When the summer tyres on your Porsche can't wait to hit the tarmac, your leather suitcase is longing for airy shirts and your soul is in a dilemma: extreme adventure or secluded luxury, there's only one answer: you have to go on holiday to Switzerland. Crystal-clear lakes, snow-capped peaks, green meadows, delicious chocolate, the best panoramic roads, and offers for millionaires that have been painstakingly developed over 150 years. Sounds good, doesn't it? If you're still not sure how to spend your last bonus - here's a quick itinerary that includes exclusive attractions and the best hotels in Switzerland. Ready? Here we go!
Table of contents (or a plan for a luxury itinerary):
This list of exclusive places is also our immodest fantasy and experience. We have visited all the locations listed here, and the list of hotels and listed attractions came about by chance - we just added them by browsing maps, guidebooks, brochures and bookings. And yes, in Switzerland you can spend a fortune really quickly and easily. The pleasant thing about Switzerland is that even in this abstractly exclusive edition it does not fall into kitsch or madness. Indeed, it often retains its mountainous and rustic character with a glass of good champagne.
For over a century, Switzerland has attracted the elite and aristocracy. Invariably since Victorian times, names such as Sankt Moritz, Zermatt, Grindelwald, Lugano, Montreux and Lucerne have been mentioned in the salons of Europe. Only recently have the thriving Andermatt and Davos joined the list. And there is a whole group of other aspirants. Skiing in winter isobvious, but MTB is increasingly fighting for attention. Water sports too. Wellness, organic products and green energy look very good alongside the eternal promise of clean air and relaxation in nature.
The following itinerary is a minimum of 10-16 days and consists of the places we have visited. There is a lot of sport and walking in the mountains and other, less strenuous experiences. There will also be opportunities for relaxation - such as a spa in the best hotels. The route involves travelling by car, which is the best way to discover Switzerland. Although, you can also do without it - travelling first class on the SBB is a pleasant experience, and a ride on the Glacier Express with an all-inclusive package is tasty too! But let's stick to the car...
1. Lucerne and Rigi - the Swiss gem with the most beautiful views
Once you realise that the German autobahn is over and you have to take your foot off the pedal, you have arrived in the Helvetian country and your holiday has begun. The first place to stop is Lucerne. Yes, yes - our Zurich will probably take offence, but the fact is undeniable: Lucerne is the most picturesque city in Switzerland. And this is where the real Alps begin. The city is famous for its music festivals (such as the Lucerne Festival), historic bridges, pretty old town and mountains reflected in the surface of the lake. While the city is picturesque and romantic, visitors flee as soon as night falls. The centre simply gets too crowded in the evening.
The first thought for luxury accommodation is the Bürgenstock Hotels - a complex of three hotels suspended 400 metres above the turquoise lake and located 20 minutes from the centre. The secluded spa, tennis courts, golf course and brilliant views will allow you to relax and take a break.
If you're looking for something more intimate and cosy, a kilometre away Villa Honegg is located - a picturesque and beautifully renovated small hotel. Cows graze lazily all around it and only occasionally does a helicopter land in the clearing in front of it (picture on Google Maps). This is also where you'll find one of the most Instagram-able hot tubs in Europe (an item on many a blogger's list). The rooms look inviting, and the restaurant is said to hold things to an appropriate standard.
And while Bürgenstock and Honegg are lovely, I have a better gem for water lovers: Park Hotel Vitznau, located at the foot of the Rigi massif, right on the shores of the crystal clear Lake Luzerne. A great starting point for hiking and casual chillout. Yoga classes and cooking courses are firmly on the agenda here. And if you want to visit Lucerne, Brunnen or Pilatus, leave your car behind - a cruise on a real steamboat is undoubtedly a better idea. Or in a private motorboat. Bored? Hmm... how about wakeboarding then? A climb up the Rigi or the Fronalpstock Panorama Walk will guarantee you incredible sceneries.
The Rigi itself is the nucleus of Swiss tourism. The veri first "celebrity" to visit the mountain was Queen Victoria. Reportedly, the five-week holiday transformed her health and spirit. You are on the right track!
2. Sankt Moritz and the Engadine - mountain adventures and the most expensive hotels
You can be sure of spending too much in Sankt Moritz. If you consider that the history of tourism in the Alps began with Lucerne, then Sankt Moritz stretched its holiday season over winter period. A single bet in 1864, between a local hotel owner and four British tourists was enough to awake Switzerland from its winter sleep. The first ski lifts, slopes and hot spas were built. And huge palaces with numerous rooms sprang up a short while later, bursting into the mountain landscape. Today there are just few places in the world where oligarchs are passed by Middle Eastern aristocrats and Swiss bankers who return from ski tours.
Sankt Moritz quickly developed an airport that today mainly serves private jets. Add to this the famous horse race on the ice (White Turf) or races and rallies of vintage cars, such as the Bernina Gran Turismo or The ICE, and you will know why it has earned a place in the hearts of the elites. The schedule of events here is tight, and the closer you get to a high-profile event, the harder it is to find accommodation. Several genius restaurants, a manufactory of excellent coffee, shopping, spa, golf, tennis, cycling, kitesurfing and those mountains... sleep is a waste of time.
Nevertheless, sleep is necessary. The best places to stay are Badrutt's Palace, Suvretta House, Kempinski Residences and the nearby Grand Hotel Kronenhof in Pontresina and Hotel Waldhaus in Sils. Whichever you decide on, you'll have to pay over CHF 1,400 for a weekend for two. In high season, however, prices here can reach several thousand francs per night.
3. Lugano and Ticino - a romance by the lake
Passing with the buzz of an engine through Maloja Pass will take you into another world. Glaciers and the rugged nature are left behind to make a way for Mediterranean palm trees and a southern temperament. The first stop is the somewhat crowded Lake Como, the second is Lake Lugano. We're in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, which means great food, delicious cappuccinos (best one is on Monte Bre) and real ice cream (e.g. in -9 Gelato Italiano).
Cramped streets, eternal traffic jams and a fashion cat-walk on the insanely long promenade are the images you will remember. But the canton of Ticino is not only the old town of Lugano - it is above all beautiful views of lakes and small, hidden in deep valleys, modest villages with stone roofs (Foroglio or Lavartezzo). Days here are spent on hiking and exploration. Evenings are for eating, gossiping and relaxing by the water.
While in other parts of Switzerland, the symbols of prestige are large hotels, in the south you want visit romantic villas somewhere high up in the mountains or by the water. The first address that comes to mind is Villa Orselina above Locarno. Closer to Lugano is Villa Principe Leopoldo, and at the foot of Mount San Salvatore lies the modern The View. A truly unique place is Villa Emden, an estate occupying a tiny island - Brissago in Lake Maggiore.
4. Epic drive through the Alpine passes
In June, the snow melts finlay and the mountain passes are open once again for cars and motorbikes. Driving through the Gotthard Tunnel is no longer a sad necessity - now you can take your car to serpentines and enjoy the thrill. As soon as marks turn green on the alpen-paesse.ch website, sports car drivers take their machines to the mountains. If you are driving from Lugano, you can't miss the Gotthard Pass, but on your way here, make sure to turn into the historic Tremolla instead of taking the crowded and asphalted road number "two".
The classic rally loop starts in Andermatt and runs through Furka Pass, Grimsel Pass, Gadmen, Susten Pass, and Wessen and ends back in Andermatt. Suppose that's not enough for you, and you've already filled up your tank, another round can include the Furka Pass - Nufenen Pass (Passo Della Novena) - and again the Tremola, or (a longer option) the Oberalp Pass, Passo del Lucomagno and Gotthard Pass.
Lamborghinis, Porsches or any letters like M, AMG, or RS are common here. Even so, few can beat the times of the Post Auto yellow bus drivers! If you really want to enjoy the drive, you should start either in the morning or evening, when most tourists are still in their hotels.
The best place to start is Andermatt, where your tyres can cool off in good company in The Chedi Andermatt Hotel. The perfect luxury pit stop, with a huge spa complex.
5. Zermatt - window overlooking the Matterhorn
You can't say you've seen Switzerland without visiting Zermatt and getting at least a glimpse of the Matterhorn. If you haven't been tempted to go hiking so far, now you have no choice. This is the perfect place for it. Don't want to climb? No problem, the train goes up from Zermatt to Gornergrat at 3090 m and the mountain railway can take you up toKlein Matterhorn at 3883 m. I will only add that the best hiking trails are:
Riffelberg - Gornergrat,
Sunnegga - Grindjesee - Stellisee - Blauherd
Demanding one Zermatt - Hohbalmen - Zmutt - Furi - Gornerschlucht - Zermatt
To escape the crowds, you can stay in some truly spectacular and unique hotels. For example, the 2222m Riffelalp Resort, which has 'this' hot tub with a view of the Matterhorn. In addition to the baubles, the hotel also has a wellness complex and good entertainment facilities for children. Higher up is the Riffelhaus 1853 (2566m) - one of the oldest hotels in Zermatt, somewhat austere but still elegant. If the Riffelalp boasts a jacuzzi, the Riffelhaus promotes itself with a sauna with a panoramic window - yes, the view of the Matterhorn is included.
But what the heck, you can go higher! Gornergrat Kulm Hotel 3100m is a cosy, elegant yet simple place from whose windows you can admire not only the Matterhorn at sunset but the eternally white peaks of the Monte Rosa massif and Gornergletscher. A glass of champagne in in this setting will put anyone in a good mood. While during the day it is crowded and noisy, in the evening it becomes very intimate.
The above places are rather one-night shots. Zermatt itself is undoubtedly the best base for a longer stay - here The Omnia and CERVO Mountain Resort hotels come to the fore. Of those closer to the centre, the Tradition Julen Hotel is also worth mentioning.
In addition to hiking, in high season, you can enjoy a sunrise breakfast on the Klein Matterhorn, after which you can conquer the easiest four-thousand in the Alps - the Breithorn - with a guide, and if that doesn't kill you yet - then finally ski on the glacier in shorts.
Oh, I almost forgot: Air Zermatt (made famous by a series on Netflix), offers helicopter flights around the Matterhorn - one at sunset is on our 'to-do' list.
6. Swiss Riviera - from Montreux to Lausanne with a style
Bonjour! From the mountains, we take you to the lake again - this time, the huge Lake Geneva (Lac Leman), to Montreux, and once again, we change the language - now to French. The Swiss Riviera stretches from Veytaux to... let's say, Morges. But on this stretch of 45km, it is Montreux that plays first fiddle. The annual Montreux Jazz Festival attracts stars of the highest calibre - Miles Davis, Prince, Deep Purple and Elton John have all performed here. But it is not only music that counts here.
The Riviera is above all, a great place for long walks - on the long promenade along all varieties of tulips or through the terraces of vineyards in Lavaux. It also has excellent viewpoints high in the mountains, like Rocher-de-Naye or Dent de Jaman. And because we're close to France, it's definitely fine dining - five Michelin-starred restaurants (Le Pont de Brent has two) and a dozen with 13 or more Gault Millau points.
In Montreux, for example, you can stay at the Beau-Rivage Palace or the equally exclusive Grand Hotel du Lac in Vevey. The Hôtel Des Trois Couronnes & Spa, also in Vevey, is located a little bit out of the way, above the hustle and bustle of the city.
7. Zurich - shopping, fine dining and nightlife
The last stop is Zurich (our guide). It's on the way, and I probably won't be able to convince you to go hiking in the mountains anyway. So what else is left but to shop on the famous Bahnhofstrasse - watches, clothes, shoes? And for treats and delicacies, you should go to level -1 in the Globus. Of all the city's attractions, we particularly recommend the Kunsthaus Zürich art gallery, which may not be as large as the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, but with its collections, it is impressive. In a nutshell: here you will see paintings by Marc Chagall, Dalí, Warhol, van Gogh and Monet. You can also pamper your other senses - for chocolate lovers, we recommend the Lindt - Sprungli workshop, where you make (and eat) pralines. Of course, you can also focus on the food itself and go for chocolates at Confiserie Sprüngli on Paradeplatz. To balance things out, Zurich is also home to the world's oldest vegetarian restaurant, Hiltl, which has been feeding in the form of casual buffets (several in the city) and a pleasant bistro since 1898. And while we're on the subject of restaurants, the two most prized by the local elite are Kronenhalle and Pavillon.
Where to sleep? Well, you can stay in the centre, at the Baur au Lac (the Pavillon is also located here) or drive a little above the city to The Dolder Grand Hotel. The added bonus of an exclusive room is sunsets and a beautiful panorama. Anyway, the Dolder is probably the most expensive hotel in Switzerland.