Our Editor Julia Pasarón makes her way through the heart of Switzerland, discovering a historic country rich in art and crafts, brimming with breathtaking landscapes and boasting the coolest places to hang out on a weekend night.
I flew to Zürich, the financial centre of the country – a city that many people associate with boring suits and little else. Well, they couldn’t be more wrong. This metropolis dates back to Roman times. Visitors can still wander around the Roman fortification (Lindenhof), which sits on a hill in the middle of the Old Town. Spreading across both sides of the Limmat River, footpaths and trails invite you to discover the city by foot, taking your time to walk along the river and the lake, through industrial quarters and the Old Town, where narrow cobbled streets, peppered with independent jewellers, artisan boutiques and coffee shops, ooze charm. A dear friend who lives there let me in on a secret: the George Bar & Grill at the Casino de Zürich. Serving top cocktails and fabulous food, this is one of the funkiest bars in town.
The Lindenhof is the historical site of the Roman castle in Zürich, and the later Carolingian Kaiserpfalz.
I love Bauhaus, so I couldn’t leave Zürich without taking a short river cruise to Zürichhorn to visit Le Corbusier Pavilion, a museum dedicated to the Swiss architect who changed the face of modern architecture. Bear in mind it is open only from April to November when lake cruises are available.
Just an hour away by train is the charming town of Lucerne, considered the gateway to central Switzerland. Sitting amid majestic mountains on the lake of the same name, the city is a jewel of medieval architecture, and home to one of Europe’s oldest covered bridges (Kapellbrücke or Chapel Bridge), which dates back to the 14th century. It connects Lucerne’s colourful Old Town (Altstadt) with the right bank of the Reuss River. The city wall features nine towers, some of which are open to the public (April to November) and from which one can enjoy fantastic views of this fairytale town.
The Kapellbrücke or Chapel Bridge connects Lucerne’s colourful Old Town (Altstadt) with the right bank of the Reuss River.
Lucerne, like almost all of Switzerland, is surrounded by spectacular scenery. Mount Pilatus Mount Rigi and Mount Titlis – home to the Paradise Glacier – are reachable by cable-car, as it is the Stanserhorn, a peak of just under 2,000 metres. Taking a boat across the lake is another way to admire Lucerne.
Going on a boat outing on Lake Lucerne is a great way to admire the surrounding spectacular natural scenery.
This is what I did to get to my hotel at the Bürgenstock Resort, perched on top of the eponymous mountain. It is quite beautiful and romantic to see the town growing smaller in the distance, bathed in the morning sun. The final leg of the journey is done by funicular. At the top, I was greeted by Christian Stubbe, the manager on duty and a man who personifies everything luxury service is about. The resort offers three hotels: the Bürgenstock Hotel & Alpine Spa, the Palace Hotel and Waldhotel & Medical Excellence, the latter specialising in well-being stays.
The Bürgenstock Resort offers incomparable views of Lake Lucerne and the surrounding mountain peaks.
Time here immediately slows down. Floor-to-ceiling windows, open spaces, nature all around you… this is the place to come and forget the world for a few days. Although it is one of the oldest hotels in Switzerland, the Bürgenstock Resort was completely refurbished a few years ago after being acquired by the Katara Hospitality group. The result is spectacular. Inside this paragon of modern architecture, every room faces the lake (including the bathrooms) while the interior design is elegant and contemporary, with a clever combination of materials and fabrics providing a warm and inviting result.
Every room and bathroom at Bürgenstock Resort enjoys stunning views of the lake.
The Alpine Spa is jaw-dropping. Its 10,000 sqm is home to several saunas, hammams, treatment and relaxation rooms; and five pools, one of which stretches outdoors, offering extraordinary views across the lake. It was here that I discovered the true meaning of letting go. After making my way around the spa, I spent my time in the outdoor pool, chilling and enjoying the scenery. When I realised my fingertips were starting to look like chickpeas, I dragged myself out of the water to meet my therapist. The treatments available are second to none. From the internationally acclaimed 111 Skin facials to a private floating experience to enjoy on your own or “à deux” or a KOS Paris treatment, such as the Bespoke Body & Face ritual, during which they scrub your skin with sea salt or Mauritanian sugar and then proceed to massage your body until it glistens, and every single muscle is left free of tension. To finish, a mini radiance facial moisturises your skin and illuminates your complexion, leaving your face looking as fresh as the grass outside.
Even the treatment rooms at the Alpine Spa have views of the lake.
Choosing where to have your dinner is about the only moment of stress you’ll experience here, as there are so many options to choose from. At the Bürgenstock Hotel itself, you can grab a light bite at the Lakeview Bar & Cigar Lounge, or try fusion cuisine at Spices Kitchen & Terrace, where you can enjoy a wide variety of Asian and Indian cuisines.
Spices Kitchen & Terrace offers a fusion menu of Asian and Indian cuisines.
Contrasting with the modern-looking Bürgenstock Hotel, the Palace is a beautiful example of architecture from the Art Nouveau period. Many celebrities have enjoyed its hospitality, from Sophia Loren and Audrey Hepburn to Sean Connery and former US President Jimmy Carter. There is not such a thing as a bad bedroom here either. Whether facing the lake or the Alps, each is exquisitely appointed with sophisticated modern furniture speckled with pieces from the Belle Époque and many have their own private outside space to savour the clean air of the mountains.
Salon 1903, at the Palace Hotel in the Bürgenstock Resort, is opulently decorated with a mix of pieces from the Art Nouveau and Belle Époque periods.
Salon 1903, named after the year the Palace Hotel first opened its doors, is a bar with iconic status in the area, while Brasserie Ritzcoffier offers the best contemporary French cuisine, earning it 16 points from esteemed restaurant guide Gault Millau.
The morning after, it was time to pack our bags and take a train to Bern, the next stop in our journey across the heart of Switzerland. Read all about it HERE.
Words: Julia Pasarón
Opening picture: View of Zurich.