Switzerland is a small nation the size of New Jersey, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in natural beauty that beckons adventure travelers in all seasons.
While the alpine nation is best known for skiing, there is plenty to do for summer visitors, those looking to take advantage of shoulder season pricing in fall as well as intrepid winter travelers.
SUMMER AND FALL FUN
Zurich, the banking capital of the world, comes alive in warmer weather as the entire city flocks outside to take advantage of precious sunny days and temperate nights. Locals love urban swimming, and you can join in the fun with a dip in Lake Zurich or a dive into the Upper or Lower Letten River. My favorite spots are Tieffenbrunnen badi or Mythen Quai.
By night, several of the swimming spots turn into trendy badi bars where you can often catch live music and movies while enjoying a cool beverage. Try the Rimini Bar or Seebad Enge.
If you’re looking for a more highbrow way to enjoy the city outdoors, head to the just-opened The View rooftop bar hidden atop the Ambassador a la Opera Hotel for jaw-dropping views. Imbibe in a craft cocktail or the most gingery ginger beer you’ve ever had.
Only two hours out of Zurich, Arosa is picture perfect alpine countryside. Glampers must try the Tschuggen Grand Hotel’s Tepee Experience. Visitors spend one night in the posh hotel then enjoy a farmhouse breakfast before hiking through the Arosa Mountains. Dinner is in the mountains at Alpenblick, and the night is spent in a well-outfitted tepee.
All of the Tschuggen’s guests receive the Arosa Card good for complimentary rides on Tschuggen Express—the Ferrari of ski lifts, cable car and Hornli-Express Gondola—in addition to paddle boat rentals on Lake Obersee.
One of the best dining deals in Switzerland is surprisingly at the five-star hotel, which offers a dine-around program in their three restaurants, including the Michelin star La Vetta, for only 60 Swiss francs. (Note that the hotel closes from mid-September to November.)
The French Riviera may get the glory, but Switzerland has its own waterfront paradise in the Italian region of the country. With a temperate, Mediterranean climate, lush landscape and Lake Maggiore, Ascona is Switzerland’s Riviera playground. There is no better place to play than the five-star Hotel Eden Roc. Located directly on the lake, the 95-room property enjoys a private beach, four restaurants and a spa.
My two-bedroom Grand Suite’s highlight is a large terrace with views of the lake on three sides. Looking down, I could see guests enjoying the complimentary stand-up paddleboards, kayaks and sailing lessons.
In summer, don’t miss the opportunity to dine at La Casetta where you’ll sit lakeside and enjoy freshly prepared fish deboned tableside. After dinner, stroll the Lake Promenade, maybe with a gelato cone in hand, to top off a sweet day in Ascona.
The following day, take the hotel’s complimentary SmartCar out to the picturesque Valle Verzasca. Movie buffs will recognize the Verzasca Dam from GoldenEye. (Just like Bond, you can bungee jump. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy crawling around the rocks of the crystal clear river by the Ponte dei Salti Bridge.
SEE IT IN THE SNOW
New Green Hotel
For many travelers, Switzerland is all about the Alps and skiing the iconic mountains is a bucket list item.
Just in time for ski season, the Valsana Hotel & Apartments opens its doors on Dec. 7, 2017, in the Arosa Mountains. They have some of the best powder skiing in the country and enjoy sunny, crisp winters. The new hotel is geared towards millennial travelers exuding a casual vibe and modern décor.
Community is encouraged in Twist, serving only Swiss-sourced food in a living room atmosphere with communal tables. A spa is waiting to soothe sore muscles après ski. The hotel plans to be 100 percent carbon neutral using an innovative energy sourcing/conservation method called “ice storage.” The designers have developed a system where any machine that uses energy must also release energy back into the system. The hotel itself sits at 6,000 feet and enjoys unobstructed mountain views.
New Mega Resort
Lovely Lucerne is the talk of the season with the opening of the mammoth Burgenstock Resort.
The 148- acre resort consists of four hotels, 12 restaurants and bars, plus a 107,000-square-foot spa and wellness center set 2,800 feet above Lake Lucerne. Highlights include the largest outdoor elevator, the largest spa offering in Europe and a restaurant inspired by César Ritz.
The new Burgenstock is a reimagination of the original resort, which saw Audrey Hepburn’s wedding and has hosted heads of state and presidents since 1873. The project’s $550 million represents the largest capital project in Europe during recent history.
While only the Palace Hotel (4-star) and the Burgenstock Hotel are open now, the entire complex will be open by early December. There is skiing 30 minutes away in Central Switzerland’s largest ski resort, Engelberg.
Without a doubt, the selling point is jaw-dropping views at every turn of Lake Lucerne, Mount Rigi and Mount Pilatus.
The New Jet Set Hotspot
St. Moritz is to see and be seen. For A-listers who want discrete luxury and incredible skiing, Gstaad and the year-old boutique Ultima Grand is the place to go.
With only 11 luxury suites, Ultima Grand’s focus on service is clear with a pickup from the train station in a Maybach. The edgy design hotel marries traditional Swiss chalet style with provocative artwork, high technology and warm, modern furnishings. The pool and spa area has a wow factor unmatched in Switzerland and is the perfect escape after a day on the slopes.
This winter, guests will rejoice that four main skiing areas in the Bernese Oberland region have joined forces to offer a joint season ticket. The area’s top attraction, Glacier 3000, also has a new red ski run.
Novices can try the Carefree All Around Package including a two-hour private lesson, equipment and transportation to the slopes.
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