Seeing the newly opened Bürgenstock Resort in Switzerland is reminiscent of a long-forgotten Hollywood star making a comeback.
Certainly it’s got plenty of wow factor, but does the largest hotel renovation project in Switzerland to date match the hyperbole it comes with?
The current resort comprises four hotels, a Health & Medical Center, 12 restaurants and bars, 67 residence suites, a 10,000sq m (110,000sq ft) Alpine spa and a wide range of leisure activities including a golf course.
Taking advantage of the idyllic lake-and-mountain setting, there’s no shortage of activities all around the year. In the winter, there are ice-skating rinks and high-standard indoor tennis courts. It’s possible to ski in nearby Engelberg, about a 25-minute drive from the resort. The extensive bike paths and hiking trails are popular during the warmer months. Once the cold weather season is over, the Hammetschwand Lift is in operation for those who fully want to take in the blissful surroundings. Originally built in 1905, it is the highest outdoor elevator in Europe and was featured in the 1964 James Bond film, Goldfinger.
It’s an easy drive (less than an hour) from the Zurich airport. For a dramatic -- albeit lengthier -- entrance, arrive in Lucerne by train and take a 20-minute boat ride to the foot of the property. From there the legendary funicular -- originally opened in 1888 -- takes the guests directly up to the resort, which stands some 900m above sea level.
The real luxury here is the view. When you’re so high up, looking down at the serene but spectacular Lake Lucerne, it’s not hard to see why the first movement of Beethoven’s Opus 27 No. 2 in C minor was aptly nicknamed “Moonlight Sonata.” After the composer’s death, German music critic Ludwig Rellstab compared the effect of the one of the most played and loved pieces to the impression of the moonlight reflecting on Lake Lucerne.
Of the resort's four hotels, Bürgenstock Hotel is the most indulgent option. Whether it’s a smallest Deluxe Room that starts at £635 or the Royal Suite that occupies the entire top floor, they all come with panoramic views across Lake Lucerne. And the double-sided fireplace enjoyed both in the room and the panoramic bathtub is a thoughtful touch.
At a more modest room rate there’s Palace Hotel, a four-star accommodation where the room costs almost half the price of Bürgenstock Hotel. Taverne 1879, the alpine chalet-style three-star option, offers Alpine chalet style accommodation. Even though the rooms come with neither Italian marble interior in the bathroom nor the impressive reception area that includes floor-to-ceiling windows, all guests have access to all the restaurants and bars.
The same goes for the guests staying at Waldhotel, a luxury medical center/hotel. If one remembers how the rich used to go to Switzerland to “recover and recuperate” during Victorian times this is the modern version of the old Swiss convalescent home. This health and medical hotel was built by Italian star architect Matteo Thun. All 160 terrace room and suites overlook the Alps. It’s considered to be the most exclusive in Switzerland and possibly in Europe. It comes with rehabilitation, cure and preventive packages but individual treatments are available as well. According to medical director Dr Michael Brabetz, psychosomatic therapy -- which focuses on restoring mental health and controlling stress and anxiety triggers -- is likely to be the most popular.
Guests who want something equally therapeutic, minus medical procedures, are attracted to the newly opened Alpine Spa, one of the world’s largest spas which includes a restored kidney-shaped Hollywood pool from the heyday of the 1950’s. The sheer size of the spa is big enough to accommodate all the possible luxury spa facilities one can imagine under one roof -- 7,000 square meters of indoor areas come with a rooftop infinity pool, panoramic sauna, Rasul (mud treatment) room, among others.
On the gastronomic front, a large number of restaurants covering a variety of world cuisine, three wine cellars and a cigar lounge indicate their intention to attract not only resort guests but also day visitors from nearby picturesque Lucerne. Spices Kitchen & Terrace is the most popular, with its open kitchen and sweeping view of the region. Taverne 1879 serves traditional alpine cuisine for those who want to taste typical Swiss food such as raclette and rösti. OAK Grill & Pool Patio serve finely prepared meals with locally sourced ingredients. Sharq Oriental is housed in Sofia Loren’s old house next to the Bürgenstock Chapel where Audrey Hepburn got married.
All signs seem to indicate that Bürgenstock Resort has promising potential to lure its nostalgic old guests and jet-setting modern travelers.
Rates at the Bürgenstock Hotel start from £635 per room per night; CHF 360 for the Waldhotel; 350 CHF for the Palace Hotel; and CHF 135 for Taverne 1879. (1 CHF is about US$1.) Breakfast is included. At the first three hotels, rates include boat transfer from Lucerne, a funicular ride up the Bürgenberg to the resort and spa entry. For more information visit buergenstock.ch/en