Once upon a time, and precisely during the Belle Époque, more than 170 years ago, a small hotel located in a picture-postcard perfect valley in the middle of the Swiss Alps, in a village called Pontresina, 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 cracking fires, the breath-taking views over the magnificent forests, the snow, and the Roseg Glacier. The hotel quickly became known as the Grande Dame of the Engadine region.
Sparkling and Fresh
Today, the Grand Hotel Kronenhof retains that fabulous atmosphere and is routinely voted as one of the top hotels in Switzerland, so I was very curious to see why.
I entered the lobby on a crisp winter day of sun and fresh snow, and the first thing I noticed was a huge chandelier sparkling in the natural light. It’s 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 hadn’t really prepared me for the real thing.
Spectacular Spa & Wellness
This was the surprise up the sleeve of the Grande Dame: the 2’000 square meters of world-class wellness area. It’s one of the best I have ever seen, and photos do no justice to it. The peace you feel while lying on a lounger and soaking in the views of the forest, the surrounding mountains and the glacier, mirrored in the water, is intense – a good dose of eco-theraphy just by being there. And you haven’t 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 also a floating grotto with gentle wave projection and underwater music, a salt grotto, a bio sauna with coloured lights, Jacuzzi areas, and my favourite: the Kneipp foothpath, alternating basins of cold and warm water. I had fun trying to look unperturped by the temperature difference and to keep a constant rhythm while walking. Not sure I really managed…and ended up having a good laugh.
But of course just enjoying the pool area isn’t enough for me. So I checked the program of classes free of charge for hotel guests, and picked morning yoga – a great day to start the day.
I also tried the gym, that is stocked with the latest Technogym equipment and organised for functional training. Here, you can keep busy all day even if you don’t ski.
The Kronenhof is very romantic and perfect for couples, however, families are also welcome. A children’s pool with slide and water games is a highlight for kids. There’s also a children’s club and a lovely dining room especially for them.
Deliciously Retro Details
The modern feeling at the spa doesn’t 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 conditions: a service bell, the traditional keys to my room (instead of a card), some old skis left by British guests to use on their return, the classic recreational areas with pool table and a bowling alley, the – very photogenic – smokers lounge and cigars room.
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. Staff wears 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 coming with it a real delight. I photographed many of the products to be 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.
In a Nutshell
I would recommend the hotel to anybody who is looking for a special treat. Only 6 km 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.