There’s really only one way to describe the feeling that comes over us when we first walk into our room at the Burgenstock Hotel & Alpine Spa, and we’re just going to come right out and say it. Remember being a kid, a really little one, and walking into your living room first thing on Christmas morning and seeing all the presents? Well, that’s how it feels. That’s how good it is.
This is a hotel that stirs up emotions in you almost everywhere you go within it. That room, with its huge square bath right next to a floor-to-ceiling window with views out over Lake Lucerne, is so spectacular it’s hard to not whoop when you see it. The place’s dining options are so good they’re making us salivate just writing about them. And its setting really is something else. Perched over Lake Lucerne, with 360-degree views from the highest point on its amazing cliff climb and outdoor elevator, this is a five-star resort that juts out from the edge of the cliffs and is so remote (you reach it via boat then furnicular) and immaculately appointed that you genuinely feel a bit like James Bond as you stroll around. We’ll come back to it later. For now, we’ll tell you how we got here.
We first arrive in the Swiss capital, specifically the Schweizerhof Hotel & Spa Bern, a 150-year-old, 99-room-and-suite classic that mixes heritage and history with some beautiful modern design touches. And maybe it’s here that the whole Bond vibe kicks in – the balcony next to ours is the one where George Lazenby’s 007 receives his orders to go after Blofeld in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
The city, so compact you can make it across it in 20 minutes, has picture-book architecture and the lovely views from the Rose Garden, or the actual Bear Pit (that’s now a tourist attraction). There are also fascinating streets lined with floor-level hatches that open down into cellars of shops, or bars specializing in hops and fondue. But, when it comes to dinner, we’d have to heartily recommend the Schweizerhof’s own Jack’s Brasserie. With no less than 14 Gault-Millau points (some would say the connoisseur’s Michelin stars), it’s a lively affair, accessible but sophisticated and reeking of history. Most lunches Jack’s Brasserie will be serving up bunches of politicians from the Parliament around the corner. By night, it should really be you sat there, soaking it all in. Our tip? Order the restaurant’s signature schnitzel and be blown away by it, especially when you dip it in the accompanying cherry sauce. The combination is plain awesome.
www.schweizerhof-bern.ch (+41 31 326 8080).
Just over an hour away on one of Switzerland’s terrific trains (big seats, always on time, come with restaurant cars that do cute little plates of meats and cheeses) is the canton of Lausanne. Set on the shores of Lake Geneva, it has tons for families and kids – in summer the sailing here is especially incredible – but also handily positioned. Should you get bored here – and it’s unlikely – Milan is just three hours by train.
We’re staying in the Royal Savoy Hotel & Spa, a bona fide classical spot that’s only recently had a five-year refurbishment. The results are impressive. And the rooms range from the romantic to the ridiculous – the suites are decadent, vast, and so rich in quality it’s little wonder royalty has visited so often.
When it comes to the food, the Savoy is sensational. Its La Brasserie du Royal is relaxed and friendly but also dedicated to quality. The triple Michelin-starred Marc Haeberlin has been drafted in to put his stamp on it (he does a mean lobster mousseline) but it’s executive chef Julien Krauss who delivers excellence every day. Some dishes here are eccentrically awesome (like the ‘perfect egg’, simply great). But Krauss’ venison tenderloin, with parsnip and spicy cranberry gravy, is another-level-ace.
www.royalsavoy.ch (+41 21 614 8888).
Aka the one we talked about earlier, the one that makes you feel like James Bond, or an A-list star. Really, it’s no surprise that Sean Connery stayed here when he filmed Goldfinger just around the corner, or that Sophia Loren set up her home here, or that no less than Audrey Hepburn not just lived here but got married here, in a tiny chapel you can walk past in any walks around you might take.
The Burgenstock Resort, you see, is actually a number of individual hotels, catering for all sorts of people at all sorts of price ranges. As well as the five-star extravaganza mentioned previously, which has just been entirely refurbished, including a standalone spa that redefines luxurious, is a cosy three-star hotel with a cool bar and the four-star Palace Hotel, preserved in its timeless heritage and now boasting the gorgeous RitzCoffier restaurant, which delivers perfect, playfully classic French cuisine. Oh, and then there’s also the Waldhotel, which will deliver world-class medical treatment for patients convalescing after an operation, in rehabilitation or in other treatment. As locations for recovery and relaxation go, this is sincerely second to none.
www.burgenstock.ch (+41 41 612 6000).