What’s it like?
Against stiff competition this is probably the best known hotel in St Moritz. Open since 1896, from the outside it looks like a fairytale place, with turrets and a glittering green tiled roof, the substantial building sprawling down the hillside almost to the lake itself. Its location is hard to beat – the main entrance is right in the centre of St Moritz, across the road from Gucci and Bottega Veneta, but the real focus of the hotel is towards Lake St Moritz and the views of the whole valley.
Astonishingly, it you took away the stunning location, then Badrutts would still be a destination in itself. It’s hard not to spend your first few minutes on arrival simply staring open-mouthed at the, well, palace-like proportions of the grand hall. Or, as Badrutts would have it, with capitals added, the Palace-like proportions of the Grand Hall, since Badrutts has always been very involved in its own marketing.
This lobby / hall has stone statues, intricately carved wooden panels, stained glass doors and vast crystal chandeliers. It’s hard to know if they are all bespoke or were just bought some time during the last century from antique shops, but it certainly adds depth to the veneer. And then there’s the genuine centre of attention – the giant picture window overlooking the lake. You walk into the lobby and are drawn to it and you feel like you are on a movie set or in a particularly vivid dream. It’s a great start to a holiday.
It might have started even earlier, however. Reaching St Moritz by train is a wonderfully relaxing and enjoyable ride up into the mountains over bridges and through tunnels, and then at the other end you can choose to be picked up by one of the hotel’s cars, including a 1965 Rolls Royce formerly owned by Queen Elizabeth II, one of several Rolls it owns.
We stayed in the summer, which is a little over two months in duration, and though the hotel is fully open and busy, is substantially less expensive than in the winter, though for most of the guests, I doubt this is a consideration.
The hotel’s 157 rooms, of which 37 are suites and junior suites, are in four room categories and seven suite categories, spread out from floors 1-7 with a few rooms in the tower on floor 8. The décor is so traditional it seems tongue in cheek; corridors of antique furniture and prints of famous religious paintings – on our 7th floor corridor on opening the lift we were greeted by a reproduction of late medieval religious art and the hotel is full of religious pieces including some misericords by the Grand Restaurant entrance.
The rooms aren’t large, starting at 25m2 and with a choice of Lake Views (obviously to be preferred) and also with balconies. Inside, rooms have is parquet flooring, crystal chandeliers, dark wood furniture, and padded headboards in luxury embossed fabrics which match the swagged curtains, though the reading lights had brass fittings meaning you do tend to bang your head on it.
There are USB points by the beds and desk, and Bose sound systems which can connect via Bluetooth so you can play the music on your phone or stream radio stations from home. The mini bar is free (soft drinks and beers) but in our room there was no kettle for tea or coffee making. Wardrobe space is plentiful, and bathrooms newly renovated, albeit in traditional style.
Food and drink
The hotel has a huge range of restaurants – eight during the winter, though fewer in summer. The main lobby – Le Grand Hall – serves teas and drinks, while the formidable Le RestaurantBreakfast has floor-to-ceiling views across the lake, and towering crystal chandeliers.
In the evening jacket is required, tie desired, but for breakfast, you can dress down and still get the views and sense of theatre. The breakfast buffet selection runs virtually the whole length of this vast room, including sushi, noodles and other Asian dishes, as well as the more usual homemade bircher muesli, fresh fruit selection, and bakery table of breads and pastries. There is also a menu of hot food, including an Instagram-worthy poached eggs and tomatoes on avocado toast.
In the evening we ate in Chesa Veglia which is an old farmhouse dating from 1736, a few minutes’ walk away, although run by the hotel since 1936. As you walk through the door, you are greeted by the smell of a million fondues soaked into the wooden walls and floor. It features three restaurants and two bars: The Pizzeria Heuboden for original Italian pizza and pasta, the Grill Chadafö for elegant dining with classic French cuisine and the Patrizier Stuben for Swiss and international specialities. We ate at the latter on a special Thursday Swiss evening, featuring a set menu of local dishes, including a delicious array or vegetable salads, charcuterie, and a mini raclette as a starter. A traditional band, with accordion and double bass, played in the low ceilinged and wood panelled room with its red upholstered benches and chairs. Waiters are immaculately dressed, professional but warm and friendly. A highlight was dessert of Crepe Suzette, stylishly prepared by our table, but mains of lamb rack with Engadine herbs, and sea bass with tomatoes, olives and capers were also superb, perfectly complimented by glass or two of Flascher Pinot Gris.
Other dining choices during the winter include IGNIV@Badrutt’s Palace by three star Michelon chef Andreas Caminada; La Coupole/Matsuhisa@Badrutt’s Palace under Japanesese chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa; Le Relais for French cuisine at lunch. For drinks, there is Renaissance Bar and cigar lounge, which has an annexe with card tables where we played bridge in the evening (classes and tuition is available for those who require it). La Diala (Rhaeto-Romanic for ‘mountain fairy’) in Palace Wellness is family friendly and offers a light Mediterranean cuisine from late morning to late afternoon. There ss also The Polo Bar and Carigiet Bar, and, again in winter, a nightclub, the King’s Club.
In contrast to the history-laden hotel, the wellness centre, Palace Wellness, is ultra-modern, blasted out of rock in the hotel’s basement, creating a unique cave-like entrance, and extending out onto the lawns with a large glass fronted swimming pool. The indoor pool connects to a heated outdoor pool with a bar at one end. Inside, there’s a jacuzzi nestled in a cave, plus a more traditional spa journey with steam, mist, and ice rooms, experience shower and sauna.
You could easily while away the day here, taking in the mountain views from the relaxation room or a sunlounger by the pool, throwing on a robe to enjoy a smoothie or healthy salad at La Diala. There is also a well-stocked gym with the latest Technogym equipment, and a separate studio for tai chi, yoga and pilates classes.
If you prefer to take your exercise outdoors, a jogging map given on arrival shows a number of routes around Lake St Moritz, reached in two minutes by escalator down the mountain, including a smooth paved route which skirts the water’s edge and can be walked in under an hour ( walked it rather than running). Sailing, stand-up paddle boarding and windsurfing can be arranged on the lake, or guests can try their hand at fishing with the hotel’s chef, Andrea Panatti. There are also tennis courts with lessons available from a professional coach.
The hotel is good at keeping itself relevant. Just last year (2018) it formed a partnership with Rapha in a package available for the summer offering guests the chance to wear the cycle wear during guided scenic road rides and including bicycle hire, a welcome pack of Rapha goodies, Rapha Travel Guide cycle routes and dinner for two.
Badrutts Palace is well named because it does make you feel like royalty. It’s a snapshot into a privileged world enjoyed by a few, but one which is truly democratic, provided you’ve saved enough to come and stay. It probably is a different place in winter, but in summer, it’s hard to beat.
Open for the summer season from late June until early September.
Price: A superior room in summer is CHF500 per night based on two sharing; half board from CHF 620 per night.