Switzerland fulfills the desires of Europe’s most fastidious and wealthy clientèle with a collection of swanky resorts. St. Moritz still dons the crown for glitz and glamour with its flamboyant array of five-star hotels, designer shops and luxurious restaurants. A series of events and shows keep its celebrity and royal visitors entertained such as a modern-day horse chariot race known as skijoring (pictured), and ice cricket played on its frozen lake.
Elsewhere the fine-dining and quaint nature of Gstaad has continued to attract the rich and famous since the early 60s. Alongside its absurd selection of gourmet restaurants, two of which hold Michelin stars—Chesery and Prado Grill, is the ultra-exclusive and membership-only Eagle club in Wasserngrat.
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Ride the Rails on Switzerland’s Glacier Express
Take in the mountains and villages of the Alps aboard the Glacier Express, operating since 1930 as the slowest express train in the world. This seven-hour journey goes from the spa town of Zermatt at the foot of the Matterhorn to the ski resort area of St. Moritz, covering 181 miles over 291 bridges, through 91 tunnels and across the dramatic Oberalp Pass at 6,670 feet in altitude. Enjoy the panoramic views as the train chugs along the narrow gauge track, which switches to cog railway during particularly steep portions. Drink from the extensive on-board wine list and indulge in three-course dining car meals. No worries if you’re glued to your window view—the crew will serve you the dish of the day at your seat.
It’s hard to think of a more romantic experience of the Swiss mountains than this: gazing up at the snow-capped peaks while snuggled in a horse-drawn sleigh. Zermatt uses a traditional horse and carriage to transport visitors to and from ski lifts, while St. Moritz has a highly reputable selection of sleigh tours.
But for that unrivaled romantic ambience, head to the Dischma Valley in Davos, where you can take a moonlit sleigh ride under the warmth of thick furs. If you find yourself yearning for a similar experience in the summer, trips in horse-drawn carriages through the mountain of Rigi, dubbed the “Queen of the Mountains,” are available.
One of the most alluring aspects of a Swiss trip is experiencing, first-hand, its unique traditions. So why not test your nerve on the 128-year old Cresta Run skeleton course in St. Moritz. Every year, from December through February, the local Tobogganing Club constructs a 1.2km-long course out of snow, which is then frozen, to produce a nerve-jangling run of curves, dips and one particular corner which delights in slinging riders off its edge. Only members can ride from the top of the course, thus risking a flip at ‘Shuttlecock corner,” whereas beginners can have a go from a lower starting point. Riders must be over 18, undergo an introductory lesson to skeleton riding and sign a release form. The initial five rides cost 600CHF ($620 US) after which individual rides can be purchased.
For exquisite dining coupled with ritzy and glamorous living, St. Moritz is peerless throughout the year. Amazing then that this famous ski resort can tip the scales to a new level when the annual Gourmet Festival comes to town. Every January, super chefs from all over the globe descend upon St. Moritz to demonstrate their extraordinary skills in the kitchen. Chefs serve elaborate dishes in various hotels and locations to outgun each other and scintillate diners. This year’s event will be held from January 25 through 29 and will feature Japanese master chefs and, of course, the local greats.
We have been in Milan for a week and haven’t left the city, loving every aspect of this beautiful place, but one out of town excursion was too fun to miss. How about a train ride to St. Moritz for lunch?
The train ride through the Swiss alps seemed appealing, as did a visit to one of the world’s most famous ski resorts, tucked some 1900 meters above sea level in the south Swiss alps and easily reachable on a day trip from Milan.
One of the most spectacular ways to cross the Alps is on the Bernina Express, an old fashion red train that runs every day from Tirano all the way to Chur, stopping at St. Moritz on the way. Through the winter month the train provides the only means of transportation to some of the most remote alpine regions. The train is an adhesion train and operates much like an old fashioned bus: you ring the bell for the train to stop at your station en route.