Our globetrotting spa historian weighs in on four of his favorite spas in Switzerland.
Clinique La Prairie
The Swiss version of Mayo Clinic occupies a wooded hillside overlooking Lake Leman on the outskirts of Montreux. Founded over 80 years ago, Clinique La Prairie evolved from anti-aging to holistic healing center. Often confused with a cosmetic brand, voted Europe’s best medical destination spa, it is your one-stop place for revitalization and wellbeing.
Staffed with medical specialists, dental and eye doctors, they have high-tech diagnostic and surgery facilities. But the addition of a spa building completed its evolution. Now you can come for a day, without accommodation. The new spa menu includes Clinique La Prairie Signature Spa Days, three-hour results-oriented programs that include a treatment by Swiss Perfection, a high-tech treatment, and a cellular photo-stimulation session. Plus, a nutritiously healthy meal at the new Café Spa.
Accommodations are posh, more five-star hotel than medical clinic. There are 24 rooms at hilltop Le Château, plus suites at the original Residence, all with Alpine views. Entering the spa, you are surrounded with options, from personal trainer to aquatic workout, and exercise equipment by Technogym. The glass-walled dining room celebrates calorie control with artfully presented meals included with your program.
Don’t expect La Prairie products—beauty treatments are with the exclusive line Swiss Perfection. Additional costs for laser treatments, and oral anti-aging CLP serum. Consider it an investment in wellness.
Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa
Historic hotels don’t always ensure great spas. But the combination of location in the heart of Interlaken, and international expertise by spa giant ESPA, sets the stage for a superior experience at the Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa.
Gain direct access to the spa by staying in the exclusive wing of Bel Air Suites. Minimalist, spacious, these rooms have glass walls with mountain views. For digs that are over the top, consider a duplex suite or the Yash Chopra Suite, inaugurated by the doctor himself in 2011.
Designed for privacy, the spa has a small café in the main entrance. If weight loss is a problem, request the cuisine minceur program, 1,500 calories per day. For their Japanese guests, an exclusive wing designed by Kanebo offers Sensai treatments that incorporate silk and thermal water from Japan.
A vaulted swimming pool adjoins the spa, with open-air whirlpools featuring heated salt water. Hotel guests also have access to tennis courts and a beauty center. Try regional food and wine specialties at eight restaurants and bars in truly grand style.victoria-jungfrau.ch
Hotel Les Sources des Alpes
Part health farm, part ski resort, this intimate Alpine hideaway is completely romantic. Add the healing power of thermal water in the swimming pools to enhance relaxation. Workouts at the thermal center feature aqua gymnastics, herbal bath with local flowers, and Vichy shower. With just 22 guest rooms, accommodations are spacious, furnished with old-world style. So is the service. Restaurant La Malvoisie offers spa cuisine in casual elegance or by a roaring fireplace. Enjoy dinner in the wine cellar for an extra touch of romance.
Weather is never a problem, thanks to the glass-enclosed swimming pool. But the special beauty of steam rising from the outdoor pool is completely relaxing. Treatments by Dr. Burgener with Swiss products include full-body exfoliation, facials, and massage with fango volcanic mud. After a day hiking mountain trails or skiing, a soak in the open-air whirlpool brings perfect bliss.
A member of Relais & Châteaux since 1990, Hôtel Les Sources des Alpes is a perfect combination of health and beauty. Located in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, the guest list is international and sophisticated. sourcesdesalpes.ch
Forever Laser Institut
Founded in Geneva by dermatologist Dr. Luigi Polla and his wife Barbara, a biomedical researcher whose work has focused on antioxidants and stress, Forever Laser Institut was the first medical day spa in Europe. Combining traditional spa services with laser treatments done under strict medical rules, their facility is spare and serious.
They began their own line of beauty products branded Alchimie Forever, to enable patients with all skin types to benefit from naturally derived medical-grade skincare incorporating blueberries and vegetable extracts. Headed by daughter Ada, the cosmetics are an insider favorite in the States.
Nestled on a quiet street in the historic center of Geneva, Forever Laser Institut delivers the latest technology along with cosmetic and preventive medicine. After discussion of your medical history, treatments are offered on an outpatient basis. forever-beauty.com
Health challenges led spa historian Bernard Burt to Canyon Ranch in Arizona, inspiring his 1986 book "Fodor's Healthy Escapes" for Random House. The co-author of "100 Best Spas of the World" (Globe Pequot), his byline has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, American Health, Spa Management Journal, and on Examiner.com. Based in Washington, DC, Burt is chairman emeritus of the Washington Spa Alliance and founding director of the International Spa Association.