggle up there with a cup of green tea and not move for hours. But move you should to swim in the spa’s main indoor pool, or trot the few steps to the spa’s swim-in, swim-out hot water pool and play with its button-operated massage jets, whirlpools and waterfalls while admiring the sweep of Gstaad and mountains before you. Who needs a hot tub when you can have a hot pool?
The beauty treat The Gstaad Palace is the only spa in Switzerland where you can experience the Ivo Pitanguy oxygen treatment, a multi-step, deep-cleansing facial, centred around the skin-boosting properties of oxygen, devised by the Brazilian plastic and cosmetic surgeon’s Rio de Janeiro clinic. The O2 machine can be noisy rather than soothing but my skin felt as smooth and as soft as velvet afterwards.
In summer Summer in the Alps is even better than winter because you can do more. The Gstaad Palace runs tennis weeks throughout the summer with Roy Emerson so you can hone your backhand under the eyes of a Wimbledon legend. New for summer 2013 is the Palace’s ‘Boot Camps’; five hours of fitness (hiking, climbing, mountain biking, white-water rafting) a day for five days, led by outdoor and adventure specialist Martin Horn. Between activities you spend your downtime in the spa or eating. The Palace’s Walig Hut, a converted farmer’s hut high on the mountain pastures, is the perfect post-fitness pitstop (hotel guests can stay there overnight too).
In winter Gstaad has plenty of beautifully groomed, invariably uncrowded blues, which mean you can cover plenty of ground before breaking off for lunch on the slopes. At night, the fun things to do is to take a horse-drawn carriage ride deep into forested mountainside until you reach Mattestübli, where you feast on delicious, kirsch-infused cheese fondue washed down with local fondant wine, grappa and espresso. Gstaad Palace’s own truffle and champagne cheese fondue, served at its Swiss-style bistro, Fromagerie, is the high-luxe, less outdoorsy alternative.
The details Gstaad Palace, Palacestrasse 28, 3780 Gstaad, Switzerland (tel 00 41 33 748 50 00, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit palace.ch). Standard doubles start at £447 (CHF650) per room per night from 16 July 2013 to 15 September 2013 and from £495 (CHF720) per room per night from 18 December 2013 to 09 March 2014, half board, including all taxes and services. The 2013 ‘Boot Camps’ run from 14-20 July and 18-24 August.
Getting there EasyJet flies to Geneva from London Gatwick, Southend, Stansted, Luton, Newcastle, Liverpool, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham. One-way fares start at £34.49 per person, including taxes, based on two people on the same booking (tel 0843 104 5000 or visit easyJet.com).
By Kate O’Donnell