The Bürgenstock Resort is taking wellness to magnificent new heights
Indulge every sense at Switzerland's prestigious mountain retreat
For a European jaunt abundant with postcard-perfect views, the Swiss city of Lucerne is the one to beat. From the Rigi, Pilatus and Stanserhorn mountains that frame its famed lake – the largest in all of Switzerland – to its rich mix of medieval architecture, visitors are spoiled with stunning vistas at every turn. But perched high atop the Bürgenstock mountain, within the pristine Alpine Forest, lies perhaps the region's greatest wonder: the exclusive Bürgenstock Hotels & Resort Lake Lucerne.
Following a seven-year restoration valued at half a billion Swiss Francs, the Bürgenstock Resort is one of Switzerland’s most hotly anticipated relaunches. Once favoured as a hotspot by luminaries Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Loren – the kidney shaped Hollywood pool held many a high-profile fashion show – today the spot entices discerning clientele seeking a serene escape.
Juxtaposing elements of its heritage with contemporary, sustainable design, original hallmarks like the chapel where Hepburn wed Mel Ferrer in 1954, sit beside modern additions such as the Bürgenstock Hotel's Infinity Edge pool, which feels as though you are swimming among the clouds. >>
After a short but scenic shuttle boat ride across the tranquil waters of Lake Lucerne, I was whisked to the top of the mountain via the Bürgenstock Funicular. Operating on a fully restored 1888 funicular railway, a ride inside the vibrant red cable car takes just four minutes. Alighting directly inside the Bürgenstock Hotel – one of four properties that make up the resort, the others being Waldhotel Health & Medical Excellence, Palace Hotel & Conferences and Taverne 1879 – it makes for the most stylish and convenient way to arrive.
From here, I was chauffeured to begin my stay at nearby Waldhotel Health & Medical Excellence, and was instantly impressed. Notably the world's largest Gabion building, its striking facade, intricately framed with wooden pergolas, is as sustainable as it is decorative, and this botanical aesthetic trickles inside too. Amenities such as the Waldhotel Spa, Verbana Restaurant and lounge area, as well as the 160 rooms and suites, all boast fine-quality oak and pine furnishings.
True to his vision of sustainable luxury, architect Matteo Thun – who also designed JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa – utilised materials solely local to the vicinity. The stand out feature of my room (a deluxe with sun balcony) was undoubtedly its large, private terrace, offering an unforgettable panorama of the surrounding green forest, lush meadows and picturesque mountains. Watching the sun rise from behind the peaks was a truly special sight. >>
In a country which champions the importance of wellbeing, it comes as no surprise the focal point of Waldhotel's ideology is 'body and mind balance'. Pioneering a holistic 'Healthy by Nature' concept, a myriad of different treatments, services and programmes designed to revitalise its guests - from exhausted city slickers to post-surgery patients – are recommended during your stay.
Akin to a complete MOT for the body and mind, guests can enjoy access to a host of medical specialities including: cardiology and sports medicine, orthopaedics, dermatology, dentistry and even cryotherapy in the on-site 'icelab', all overseen by a team of experts.
On the third floor, the state-of-the-art Waldhotel Spa provides a further relaxation haven. Complete with sauna, Hammam and Salt Grotto, its aim is to 'submerge guests in a new dimension of physical and mental well-being' which, for me at least, couldn't have been more true. Taking in the beautiful views of the Alps during a dip in the 35°C outdoor pool, I felt more relaxed than I have in a long time. The only sound I could hear was the percussion of traditionally Swiss cow bells – a tranquil contrast to the bustle of the city back home. >>
An afternoon spent at the spa can really work up an appetite, and thankfully I was spoilt for dining options. Whilst the Bürgenstock Resort is an entity, each of its eight restaurants embodies their own distinct identity, from the concept to the cuisine. It's little wonder then, that the resort was awarded the prestigious accolade of Hotel of the Year by Gault Millau for 2018.
Tying in with Waldhotel's holistic principles, Verbena Restaurant & Bar (where I indulged in a delicious buffet style breakfast) has a focus on fresh, healthy produce with a Mediterranean flair, meanwhile RitzCoffier within The Palace Hotel is dedicated to French fine dining. Here, my sweet tooth was satisfied by the delicious signature dessert of poached peaches, which tasted simply divine paired with a sweet white wine, one of the resort's 850 varieties.
Elsewhere at the resort, Spices Kitchen & Terrace boasts an exquisite selection of Chinese, Indian and Japanese cuisine crafted in an open show kitchen. Sampling shrimp and salmon sashimi to the spectacular backdrop of Lucerne by night, I was reminded that such a mountain-top culinary experience can be found nowhere else in the world, and for this reason was my favourite restaurant of them all. >>
Culinary director Mike Wehrle, who brings with him more than 23 years of experience with Michelin-starred restaurants and international luxury hotels, oversees a team of 95 chefs. When we meet in Verbena Bar, Wehrle informs me that, as with most facets at the resort, sustainability is of utmost importance, citing the example that all herbs are sourced from the hotel's own garden.
At the end of my stay, as I inhaled one last breath of crisp, mountain air and reluctantly headed for the funicular that was to transport me away from this Alpine gem, I realised that my body and mind felt light as a feather. Bürgenstock Resort and all it has to offer provided the hearty helping of R&R I'd long been seeking and I cannot wait to return.
Rates at the 5* Waldhotel Health & Medical Excellence start from CHF 600 (approximately £467) per room per night. For more information and to book, email firstname.lastname@example.org.