Gstaad – Bernese Oberland, Switzerland

A Royal Playground Above the Clouds

At the confluence of four alpine valleys, Gstaad is the pearl of the magnificent Bernese Oberland, one of the world’s best winter playgrounds. Make that summertime playground as well.

With its 155 miles of downhill runs, 60 miles of cross-country trails, and a host of year-round activities, this is where royalty and the world’s celebs ski, but who knew it could be so unspoiled and unpretentious. It has almost the air of a country village, albeit a very affluent one: those stores are mighty expensive and none of the gorgeous hotels are catering to the have-nots.

Gstaad is so low-key and quiet you might even find it a tad boring, unless you’re staying at the Palace Hotel Gstaad, one of the most sought-after hideaways in the world.

Towering over tiny Gstaad like a neomedieval castle dreamed up by Mad Ludwig, this 107-room hotel, built in 1912, bills itself as Switzerland’s largest family pension, but don’t let the cozy and rustically decorated rooms fool you: this hotel is the epicenter of the local social scene. Guests check into this splendid fantasyland for extended periods of time, drawn by the management’s motto that “Every king is a client, every client is a king.”

In addition to great service, great food is also readily avail­able, but for real local alpine gemütlichkeit (homeyness) take the cable car to the mountaintop terraced Berghaus Eggli restaurant for raclette or fondue and a view you’ll never forget.

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