Bürgenstock Hotels & Resort takes luxury spa hotel and resort living to new heights, as I discover
Imagine a luxurious Swiss mountaintop retreat, high above Lake Lucerne, with a 10,000m² spa, dedicated wellness complex, four hotels, 12 bars and restaurants, multiple residence suites and an extensive range of leisure pursuits. This dream made manifest is the newly revitalised Bürgenstock Hotels & Resort complex near Lucerne.
Owners Katara Hospitality have invested a cool 550 million Swiss Francs in the restoration of this legendary resort, which now comprises the Bürgenstock Hotel & Alpine Spa 5* superior (102 rooms and suites), the Waldhotel Health & Medical Excellence 5* (160 rooms and suites), the Palace Hotel & Conferences 4* superior (108 rooms and suites) and the Taverne 1879 3* (12 rooms). In its Fifties and Sixties heyday, the Bürgenstock welcomed Hollywood stars such as Audrey Hepburn (who married in the resort chapel), Sophia Loren and Charlie Chaplin, in addition to royalty and heads of state.
We arrive at this cliff-top Shangri-La by boat from Lucerne, docking at the Kehrsiten jetty before enjoying a vertiginous funicular ride through craggy cliffs and verdant forests almost to the summit of the Bürgenstock mountain. It all feels very James Bond, so I wasn’t surprised to find out that Sean Connery and the entire crew stayed at the Bürgenstock during the filming of Goldfinger.
Four minutes and 1,424ft later we’ve arrived at the newly revitalised resort: the Bürgenstock Hotel’s modern architecture and contemporary design a bold juxtaposition against the older-style grande dame Palace Hotel next door. Strategically, we have to walk through the Bürgenstock’s Sky Boutique to reach reception: A tempting selection of Swiss products and Bürgenstock-branded clothing and gifts. Other premium Swiss brand outlets in the resort include Longines, Swatch, Omega and the Choco Chalet.
The views out over Lake Lucerne and the sheer drop from the Bürgenberg Mountain are unforgettable. Designers MKV Design have allowed the outside world to take centre stage here. The massive entrance lobby with its 6m-high glass walls are breathtaking; I’ve never seen such dramatic public spaces in a hotel. The views are to die for. In the centre of the lobby area is a round fireplace with seating, and desk pods at reception. Materials are local stone and beautiful American walnut. And this vast space somehow manages to be cosy, too. A bar at one side and a sunken level with deep sofas and embracing armchairs. The earthy colour palette is simultaneously warm and sophisticated, enhanced by the fireplaces. It’s extraordinary.
Bringing the outside in is a theme that continues in the Bürgenstock Hotel’s rooms and suites. My 4th floor eyrie looks directly over Lake Lucerne – I feel airborne, yet surprisingly grounded. The design is sophisticated and inviting: cosy padded window seat and cushions to savour this incredible view, while bronze, timber and stone textures and colours are complemented by dark walnut parquet flooring and oak cabinetry.
The work area has a superb wooden slab of a desk – illuminated by cowbell pendant lighting – and UK and European sockets. There’s a spacious walk-in closet and the king-size bed is perfectly placed next to a sofa area from which to enjoy the 42-inch TV and Bose sound system. I could move in now. The soft drinks and beer in the mini bar are complimentary.
Brass-meshed sliding doors separate the living area from the bathroom. And I enjoy my Bulgari amenities in a huge sunken tub that could fit an entire family, with its backdrop of Italian marble walls and oversized rain shower. There’s a gas-lit fireplace here too between the bathroom and lounge area… perfect at any time of the year to add warmth and romance. The Bürgenstock Hotel also has a number of outstanding suites from the 785sq ft. Senior Suite to the 7297sq ft. Royal Suite. This 6-bedroom suite occupies the entire top floor of the hotel and offers guess superlative views across the lake.
The adjacent Palace Hotel is reached via a long ‘museum’ corridor which showcases the history of this very special resort. Items of furniture from the former Palace, photographs of Audrey Hepburn and other Hollywood royalty, menus – even the former lift. I enjoyed breakfast each morning at the RitzCoffier restaurant. A heavenly concoction of croissants, creamy scrambled eggs and prosciutto accompanied by great coffee. My favourite time of the day and made especially satisfying since I was there for sunrise over the mountains.
I love the vintage copper pots on the walls in the restaurant, a striking original cooking range now re-purposed as the buffet counter as well as original timber doors and an antique hearth. Here in the Palace Hotel, MKV Design have left the ground floor public areas as they were in fin-de-siècle style, while the upper floors and hotel rooms are thoroughly modern.
Food takes centre stage here at the Bürgenstock Hotels & Resort. And we had the good fortune to dine at all four main restaurants. The Palace is French fine dining, Taverne 1879 serves typical Swiss cuisine from its Swiss chalet opposite the chapel. Sharq Oriental and Shisha Lounge serves Lebanese and Persian dishes in a cosy oriental-style restaurant and Spices Kitchen and Restaurant serves authentic Asian dishes with a showcase of Chinese, Indian, Japanese and Thai Chefs in full action in an open kitchen.
Culinary director Mike Wehrle is weaving his extraordinary magic across the board here and brings 23 years’ experience with Michelin-starred restaurants and luxury hotels across the world. Even the dedicated Waldhotel Health & Medical Excellence centre will serve healthy dining options that are low in salt and animal fats.
Fortunately, there are ample ways to work off the superb cuisine at the Bürgenstock. Hikers and joggers will love the 70km of meadow and mountain trails. I hired a pushbike and enjoyed an energising ride through the forest and empty roads. I also recommend the 30-minute cliffside walk up to the Hammetschwand Lift. Dating from 1905, this fully restored glass-sided lift is the highest in Europe and takes visitors 152m to the top of the Hammetschwand in less than a minute. There’s a restaurant here and superb 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside. If golf’s your thing, then the 9-hole course adjacent to the hotel looks amazing, with instruction available daily. The fascinating Diamond Domes just a short walk from the hotel are Davis Cup-standard indoor tennis courts and the outdoor court turns into a magical ice rink in winter.
And of course, there’s the 10,000m² Alpine Spa; an entire building dedicated to the art of relaxation. The three-level spa is perched on the side of mountain, 500 metres above Lake Lucerne, and linked to the fourth floor of the Bürgenstock Hotel. The magnificent reception desk is carved out of a single piece of white Arabescato marble, while the wellness areas wrap around the fully glazed walls providing the ultimate in rejuvenating views from the pool, L-shaped relaxation room, numerous specialist treatment rooms and sauna.
On the landside, there is a state-of-the-art gym, hair salon and changing rooms, and in between, the spa restaurant connects the two wings and opens onto an outdoor terrace. There are also three outdoor pools, one of which is a spectacular infinity-edge pool with water maintained at 36 degrees, and a private spa terrace.
I had two fabulous massages – the staff are excellent. Saunas, hammans and Jacuzzis are here, as well as 13 massage rooms and beauty rooms. For VIPs, there are three completely private spas with separate entrances.
The Bürgenstock Resort & Hotels has its focus very much on health and wellness. The new Waldhotel Health & Medical Excellence has 160 rooms and suites with an integrated spa facility. In addition to regular treatments, guests will also be able to take advantage of post-operative convalescence, medical check-ups and nutritional consultations and weight loss progams.
Lucerne in a Day
You may not want to leave the magic mountain, but I recommend a day trip to Lucerne during your stay at the Bürgenstock Hotels & Resort. Take the boat to the quay next to the railway station in Lucerne and perhaps hire a guide for a jaunt around the medieval Old Town. Climb up the Musegg and enjoy the panoramic views and the giant clock pendulum in the Zyt Tower Views across the Mt Pilatus – legend has it the burial place of Pontius Pilate.
Don’t miss Chapel Bridge with its octagonal water tower and the beautiful Jesuit Church. Directly next to the quay is architect Jean Nouvel’s KKL Culture and Congress Center. Housing the Modern Art Museum, as well as a world-renowned concert hall, and an auditorium, we had lunch here and a tour of the building. Spectacular acoustics in the concert hall attract international musicians.
Lucerne has many museums, including the fabulous Rosengart Collection with its early Picassos, as well as paintings by Keel, Monet, Cézanne and others. Your Swiss Travel Pass gives free admission to most of Lucerne’s museums. Or buy a Lucerne Museum Card for €36. You’ll have unrestricted access to all of the city’s museums over 48 hours.
If you want to buy into the lifestyle of the Bürgenstock Hotels & Resort and enjoy all the amenities, as well as invest in luxury real estate, then the Grand Residence Suites should be on your list. Located in the former Grand Hotel, the 27 residences and two penthouses share luxurious features, international art works and fine oak and marble – all thoroughly modern aesthetics behind an impressive 19th-century façade.
Bürgenstock Hotels & Resort is everything a discreet luxury mountain hideaway should be: impeccable Swiss hospitality and service, incredible cuisine and five-star amenities. Truly outstanding.