Switzerland is by far the most expensive place I have ever been to. The most ridiculous price I was charged was 9 euro for a Coke at The Kempinski Hotel des Bains in St. Moritz that set the tone for the rest of the trip. The entire country was off the charts.
Hotels were no exception. I always believed in value for money, at all price levels. High prices are acceptable, so long as they come with matching quality. It is understood that some places are expensive because they are hard to reach, hard to stock, hard to maintain and hard to staff. The Maldives, Namibia or Bora Bora all fall into that category.
But Switzerland is extremely well connected with numerous airlines and road connections to several European countries, which makes for a great Europe road trip stop. So 9 euro a Coke? I was shocked but then again, Switzerland has always billed itself as the resort for the uber rich and can show off as the place where winter vacations started.
So when the Kempinski Hotel des Bains, which was charging upwards of 500 euro a night, showed me a rather basic and unimpressive room in my first night in the country, it immediately set the tone for my expectations. “Great, that is just going to be one of those times when I feel like I am being taken for a ride”, I thought to myself feeling rather hopeless.
I was expecting the hotel to blow my mind off because of its fascinating history and the renowned Swiss hospitality. But, aside form the check-in gentleman, who was kind and friendly, everyone else seemed to be charging the world’s highest prices for the world’s lowest service levels. Thankfully, my impression of Switzerland was saved by the rather photogenic, sleek and good looking The Chedi Andermatt. I suddenly understood the spectacular charm of a Swiss Alps escape.
The Chedi Andermatt was one of the most memorable hotels I have ever stayed at.
Arrival and check-in
Admittedly, arrival was rather un-glamorous. We hopped off the scenic Glacier Express much anticipated trip at the Andermatt train station after an impressive descend from the 2,000m Overalp Pass down to the picturesque town and, although the hotel was right in front of us, we had to walk all around it to get to the entrance.Trying to drag a trolley on the snow at -5 C degrees did not make for a great entrance. Nonetheless, as soon as the doors opened and we were inside, those 5 minutes in the walk of shame dissipated and I was in paradise. The Chedi Andermatt won me over even before I had time to blink.
From the outside, the hotel looks unassuming, grey and goes almost unnoticed. Walk inside and the architecture and impressive interior design from Kuala Lumpur based Jean-Michel Gathy will amaze you. Gathy is known for some true masterpieces in interior and architectural design such as several of the Aman properties like Aman Canal Grande, where Cloney got married, Aman Sveti Stefan in Montenegro or Aman at Summer Palace and other impressive properties in Asia like The St Regis in Lhasa or the Cheval Blanc refined Maldivian luxury resort all of which sport his signature impeccable design is apparent across the hotel.
Incredibly specious and simply wow. The rooms at The Chedi Andermatt are large and come with long sofas, thick carpets, wood paneled walls, the most comfortable of beds and standing bathtubs with views over the towering Alps. There are double-sided fireplaces that heat the room and the outdoor balconies and a whole set of electronics that can be controlled from your own personal iPad. If you manage to find the right button. The lights dim to a warm hue and are located everywhere in the room. The decor and the furniture is in the same earthy, golden and grey tones that blends in phenomenally with the landscapes and the rest of the hotel. Wood is widely used and provides a heartwarming feeling.
The most memorable item, believe it or not, were the bathrobes. I have never seen such fluffy and soft bathrobes. They were long, enough to cover you to your ankles, and perfect to sit outside even in the coldest of days, with a warm cup of coffee to watch the sun peer through the tall mountains above. Amenities are from Acqua di Parma. Even the yellow color of the brand worked fantastically with the rest of the space. This was a truly handsome room deserving of the high rates. I just wanted to cuddle up in front of the fireplace, on one of the soft cushions by the low table and watch tv with a glass of wine.
The Chedi Andermatt – The service
Prior to our arrival I had contacted the Concierge, Riccardo, to help me figure out the best way to get back to Zurich from Andermatt. He was extremely fast in responding and very helpful. He was friendly and gave me all the info I requested. I got a list of recommendations for lunch and dinner in town and he made all the bookings. His recommendations were great. Riccardo was there when we arrived, came out to greet us and followed up with us through our stay. He made us feel at home.
The rest of the service was good but the reception lagged. We arrived after 1pm and were told we had to wait for an hour for the room to be ready which was fine. But when we went back were told to wait with no explanation given at any occasion and we felt like we were being ignored. Eventually, the room was only ready at the usual check-in time. The whole check-in was not the most efficient or welcoming for a hotel charging almost $1,000 a night.
The restaurant service was fine and, upon our departure, the hotel’s driver took us down to the train station free of charge, carried out luggage to the platform and made sure were were in the right place to take the train to Zurich. The hotel has indeed done a good job with the Concierge staff but should fix the reception.
Needless to say, the hotel is fabulously expensive like most other places in the Alps and in Switzerland. I found The Chedi’s prices to be no different than the average luxury place but it did give me small heart attack a couple of times. The food bill for a light lunch with a couple of glasses of wine and no desert was 200 euro which is 5 times more than I would have paid in Spain. The food was nice and beautifully presented, a mixture of Swiss dishes and Internationals favorites, but in no way justified by the price tag.
There was a bar, a lounge in which to relax and enjoy afternoon tea (or sushi) and the main restaurant which was pretty, large and had very high ceilings. Breakfast was served at The Restaurant and had a fantastic spread including a cheese room with an assortment of Swiss delicacies. The spread was indeed a highlight.
Dinner can be enjoyed fine-dining under the supervision of Hide Yamamoto at The Japanese, but only during the high season with prices matching the location, the cuisine and the setting. Expect to pay in the hundreds. The ice skating rink (although there was no ice when I was there!) could be observed from The Chalet, the fondue restaurant on site which featured the classic Swiss red and white checkered tablecloths that go so well with wood, melted cheese and messy meals.
For pure relaxation, snacks and tapas we could enjoy the 35m pool, partly indoor and partly outdoor the pool was surrounded by glass and impressive views of the mountain range and the falling snow.
The Chedi Andermatt had recently opened the Club House by the golf course which also offered meals over the golf course. Golfing is popular in the winter and a major draw to the town during the summer. Exchange the white golf balls for bright neon colors and exercise on the snow. Not a completely bad idea.
No Alpine and winter hotel would be complete without a Library and Cigar Lounge where to indulge, such a pretty and inviting room, even for the non-smokers.
For skiers, the hotel offered Ski butlers which will take care of all the equipment, teach you to ski, service your skis and even share their best tips for the season’s secret places. They are your personal butler for the winter so you just need to arrive at the slopes and enjoy the snow.
I had already been taken far away by the design and the incredibly appealing rooms before I stepped into the spa. Then and there, I fell in love.
Reluctant at first, I am glad my friend convinced me we had to splurge. Big. This was possibly, like the rest of the country, the most expensive spa I will ever be massaged in. Treatments started at 250 euro for an hour. Compared to my 40 euro 90 minute weekly massage in Singapore that was a hard one to swallow. It helped that my friend offered to pay for mine. By that point I had lost count of the amount of times I was shocked by the prices. But oh we made good use of the facilities.
The wellness center should be enjoyed even without a treatment as it is accessible to hotel guests. It is a sprawling 2,400 square meter area complete with indoor spring water pools of varying temperatures, cold pools, saunas and steam rooms and, of course, in keeping with the rest of the hotel, the most beautiful views. It was not just the facilities which were beautiful, the design was, of course, sublime. Inspired by the Far East and with dark tones in purple, orange and red, I just wanted to float in silence and let all the worries dissolve into the purifying waters.
The main pool area, connected to the spa, was split into an indoor large relaxation area and an outdoor heated part surrounded by snow. It was divine and romantic to cuddle up in the warm water with the snow falling above you.
At The Chedi Andermatt, Gathy put his best creativity and design sensitivity to work and the result is a stunning resort that flows perfectly and where the different spaces evolve from cozy fireplaces to large sofas. There were large windows with views over the snow capped mountains and a constant play on wood and metals. The design was incredibly appealing and made it really hard to leave. For a resort that was completely new, one had the warm feeling of an old winter house.
This was a truly unforgettable stay. Not just for the pretty picturesque location, expected to flourish and become the next IT destination in Switzerland, but also because luxury has been redefined into the comfortable, homey yet glamorous design of The Chedi’s first European inroad.
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