Elegance and Freedom
When you walk into iconic Mont Cervin Palace, a veritable piece of history in Zermatt that has seen 150 years of dramatic evolvement and spectacular success, you might bump into a Royal walking with a pair of skis on his/her shoulders, or Phil Collins having his private birthday celebration, so you would hardly recognize them. That made me fear, when I booked it, that it could be stuffy or very formal, one of those places where you feel you are never good enough.
Instead, I found an atmosphere I didn’t expect. Freedom!
Hotel with a Heart
I made my grand entrance in the hotel (or better, my dog Simba did, because he was pulling me on the leash) wobbling while following my nervous dog. I felt embarrassed, so I apologised for his behaviour and pretended to look at ease. Four women at reception smiled at me warmly and greeted Simba almost like he was human, then went back to work and checked us in so nonchalantly, that I thought they might have missed what happened. It didn’t take me long to understand that staff at Mont Cervin is always like that – nice, warm people that really want you to feel at ease.
Then Petra, the Director of Sales, came to greet me. One of the first things she did was blowing a kiss to another arriving couple, that returns to Mont Cervin Palace every year. This isn’t something very common in a five-stars hotel in Switzerland, I tell you. It put me in a good mood. We had a fun conversation and, a short while after showing me my suite, she sent me a Whatsapp video of herself, cross-country skiing in high heels and holding a cup of champagne. That made my day – she now denies it was her, but I know the truth!
Anyway, one of reasons why I chose Zermatt to enjoy a break with my dog was the wish of having some legendary walks. The best of the best of winter wonderland, and nothing less. Being a runner, I had already done Zermatt Marathon and some longer competitions (Ultraks, and Gigathlon), so I knew some of the landscapes.
I also adore the iconic red trains with huge windows (the Gornergrat Railway) going to the top. Here, nobody watches the phone. Even the coldest tourist or the most seasoned local ends up staring outside in awe. Whatever station you choose, you’ll be surrounded by proper dangerous mountains (38 peaks of 4’000 meters), you’ll see the mountain of mountains at every turn (the Matterhorn, of course), you’ll have the option of glacier caves, hiking trails, unspoiled nature, or simply of hearing the crack of snow under your feet. Since Zermatt shares part of its borders with Italy, you’ll also enjoy a mild climate with a lot of sunshine.
Back down at Mont Cervin Palace, even a simple stroll in the alley just in front of the hotel, with its chalets dating back to 1715, is a picturesque experience that perfectly matches the Mont Cervin romantic horse carriage – the most photographed item after the Matterhorn.
And did you know that Zermatt is car-free? No roaring Ferraris or fancy Rolls anywhere – they all stay down in the valley. Electric is already the way of transport, here, so one sees locals of any age carrying big items like skis or grocery bags on taxis or dangerously tiny looking mountain bikes. I certainly didn’t dare. But electric transport means that I could always hear the calm tingling of bells of some Blacknose Sheep not too far away.
Three Winter Highlights
Silence and fresh air: coming back “home” and opening the terrace door to look out at the twinkling lights quickly became a favorite ritual of mine. Simba did the same and even performed some yoga moves on the balcony. We soon discovered other highlights in Mont Cervin Palace: the restaurants, the different styles of rooms, and the spa.
More and more people choose the half board option, because the quality is so high. Mont Cervin has a Wine & Dine offer that allows a different – and absolutely excellent – choice for dinner every day. The bar, with the cracking fire of its round chimney, the bright colored velour, the live piano music and the Italian staff preparing any fancy cocktail you wish (virgin for me!) also offers food and is the most popular spot in the hotel.
I am also a big fan of mountain cabins and follow different cabin accounts on Instagram. They are hidden gems that, particularly in Zermatt (whose cabin culture is unparalleled) prepare simple, home-made food that will surprise you for their quality. The concierge will help you to discover some of those the mass doesn’t know, at that retain the original mountaineering spirit.
A constant work of renovation makes Mont Cervin fresh and updated. Rooms can be Alpine style, Chalet Style, or Family style (more modern). They all have a view either on the Matterhorn or on the snow-capped four-thousanders. I had a tour while wearing my evening gown for a photo shooting, so, in order to avoid crossing the street, I used a kind of secret tunnel that links the hotel properties. My favorite style was anything with a fireplace, and I appreciated the wide space in all of them.
Spoiler alert: this is the best spa I have ever tried for at least one characteristic: the whirlpool. It is the strongest and most beneficial water jet I have ever experienced – and I have experienced many. I arrived with a backache and left completely healed, like after a proper massage. The natural light, the mirroring waters of the pool, and the outside pool surrounded by snow added a real pick up effect. I felt fully recharged and went back again and again, during my stay. The spa also features spacious rooms decorated with mosaic tiles, a biosauna, steambaths, relaxing area with heated lounges, foot baths, fitness area, massage and beauty treatments with Nescens products, and the possibility of doing a bootcamp day in the invigorating mountain air.
The Pleasure of Getting Trapped
Zermatt is snowed in at least once a year. When that happens, no money in the world will get you out. Before my arrival it had snowed so much, that I had to postpone my stay and almost didn’t make it back home on time. Well… I would have loved to stay longer, and I am sure Simba would have preferred that too. Mont Cervin Palace is the real thing: Swiss, deluxe, cozy, efficient, and with a fun, beating heart. In a world of short holidays and touch-and-go weekends, those who try once its atmosphere, crew and surrounding nature end up coming again and again.