All you need to know about this glorious winter & summer destination is here in our ultimate guide.
Come up - slow down in Gstaad
Julie Andrews once described Gstaad as the “last paradise in a crazy world” and it would be hard to disagree with her. Situated on the language border between German and French, Gstaad has Alpine charm in abundance, yet there is so much more to this distinctive destination than your standard ski resort.
Located in the Bernese Alps, the fascinating Swiss village of Gstaad is easily reached by car from Geneva or by train via the famous ‘Golden Pass’ railway line. Having enjoyed this train journey only last week I would recommend boarding either the state-of-the-art Panoramic or lovingly-restored Belle Epoch trains for glorious views of Lake Geneva and the surrounding vineyards and countryside.
Despite its long history of tourism, the region is still genuinely Alpine with 200 agricultural businesses and 7,000 cows - that’s nearly a cow per resident! With inhabitants still adopting an alpine way of life, the resort feels more authentic than many ski resorts and far less ‘touristy’. Professionalism, hospitality and discretion are the values Gstaad prides itself on and there is no doubt that it is these which have attracted many famous faces to the destination over the years.
A shopping paradise
The village itself is extremely attractive with chalet-style architecture and ancient houses, some of which date back to the 14th century. The main promenade is car-free and has a dazzling array of designer shops from Prada and Ralph Lauren to Louis Vuitton and Hermes, yet the mood remains relaxed and friendly. You will also find fantastic homeware, jewellery, gadgets and of course, chocolate.
Where to eat and drink
The region has over 100 restaurants ranging from cosy raclette eateries to gourmet fine dining. In fact, 17 restaurants have been included in the Gault & Millau food guide and several have Michelin stars. Highly recommended is Chubut, a charming Argentinian restaurant with outstanding service, divine dishes and an excellent choice of wines.
Other culinary gems include Restaurant Chesery, a cheesery turned chalet-style restaurant with an ever-changing menu filled with meat, seafood and vegetarian delicacies. On the mountain try Wasserngrat, the highest mountain restaurant in the region with a large terrace, hearty dishes and cosy fireside lounge.
Refined and sophisticated are the words that come to mind when describing Gstaad after hours. For full-on glamour head to the Palace Hotel and its exclusive GreenGo nightclub where the 50m dancefloor is suspended over the pool and resident DJ Jim Leblanc helps you dance the night away. Other haunts include Hostellerie Chesery piano bar and the elegant Rialto bar which hosts live music in winter.
Where to stay
Recommended hotels include the five-star Park Gstaad and Gstaad Palace - both offer central locations, exceptional service and state-of-the-art facilities with seriously impressive spas. If you’re looking to stay a little further from the main village then both Chalet de Rougemont and Chalet Lottie are great options.
Winter in Gstaad
Compared to other resorts, Gstaad has an extraordinarily diverse winter offering. Home to 200 km of ski slopes and the only glacier ski area in the Bernese Oberland, there is plenty of skiing to keep you amused during your stay. There are three main ski areas and 80% of the slopes range from easy to moderate, making this a fantastic resort for beginners and families. More advanced skiers can tackle the Tiger Run, Saanenland’s steepest slope, located on the Wasserngrat. Night skiing is also possible on the floodlit Wilspile and Rinderberg slopes, making for an adventurous outing before dinner.
Cross-country skiing is also popular here with 140 km of trails in four different valleys as well as high-altitude trails on Glacier 3,000. Children and adults alike will love the six toboggan runs spanning almost 30 km, whilst non-skiers have 185 km of scenic winter hiking trails and 80 km of snowshoeing trails to choose from.
Another growing trend in the region is winter biking with the highlight being the Snow Bike Festival which takes place in January. There are several ice rinks available - get your skates on or just enjoy watching the deftness and speed of ice hockey players gliding across the ice. You can also enjoy a sleigh ride around the village or soak up the tranquil surroundings around Lake Lauenen.
Summer in Gstaad
With ample recreation and relaxation opportunities, coupled with cultural and sporting offerings, it comes as no surprise that Gstaad is just as popular in summer as winter. The hiking trails are second to none, taking you through diverse scenery such as moorland, forests, deep gorges, Alpine valleys and past mountain peaks. The 300 km network is well-served by mountain railways and public transport so everyone can map out a perfect route. There are a number of cultural and themed trails - enjoy spectacular flora on the Blumenweg trail, traditional delicacies on the Wispile cheese trail and impressive architecture and history on the Zweisimmen castle trail.
Biking is big in Gstaad and with 500 km of GPS tours for mountain bikers, road bikers and e-bikers, all levels can have a go. There are numerous climbing routes in the area as well as a rope park and climbing wall for those less experienced.
This really is an outdoor paradise where you can be as energetic as you wish - paragliding, river rafting, beach volleyball, fishing and golfing are all options for getting out and about in fresh mountain air. However, relaxation is also taken very seriously here and there are a superb range of wellness offerings, including six specialised Wellness Hotels.
A variety of cultural and sporting events take place throughout the summer, the most famous being the Gstaad Menuhin classical music festival which runs from July to September. Other exciting events include the Hublot Polo Gold Cup (22 - 25 August), Beach Volleyball Major Series (9 - 14 July) and the Swiss Open (20-28 July).