hotel suite drawing room
hotel suite drawing room

The Jackie O. Suite at the Villa Kennedy

In the third edition of our luxury travel views series, LUX Editor-in-Chief returns to Villa Kennedy, a Rocco Forte hotel in the centre of Frankfurt, to discover how it stands the test of time

Frankfurt is not a city known for either its romance or its luxury experiences. So, if someone suggested flying there for a romantic weekend, you might start doubting their sanity.

But bear with me here. Having landed at Frankfurt airport, a 15-minute taxi ride through a forest into Sachsenhausen, an area of grand villas, took me to the Villa Kennedy. A villa hotel with a spa a long way metaphorically from the skyscrapers of the city centre – although Sachsenhausen is just across the river from the financial district.

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I had been to the Villa before, when Rocco Forte first opened it in 2006, and was curious to see how Europe’s most endearing (and indeed enduring) hotelier has adapted it to the times.

exterior of castle hotel

luxurious courtyard

A view of the hotel’s façade (above), and the gardens

This is a very exclusive hotel and the Zen-like atmosphere virtually wafted me up to the Jackie O. Suite, whose library room was bigger than that in many a decent home, and looked out over a tranquil central courtyard, via an extensive private terrace. The decor was sixties inspired, with swathes of gold, and the coffee table was laden with books on art and design. The bedroom was separated from the extensive bathroom area by corridor so long that you could take your exercise at the Villa Kennedy just by walking the length of your suite.

As well as being a financial capital of Germany, Frankfurt is close to the Rhine winelands, and it was pleasing to see a good selection of those wines by the glass at the Italian restaurant, Gusto, that evening. Gusto is on the ground-floor level by the internal courtyard, and while the weather was not good when I visited, I imagine sitting at a table in the courtyard would be a delightful Italianate experience on a sunny summer’s day.

Read more: How to shop for art online by Artnet’s Sophie Neuendorf

I needed to finish off a presentation ahead of my meetings the next day, and the calm atmosphere and efficient service were just what was required to accompany a laptop, a glass of Trocken Rheingau Riesling and some tuna tartare with ricotta and cucumber. Perhaps, though, the restaurant has missed a trick in being too efficient, feeling like a better place for a corporate dinner or an editor working on a laptop, than a more lingering and languid romantic dinner.

swimming pool

The spa swimming pool

That’s probably due to the nature of Frankfurt, although it’s a bit of a shame. The hotel also has a celebrated spa, which I didn’t have time to visit on my overnight, but which caters to the Frankfurt elite. Combined with the efficient journey, the architecture, location, and magnificence of the suite, a visit to the spa would’ve been a perfect ending to a romantic break, as long as there was a cuisine experience to match. Turn Frankfurt into a lovers’ location: Sir Rocco, you have overcome many challenges in your colourful life, and here’s the next one. It just needs a softening of the dining area to add the right mix of atmosphere, and ecco. Done.

roccofortehotels.com

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luxury alpine hotel

The Alpina Gstaad’s main building and gardens, which opened in 2012. © The Alpina Gstaad

Artistic, playful and utterly spoiling, The Alpina Gstaad may just be the best hotel anywhere in Europe. So why don’t you know about it?

A contemporary jazz duo is singing and playing its heart out. Your champagne bottle is emptying steadily as you look out from your sofa at the array of contemporary art around you, and the rolling mountains in the distance. It’s time for Japanese, and you and your companions wander over, just a few metres, into a different world into Megu. This is Switzerland’s highest-rated Asian restaurant, a Michelin-starred area decorated by blonde Alpine wood, antique kimonos and slatted wooden partitions.

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The vibe is lively but not raucous, stylish but not gaudy, expensive but not stuffy. Everywhere at the Alpina has a contemporary mountain chic laced with a global sensibility, a generosity of spirit and space, and a sense of future.

contemporary sculpture

Dritte Tier by Thomas Schütte, part of the hotel’s extensive collection of contemporary art. © The Alpina Gstaad

The Alpina in, or to be precise, above Gstaad, is the one example of a European resort hotel that surpasses its surroundings. Some of the great legacy hotels of Europe have been defined by the locations they sit in and need to live with the legacy. Others feel as if they might have been transported from any exotic location in the world.

asian restaurant interiors

The hotel’s Japanese restaurant Megu. © The Alpina Gstaad

The Alpina does something else: it redefines the location it is in. Given that Gstaad is the hub for some of the world’s wealthiest and most discerning people, that is quite an ask. Yet breeze in amid the local granite and reclaimed wood, walk up the sweeping staircase to the bar, lounge and outside terrace, enjoy the light and the art collection, and you know you’re in a place which is writing its own story.

Read more: Chopard’s Caroline Scheufele on versatile jewellery design

There is nothing particularly Swiss about a salt room, a cavernous underground lounge and juice bar, or a huge indoor pool and hydrotherapy area in a grotto. Or about a Japanese restaurant with 16 Gault Millau points and a ‘gastronomic’ yet contemporary informal restaurant, or Sommet, also with a Michelin star and 18 Gault Millau points. Like Schrödinger’s cat, the Alpina is, and it isn’t. Maybe it’s the owners: one is a local Swiss, one is decidedly international, together they give the Alpina its confidence.

views from a jacuzzi

luxurious hotel interiors

The duplex Panorama Suite with its outdoor jacuzzi. © The Alpina Gstaad

But this is not a place where comfort is sacrificed on the altar of credibility. The rooms have a gorgeous mix of local wood (much reclaimed from barns), stone, contemporary art and giant glass-cowbell light fittings – with perfect sheets and massive bathrooms. And huge balconies; whatever side of the building you are on you have peace, a sense of place and a magnificent view.

Gstaad is moving to its own tune, there is something of a real-estate boom in the area right now. Among the most fortunate are those who bought one of the residences within the hotel building: these are effectively buildings within the building, to match the most opulent chalets anywhere in Switzerland. Unfortunately, they have all sold, but if you know the right people, you may be able to persuade them to rent them to you or, who knows, even sell them to you, one day. Meanwhile, just check in.

Darius Sanai

Book your stay: thealpinagstaad.ch

This article originally appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2020/2021 Issue. 

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historic building facade
historic building facade

The Gainsborough Bath Spa occupies two Grade II Listed buildings in the heart of Bath

The Gainsborough Bath Spa is located in the heart of the historic city of Bath, but with access to natural thermal waters, extensive spa facilities and a calming atmosphere, it’s no ordinary city hotel. LUX checks in for a midweek stay

Staycations have soared in popularity this summer and it’s likely to be a lasting trend not only for pandemic reasons, but also for travellers seeking a more sustainable alternative to travel. For London residents especially, Bath is a no-brainer. One of the UK’s most beautiful and historic cities, it’s just over an hour by train from Paddington Station or an easy two and half hour drive, and if you’re staying at The Gainsborough Bath Spa you don’t even have to worry about parking. The valet is there to meet you at the bottom of the hotel’s steps and on check-out, the car’s ready and waiting, stocked with water bottles and a little tin of mints for the journey. It might not sound like much, but these are the kinds of thoughtful extras that contribute to a completely stress-free experience.

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The YTL group (to which The Gainsborough belongs) is known for its acute attention to detail. Added to the top-notch valet service, all the rooms, regardless of category, have complimentary mini-bars stocked with artisanal snacks and juices, and the bathrooms are filled with an abundance of good-sized Aromatherapy Associates toiletries and fitted with underfloor heating.

Luxury hotel bedroom

One of The Gainsborough’s courtyard rooms

The rooms are smart, modern and spacious, decorated in a soothing colour palette of duck-egg blue and gold with varying layouts. We stayed in a two bedroom suite, which takes the form of a maisonette with a double room and bathroom upstairs, and an additional double (or twin) room downstairs with a small sitting room. Both beds were exceptionally soft with piles of pillows, but the downstairs room was somewhat lacking in natural light whilst the rest of the suite benefited from towering ceilings and huge windows.

Read more: Diango Hernández’s disruptive Instagram art project

spa interiors

bathing pool

Aromatherapy bar (above) and one of the thermal pools in the hotel’s spa village

The Gainsborough features the only hotel spa with access to the city’s natural thermal waters. Currently, visitors are required to pre-book one-hour bathing sessions to prevent overcrowding, but that still leaves plenty of time to dip into the different pools, sauna and steam rooms with breaks in-between for shots of thick, spiced hot chocolate (a favourite of the Romans). In terms of treatments, there’s usually a wide selection including various acqua therapies, but due to current Covid restrictions, the signature massage is the only offering, beginning with a foot bath in neroli water infused with rosemary and pine essences followed by a full body massage using calming lavender oils. Spa experiences begin with a mini workshop making scented salts using a selection of Aromatherapy oils, and end with a cup of pink Hibiscus tea on the terrace overlooking the baths.

Read more: Holly Chandler of boutique travel company Fish&Pips on travelling post lockdown

restaurant interiors

Dan Moon’s restaurant is currently only open for breakfast

Dan Moon’s restaurant, which usually serves elegant dishes made from seasonal and locally sourced ingredients, is only open for breakfast at the moment. In the afternoon, tea is served a chic mirrored lounge known as The Canvas Room and the bar is open in the evenings for cocktails.

It’s a hotel that prioritises its guests’ relaxation and privacy. Staff are warm and attentive, but generally leave you to wander freely, creating a pleasing sense of homeliness. It’s the kind of place you can imagine returning to year after year.

Rates start from £325 per night for a Deluxe Room including breakfast (approx. $400/ €350). Book your mid-week getaway: thegainsboroughbathspa.co.uk

Please note: This review was carried out before the global lockdown. Valet parking is currently not available to guests. 

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fine dining restaurant
hotel facade

Located in heart of Knightsbridge, Mandarin Oriental London backs onto Hyde Park

Why should I go now?

The last few years haven’t been easy for Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park. Following the hotel’s biggest ever refurbishment, a major roof fire broke out in 2018 causing significant damage and almost two years of closure. It reopened at the end of 2019 with a bright new contemporary look, only to face closure again due to Covid-19.

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Thankfully, the hotel reopened its doors to guests on 23 July, and for those looking for a luxurious and relaxing summer staycation, there’s no better place; London is at its best in the summer and the hotel boasts one of the best locations from which to enjoy it. The back entrance of the hotel (reserved for the Queen) opens directly onto Hyde Park where you can jog, picnic, meditate, horse ride, row on the Serpentine and wander through Kensington gardens whilst the other side (the public entrance) sits opposite Harvey Nichols. Down the road is Harrods and South Kensington, Mayfair and the West End are all a 15-minute stroll away.

What’s the lowdown?

The hotel was originally built in 1889 as a gentleman’s club and the  grand red-brick Edwardian exterior remains beautifully preserved as a relic of the city’s past. The interiors, however, have been given a hefty make-over by designer Joyce Wang. A light, floral colour palette reigns throughout with flashes of gold and copper detailing; flower-shaped lighting features hang from the ceilings and huge vases of fragrant seasonal blooms designed by McQueens stand on almost every surface alongside misty terrariums filled with giant succulents. The atmosphere is joyful, calming and a tiny bit eccentric. Entering through the double doors (held ajar by men in top hats and red blazers) and up the grand staircase, feels delightfully cinematic and otherworldly.

grand hotel entrance

The entrance into the hotel from the street; the Hyde Park entrance is reserved for the Queen

The underground spa is moody and sexy. Redesigned by Adam D Tihany, it features a slim 17-metre heated pool with a good-sized gym, but the real highlight is the wellness experience. The experience begins in the changing rooms where there are a variety of (gender separate) pools, steam and sauna rooms followed by a relaxation room, featuring exceptionally comfortable loungers, snacks and mindful activities such as colouring, breathing exercises and meditation. If you’re having a massage, facial or scrub, this is where the therapist collects you from (it’s worth remembering to arrive in plenty of time), but even without a treatment, it’s a deeply calming space to spend time in. We went twice during our stay and on both occasions, we had the facilities to ourselves.

Read more: CEO of Azumi restaurants Sven Koch on the future of hospitality

underground swimming pool

Redesigned by Adam D Tihany, the spa features a 17-metre underground swimming pool

In terms of dining, Bar Boulud is the hotel’s all-day French bistro. Situated on the lower ground floor and accessible by a separate entrance from the street, it offers a relaxed, easy atmosphere and a menu of refined comfort food; our favourite dishes were the rich onion soup and creamy, white wine moules served with thin, crispy pommes frites. Despite its name, Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner serves lunch or dinner in a more high end setting with a range of a la carte and tasting menus and an exclusive chef’s table experience.

The prettiest of the restaurants, however, has to be The Rosebery. Open throughout the day, The Rosebery serves one of the most impressive hotel breakfast menus we’ve ever experienced. Alongside the usual array of  pastries and cereals, there are detox juices, bircher museli, exotic fruit platters and beautifully cooked dishes with lots of healthy options. The afternoon tea is also something of an occasion with a bespoke menu designed to match the chosen tea blends.

fine dining restaurant

The Rosebery is open throughout the day for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner

The service throughout the hotel is impeccable. Every member of staff, even the ones we hadn’t met, seemed to know our names, but we also liked that it never felt intrusive. Many of the hotel’s guests are public figures (we spotted a few familiar faces who we won’t name), so privacy is respected and prioritised.

Getting horiztonal

Our Deluxe room overlooked the streets of Knightsbridge and straight into the windows of Harvey Nichols, which was a somewhat surreal but amazing experience. We especially loved watching the transition from day to night as the sun dipped and the lights began to glow through the windows.

Read more: SKIN co-founder Lauren Lozano Ziol on creating inspiring homes

The room itself felt spacious and airy with pale grey walls, soft-coloured contemporary furnishings and a huge double bed with mountains of pillows. There was a stylish drinks cabinet by the door complete with crystal champagne flutes and a coffee machine, and the  marble bathroom featured a powerful walk in shower.

luxurious bedroom

The Knightsbridge Suite

Flipside

While there’s a lot to love about Bar Boulud, the interiors could do with a refresh to match the new, brighter, youthful elegance of the hotel.

Rates: From £740 (approx. €800/ $950)

Book your stay: mandarinoriental.com/london/hyde-park

Millie Walton

Please note: This review was carried out before the breakout of coronavirus and the subsequent closure of the hotel. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and Bar Boulud are due to reopen soon, whilst the spa currently remains closed due to government guidelines. The Rosebery is open for all-day dining and afternoon tea, as well as 24-hour in-room dining. Please check the hotel’s website for further updates.

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Luxury hotel on peninsula at sunset
City beach landscape with skyscrapers in background

Bulgari Resort Dubai is located on the white sandy beaches of Jumeira Bay

Why should I go now?

Still dreaming of that perfect glass of chilled Puligny-Montrachet at sunset on the beach? Keep your memories of those warm summer nights alive, by heading over to Dubai, where the perfect season to visit is just beginning. From around November to March, temperatures come off the searing heat of summer months, so don’t pack away those shorts and sandals yet.

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The city has an over-achieving buzz about it that always bring you back to experience something new. Straight off visiting the top of the Burj Khalifa, we were swiftly introduced to a model construction of the Creek Tower, which will stand at 1.3 kilometres high, surpassing the current tallest skyscraper by 472 meters. The new addition to Dubai’s iconic skyline is projected to be completed in time for the World Expo in 2020.

What’s the lowdown?

If walking through a hall of a hundred doors to get to your room puts you off, Bulgari is the luxury boutique answer to your fear of mega hotels in Dubai. It is a 20 minute drive from the airport, on the seahorse-shaped white sandy beached island of Jumeira Bay, the latest addition to the Bulgari Hotels and Resorts collection comprising six properties in five different countries.

Here, you get the opulent and glamorous experience that Dubai is famous for, without the garishness and glitz. The coral-influenced panel design of the exterior structure coincidentally looked a lot like melted parmesan crisps, perfectly exemplifying the brand’s philosophy of blending their Italian heritage with the region’s maritime influence.

Luxury beach side swimming pool

The resort’s main swimming pool sits just above the ocean

From the lobby to the rooms, one could easily mistake oneself to be at the annual Salone del Mobile in Milan. Recognisable signature designs of top Italian furniture brands (Flos, B&B Italia, Poliform, Rimadesio – to name a few) will definitely inspire you to add a few new pieces to your own home. Throughout the resort’s walls, you are reminded of Bulgari’s 130 year legacy with glamorous photography and design sketches of the brand’s timeless jewellery and the famous people they adorned.

Read more: The luxury concierge company that provides the perfect holiday wardrobe

Should the weather get too hot to go outdoors, and it often does, the spa also offers one of the longest and most impressive indoor swimming pools in Dubai complete with private relaxation cabanas. Yes, fly to the sun, and sit indoors. Wise, as the locals know.

Getting horizontal

We stayed in a two-bedroom family villa, which can be best described by one word: home. The moment we arrived, we were greeted at the door by our personal butler, catering to our every need. As we enjoyed fresh fruits, house-made chocolates, dates, and Amaretti biscuits, our butler helped to unpack our luggage. We loved the spacious living area furnished with a large leather sofa of rich mocha, and almond nougat-coloured marble tables. Most of our family time and meals were spent there, where they even set up a cute tent filled with toys and activities for our children.

Luxury beach villa in contemporary design

Luxurious living room space inside hotel suite

Here and above: one of the resort’s luxurious beach villas with a spacious living room

Given the exclusive, honeymoon vibe of the resort, it’s surprisingly kid-friendly with an all day Kids Club which even features a shallow plunge pool. If it’s too hot to relax on the beach, each villa has a personal pool, which we found perfect for a refreshing dip after our indulgent breakfasts. Our ever-present butler made sure that we were comfortably cool with Bulgari-branded fresh coconuts, sorbet popsicles, and ice cream-filled mochi. Needless to say, we found ourselves always looking forward to going back “home” to the comforts of our little retreat after a long day out.

Anything else?

If you stay at a villa, try the private barbecue dinner with a personal chef. We had lobster, sea bass, and wagyu steaks straight off our own sizzling grill, with no danger of the husband donning his chef’s whites and making like a BBQ cook-off king. Trust us: there’s nothing like being able to walk just ten steps back to your bedroom after an amazing dinner that puts you in a food coma. Don’t worry, you’ll work it off the next day with a serious cardio session of shopping at Dubai Mall.

Japanese interiors of a restaurant

The resort’s intimate Japanese restaurant Hoseki

And before you leave, do leave yourself in the hands of Chef Masahiro Sugiyama at resident Japanese restaurant, Hoseki, meaning “ Gem Stone” in Japanese. This sleek and modern restaurant with just 9 seats has a perfect view of Dubai’s glittering skyline and serves only an Omakase menu. You’ll get intimate with Chef Sugiyama who comes from 6 generations of sushi chefs before him. As he serves curated sushi, he explains in detail how each ingredient, all flown in fresh from Tokyo, comes into perfect harmony on your palate. Here, you can truly just sit back, relax and sip on a cup of ice-cold Junmai Daigin Jyo sake. Make sure to book ahead.

Rates: From 2,000 AED for an entry-level room during low season (approx. £400/€500/ $550)

Book your stay: bulgarihotels.com

Emily Lee

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Grand facade of luxury five star hotel
Grand facade of luxury five star hotel

The newly opened Fullerton Hotel Sydney, located in the city’s historic General Post Office

Earlier this month, the opening of the Fullerton Hotel Sydney marked the Singapore-based brand’s first expansion overseas. LUX takes a look inside the heritage property

The latest opening by Singapore-based brand Fullerton Hotel & Resorts offers guests more than just luxury hotel. Housed in Sydney’s historic General Post Office, the hotel is the result of a careful restoration project which involved building 416 guest rooms and cleaning the sweeping sandstone façade.

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Luxurious hotel bedroom with city views

One of the hotel’s luxurious suites

Grand staircase inside luxury hotel

The grand staircase at the Fullerton Hotel Sydney

During its former life, the GPO was known as a gateway to the world, functioning as the centre of NSW’s telephone and mail communication for many years, and Sydney’s postal headquarters until 1996. Designed by colonial architect James Barnet and built in 1866, the building was and still is regarded as one of the city’s major landmarks.

Vintage photograph of worker typing in office

Vintage photographs of workers inside post office

Here and above: Archive images from the Telegraph Section at the G.P.O., November 1953

The hotel’s programme of complimentary heritage tours aims to introduce guests and members of the public to the building’s history with a 90-minute walk involving unique anecdotes and insights.

For more information visit: fullertonhotels.com/fullerton-hotel-sydney

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Contemporary architectural steel work on the facade of a glass building
Chais Monnet is a luxury country hotel in southwest France with striking contemporary architecture

The spectacular architecture of the Hôtel Chais Monnet, designed by Didier Poignant

A new kind of luxury hotel in Cognac sets new standards of comfort, cuisine and architecture for those exploring the region that’s been in the shadow of nearby Bordeaux for too long, says James Richardson
A grand piano in a rustic wooden setting

Le 1838, the hotel’s jazz and cognac bar

A short drive from the city of Bordeaux, the newly opened Chais Monnet is the swankiest hotel in southwest France and the first of a new breed of destination – the super-luxury auberge. The hotel and spa (and conference centre) are situated in and around a very expensively converted former cognac-aging warehouse by the Charente river. Lavishly designed by architect Didier Poignant, the hotel’s spectacular exterior complements the welcoming contemporary chic of the interior.

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The 92 rooms (and 15 apartments) are decorated with a sophisticated rustic charm, the spa features a 24-metre indoor-outdoor pool, and the jazz bar, in its own converted building, is hugely atmospheric. The greatest revelation is in the restaurants, in the former cognac warehouse itself, headed by Sébastien Broda, who earned a Michelin star for Le Park 45 in Cannes. There is a real Soho House vibe (not surprisingly, since owner Javad Marandi also owns the legendary Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire in the UK), with the cuisine both light and delicious – the memory of a super-umami fish pot au feu at Saturday brunch remains with us still.

Read more: The problematic stereotypes cast by the male nude in art

Luxury contemporary interiors of a hotel lobby

The hotel’s decor is casual contemporary luxe

A luxurious hotel bedroom with rustic interiors

The guest rooms have been carefully incorporated into the original structure of the buildings

Luxury spa swimming pool with sun loungers

The indoor/outdoor pool in the spa

While it’s tempting not to leave the hotel, the experiences on offer in the area are compelling, from cycle tours along the river to driving to picnics in the local vineyards in a vintage car supplied by the hotel. Then there’s the serious business of tastings at the celebrated local cognac houses, such as Martell, Rémy Martin and Courvoisier, or sampling the wines of the great Bordeaux châteaux not far to the south.

For more information and to book your stay visit: chaismonnethotel.com

This article was first published in the Winter 19 Issue.

Picturesque setting of a house on the edge of a river in Autumn

The Cognac region offers bucolic summertime relaxation and historical sites aplenty

A salad arranged artistically on a black ceramic plate

A chef working in industrial kitchen

Chef Sébastien Broda in the kitchens, and one of his dishes that use locally sourced produce and that are served in the hotel’s Les Foudres and La Distillerie restaurants

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Luxury hotel complex on top of a hill overlooking Lake Lucerne in Swtizerland
Luxury hotel complex on top of a hill overlooking Lake Lucerne in Swtizerland

The Bürgenstock resort complex sits atop a mountain ridge overlooking Lake Lucerne

At the new Bürgenstock resort in Switzerland, medical science meets luxury indulgence. Darius Sanai gets checked out at the spectacular retreat with high-end dining as well as top doctors and testing facilities

Medical spa. Two words to strike fear into the  mind of any traveller; or into my mind, at least.  For in my experience, such places fall into one of two categories. One follows the pseudo- scientific line: where you are ushered into a world of energy types, detox, alkaline cures and naturopathy. That’s not to denigrate mystical and ancient health rites, many of which might have a positive psychological effect in these stressed-out times, but if I want to know if there’s something wrong with me, I want to really know, not be treated by someone who tells me I need to eat spinach to increase my body’s pH and therefore its alkalinity (if our stomachs were not highly acidic, we would be dead).

The other type of medical spa historically employs real doctors, but in a joyless, alcohol-free environment more akin to a prison camp than a luxury retreat, so, while you may emerge genuinely more healthy and with a good idea of what’s gone wrong with you, you’re also likely to decide you’d rather die young than return.

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So it was with fascination that I approached the Waldhotel at Bürgenstock, in Switzerland. Bürgenstock has a place in European history, as a hotel, once beloved of Hollywood stars (Audrey Hepburn lived here), high up overlooking Lake Lucerne. It was recently developed into a series of super-luxe hotels, including what claims to be one of Switzerland’s best medical hotels, and restaurants, by its new owners from Qatar. I decided to check in for a couple of days for a full checkout; like many men, I have no qualms about spending thousands maintaining my collection of classic cars in perfect shape, but have never even had so much as a spark-plug examination on my own body.

Bürgenstock sent me a very thorough, and beautifully presented, programme. I would stay at the five-star Waldhotel for three days; after my blood was taken on the first day, I would mingle a series of tests and scans (the most important one being a full examination by a cardiologist) with feel-good spa treatments, relaxation in the pools, and some dining in their restaurants.

Luxury indoor spa swimming pool

The pool at the Waldhotel, where medical and spa facilities are combined

The resort is a series of buildings, built out and along from the original Palace hotel, along a ridge some 500m above Lake Lucerne. The sharpness of the ridge means you have two completely different perspectives, as if you are on a movie set. In one direction, the mountain drops away almost vertically, through vertiginous forests, into the lake; from the café terrace of the Palace hotel, you can see boats, quays and summer houses far below, like dolls house parts. The lake spreads out with Lucerne itself sprawling at one end, and beyond, numerous ridges of hills behind which other lakes alternate with forest and meadow, all the way to Germany in the distance.

In the other direction, there is almost no drop at all: just a gentle bowl of high Alpine pasture, fluorescent green, cows tinkling their bells, giving way to forest beyond, and then neck-strainingly high peaks, covered with snow even in mid-summer, in the far distance.

Read more: A VIP ferry ride from Dover to Calais with DFDS

My hotel room had the latter view, which was very relaxing. The room was large, modern and coolly decorated in blonde woods and taupe furnishings, with a big balcony on which you could relax with a cigar at night (having done your lung function test already, of course) and feel the sounds and smells of the meadows.

The medical centre was just a few floors down. My blood was taken efficiently in a lab-like room, and I went off for breakfast on a roof terrace with a wider view of the meadow and mountain side of the resort. There are no hints here that you are in a place where you must deny yourself; the breakfast provided everything from pancakes and omelettes à la carte to home-made cornflakes. I spent the rest of the day swimming in the main pool in the Bürgenstock hotel, a five-minute walk away through the resort, and gaping at the quite astonishing view from its wraparound spa pool which overhangs the cliff face down to Lake Lucerne. Dinner at Sharq, along the ridge, had equally magnetic views, as day turned to dusk and the lights of one of the world’s richest areas popped up all around below us. Sharq serves Persian and Lebanese cuisine, and its khoresh dishes and marinaded grills were as good as any Persian restaurant’s, anywhere. The wine list focuses on Lebanese wine, but you can also order from the main restaurant list.

Luxury contemporary facade to Waldhotel, Switzerland

The entrance to the Waldhotel, newly built in 2017

The next day, Dr Verena Briner, head of the medical centre and one of the country’s most prominent physicians, went through my blood test results with me. Page after page of measurements revealed – nothing at all. I was fine. I didn’t even need an oil change. But that was just the beginning. She handed me over to a consultant cardiologist, who put me through a variety of physical exertions while examining my heart with an echocardiogram. All fine. Next, I was scanned for bone density, and body fat vs body muscle. All fine, despite the Persian meal the previous night. A lung function test was OK also, meaning the cigar was on the cards that night. A full pass, with no red flags, or even yellow lights. After all that effort, I was almost disappointed – but not, of course, and no medical can test for absolutely everything that could be wrong with you – but Bürgenstock did well, all while I was having a fabulous holiday.

On the last night, I celebrated at Spices, the Bürgenstock’s flagship restaurant, which is cantilevered over the cliff’s edge. You could pick between Cantonese and Japanese, and all the lights below added to a Hong Kong vibe. It was astonishing, but true: one of Europe’s most spectacular contemporary luxury experiences is also home to a brilliant medical spa.

Vital Statistics

Dr Verena Briner, Medical Director of the Bürgenstock Resort, on the key elements you have to be aware of to ensure a long and healthy life, and how they are tested

The basic check-up focuses on the most common diseases. The programme includes taking the patient’s history and conducting a clinical examination. We screen for diseases that affect the blood  (eg. anaemia), the liver and kidney, metabolism (such as diabetes and atherosclerosis), and vitamin deficiency. We measure blood pressure, run an ECG, use bone densitometry to identify any risk for osteoporosis and carry out an ultrasound scan of the abdomen. For anyone over 45, a colonoscopy is recommended as carcinoma of the gut becomes more likely as we get older. The lung function test may show signs of smoking-induced damage. Measuring body mass index and body composition is important, too, as obesity often leads to high blood pressure, diabetes, impaired lipid metabolism, sleep apnea (snoring) and arthrosis in the joints.

We check also for cardio-vascular diseases, of which the majority of the population of the Western world die. Since the development of interventional cardiology, people rarely die from a sudden heart attack but are much more likely to have a chronic condition such as atherosclerosis of the blood vessels, which may be treated with drugs, angioplasty, stents or bypass operation. The risk factors that accelerate atherosclerosis include high blood pressure, diabetes, being overweight, smoking, high cholesterol, and little or no physical activity. A history of coronary artery disease in the family increases the chance that the patient will develop it as well. The cardiologist supervises a stress test and uses echocardiography to spot any impaired heart muscle function. If there are signs of reduced blood flow in the coronary arteries, we recommend a coronarography or a heart CT scan.

The Waldhotel works with the Lucerne central hospital where this can be done. Anyone short of time may prefer to come to the Waldhotel Medical Centre where we can organise all the tests during their stay.

Book your stay: buergenstock.ch

This article was originally published in the Winter 19 issue.

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Ski slopes lit by lights at night in St. Mortiz
Ski slopes lit by lights at night in St. Mortiz

Night time skiing on Corvatsch Mountain, St. Mortiz

It’s been another winter of fantastic snowfall, and Darius Sanai is dreaming of his favourite location in the Alps, and the vibe at the Kulm hotel in St Moritz

It’s been another early winter of record snowfalls in the Alps, particularly in the eastern and northern tranches of the range. So it’s a perfect time to plan your impromptu visit to the mountains, and January and early February will be beyond perfect this year, with excellent snow and the customary lack of crowds that this part of the season brings, before the school holidays in mid-February change the tone.

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One of the saddest sights is to see couples and families split for ski weekends, with non-skiers staying at home. If you’re going heli-skiing in Canada, there may be nothing for your other half to do, but take a trip to one of our favourite hotels in one of the most wonderful parts of the Alps, and it might be that, at this time of year, as the events diary bristles, it’s the non-skier who makes the skier in the party jealous.

a snow polo game in St. Mortiz

St. Moritz Polo World Cup on Snow, 2013

The hotel is the Kulm, the fabulous contemporary-classic grande dame of St Moritz’s. The area is famed for its range of activities for both skiers and non-skiers. This weekend sees the legendary Snow Polo on the lake of St Moritz (where the Kulm, has its own special stand where you can graze on gourmet delicacies and sip champagne all day). Happening simultaneously nearby are the Engadin Art Talks and the Snow Golf Championships, followed next week by the horse races in the snow, and the Grand National Cresta Run

Read more: The history of TAG Heuer’s motorsport romance

All of that combined with the usual glories of the St Moritz-Pontresina area, including several challenging ski mountains, and the fur-lined nightlife.

Alpine luxury spa with views of snow topped mountains and an indoor pool

The indoor pool at Kulm’s spa

A luxury ski hotel bedroom with natural colour palette and wooden roof

Kulm’s style is old-world elegance meets contemporary

But what we love particularly about staying at the Kulm is its sense of old-world grace – and its facilities. The spectacular pool has picture windows looking out over the forest and valley, rooms have a similar view. The classic restaurant and bar areas make you convinced that David Niven is going to pop out from around the corner. The rooms, meanwhile, have a very contemporary vibe, while not letting up on the rich Swiss luxe. You feel like a traveller in the mountains, taken care of at a real grand hotel, with options of everything from cross-country skiing to spectacular black runs, from watching the horses to chilling in the vast spa. The hotel is just a whisker above the crowded part of St Moritz (and a three minute walk from Pavarotti’s, our favourite spot for an après-ski Franciacorta) …and did we mention, the snow is fantastic this year?

Book your stay: kulm.com

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Ski resort hotel pictured at night with an indoor swimming pool and ice rink
Ski resort hotel pictured at night with an indoor swimming pool and ice rink

Grand Hotel Kronenhof in winter with its natural ice rink

Winter is here, and the world’s illuminati, glitterati and party-rati are agglomerating in mountain resorts, from Aspen to St Moritz, to see the year out, talk about next year’s business over magnums of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, and, oh, also do some skiing between breakfast and long lunch.
Nowhere has such an aggregation of grand hotels as the Upper Engadine valley in Switzerland, home to St Moritz and a string of other villages studded around lakes, forests and various ski mountains.

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The discerning luxury traveller, looking for both solace and exclusivity, might be drawn away from the town of St Moritz and its Masseto-sipping revelers, and towards Pontresina, a village ten minutes’ drive away in an adjoining valley, and specifically to the Kronenhof, its most luxurious hotel (and sister to St Moritz’s own celebrated Kulm).

Why go now?

Late December and early January are when a significant section of Europe’s aristocracy decamp to the area; snow is plentiful right now, and you’re bound to know people to drop in on.

The welcome

Draw up the courtyard, at the lower end of a long high street studded with sixteenth and seventeenth century buildings, and you feel you have arrived at one of Europe’s grand old hotels. Doormen and receptionists have that perfect (and hard to find) blend of courtesy, genuine enthusiasm, and professionalism, without the over-formality of some hotels in the area that always makes you feel like you’re wearing the wrong shoes.

A large grand lounge with artworks on the ceiling and plush red armchairs

The grand lobby area

Walk through the reception area and you are in a vast, beautiful, series of high-ceilinged grand reception rooms, all with picture windows out over the forest and valley below; to one side is the Val Roseg and the high glaciers of the Bernina peaks.

Getting horizontal

Our suite was lushly but refreshingly decorated in eggshells and taupes; drawing the curtains revealed the same stunning view down over snow-laden pine and larch trees, across to the mountainside beyond, and the edge of St Moritz in view by the mountain’s right hand ridge. There was a spacious balcony for those chilled-out late night Cognacs.

A traditional style luxury hotel bedroom with wood panelled walls and red furnishings

A Deluxe Premium double room

A quick trot down a couple of marble staircases takes you to the Kronenhof’s piece de resistance, a vast spa and pool area carved into the mountainside at the bottom of the hotel. The huge pool, with windows all round, has a mesmerising panorama across the Engadine valley, to the mountains separating this beautiful and isolated region from the rest of Switzerland. From the spa pools, indoor and outdoor in the snow-covered garden, you can see the Corviglia ski mountain above St Moritz with crystal clarity; we liked melting into the spa pools and looking at the mountain we had been skiing on.

Read more: Model and actress Adrianna Gradziel on female solidarity

grand dining room with chandelier centre-piece and ballroom style tables

The hotels dining options include the Grand Restaurant (pictured here) and Kronenstübli

Anything else?

The Kronenhof’s restaurant, the Kronenstubli, is based in the original owner’s house above what were the hotel’s stables in centuries gone by.  There is also a grand dining room where very thorough Swiss breakfasts (including just about every herb, nut and seed going) and lavish dinners are served, and a beautifully laid out children’s dining room, a miniature version of the same, next door.

After dinner, stroll along the town’s ancient high street, taking in the views – it’s on a ledge above the valley floor – and steeling yourself for the next day’s skiing. As classy as it gets, without the crowds.

Winter rates: From CHF565 for two sharing a double on a half-board basis (approx. €500/ $600/£450)

To book your stay visit: kronenhof.com

Darius Sanai

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Chewton Glen hotel main house pictured in the summer light
Entrance way to Chewton Glen with pink roses surrounding gates

Chewton Glen is at its most beautiful in the summer

Why should I go now?

English summers: you can’t beat them. Especially when you’re staying in a luxury treehouse, overhanging a lush, sun-bathed valley. Right now, the grounds are at their most verdant, buzzing with bees and butterflies, but unlike the manicured lawns of the main hotel, which are pretty in an orderly kind of way, the treehouses are hidden deep within the wild woods. This is the land of barking deers, swooping owls, fairytales.

luxury treehouse hidden amongst the treetops at Chewton Glen Hotel

Chewton Glen’s 14 luxury treehouses are hidden away from the main house, amongst the trees

What’s the lowdown?

The main house dates back to the early eighteenth century and much has been done to preserve an air of old-school elegance; think mahogany antiques, classic paintings, a grand piano, plush carpets, conservatories, and croquet lawns.

luxury restaurant with tables inside a modern conservatory

The Dining Room restaurant Summer House seating area

The Dining Room restaurant is smart without being fussy both in terms of the interiors and the menu. Dishes are seasonal, fresh and delicately flavoured making the most of local produce. There are – rather intimidatingly – over 1900 wines to choose from, but fortunately, the sommelier is well used to guests’ bewilderment and gently guides us through the menu. For a more relaxed atmosphere, The Kitchen (a short buggy ride away) serves wood fired pizzas, salads and burgers; this is also where guests can take cookery lessons.

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The Spa is an extravagant expanse encompassing an ozone-treated indoor pool surrounded by Grecian columns, hydrotherapy pools, aromatherapy saunas, crystal steam rooms, an outdoor terrace lined with sun-beds and its own restaurant where spa-goers munch salads in robes and slippers – even the changing rooms are impressive with piles of fluffy white towels, REN toiletries and their own hot tubs. The 60minute facial using Natura Bissé products is deeply relaxing, leaving my skin as soft and bright as if it were new, which, after multiple rounds of exfoliation, masks, and massaging, it practically is. My partner emerges in a dream-like state from a full-body massage, claiming that he’s “never felt so calm!” A statement, which does well to sum up the hotel’s general seduction.

Glimpse of a pretty outdoor swimming pool surrounded by plush sun loungers

The outdoor swimming pool sits within Chewton Glen’s pretty gardens

When the weather’s hot it would be a shame not to make the most of the hotel’s 130-acre grounds. There’s an extremely pretty outdoor swimming pool, a golf course, tennis courts, archery, falconry and plenty of walking routes, some of which meander along the coastline.

Getting Horizontal

We’re in a treehouse loft suite – a short walk or buggy ride away from the main house with its own check-in and carpark. The style is contemporary, but homely with a kitchen area (well stocked with free snacks, soft drinks and on arrival, a half bottle of Taittinger champagne), a wood-burner, sofa, and large windows all along the front which open out onto the balcony and fill the space with natural light.

contemporary interiors of a sitting room cross kitchen decorated in pale creams and purples with a large sofa and modern light fitting

The kitchen/dining area of the newest and largest treehouse: The Yews

Read more: British Polo Day’s Tom Hudson on polo’s international appeal

Upstairs, there’s a twin loft for kids whilst the master bedroom on the ground floor connects to a spacious bathroom complete with shower and bathtub. The balcony overhangs a wild valley with outdoor furnishing and a hot tub which really comes into its own when the sunsets. It has the same kind of romance as a luxury safari camp in Africa – without the wild animals.

Flipside

The treehouses are designed as secluded retreats, and in the summer when the branches of the trees are lush with leaves you really do feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere (at most, you might catch a glimpse of a rosy face through the steam of a hot tub on a neighbouring balcony), but it may be a different story come autumn. That said, we rather like the idea of snuggling up in front of the fire with a mug of homemade hot chocolate…

Rates: From £850 for a Treehouse Studio Suite (approx. €950 / $1,100)

To book your stay visit: chewtonglen.com

Millie Walton

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