by Terry Ward
If any hotel can rightfully call itself a palace without actually having a history as one, then let it be the Gstaad Palace — and not just because “princess-types” such as Paris Hilton and Madonna have visited over the years. Surrounded by Alpine peaks and overlooking the forested valley that descends to the postcard-perfect Swiss village of Gstaad, Gstaad Palace looks remarkably like something from a Disney movie, with its white towers gleaming for all the town’s not-so-common folk to see. Your kids — and you — will probably gasp with excitement at your first glimpse of this place. Yes, the hotel was never actually a palace, but nothing about the service or splendor indicates otherwise. The Palace opened in 1913 as an extremely modern and decadent leisure destination in the Bernese Oberland, and grew in popularity in the rebound years following the first World War. During the 1950s, the hotel was purchased by the Scherz family, who remains the current owners and one of the world’s last great hotelier families. Over the decades, the family has put some 90 million Swiss francs worth of improvements and upgrades into the palace, in addition to regular maintenance costs – an effort that has kept the property functioning in top form and feeling fresh as the years unfold.
Expect a five-star property and service and amenities of the highest quality. There are five onsite restaurants and your stay here includes a meal plan of sorts, with breakfast included and meal credits of differing values depending on which of the restaurants you choose to visit. When you’re not in the surrounding mountains, you’ll likely spend a lot of time at the hotel. And Gstaad Palace, while a jet set destination for a luxury vacation, remains an integral part of an iconic Swiss setting that’s as storybook as European vacation destinations get.
Our Editor Loves
- Seasonal, luxurious and fairytale-like hotel
- Olympic-sized swimming pool during summer
- Easy access to skiing and sledding from hotel
- Connecting Rooms
- Free Wi-Fi
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
All the rooms have one king bed, and if your child is under 4 years old, he or she can stay for free in the room and sleep in a crib provided by the hotel. Children up to 12 years old can sleep on a rollaway bed in the room for an additional per night fee (includes breakfast and a lunch or dinner credit), and if your kids are 12 and older, the nightly rate is a hint higher but includes the meal plan. Some of the suites can accommodate two extra rollaway beds, but if you have a big family, it's probably best to request connecting rooms.
Deluxe suites connect to junior suites, and each has one king bed with room for rollaways. You can also request two double deluxe connecting rooms, but there's less space for rollaways in these as the rooms are smaller. Occupying the turrets of the palace, the two tower suites have two bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms, a sitting and dining area and three balconies. And for the ultimate indulgence, there's the penthouse suite with three bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms occupying the hotel's rooftop.
The decor of the rooms varies between classic and more contemporary. The hotel's "classic rooms" are typical Swiss mountain-style, with patterned fabrics and beds that look like they're straight out of an alpine dollhouse. Most of these rooms have a connecting option with doors leading to junior suites.
For something really different, you can request to stay in the Walig Hut, a circa 1786 chalet. Located right on the mountain, it once operated as a barn of sorts for farmers bringing their cows high into the pastures during the summer months. The property is rustic luxury, with room for two adults and two children to stay overnight. You can also just visit the hut for a luxury picnic lunch or cozy three-course dinner, even if you don't plan to stay the night.
Fantastic hotel, the prices are up there but rooms, the really wonderfull dedicated staff, really astonishing classic food (fit for a michelin star 2019!) topingredients and kitchen staff, amenities, welness, tennis, wonderfull pools are worth it. Dont mistake other a bit cheaper hotels with Gstaad palace. This is the real deal, worth it. The rooms with a warm classic style, not the modern brown/grey we see everywhere, the pastas are to die for incredible, but the swiss food try the veal sausage infused with brie and truffel with rosti and the memorable onion sauce......They have a different chef for italian, swiss, indian and it shows! Thank you for a wonderfull experience. And yes: we want to keep this secret to ourselves.....
A great 10 day stay with my family. Perfect accommodations with connecting rooms parents/children, first class attention from housekeepers, concierges, restaurant staff, pool attendants, reception clerks and others. Excellent food and the words “no” or “not possible” simply do not exist in this hotel vocabulary.
Gstaad Palace is located in the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland, a hot spot for all kinds of outdoor activities, and both the winter and summer months offer plenty for families to do here.
Skiing and other winter spots (snowboarding, sledding, cross country skiing and snowshoeing) are the main activities in the valley's skiing region, known as Gstaad Mountain Rides. And the main gondola (free for kids up to age 9 to ride) is just a three-minute ride from the hotel. Gstaad Palace has an onsite equipment renting facility where you can get geared up before taking the hotel's complimentary shuttle to the slopes. You can also rent equipment in town. There are more than 155 miles of slopes to schuss along, as well as a sled run in which you can ride wooden toboggans along a closed mountain pass road from the top of the main gondola down to the village. Gstaad has its own ice-skating rink, which makes a nice outing on a day off the mountain. You'll find other ice skating rinks in nearby villages, too.
A summer time stay also offers lots to do, from hiking along an extensive network of trails to organized activities for families that include things like river rafting, canyoning, jeep safaris and horseback riding. Riding the mountain railway that connects Gstaad and beautiful surrounding villages also makes for good family fun with beautiful views, and kids up to age 9 also ride the train for free.
The hotel itself has a lot in the way of onsite family fun, too. There's an indoor heated pool that's open to families year round from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. (kids under 16 should be accompanied by an adult). During the summer months, a beautiful Olympic-sized pool, surrounded by mountain and valley views, is open for free to hotel guests and for a fee to the public.
Playground and Kids Program
Onsite at the hotel, there's an indoor play area and an outdoor playground (open during the warmer months), and children's programs change themes weekly, but offer things like arts and crafts and games targeted at children between the ages of 5 and 12. If your child is under 5 years old, they are welcome to participate in the kids activities, but a guardian will have to be present.
Since rates at the Gstaad Palace include "half-board" (that means breakfast) and either lunch or dinner, you'll be doing a lot of your dining at the hotel. There are five restaurants on the property, but your half-board credit varies depending on which restaurant you choose.
La Grand, the hotel's main restaurant and probably the most family-friendly of the bunch, is included in the half-board plan with a 110 Swiss francs credit for lunch or dinner per person, per day, included in your room rate. The best kids menu of the hotel's restaurants (and a decidedly healthy one) is found at The Grand restaurant, where the lunch and dinner menu includes dishes such as veal escalope, sole filet with boiled potatoes, chicken burgers and ricotta ravioli with basil and spinach, all in kids-friendly sizes and prices. For adult diners, there are many seafood selections here (rainbow trout, lobster, and sea bass) and Australia lamb, Swiss beef and Thai curry chicken.
Gildo's and Le Grill
At Gildo's, the Grill and the Fromagerie, your credit per person, per day for lunch or dinner is 50 Swiss francs. Breakfast is included in your room rate and is a buffet-style affair that includes a good spread of breads, pastries, warm dishes, cereals, fruits, smoothies and egg dishes made to order.
Head to La Fromagerie, the Palace's basement Swiss specialty restaurant, for a fun night around the fondue pot or grilling cheese in the raclette oven. The atmosphere is very relaxed, cozy and communal, and perfect for kids who like to be kept busy doing something at the dinner table.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Switzerland is a notoriously expensive destination and Gstaad is a playground for the world's most privileged people. Life here is far from cheap. If your kids are used to having certain snack foods at home, it might be wise to pack some for the trip. While you'll find many of the snack items your kids may be used to in the MIGROS grocery store in Gstaad village, their packaging and prices will be different.
During Sunday brunches in the summertime at the hotel, a large bouncy castle that looks like the Palace is inflated on the hotel's grounds and makes for a great place for the kids to have fun and play while you're sipping mimosas and soaking up the alpine views.
There are no onsite laundry facilities, but dry cleaning services are available.
Wi-Fi is complimentary and works well everywhere on property, from the lobby lounge to the hotel rooms.
Babysitting services with trusted sitters from the area can be arranged through the hotel's concierge for an additional cost.
The gym is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and is outfitted with Technogym equipment that includes cardio training and various weight-lifting stations. There's a squash court with equipment available for rent, too. Pilates' sessions are offered regularly in the hotel's dedicated studio, and you can participate in small group lessons or request private training.
The hotel's spa and wellness area is a very decadent place with an indoor swimming pool, separate sauna and steam facilities in the men's and women's locker rooms, and a candle-lit relaxation room with very comfortable loungers. The highlight, however, is the large outdoor heated soaking tub overlooking the snowy surroundings (in the winter) and dwarfed by the peaks of the Alps. Consider it a good thing that kids must be 16 and older to enter this part of the spa area, for that's what keeps the scene so serene (kids of all ages are welcome in the indoor pool, but not in the relaxation areas and sauna and steam facilities).
The Art of Smart Timing
As a seasonal hotel, Gstaad Palace closes completely to guests for several months of the year during the low shoulder seasons in the springtime and autumn. The winter season at the hotel runs from mid-December until mid-March. After that, the hotel closes until late June and then remains open from then until mid-September. The winter season at Gstaad Palace is far and away the busiest time to visit, and if you're here during the Christmas holiday, New Year's and right after, you can expect the hotel to be operating near full capacity. There's a lull in mid-January, and then things pick back up again later in the month and go strong until the property closes for the winter season in mid-March. Room rates are highest during the winter months and peak travel times.
Gstaad is closer to the airport in Geneva (two hours) than it is to Zurich's airport (2.5 hours), but you can easily reach the area from the major airport and train connections in both cities. Once you've arrived at the train station in Gstaad, Gstaad Palace staff will pick you up via shuttle for the short ride up the hill to the property. Alternatively, you can drive to Gstaad from Zurich, Geneva and endless other destinations where your European road trip may have taken you. Roads are likely to be snow-covered during the winter months, but if you've rented a car in Switzerland or the French alps, it will be equipped accordingly with snow tires and the option for chains.
If you're traveling in your own car, you can park it in the hotel's garage for a nightly fee, or free of charge in an outdoor lot.
You're a little ways up the hillside from Gstaad's central village at this property, but it's an easy and pretty walk along a winding road (or on a stepped trail through the trees) to the village from the hotel. The hotel also runs free shuttles that bring guests into town and to the train station, and, during the winter season, delivers them right to the ski lifts, too.
Since the property is quite large and it's also nice to stroll through Gstaad village, it's a good idea to have your stroller along for smaller children.
For Mom and Dad
For all Gstaad Palace offers families, the property is also extremely romantic, and you'll definitely want to get a babysitter for the day or night so you and your significant other can enjoy some adult time.
To wind down a day on the mountain, indulge in a spa treatment at the Palace's decadent spa facilities, where 100 percent natural and organic oils made from alpine herbs by Jardin des Monts are used in many of the treatments. A fun treatment for two involves a visit to the hammam -- a spa bathing ritual that takes you through several steps, including a cleansing soap foam body massage, steam bath and relaxation in a flotation pool. You can take part as a couple, and the experience finishes with an oil massage that's sure to soothe any sore skiing muscles.
To have a great Gstaad night, you don't even need to leave the hotel. The onsite nightclub, GreenGo, is one of Gstaad's best and well worth a cocktail or two. And for dinner, the romantic Le Grill restaurant, also at the hotel, offers a tempting menu of seafood, Wagyu beef and lamb from the Pyrenees mountains, all grilled over an open fire.