St. Moritz with its stunning hotels, placid lake and gentle hiking trails is Switzerland’s ultimate holiday destination of the jet-set. Raul Dias got a taste of this legendary high-life on a recent trip
Do pardon the header to this piece that I’ve shamelessly ‘pinched’ from the lines of one of my favourite songs of all time — Peter Sarstedt’s 1969 hit single Where Do You Go to My Lovely. But you see, a place like St. Moritz, Switzerland does makes us do things we’d normally never do! Yes, even as I write this piece today, Sarstedt’s lyrics “and when the snow falls you’re found in St. Moritz, with the others of the jet set. And you sip your Napoleon brandy, but you never get your lips wet, no you don’t” ring in my ears…
Glam with a capital ‘G’!
Cut to a few weeks ago, when I found myself fresh off a train from Zurich, deposited at the tiny, but functional St. Moritz train station. Waiting for me outside was a souped-up jet black 1960s Rolls-Royce Phantom, that my chauffeur told me was once owned by none other than Her Majesty Elizabeth II, Queen of England. And just like that my initiation into the charms and glamour of St. Moritz had begun and I hadn’t even left the train station.
My destination? The Badrutt’s Palace Hotel that has been synonymous with glamour, the quintessence of refined luxury and understated, yet very present, glitz for the last 122 years since opening in 1896. Over the years, the hotel has always been ‘the place to be’ for those seeking the ultimate mountain holiday experience. But more on this stunning hotel later, first a little bit on its host town.
As the birthplace of modern winter tourism that began in 1864, St. Moritz nestled cozily in Switzerland’s Engadin valley in the Canton of Graubünden, has hosted the Winter Olympics twice. Nevertheless, St. Moritz first became famous thanks to its mineral springs, which were discovered 3,000 years ago and established the lake-side town as a summer spa resort early on.
Interestingly, St. Moritz’s history is peppered with a whole list of ‘firsts’ showing us how ahead of its times it really was. For example, the first electric light went on at Christmastime in 1878, the first golf tournament in the Alps took place here, in 1889 and one of the first ski lifts in Switzerland began running in 1935. The town even has its own leaning tower, a jaunty remnant of the Mauritius Church from around 1500.
Today, glamour-seekers from all over the world descend upon St. Mortiz with a vengeance, hungry for the modern Alpine lifestyle, characterised by top-class restaurants that can satisfy gourmet demands and hotels that set standards in every category.
And speaking of hotels, The Badrutt’s Palace Hotel which was my home for the next two nights overlooks the mirror-like surfaced Lake St. Moritz that functions as the town square in winter when it forms a layer of ice so thick that even horse racing can take place over it! The hotel itself is an oasis of luxury and understated elegance with its 157 rooms and suites all done up in an old-world style, all affording breathtaking views of the St. Moritz Alps.
Over the two days, I discovered my favourite place in the hotel — Le Grand Hall: The legendary lobby of the hotel with its stunning views, extravagant décor and fantastic architecture is known affectionately as the “living room of St. Moritz”. In fact, it was sitting here that the famous British film director Alfred Hitchcock first thought of creating a film script about birds, when he saw a large flock of mountain birds soaring high over the hotel into the blue Engadin sky. The result, the 1963 horror classic The Birds. Once can even stay at the hotel’s Hitchcock Suite made in honour of the man that is full of charm and simply oozes history.
Eager to explore more of this region, on my last day in St. Moritz, I hit the mountains with a vengeance, ready to take on the two-hour long Muottas Muragl to Alp Languard hike. A short, 15 minutes’ drive from the hotel and I was deposited at the Punt Muragl funicular station. The bright red funicular took no more than seven minutes to take me up to Muottas Muragl which was where my hike’s path began. Here is where one can find the first plus-energy hotel in the Alps, the Romantik Hotel Muottas Muragl and a special little path called Senda d’Inspiraziun.
My path was different, however. Not particularly challenging, but a tad winded by the sudden change in altitude, my hike started off with me trying my best to acclimatize, amidst a bit of huffing and puffing. Soon the black ice (it was spring, after all) covered path seemed an easy stroll and off I went, taking in the fresh Alpine air my city-weary lungs so desperately sought out.
And just when I was beginning to enjoy every second of the hike, a signboard let me know that my final destination—the alp hut Languard was just behind the bend. A hearty lunch of local specialities like bündner soup, salsiz (meat), home-made pizzoccheri and lunganighetta, ending with the region’s speciality, the Engadin nutcake made me so sluggish that I let go of the idea of the 30-minute hike downhill. I chose instead to take the 5-minute chairlift ride to the tiny town of Pontresina below where I checked into the legendary chocolate shop of Gianottis for a bit of theobromine-induced gratification as a farewell gesture to this glam region.
“I could get used to this life!” my mind kept repeating on a loop…that is, until reality took over!
Raul Dias is a Mumbai-based food and travel writer and restaurant reviewer. Follow Raul on Instagram @rauldias123
There are daily direct flights from India to Zurich, Switzerland on world-class airlines such as Swiss International Airlines. From Zurich, the picturesque Glacier Express train is the best way to get to St. Moritz in style and luxury in under three hours. Visit www.swiss.com and www.glacierexpress.ch for more information.
When to Visit
A great all-year-round destination, St. Moritz is equally wonderful in the spring and summer months from May to September—when one can enjoy hiking in the surrounding hills and mountains—as it is in winter from December to March when the ski season transforms the town into a snow-covered winter wonderland. Visit www.swissinfo.ch for more information.
Very few hotels can boast of the stunning vistas, unrivalled beauty, attentive service and overall decadence that a grand hotel like The Badrutt’s Palace Hotel can offer. Thus, making this legendary hotel your ultimate choice of residence when in St. Moritz. Visit www.badruttspalace.com for more information.