Swiss stereotypes in the realm of travel are often narrowed down to the country’s more notable offerings: alpine skiing, cheese and chocolate, and trains that run on time. If you’re not hiking with cows up the flowered peaks of Zermatt, you’re skiing down them. In recent years, hoteliers are rethinking the way travelers experience Switzerland, still celebrating its well known traditions—yes, chocolate and cheese among them—while moving the needle forward in the arenas of design, culinary and cultural experiences, and specifically, summer. Here, L’Officiel USA takes a look at where to spend the last summer months in the Swiss Alps.
Storechen Zurich, courtesy of Reto Guntli and Agi Simoes
Most travelers begin in Zurich, one of Switzerland’s cultural hubs and a joy to experience during warmer months. Perhaps the most convenient and interesting spot to check into is the recently refurbished Storchen Zürich Hotel, a lavish stopover on the Limmat River that has played host to celebrities and dignitaries alike since the 14th century. The hotel’s multimillion dollar reboot brings it up to speed with design hotels around the world. It’s old bones are still there, especially in the hotel’s fine dinning restaurant, La Rôtisserie, clad in honey toned wood with giant arched windows that overlook the river. Much of the redesign was about embracing the environment, and you see that in their river-view suites and downstairs Barchetta Bar, that spoons the Limmat River banks and is always teaming with local pedestrians that pop by for waterfront cocktails.
Summer months are often the best time to stay at Storchen Zürich Hotel, if anything because you can visit its cadre of partnering venues that belong to a community known as The Living Circle. They include a private restaurant overlooking lake Zurich, and the Castello del Sole property in Ascona where guests are treated to a clutch of culinary treats from Switzerland and Italy, and tours of their organic farms, vineyards, rice, and wheat fields on Lake Zurich and Lago Maggiore. The best part is the staff at Storchen, ranging anywhere from late teens to early 70s, whom, depending on your taste, will tell you where to swim—there are over a dozen super clean rivers, lakes, and outdoor pools—or where to find kayaks to explore lake Zurich; or perhaps even the best place to party during Street Parade, the largest techno street party in the world.
Le Grand Bellevue, courtesy of Le Grand Bellevue / Nick Hopper
Leave the city for the mountains and move on to Gstaad, where summer months are just as busy as during the winter ski season. The old guard of ritzy hotels are spread out in the mountain valley, and all charming in their own alpine-rustic ways. But Daniel Koetser’s Le Grand Bellevue is by far the most interesting now that he spared no expense upgrading the massive Gstadd institution’s suites, restaurants, lounges and especially the spa. Koetser has been skiing and occasionally living in the area since he was a child. He brings to the table, along with his wife, a unique design perspective on how to revamp a hotel and avoid the possibility of it looking cheesy. Traditional Gstadd chalet styles—giant interlocking exposed wood beams, taxidermy and so on, are lost on Koetser. Though he respects local design charms, his style is cultured and artful and influenced by his travels across the globe. He wants guests to experience something new and inspired inside the shell of a Grand dame hotel.
Case in point is the downstairs bar, where he installed, no kidding, the largest Chesterfield couch in the world. It hugs the art deco bar where mixologists sling cocktails made with every tonic and herb at their Swiss disposal, and courteous waiters tend to tables across the room at the Michelin-star restaurant, Leonard’s. There is a lot of eye candy here, especially in lounging rooms near the lobby, or the lounges further afield that are papered with brilliant floral prints by House of Hackney. The hotel is immense, but the star of the property might be their new, Le Grand Spa, which is over 3,000 square feet of plunge pools, steam rooms and infrared and hay saunas (they actually trudge up the Alpine mountains to source hay that you breath in the sauna as it cooks with you). Goat’s milk foot bath, anyone? It really is spectacular, and the sort of place you come to unwind after a long hike in the Alpine, or a shopping trip at Gstaad’s tony boutiques.
Cervo Mountain Boutique Hotel, courtesy of Cervo Mountain Boutique Hotel
Then there are those loyal to Zermatt, where during the winter months the dim hum of clubby music can be heard throughout the town and in the mountains from countless Après-Ski parties. The place to be is the Hotel Cervo—a lively bohemian chic resort with some of the best views of Matterhorn Mountain. Cervo’s Après-Ski may just be their forte—it’s jolly, and busy and right off of hiking and skiing trails that lead to downtown Zermatt. But the party continues all summer, when Cervo converts their attention to mountain bikers, hosting Après Bike parties through October. Show up in bike gear and drinks are discounted. Cervo’s restaurant, Ferdinand, is an architectural highlight of the property for its white vaulted ceilings and a mash up of vintage and modern fixtures and furnishings. The food is excellent—Swiss of course—so expect fresh salads and local cheeses and breads. The restaurant expands to the outside huffing sweet mountain breezes and taking in quaint views of Zermatts distant chalets.
Worth noting are Cervo’s private chalets and lodges that are perfect for families and friends traveling in large groups. The Owner’s Lodge is prime real estate in Zermatt for its huge windows and terraces that frame the valley and its 38 snow-capped peaks. The lodges have fancy professional kitchens, and the resort will send a chef to whip of meals should guests choose not to venture into town. Ten people can fit into each of their chalets and they are equally opulent, with their own personal spas and Le Labo products.
Still, half the delight of spending the last days of summer at these Swiss resorts, besides their design forward approaches to traditional, staid Swiss style, is that you feel unencumbered by the hoards of European snow birds that crowd the town as soon as the first flakes fly in November. This is a side to Switzerland that can be appreciated and experienced at any time of year, especially summer. So what if you don’t get your fondue?