Perpetual playground of the jet-set, this Swiss town has been one of Europe’s most glamorous destinations for about as long as the wealthy have traveled. Strolling through the avenue of trees that lead to the Kempinski, it’s hard not to be struck by its façade, towering with the grandeur one can expect from the oldest hotel in St Moritz.
Alfred Hitchcock, Brigitte Bardot, the Shah of Iran and Prince Albert of Monaco (a dinner party guestlist for the ages) all sang praises of this sun-drenched alpine valley, proving its prestige is far more than just good marketing.
The Grand Hotel des Bains from Kempinski is St Moritz distilled into hotel form. It is an imposing building with features reminiscent of Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel and Neuschwanstein Castle — that’s the one from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang that looks more fantasy than the flying car. It’s not a wholly ridiculous comparison: Neuschwanstein Castle was built five years after the Kempinski and it’s only 83 miles away, though you would have to cross three borders to get there.
The Kempinski’s stately presence is unmissable. It’s elegantly placed in the south of the valley presiding over the impressive frozen lake that acts as the town’s focal point. The noble hotel is currently celebrating 20 years since Kempinski — Europe’s oldest hotel chain — renovated this luxurious alpine icon.
Once regarded as one of Europe’s premier wellness hubs, the mineral springs now directly feed the spa at the Kempinski. These springs were praised for their healing properties and attracted many visitors to the valley, although the vast majority of these visitors enjoyed St Moritz during the summer months.
In 1864, a St Moritz hotelier laid down the gauntlet to four British guests who had visited during the summer. He suggested they return in the winter and if they did not enjoy St Moritz, he would reimburse their travel costs. Buoyed by the prospect of a free holiday, the offer was accepted. Unsurprisingly, the guests loved the snow-drenched winter Alps and upon their return, told all their friends about their incredible experience — effectively kickstarting winter alpine tourism.
St Moritz has changed substantially since the early days, with two winter Olympics helping to further the sporting prestige of the valley while major events such as the Snow Polo World Cup, Gourmet Food Festival and various classic car meets ensure visitors continue journeying to the mountains throughout the year.
It’s best to start as you mean to go on and arrive in St Moritz in style. The grandest way to arrive in the valley is via private jet, which remains immensely popular. The Gulfstreams and Embraers that soar down the valley every ten minutes add a certain je ne sais quoi to this jet-set paradise. The more environmentally conscious could consider The Glacier Express, a train with large glass windows that provide the most incredible panorama as you climb the mountains to reach the lofty St Moritz, situated at 5,900 ft.
As the oldest hotel in St Moritz, the Kempinski brings an esteemed splendor to this already opulent destination. Boasting a total of 228 rooms and suites, the Kempinski is ideally suited for all guests looking for that true St Moritz experience.
There are 89 suites at the hotel, ranging from the gargantuan 3,444-sq-ft Presidential Suite to the more modest yet equally beautiful junior suites. A particular highlight is the hotel’s two tower suites which bring a classic wood-filled chalet vibe to the Kempinski. These are ideal for family holidays in the mountains with exceptional views down the valley.
Forty-four of the suites are regarded as Alpine suites, these are designed as residences for longer stays and come equipped with kitchen facilities and larger communal lounge areas. The Alpine suites range from two-bed all the way to extensive five-bed options, acting as a base for your whole family for an extended stay in the Alps.
The 139 rooms range from classic single rooms to the more spacious grand deluxe rooms. These represent the ideal accommodation for those looking for a quick taste of the mountains and of course, staying in these rooms gives you access to Kempinski’s exceptional services.
The Kempinski has three excellent restaurants, in addition to a freshly refurbished bar area. This combination allows Kempinski to offer exactly what its guests are looking for as well as ensure the hotel is a popular hub for St Moritz visitors who are not staying at the hotel.
The hotel’s flagship restaurant is Cà d’Oro, a fine dining affair serving gourmet Mediterranean cuisine. This is the ideal place for those looking for a formal experience. The exceptional food and extensive wine list make it an excellent choice for a special occasion or for those who take pleasure in the finer things in life.
Like all the best Mediterranean restaurants, the ingredients are simple, yet high quality. Beautifully decorated contemporary plates fly out of the kitchen faster than most skiers, while the modern food contrasts with the traditional almost regal décor of the restaurant which has an enormous chandelier as its focal point.
Ristorante Da Adriano brings a rustic edge to both the Kempinski and St Moritz. This Italian restaurant looks just like a traditional trattoria. Picture check tablecloths and walls festooned with photos of nonna and seemingly endless bottles of wine. Like all the best Italian restaurants, this one fills diners with a relaxed sense of homeliness.
The largest and most casual of the three restaurants is Grand Restaurant Les Saisons which is inspired by the surrounding area and serves a mixture of Swiss and French cuisine. Guests can also start the day with breakfast at Grand Restaurant Les Saisons, it’s a must for any busy day in the mountains.
A clear highlight of the Kempinski is its spa which is easily one of the best in the region. Built on top of the mineral water spring that initially brought so many people to St Moritz, there has been a semblance of wellness here long before the hotel was built.
Stretching across 30,000 sq ft, the alpine spa includes four different styles of sauna, a steam bath, a laconium, a Kneipp garden, as well as an impressively large indoor pool. In addition to a large number of facilities, the menu of typical spa treatments is also particularly extensive.
Lovers of more radical treatments will rejoice at the Kempinski being the only hotel in St Moritz that offers cryotherapy. A short blast of freezing-cold conditions can greatly aid recovery after a long day on the mountains. This treatment can also aid sleep and reduce inflammation.
It would be amiss to discuss St Moritz without mentioning the skiing, which is superb. The high altitude ensures the snow is of excellent quality even at the bookends of the winter season and the gondola is situated next to the Kempinski.
Over 190 miles of runs can be accessed from St Moritz, spread across three different areas: Corviglia (the largest and closest to St Moritz) as well as Corvatsch and Pontresina. If you do not own your own equipment there is a well-stocked ski shop inside the Kempinski that will provide rentals.
Most alpine resorts transform into ghost towns in the summer months, inhabited only by hikers mountain bikers and rock climbers, yet St Moritz breaks the stereotype. The large lake is perfect for watersports during summer and the annual calendar is filled with classy events that keep people flocking back to the valley throughout the year.
The village center is, without doubt, one of the most high end in the alps. A mixture of boutique shops and designer brands means you can always stop by and pick up a new outfit. There’s even a Louis Vuitton that can be found inside a large yurt, which must be a world first. So, if you prefer slipping off to the shops over sliding down the slopes, you’ll be quite at home on the streets of St Moritz.
Double rooms at the Kempinski start from $815 during the winter season.