Gstaad has been a popular tourist spot since the 1930s and plays host to music festivals hosted by Swiss royalty, summer sporting events from volleyball to polo, and summer concerts and promenade parties. By day, the Alpine mountain skyline dotted with vast wooden lodges and tiny farmhouses will be set against a bright blue backdrop. By night the lodges will be glowing from Julie Lämpli, Swiss German for "little lamps" — beautiful residential lights lit at dusk, which debuted at Julie Andrews' chalet and were subsequently added to all the other lodges in town and named after the Sound of Music actress.
Fly Swissair from the U.K. or Europe, then hurtle through the beautiful Alpine countryside to Gstaad by train. Swissair offers more than 180 weekly flights from England, Scotland and Ireland to either Zurich or Geneva, and the Swiss Travel System’s railways are extremely comfortable and easy to use. Hotels in Gstaad can arrange transfers that are around 40 minutes from the station.
The All-in-One Stay-Spa-Eat Retreat
The relatively new Alpina is Gstaad’s nonpareil spa hotel, practically a resort in itself with Michelin restaurants, a private cinema and views that attract the global jet set and local hobnobbers alike. They come to sip negronis in lounges stuffed with art from the likes of Tracey Emin and Alex Israel.
The in-house Six Senses Spa fuses Alpine and East Asian style, with rock-framed indoor and outdoor pools (including a slide — it’s pretty family friendly for a five-star), a hammam, a sauna, a salt room … you get the vibe. Time your stay with one of the hotel’s ultra-tranquil Tibetan weeks for an experience that includes meditations and gong baths. Sip a fresh juice or the hotel’s speciality, the golden latte, a blend of turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and almond milk that revitalizes without the caffeine crash of coffee.
A special three-day retreat will take place July 3-7, 2017, and includes daily themed workshops and seminars on topics such as stress management and health management, with practical advice and tips along the way. Package includes a resplendent breakfast and eye-popping afternoon tea, stress consultancy, tai chi, yoga and meditation classes, plus two daily spa treatments like massage and flotation therapy.
Don’t panic. It’s not all about the cleanse — there’s plenty to indulge in at the Alpina, too, with everything from a wine cellar to a cigar lounge. Within the depths of the sprawling yet cozy 56-room hotel are the two Michelin-starred restaurants, Sommet and Megu. Sommet offers a contemporary gourmet tasting menu curated by Martin Göschel (try the black cod paired with Swiss white wine), while at Japanese dining room Megu you can pair your chilled sake with Wagyu beef flambéed at your table.
Work Off That Dinner
Biking, hiking and hot-air ballooning are all options on a sunny Gstaad summer’s morning, but my top tip would be to take advantage of your chance to get a panoramic view of where you are via Glacier 3000's Peak Walk, the first and only suspension bridge to connect two mountain peaks, beginning at the Scex Rouge mountain station. You can catch the Ice Express chairlift to the glacier and start the walk in the snow from there. At the top, eat lunch at Refuge l’Espace on the edge of the glacier, where you can look down Derborence Valley and Valais from the panoramic windows.
Summer activities in Gstaad are plentiful, from the sporting events that pop up in the absence of ski fever to the outdoor parties. Check out the FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour complete with beach volleyball tournament (we dare you to jump in and get involved). In September, local restaurants, hotels, shops and bars throw open their doors for one giant cocktail party along the traffic-free Gstaad Promenade. Look out for cows in flower crowns, free-flowing local wines and savory cheeses at the finest village fete there ever was. There’s also the Menuhin Festival Gstaad classical music summer series and an abundance of tennis courts to play on, stand-up paddleboarding and free bike and e-bike hire at the Alpina.
Gstaad is a shopper’s heaven, with no sales-elbowing and plenty of personal assistance. Over the years, as affluence has expanded and international tourists have become long-term residents in the mountainous haven, the shopping has come to reflect that. You can find Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Chopard, Prada, Moncler, Ralph Lauren and Cartier, and boutiques carrying Chloé, Dolce & Gabbana, Burberry, Dior and Marc Jacobs.
Swiss Summer Jaunts
Bookend a Gstaad visit with a trip to Lake Geneva for the world-famous Montreux Jazz Festival in July (this year’s lineup includes Nicholas Jaar, Max Richter and Soulwax alongside Herbie Hancock, Solange and Lauryn Hill), or head to the incredible Locarno International Film Festival in August.