Gina Baksa visits the Park Gstaad Hotel to experience the ambiance and facilities on offer at the Swiss mountain playground of the super rich
Gstaad has long attracted a wealthy A-list clientele: from European royalty to Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone and Madonna, the Park Gstaad Hotel’s social scene is the stuff of legend.
Today, celebrity visitors are more likely to entertain discreetly in their multi-million-dollar chalets rather than hold court at Gstaad’s five-star hotels. In addition to the celebrity crowd, the town attracts an international clientele and many families, some of them alumni at one of the international schools here, such as Le Rosay.
Located in the lush green valley of Saanenland, in the German-speaking Bernese Oberland, Gstaad attracts well-heeled visitors who don’t feel the need to shout about their wealth. Less bling, more understated refinement, as I saw during my stay at the beautiful Park Gstaad (formerly the Grand Hotel Park). Located just a few minute’s walk above the town, with far-reaching views across to the mountains of Wilspile, Eggli and Wasserngrat, the Park Gstaad is privately owned by a local family who has invested heavily in creating a resort of understated luxury and opulence that feels relaxed, discrete and welcoming.
The Park’s renowned Swiss hospitality is evident from the moment I’m collected in air-conditioned comfort at Gstaad station. I’ve arrived in the resort by train from Montreux – a breathtaking climb away from the blue shimmer of Lake Geneva, through verdant pines and pasture lands; cowbells and chalets, and ubiquitous geranium-filled window boxes. My first class carriage was a time travel portal back to the Belle Epoque: wood-panelled ceilings and marquetry, rope-metal basket storage and plush seats with monogrammed headrests. Our charming waiter brought us cold plates of local charcuterie and cheeses – and a choice of elegant Swiss vino.
After the short drive, I’m at the Park Gstaad’s beautiful reception area and given a refreshing cool towel and drink, and a warm welcome from the staff. I feel immediately at home here. The interiors are beautiful: contemporary Alpine chic with an authentic Swiss flavour. Local pine, dark slate, brown and blacks; a mixture of wool rugs and throws with red colour accents on chair covers and lamps. The maestro behind the Park Gstaad’s refurbishment is interior designer Federica Palacios; her sleek and luxurious style apparent throughout the property.
The beautiful lobby (replete with original 1910 lift) leads to the library, lounge and bar areas with their sumptuous leather club chairs, capacious sofas and sophisticated lighting. The overall aesthetic is chic, comfortable, understated and refined. I especially love the giant photographs by Michel Comte in the public areas.
My own deluxe contemporary chalet-style room is spacious, sexy and has beautiful views across to the mountains from the full-height balcony windows, with state-of-the-art Samsung phones and TV entertainment system, and bathroom furnishings finished in elegant black granite and Aromatherapy Associates toiletries.
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