Lakeside Luxury: Park Hotel Vitznau, Lucerne
Straight from the pages of a storybook, Park Hotel Vitznau, with turrets aplenty, sheathed in pearly white, looks like a queen’s residence from the outside. The hundred-year-old exteriors, glamorous in a heyday way, contrast with the glassiness of Lake Lucerne, which it edges, as well as with the rugged Rigi Alps, which soar just behind. Around it, the characteristic village of Vitznau, a favorite haunt of Mark Twain, sets a quintessential Swiss mood. But walk inside the re-imagined landmark hotel, long a Swiss favorite, to discover a futuristic redo that sets the heart afire.
I’d visited the hotel in bygone days, afraid to see its transformation. But, one step into the open foyer, the lake seeming to flow across the lawn into the gleaming lobby to define the space—and I am a new, true believer. Renaming itself Park Hotel Vitznau Health and Wealth Residence, the hotel gets straight to the point: stay here and all your wishes come true in real-time fairy-tale fashion. With 47 commodious suites, set amongst floors called “galleries” to indicate the artistic design elements that await, the utterly unique and individually themed (and named) guest rooms fall into categories such as wine, dine, and theater. Each that I enter drops my jaw with awe for its creativity, originality, drama, and beauty. It’s as if the designers were determined to incite such curiosity and lust for discovery that guests, like me, will crave to return at least 47 times to try them all.
Whichever creative haven with a view you choose, you’ll want to leave it for a lake swim, mountain hike, and a long, luxurious session in the captivating, three-tiered spa. A true thermae, the spa has a Finnish sauna, a low-humidity sanarium, indoor/outdoor whirlpools, and a 70-foot infinity pool, which melds with the lake. Treatments, supported by La Prairie products, include fortifying facials and massages with herb-filled pouches. parkhotel-vitznau.ch/en
Regal Affair: Palace Wellness, Badrutt’s Palace, St Moritz
It was wellness that brought the first tourists to St. Moritz, today a swanky Alpine village in Switzerland’s Engadin Valley. They came for the healing waters, a mineral spring that now plays a minor role to the town’s high-brow reputation as a winter playground for the glitterati.
Twice the host of the Winter Olympics, annually the setting for White Turf, a horse race (and festival) across a frozen lake, St. Moritz draws an international crowd of jetsetters year-round. At its heart, lies the hotel most responsible for winter tourism in Switzerland, Badrutt’s Palace. It stands tall, more than a century old, still family owned, dedicated to showcasing nature from its picture windows, and serving guests with eye-arching attention to detail. Always a step ahead of the competition, but only because it has sought to please its esteemed visitors (which have included luminaries from Audrey Hepburn to Alfred Hitchcock, from kings to CEOs), Badrutt’s Palace began placing a high priority on wellbeing and healthy pursuits, long before it was fashionable in the industry.
Take their massive indoor lap pool, encased in windows, built in the sixties. A much photographed apres ski and summer afternoon gathering place, the pool became the blueprint for scores of European resort pools that followed. Likewise, Badrutts’ subterranean spa, Palace Wellness, continues to set the standard, with its bevy of unique treatments—a range that varies from detox to slimming to relaxation.
Newly opened, two Spa Suites, Veronica and Iris, promise a languorous way to spend the day with a beloved. Plush armchairs, mountain views (one has its own garden), double hot tubs, and plenty of room to relax combine to provide bridal parties and girlfriend getaways, as well, with an unforgettable soiree setting. Choose a locally inspired treatment, as I did, to truly immerse in the Engadin spirit. I yielded to the Aroma Alpine Cleanse, an aromatherapy-centric hot stone massage, with energy healing final results. A special fragrant oil blend, created by Alpeor, a Swiss skincare company founded at the heart of the Swiss Alps, utilizes essences of pine, thyme, lavender, and rosemary to enhance the massage. A system recharger, overall decongestant, and spirit stimulator, the treatment absolutely eradicated my jet lag. I returned to the slopes in tiptop shape and primed for St. Moritz’s irresistible social scene. badruttspalace.com
Dolce Vita the Ayurvedic Way: dipiu Spa, Giardino, Ascona
Steps from Lake Maggiore, Giardino Ascona, a member of the aesthetically savvy Design Hotel label, and the flagship of Giardino, a Swiss boutique hotel group, lies amid an Eden-like, Mediterranean-style expanse of lavender, artful pools, lemon and olive trees, broom, mimosa, and wisteria. A cooling wind from the lake perennially wafts a perfume as cool and fresh as a rainstorm. On a lounge chair, book in hand, I connect to being one with nature, feeling joy in the perfect moment amid the greenery. Aptly named, Giardino means garden.
That doesn’t merely describe the hotel’s verdant surroundings. It also suggests what happens to visitors here. As a plant grows, guests at Giardino Ascona, transform during their stay—or at least have the option to initiate change and embrace wellbeing from an all-hotel menu of healthy alternatives, running the gamut from culinary to sport. With a foundational philosophy based on wellness, the stylish retreat dares to be different from the classic, staid, resort hotels normally found in this lake-filled, Italian-speaking region.
Contemporary, even edgy, with youthful undertones, the Giardino Ascona attracts guests of every age, most of them with a penchant for salutary pursuits. Much of that experience starts in dipiu Spa. Meaning “a little bit more,” the wellness center lives up to its name by providing treatments and programs that go beyond mere beauty or relaxation rituals. Featuring trained Ayurvedic practitioners and yogis, the unexpectedly Eastern-infused spa delves deeply into alternative healing, drawing from Ayurveda’s ten-thousand-year-old system of healing and spirituality. Besides ancient Indian medicine, Giardino Ascona has naturopathic practitioners, meditation teachers, and nutritionists. Choose from long-stay detox, restart, panchakarma, and yoga programs or day spa-style sessions—such as facials, performed with dipiu’s signature cosmetics line.