Eleven years ago I embarked on my first solo backpacking adventure, which had me zig-zagging on trains to 18 countries in Europe. I had just graduated from university and was thrilled to finally tap into that spirit of wanderlust.
I spent a considerable chunk of my time exploring Switzerland, a convenient spot to settle as it’s located smack dab in the middle of Europe. With excellent train service (which literally arrives the moment your ticket says it’s supposed to), exploring the country that made chocolate and cheese a celebrated thing truly is a breeze.
On my recent return, I set myself on a mission to discover Switzerland through the eyes of a smitten honeymoon couple. I swapped my shoestring backpack for slick Rimowa luggage, hip hostels for award-winning luxury hotels, and inexpensive street food for Instagram-worthy feasts prepared by the nation’s top chefs.
In preparation for my romantic Swiss romp, I researched the destination months in advance using the newest edition of Eyewitness Travel Switzerland (DK Publishing, 2017). The informative guide includes detailed itineraries and “don’t miss” destination highlights at a glance, illustrated cutaway 3-D drawings of important sights, floor plans for major museums, area maps marked with popular sights, top hotel and restaurant listings, as well as a slew of info on niche interests such as Swiss architecture, medieval history, spa resorts, and a particularly appetizing spread dedicated to cheese.
For those looking to honeymoon in style, Switzerland offers a dreamy selection of world-class luxury hotels, from historic palaces in the city to impressive ski resorts surrounded by snow-capped mountains.
Ritz-Carlton Hotel de la Paix in Geneva
Offering a contemporary design created around art, time and nature, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel de la Paix in Geneva is one of the most sought-after addresses in the city. The luxury hotel’s most coveted suite pays homage to Grace Kelly, one of the property’s most esteemed guests. The posh pad encapsulates The Princess of Monaco’s inimitable and timeless style. Take a tour and you’ll find pretty portraits of the iconic star hanging on clean white walls which play home to a spacious master bedroom, dinning room, kitchenette, and relaxing living area.
Craft cocktail fans looking to enjoy an inspired sip while loitering in luxury should perch on a comfy couch at the hotel’s chic bar. A team of talented mixologists shake up perfectly balanced libations such as aquavit, dolin and lime spiked Oyster Foam, and Chambord, hibiscus and lemon muddled Love Me More.
Lausanne Palace Hotel
Since first opening its doors in 1915, Lausanne Palace has been one of the beloved Swiss city’s social hubs, providing a meeting place for well-heeled locals and an escape for luxury travellers. The iconic property was the last of Switzerland’s high-end palace hotels to open during the tourism boom that began in the 19th century. Visit today and it feels as though every decade of its century-long history is preserved within its understated walls.
French fashion icon Coco Chanel was a regular overnight guest here and there’s no doubt she’d appreciate the elegant and unobtrusively decorated rooms which are dressed from head to toe in a muted colour palate. Lausanne Palace even has a Coco Chanel Suite, a posh pad dedicated to the Parisian fashionista where couture fans can relax in luxury. Weird fact: Chanel’s beloved dog passed away while she was staying at the hotel and is buried at Lausanne Palace’s backyard.
Downstairs, the large Ayurveda spa is a maze of pools, saunas, hammams and a state-of-the-art fitness facility. Body treatments are bookable on demand and there’s even a hair salon for those that require a quick primp.
Fairmont Le Montreux Palace
Located on the Northeast shore of Lake Geneva, in the heart of French-speaking Switzerland, glamorous Montreux is synonymous with that luxurious Riviera lifestyle. Blessed by a Mediterranean climate, the region features historic castles, vibrant towns, charming countryside and luxurious hotels – making it the ideal destination for a dreamy European weekend away.
The city’s poshest pads can be found at Fairmont Le Montreux Palace. Built in 1906, this Jewel of Belle-Époque architecture offers a traditional and elegant atmosphere, with personalized and attentive service in true Swiss style.
In addition to being one of the most prestigious hotels in Switzerland, Fairmont Le Montreux Palace is the largest hotels in the Swiss Riviera, featuring 236 luxuriously furnished rooms and suites. If you’re feeling peckish be sure to visit the hotel’s jaw-dropping Montreux Jazz Cafe, opened in June 2014, the space was born of Claude Nobs’ (founder of Montreux Jazz Festival) passion for music and fine dining.
Grand Hotel Villa Castagnola in Lugano
Set on the shores of Lake Lugano in the heart of Switzerland’s Italian Riviera, Grand Hotel Villa Castagnola is a magnificent 5-star resort nestled within a private, subtropical park. Once the home of a noble Russian family, the impressive mansion was transformed into a hotel in 1885. For the past 35 years the Zorloni family have infused the historic property with their own unique personality. Skip through the property and you’ll find incredible art, delightful designs, an award-winning food and wine program, serene spa, and suites fit for a King and Queen.
One of the hotel’s poshest pleasures is its private lakeside beach. Located directly across the road and sitting perched over Lake Lugano, Grand Hotel Villa Castagnola makes enjoying the Riviera’s La Dolce Vita lifestyle easy as can be. On sunny days in the summer the intimate lakeside retreat fills to the brim with tan fans and water babies. The space is outfitted with chic patio furniture, plush towels, and an Aperol Spritz is always but a short sip away.
Franz Josef Bucher and Josef Durrer, the pioneers of the Burgenstock Resort, made history in 1871 when they bought the Alp Tritt on the ridge of the Burgenberg, perched 500 metres above Lake Lucerne. They gave the hotel village the memorable name of Burgenstock, creating a paradise that attracted the world’s elite.
Illustrious guests from business, politics, high society, and show business felt at home here: the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany Konrad Adenauer, the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, US President Jimmy Carter, and James Bond alias Sean Connery. Burgenstock’s most notable beauties were film stars: Sophia Loren who lived at the resort with her husband Carlo Ponti, and Audrey Hepburn who in 1954 married Mel Ferrer in the picturesque palace.
Since 2008, the Burgenstock Resort has been owned by investors from Qatar who have spent $700 million on a lavish renovation, breathing new life into one of Europe’s most iconic luxury resorts. The iconic alpine destination offers guests outdoor facilities at the centre of the resort, which extends over more than one kilometre and includes a golf course, private residences, 12 restaurants and bars, four hotels, luxury shopping, tennis courts, fitness studio, and world-class spa.
The iconic Palace Hotel offers luxury travellers the crème de la crème in honeymoon-worthy romantic lodgings. Beginning in 2008, the 19th-century landmark property underwent a complete refurbishment while preserving its significant heritage. The original marble pillars, embellishments, fireplaces and paintings can be admired in the Lobby Lounge and the Foyer Salle Palace, while the Ritz Coffier Restaurant features the original 1903-stove and copper pans. Interior designers MKV London have blended significant historic features with elegant materials and furniture featuring hardwood oak parquet flooring and custom-made hand-blown glass chandlers.
Indulge in a luxurious sleepover in one of the Palace Hotel’s 108 modern rooms and spacious suites and you’ll find plush beds, Nespresso machine, beer-stocked complimentary mini bar, Bulgari beauty amenities, gas fireplace, massive bath with a jaw-dropping view, and cozy nook adorned with faux-fur pillows.
Hotel Schweizerhof Lucerne
The Hotel Schweizerhof Lucerne opened its doors in 1845 and has been owned by the Hauser family since 1861. The iconic property sits perched over the city’s crystal-clear lake, offering guests a pretty perch with a view, just a short stroll from Lucerne’s postcard-perfect covered bridge.
The Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern is far more than just a 5-star hotel. Its guest list dates back to 1845 and reads like a who’s who of the international elite. Mark Twain, Leo Tolstoy, Roger Moore, and Richard Wagner are just some of the illustrious names to have resided here.
The contemporary chic atmosphere of the hotel’s simply titled Schweizerhof Bar is a favourite rendezvous for Lucerne’s trendy crowd. The elegant lounge-style design, mood lighting, and modern furnishings all contribute towards its distinctive atmosphere. Prepare to be entertained as a pianist tickles the ivories on the daily, and special events such as a weekly Tango Night and festival soirées solidify the space as a must-see for art fans. Hop up at the bar and get cozy with the resident mixologist who specializes in creative craft cocktails, best enjoyed paired with the kitchen’s classic finger foods.
Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois in Basel
Founded in 1681 as an inn for gentlemen and rebuilt in 1844 as a luxury hotel, Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois is Switzerland’s oldest hotel, a pretty palace which sits perched over the Rhine River in Basel. The property is a luxurious landmark, having played home sweet home to the world’s rich and famous. Its ancient guestbook features signatures from names such as Queen Elizabeth, the Empress of Japan, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Voltaire, Charles Dickens, Dalai Lama, Pablo Picasso, and Marc Chagall. On my recent visit, celebrated Swiss tennis hero Roger Federer could be seen wandering under the hotel’s crystal chandeliers.
Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois’s masterpiece is the celebrated 3-Michelin-Star Cheval Blanc. Chef de Cuisine Peter Knogl and his hard-working kitchen have earned a place among the best 100 restaurants in the world, thanks to their superb creations in which French haute cuisine is enriched with flavours from the Mediterranean and Asia. Seasonal highlights from the menu in autumn include langoustine with madras curry, duck foie gras with fig confit and jelly of Earl Grey tea, and smoked eel with beetroot, black garlic, and wasabi.
The Chedi in Andermatt
Four years ago The Chedi Andermatt opened its doors, wowing a tiny town located at the crossroads of three mountain passes in the picturesque Swiss Alps. The hotel’s Egyptian owner, Samih Sawiris, invested over $2 billion into the redevelopment of Andermatt, quickly transforming the quaint village into a world-class destination.
The luxury hotel was designed by Kuala Lumpur’s Jean-Michel Gathy, who brilliantly balances a redefined alpine aesthetic with Asian nuances. The inspirations for his architecture are the Swiss chalets and grand hotels of the past, offering a modern take on a style for which Switzerland is well known.
Guests can choose from from 123 spacious rooms and suites, where alpine chic meets Asian zen: dark wood accents, soft leather chairs, panoramic windows, and open fireplaces combine to bring the surrounding mountainscape into the comfort of the hotel.
Those looking for a slice of R&R will find happiness at The Chedi’s luxurious 2,400-square-metre spa. A team of expert therapists and personal trainers advise guests on treatments and tailor programmes based on individual needs. The spa has its origins rooted in oriental philosophy, based on Buddhist healing traditions. The Asian-inspired treatments use natural products from ila, REN, and Alpienne that have been especially adapted for The Chedi. Wellness seekers will find a range of baths and saunas, including bio and Finnish saunas, a scented salt steam bath, an outdoor pool, hot and cold plunge pools, hammam, ice fountain, and flower bath.
Hotel Bellevue Palace in Bern
In 1848, Switzerland’s federal parliament chose Bern as the capital of the nation and since 1913 the city’s grandest hotel, Bellevue Palace, has acted as the luxurious living room for Switzerland’s top politicians and visiting VIPs.
Over the past century, the property has played host to a long list of noteworthy guests, ranging from monarchy and ministers to musicians and movie stars. Emperor Akihito of Japan, Queen Elizabeth, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro, and Johnny Cash are just a few of the elite who have passed through the hotel’s distinguished doors.
If you’re looking to treat yourself to an evening of culinary curiosities, begin your adventure at the legendary Bellevue Bar, a renowned meeting point in Bern for politicians, diplomats, executives, media, and moviemakers. Step inside the intimate space and you’ll find an oversized sculpture perched on the bar – you might recognize her from the hood of your Rolls Royce! Hop up on a stool and enjoy a classic cocktail before sauntering down the stairs to dinner.
The hotel’s signature restaurant Vue offers pleasures for the palate which pair perfectly with its elegant interior. The romantic, dimly lit space features fine wood panelling, an impressive vaulted ceiling, glowing crystal chandeliers, and silver ice buckets filled with ready-to-pop champagne.
Chef Gregor Zimmermann offers seasonally inspired menus with neo-artisanal inspiration – classic yet modern, influenced by the French brasserie kitchen. Highlights include Bresse chicken rillettes au terrine, the elegant calypso shrimp cocktail, and a decadent lobster- and burrata-adorned pizza.
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