Posts Tagged ‘Glacier Express’

P1020083As a Swiss Specialist, Switzerland is one of my all-time favorite destinations. There are so many things to love–the gorgeous views, fabulous hiking (or skiing), variety of great food, excellent infrastructure, and the wonderful fresh air. Oh, and don’t forget the chocolate and fondue. But on my most recent trip with my husband, we had two other legendary reasons to visit Switzerland—luxury watches and spas.

My husband has long been interested in luxury watches and I love a great spa. We decided to combine the two interests into one fabulous trip, featuring some of the finest hotels in Switzerland. We spent 16 days in this wonderfully diverse country – there are not many places where you can taste the foods, see the architecture, and hear the language of four cultures (French, German, Italian and Romanasch), all wrapped in the world renowned Swiss hospitality. This is one of the reasons why I love what I do and enjoy using my experiences to help people plan the perfect vacation.


Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois: View over the RhineFirst stop—Basel. We wanted to begin and end with watches and Basel was the perfect place to start. With over two centuries of watch-making history. Girard-Perregaux was a fascinating place to visit. We took a private tour in which we were able to see every aspect of luxury watch making—from concept to design to manufacture to marketing, and also learning about the old-world apprenticeships. I loved seeing the workrooms with the original work desks from the 1800’s and the floor-to-ceiling windows to let in the light required for such intricate workmanship. This unique tour was followed by a private luncheon with key executives in a nearby mansion – talk about stepping back in time! This was truly an eye-opening educational experience and a MUST SEE for luxury watch aficionados.

Girard Perregeux: StudioBasel is located in the northwest of Switzerland, bordering France and Germany. Among so many great European cities, Basel is overlooked, but is worth visiting for a couple of days for the history, art (Art Basel is a destination in itself), the charming village and, of course, the watches. A perfect way to do this is either start or stop (my preferred direction) your Rhine River cruise in Basel – and maybe you too can say you swam the Rhine in Basel.

Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois: View from BalconyWe stayed at the Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois, a spectacular historical building on the Rhine River with discrete and excellent service. The hotel is family-owned with many collector pieces throughout the property. Every room is different and selecting the right one is unique to each person. Although you expect all 5-star hotels to have the same level of service, I know from experience that they can disappoint. This hotel is truly a 5-star resort, with one of the highest levels of services I have ever experienced.


Gstaad: Hiking above GstaadWe drove in our rental car from Basel to Gstaad to leisurely enjoy the sights along the route. (It should be noted that one could easily take trains to all of these destinations, but we drove part of the way and took trains for the rest of the trip for a little variety.) Gstaad is a village up in the mountains with a very exclusive, luxury feel. To give you some idea of the clientele, Gstaad is where the UK Royalty goes skiing. Part of the town is pedestrian only, which lends to its old world charm.

The scenery is incredible and so is the skiing and hiking. There are cable cars and gondolas stringing little villages together, so you can choose to hike part of the way and ride part of the way along most of the trails. The trail system is very extensive and there are little restaurants dotted along the trails, which make for lovely resting spots.

Gstaad: Classic ViewWe stayed at the Grand Hotel Bellevue, a lovely late 19th century house that is different from the other chalet style hotels in the area. Each room is unique with modern Italian furniture, modern art pieces and Bose TV and stereo systems. When we drove up and were welcomed by name, I knew we where in for a treat.

They have put a lot of money into their gorgeous spa, which features multiple treatment rooms for facials, massages and hydrotherapy treatments, as well as an aromatic sauna, Himalayan salt room, ice grotto and Turkish bath. I LOVED the Sauna and Steam room solarium, which were not only relaxing, but also stunningly beautiful. Be aware that there are co-ed nude areas throughout, but those who prefer privacy can drape themselves in a towel.

Glacier 3000 is the tallest viewpoint in the area at 3,000 meters above sea level. We took a hair-raising gondola trip to the top to have lunch, where we felt like we were truly on top of the world. This is a perfect stop on your drive to Lausanne.


We drove a leisurely hour and a half to Lausanne, where we dropped off our car and traveled by train for the remainder of our journey. Lausanne, although a city, is very charming and sits right on the shore of Lake Geneva. The International Olympic Committee is located in Lausanne and the Olympic Museum there is one of many museums and other sites to visit. The city is close enough for day trips to many other little villages and attractions, like the Swiss Chocolate Train, the town of Gruyere, renowned for its eponymous cheese, and Montreux, famous for its annual Jazz Festival.

Beau Rivage Lausanne: View from Room

We stayed the Beau Rivage Palace , an incredible Belle Époque style hotel which sits on the shores of Lake Geneva and boasts drop-dead gorgeous views of the lake and the Alps. The rooms are a good size, with flat-screen TVs and sound in the bathrooms. Some rooms have balconies and whirlpool baths, so if those are your preferences, be sure to ask. There are a number of good restaurant choices at the hotel, including one featuring a famous female three-star Michelin chef.

The spa is fairly new with an Asian flair and a nice mix of spa treatments. There are both indoor and outdoor pools and an inside whirlpool spa. The steam and saunas are separated by gender, which is a nice feature for those craving a little more American style privacy than is found in most European spas.


Next we traveled to Zermatt by train, which is how most visitors arrive since it is a car-free zone. Zermatt is known for its skiing, hiking and its fantastic view of the Matterhorn. It is one of the best ski resorts in Switzerland, with runs for everyone from very beginners to experts. Located at the very southern part of Switzerland, visitors can easily go to Italy for the day for skiing or lunch. Gondolas connect the two countries, as do trails where you can go hut-to-hut hiking. The Glacier Express, which is on many people’s bucket list, originates in Zermatt and travels through gorgeous scenery to Davos or St. Moritz. We took this train on our way to Flims – what a beautiful way to arrive!

Cervin Palace Zermatt: View from RoomIn Zermatt we chose to stay at the Mont Cervin Palace, which consists of several connecting properties: a main hotel, a villa and a chalet. The accommodations range from 3.5 to 5 stars, and all have different clientele. They are family run and very family friendly with an onsite petting zoo. There are several restaurants and you can pay one fee and dine at any of the establishments, although that’s probably only a good deal if you go to the high-end eateries every night.

All of the properties have access to the spa. There are two heated outdoor pools and a children’s pool with a water slide. The two large outdoor whirlpools have magnificent views of the mountains and lots of cool water features that massage you with bursts of water. There is a Finnish sauna with different aromatic essences daily; a bio sauna with colored light therapy and steam and footbaths. The Beauty Spa offers a range of facial, body and hand and foot treatments featuring their own excellent line of spa products.


Our stay at the Waldhaus Flims Mountain Resort and Spa was similar to our experience in Zermatt in that the resort consisted of multiple properties and it was also very family-oriented, including a very popular petting zoo and family Bernese Dog (how Swiss is that?)! They have a similar pre-paid meal plan option and several restaurant choices. The rooms are really varied. The Grand Hotel rooms were updated in 2008 and feel fairly fresh, but the rest of the resort needs some renovations to meet a 5-star standard. The owners acknowledge this and plan on making some major investments in the property in the next few years, so we will have to check back and see how it all turns out.

Flims Waldhaus: Indoor PoolThat said, the location is stunningly beautiful—located near the largest park in Switzerland. Close by is an area dubbed Switzerland’s “Grand Canyon,” surrounded by dramatic mountains and alpine lakes. It’s a great year-round vacation spot, notable for skiing and hiking. It’s an easy trip to Zurich, with a bus to the Chur train station and then a train that can take you straight to the Zurich airport.

Flims Waldhaus: Zen Spa ZoneI really liked the mix of spaces of the spa. They have an indoor pool, and outdoor thermal hydrotherapy pool, a Zen pool with Koi pond, and a variety of saunas and steam rooms. They also have a variety of treatments and private spa/treatment rooms that can accommodate up to six people. They have separate women’s as well as co-ed areas.


Dolder Grand Zurich: ExteriorWe saved the best for last. On a divine vacation full of wonderful resorts, The Dolder Grand was my absolute favorite hotel. The whole resort had a WOW factor that took my breath away. It’s a great combination of new (with a $500 million renovation in 2008) and historic 1800’s Belle Époque architecture. The interiors felt like they were museum quality, with lots of fun, whimsical artwork. Like modern rooms? Have that option. Like traditional rooms? Have that option too!

Dolder Grand Zurich: Entry StaircaseThe hotel sits on a hill in an upscale neighborhood (think of Atherton in Switzerland) with a commanding view of Zurich. There were a variety of excellent dining options, including eating a light dinner on the verandah—a great spot for people and car watching. Public transportation is easy and there is a complimentary shuttle service into town. Even though it is not in central Zurich, I really appreciated the birds-eye-view over Zurich/Alps, the quiet setting, and how quick it was to get to the airport. We even had a fun dinner with the locals at a farm-like restaurant right up the road.

Dolder Grand: View from TerraceLike the resort, the spa was perfection. It is very large (over 40,000 square feet!) and offered an extensive treatment menu of services that I had never seen before. They had tubs full of warm stones that massaged your body, where you could then go into the sauna/steam room/polar room and then back again. The only downside was that the outdoor whirlpool felt small, considering the size of the hotel, but the large indoor pool and view of Zurich made up for it.

We began and ended our trip with watch making and in Zurich we toured the IWC International Schaffhauson. Like our previous tour, this was fascinating to see the end-to-end process of the art of watch making. This tour had a more modern feeling and was a nice contrast to the tour in Basel.

Our sixteen days flew by and, as usual, I could write pages and pages about every little thing that we enjoyed from hiking to eating at great restaurants to the amazing spa treatments. This was my eighth trip to Switzerland and I feel like I know the country intimately. If you are interested in planning a trip to Switzerland I would love to help you plan all the details for the perfect vacation for you.

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