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For a certain group of travellers, Gstaad will rise a wry smile and tales of Cristal popping in snowboarding gear that costs about the same as your one bed flat in the centre of London.

Theres lots to discover in Gstaad though, from secret armies hiding in mountains to world championship fondue and a philanthropic art collection.

A wealthy holiday makers beacon since the Gstaad Palace hotel was built in 1913, the town has welcomed A list celebrity visitors such as Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Roger Moore with Dame Julie Andrews an honorary citizen since 2014.

Theres no doubting that this is a place to treat yourself – the areas slogan is Come Up, Slow Down – so what more else do you need?

But theres much more here than the perfect, shiny veneer would have you believe.

The hotels are one of the main draws here so, to look for the unexpected, The Alpina Gstaad was the one to aim for.

The bar at The Alpina Gstaad (Picture: The Alpina Gstaad)

The bar at The Alpina Gstaad (Picture: The Alpina Gstaad)

Being picked up in a Tesla from the station fulfilled many of my Tony Stark dreams, and pulling into the covered entrance to the hotel, past a revamped ice cream van, piqued my interest. Theres more going on here than first meets the eyes.



The Alpina Gstaad was the first hotel to be built in Gstaad for a century, and overcoming local opposition took 13 years alone, so youd expect the final result to be spectacular – and you wouldnt be wrong.

While the bedrooms have uniquely Swiss touches, the hotel is a mesmerising mix of luxury charm with an eclectic private art collection featuring everything from Tracey Emin to work by The Bruce High Quality Foundation.

Much of the art, and the ice cream van mentioned earlier, is down to one of the owners sons, Nachson Mimran.

Hes one of the founders of To: a platform that collaborates with artists and not-for-profits on projects like creating replicas of the ice cream van, named Shadowman, as community centres in refugee camps in Bangladesh and Uganda.

See, I told you there was more going on here.

The outdoor pool at The Alpina Gstaad. (Picture: The Alpina Gstaad)

The outdoor pool at The Alpina Gstaad. (Picture: The Alpina Gstaad)

The Six Senses Spa within the hotel offers relaxing wellness treatments and tech-assisted fitness programmes, helping you to work off the incredible food you are bound to enjoy across the hotels restaurants, all created under the wings of Michelin-starred chef Martin Göschel.

Theres an outpost of Japanese cult restaurant MEGU, a traditional Swiss Stubli showcasing the world championship fondue blend (yes, there is a Fondue World Championship) and signature fine dining at Sommet.

Peeling yourself away from the hotel, depending on the season, youll find 200km of excellent ski slopes or green and inviting hiking and camping sites.



Whatever the weather, a mountain lodge restaurant like Berghaus Wasserngrat will provide all the Instagrammable sights youll need, including a huge wheel of locally made meringues and cream.

Once fuelled, theres more to explore in this seemingly cosy town: a walk with a local guide will uncover tales of the secret army training base part of P-26, when the cows come down from the mountains decorated with flowers, and how there are six different types of bell tolls, all with different meanings.

For thrill seekers in the warmer months, head up to Glacier 3000 for the worlds highest bobsleigh track, the Alpine Coaster, which takes you on a 1 km descent through a loop, 10 curves, six waves, three jumps and two bridges and the only suspension bridge in the world that goes between two peaks, the Peak Walk by Tissot.


Peak Walk by Tissot. (Picture: Destination Gstaad)

Around the town of Gstaad are a number of weird and wonderful sights.

If you hire a car, a scenic 1 hour drive will take you to Chaplins World in Corsier-sur-Vevey, a museum in Charlies manoir, complete with set recreations from some of his most famous films.

Alternatively, if you like your entertainment a bit more macabre, head for the Gothic Chateau St Germain in Gruyères, which houses the HR Giger Museum.

Its filled with art from Gigers various creative projects, including from the film Alien . Dont miss a drink in the astonishing bar.

As the Golden Pass train glides effortless around mountains and skirts around Lake Geneva back to the airport, I reflect on how much more there is to explore in Switzerland and vow to be back, not least for more of that award winning fondue.


What to do in Zurich before you get to Gstaad:


The heart of Zurich (Picture: Getty)

Id recommend flying into Zurich then catching the train to Gstaad as theres plenty of weird and wonderful things you can explore in a day or two.

To make the most of a quick trip to Zurich, choose a hotel near the mammoth Zürich Hauptbahnhof train station.

Amble into the Altstadt (Old Town) of Zurich, which is as beautiful and romantic as they come, with its cobbled streets and historic buildings.

For your dose of quirk in this part of town, pop by the Cabaret Voltaire (Spiegelgasse 1). Even on a grey day, the architecture and colours are enough to lift your mood, and you could happily lose yourself for a few hours.

FraumÙnster and Saint Peter church in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by: Prisma Bildagentur/UIG via Getty Images)

View of Zurich old town (Picture: Prisma Bildagentur/UIG via Getty Images)

For a glimpse of modern Zurich, be sure to check out FREITAG , the handmade bags and accessories brand where everything is made from recycled tarp.

The brands Zurich Noerd HQ runs group tours so grab yourself a gang and sign up here.

If you dont make it to their HQ on your trip, make sure you take in the FREITAG Tower in Zurich-West, constructed from 17 shipping containers.

The store is not only a unique shopping experience, but climb to the top of those containers and youll be rewarded with a view over the citys industrial quarter.


FREITAG factory. (Picture: FRIETAG)

Right either side of the FREITAG tower, youll find two of Zurich-Wests most popular destinations: the glorious beer garden Frau Gerolds Garten, which hosts independent boutiques, art and a programme of events; and the ever-instagrammable Gerolds Chuchi, with its canopy of umbrellas and late night openings for the party people at Hive.

But should you want to work up an appetite before hitting these foodie spots, look no further than ace shopping street Viadukt, where 36 viaduct arches have been transformed into striking boutiques, studio spaces and restaurants.

For more Instagrammable sights, wander back to the hotel past urban art, the retro thrift paradise of Zurcher Brockenhaus and through the terrace of popular cultural centre Dynamo with its striking outdoor metal workshop.

I hear theres also a folly filled Bruno Weber art park just outside of town that will be hitting my feed soon.

Where to stay in Zurich and Gstaad and how to get there:

Thanks to Switzerlands excellent train system, its easy to get to Gstaad from any of the countrys international airports. I chose to cross the country by flying into Zurich and out of Geneva.

Swiss Air, British Airways and Easyjet run daily flights from London airports to Zurich, and from there, the journey into the city centre is painless and cheap using the trains. Return flights from the UK start from as little as £60.

I chose to stay for one night in Zurich before continuing on to Gstaad, at the cosy city centre Hotel Continental Zurich – MGallery by Sofitel – the perfect location to dash to from the train station, dump your bag and go explore.

Rooms here start from £200 a night and include a sumptuous breakfast buffet.

Gstaad is a scenic 3 hour journey by train from Zurich with prices starting from £40 one way.

If you are going to Gstaad, you need to treat yourself, and thats what I did by staying at The Alpina Gstaad. Rooms here start at £440 and include breakfast and full spa access at the Six Senses Spa.

To head onto Geneva from Gstaad, take the trusty trains again for a stunning trip on the Golden Pass Line, which will glide you around Lake Geneva. This journey will take around 2.5 hours and starts from £40 one way.

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