Zermatt’s historic Hotel Schweizerhof reopened in December 2018 following an intensive six-month upgrade – and the results are terrific.
The magnificent Matterhorn looms over the mountain village of Zermatt, one of Switzerland’s oldest, best-beloved resorts that attracts keen skiers, gourmands and mini-breakers alike – and all its best bits can be found in the Hotel Schweizerhof.
Metres from the mountain train station, (the car-free town, is best reached by rail), and set back in its own enclave from a thrumming thoroughfare (the action is focused on one main street) past a roaring fire, the hotel’s warm welcome and cosy design is immediately conducive to complete relaxation.
Total ski-luxe and ultimate comfort – everything you’d want after a hard day tackling the 360km of Zermatt pistes. The new look – overseen by renowned hotelier Michel Reybier – turns the traditional mountain style on its head and is an infusion of Alpine-meets-cosmo cool.
The open-plan communal areas, merging the lobby, bar and gigantic show kitchen (don’t miss the BBQ), are littered with faux fur, marbled tables, soft lighting, vintage knick-knacks, French literature (Zola, anyone?) and gold and copper edges, with evenings soundtracked from six by a resident après-ski DJ. In short, there couldn’t be anywhere better to kick back with a glass of the local fendant white wine.
The vibe is very much focused on making sure people aren’t just sitting in their rooms, explains Andreas, the director of marketing, as the aim is to encourage people to be a part of the atmosphere, which is undoubtedly why the team are focusing on doing up the hotel’s sprawling terrace for spring and summertime parties and ‘fluidity’ is encouraged between the ground floor lounges and terraces.
But if you’re feeling wiped from a day on the slopes and do want to retire upstairs, of course it’s just as lush. A plant-strewn lift takes you to one of the 95 rooms and suites, ranging from cosy to cavernous attic suites complete with fires. Here, it’s all about a wood base with cream accents and soft touches – I love the burnt orange velvet seating in my double room, where a balcony strung with twinkly lights echoed with the clop of horses’ hooves from the carriages below (could there be any better car-free alternative?). It’s techy, too; each room can be controlled by a bedside iPad, and there are plans afoot to roll out robot room service.
Brilliantly, the hotel has pretty much everything a weary skier could want within slipper distance (found alongside your robe in your room), from an in-house ski hire (so no schlepping down icy streets with boots and skis) to the most ginormous boot room I’ve ever seen, complete with boot warmers, a coffee machine and strewn with cosy chairs where you can lever tight boots off.
Further down the hall you’ll find the spa, where things are a little more mixed. Prepare to be gobsmacked by the hotel’s brand-new basement 12 ½ m pool. A cavernous, backlit lair, it’s got James Bond-baddy-lair written all over its white loungers. But around the corner, the spa area that houses two saunas, a steam bath and frothing hot tubs feels more Spartan and certainly adheres to Swiss norms (be prepared to strip for the saunas), lined with gigantic palm fronds. Beauty therapists offer signature treatments including massages, reflexology and anti-ageing procedures too – ideal for easing tired limbs and tight muscles. There’s a fitness room and kids club, too.
Hotel Schweizerhof are rightly proud of their three uber-diverse on-site eateries. You can choose from Swiss fondue in the wood-lined Cheese Factory (complete with waitresses in traditional mountain dress), sample the Peruvian-Asian sushi fusions in the signature La Muna restaurant (do try the miso aubergine) or chow down on big Americana flavours in Le Schweizerhof Kitchen (the organic truffle pizza is unbeatable). Breakfast is a proper spread: a generous selection of local delicacies of meats and cheeses as well as a cooked breakfast. I’d highly recommend the fresh juices for a morning-after pick-me-up.
The hotel takes pride in its wine too – aforementioned hotelier Michel Reybier is known for as an oenophile and his Bordeaux and champagnes are on the menu (try the Cos d’Estournel Blanc), as well as delicate Swiss wines that tend to stay within the country’s limits (the Swiss don’t feel the need to export due to the great demand it has at home).
Sink a carefully crafted cocktail at the statement bar in the lobby, or – if you don’t mind the Swiss predilection for a cigarette – join the cool kids in the purpose-built fumoir, complete with stocked cigar cellars, where waiters serve up whiskeys and cigars from a confessional-style bar and snooker games are a go.
Winter breaks in Zermatt are all about the snow. Surrounded by 38 summits above 4,000m, the resort has 200km of pistes wrapped around the Matterhorn (every stop demands a picture), and links into neighbouring Italy via pistes and lifts to Italian Cervinia, which offers another 160km to ski. The hotel can hook you up with an experienced ski guide if you’re keen to get exploring.
If you’re not so much of a ski bunny, you can still enjoy the mountain with a trip on the Zermatt-Matterhorn railway, which winds its way over waterfalls and up tree-lined slopes to the top of the Gornergrat (3,089m), one of Switzerland’s most iconic observation points, or hike along one of the many trails that snake around the town – a popular summer sport, along with mountain-biking.
In town, the Matterhorn Museum came highly recommended by another guest for depicting the mountain’s history and the triumphs (and tragedies) that have come with the first ascent of this 4,478m icon. Music festivals run throughout the year too – this April’s Zermatt Unplugged will host performances from Boy George and Jessie J.
How to get there
UK visitors can fly to Zurich or Geneva before taking a direct train to Visp (three and a half hours from Zurich, four from Geneva-Cointrin) and changing onto the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn for a picturesque journey that climbs 1,000m.
Stay at the Schweizerhof Zermatt from 490 CHF (approx. £371) per night, based on two sharing including breakfast: https://www.schweizerhofzermatt.ch/en
The Swiss Travel System provides a dedicated range of travel passes and tickets exclusively for visitors from abroad. For the ultimate Swiss rail specialist call Switzerland Travel Centre on 00800 100 200 30 or visit www.swisstravelsystem.co.uk
Review by Miranda Thompson