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Once Upon a Time

and precisely ­during the Belle Époque, a small hotel ­located in a picture-perfect ­valley in the middle of the Swiss Alps opened for business. The legend says that an old lady sat at a top window, assessing the wealth of new guests by their luggage, then signalling down a suitable price for them to be charged. Imagine the ­elegant ladies, the carriages,­­ the wood- panelled rooms, and crackling fires. The hotel quickly became known as the Grande Dame of Engadine.

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Dinner at the Grand Restaurant was like being invited to an exclusive party in a splendid house. No wonder this building is heritage-protected; the décor is fabulous. The staff wear golden epaulettes. And some couples, when I had dinner there, turned up in full formal attire, wearing bow tie and evening gown. Service is warm and friendly, and, of course, some of the crew is Italian. Sergio Ciccarone, awarded Maître d’Hotel of the Year 2015, offers a menu based on local products, with an international touch. Delicious vegetarian and vegan options are available as well.

The cheese board was excellent, and the different types of mustards, nuts, breads and fruits that came with it were a real delight. I photographed many of the products to make sure I could buy them, once at home. If you fancy a less formal dinner, you can also dine in the Gourmet Restaurant Kronenstuebli or enjoy some casual dishes in the Kronenhof bar. During the day, wooden Le Pavillon serves typical Engadine dishes either on the sun terrace or, on colder days, in the cosy Stuebli. In addition, traditional afternoon tea is served in the majestic hotel lobby.

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“The spacious ­Beletage offers room to relax around the fireplace, ­and have private dinners and drinks with ­family and friends.”

Sparkling & Fresh

Today, the Grand Hotel Kronenhof retains that fabulous atmosphere and is routinely voted one of the top hotels in Switzerland, so I was very curious to see why. I entered the lobby on a crisp winter day full of sun and fresh snow, and the first thing I noticed was a huge chandelier sparkling in the natural light. It is rare to see a neo-baroque interior so light and airy. The elaborate frescoes, stucco decorations, heavy velvets, and ornate furniture looked spacious and breezy. But what I liked most was something I had already seen in photos, that had not really prepared me for the real thing.

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 “Refresh yourself in the snow after a sauna, accessible from the relaxation room at Kronenhof Spa.”

Spectacular Spa & Wellness

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This was the surprise up the sleeve of the Grande Dame: the 2,000 square metres of world-class wellness area. The peace you feel while lying on a lounger and soaking up the views of the forest, the surrounding mountains and the glacier, mirrored in the water, is intense – a good dose of eco-therapy just by being there. And you have not even started exploring. Water and fire: the pool is also visible from the open fireplace in the relaxation room; the sense of calm and harmony, here, is extreme. Water beds are heated to 37 degrees. There are a floating grotto with underwater music, a salt grotto, a bio sauna with coloured lights, Jacuzzi areas, and – my favourite – a Kneipp footpath, alternating basins of cold and warm water. Not sure I really managed to resist the temperature change… and ended up having a good laugh. But, of course, just enjoying the pool area is not enough for me. So I checked the programme of free classes for hotel guests, and picked morning yoga – a great way to start the day. I also tried the gym, which is stocked with the latest Technogym equipment and organised for functional training. The Kronenhof is very romantic and perfect for couples, although families are also welcome. A children’s pool with slide and water games is a highlight for kids. There are also a children’s club and a lovely dining room especially for them.

“Relax on the sun terrace at the hotel’s own natural ice rink or do your pirouettes.”

Deliciously Retro Details

The modern feeling at the spa does not mean the Kronenhof is informal everywhere – old elegance can be found in many small details. There are a lot of reasons to dress up or wear a gown in the hotel, especially when the live piano music starts. I was fascinated by the many details of classic elegance maintained from the past, but in pristine condition: a service bell, the traditional keys to my room (instead of a card), some old skis left by British guests so they could use them on their return, the classic recreational areas with a pool table and a bowling alley, the – very photogenic – smoking lounge and cigar room.

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In a nutshell

I would recommend the hotel to anybody who is looking for a special treat. Only six kilometres away from glitzy St. Moritz, the Kronenhof is «the real Swiss thing». A very special gift idea? A day at the spa for non-resident guests.

Words Beatrice Lessi

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