Courtesy Martin Ruta/Waldhaus Flims Hotel and Spa
Switzerland’s storied hotels, while lovely, often blend together in a Swiss-neutral haze. The by-the-numbers rooms in Gstaad and Klosters lean heavily on Alpine nostalgia, while even the splashy lounges in St. Moritz are stocked with hunting lodge armchairs and armoires. But inside one of these grand hotels, you’ll find a surprise: the glitziest new resort in the Alps, in a 140-year-old building, no less.
Located 90 minutes southwest of Zurich amid buttercup fields, pine trees, and concertinaing mountains, the Waldhaus Flims Hotel and Spa went bankrupt in 2015, but American equity investor Z Capital scooped the property up and recently completed its first phase of a $40 million plan to amp up the hotel’s luxury. Debuting this past June with little fanfare, the revamped lobby and 142 reimagined rooms now feature bubble lamps, Swiss modern art, and a custom marigold-and-cocoa color palette. The makeover also includes ritzy common rooms, glass-encased fireplaces, a swanky library, and an extensive renovation of the original Belle Epoque pavilion, now home to a ballroom, prosecco bar, and an unapologetically Swiss farm-to-fork restaurant. Specialties include Alpine sturgeon, braised venison, and cheese from the canton of Grisons. (If cheese is really your thing, the hotel also has a restaurant devoted to just that.) Next up? A soon-to-follow medical wellness center.
“We’re no longer interested in what the hotel was,” says managing director Peter Schoch, of the hotel’s history as a 19th-century health sanatorium for curing tuberculosis. “You need to see the destination not for what it is, but for what it can be.”
That modern-day renaissance reveals the whisper-quiet touch of German interiors guru Peter Silling, a designer with so many hotels on his CV (Ritz-Carlton, Jumeirah, Capella, JW Marriott), he’d be right to ask for his name above the door. But for all of Silling’s bravado and bling, the real sweetener at Waldhaus Flims is the 3,000-square-meter spa that works to a degree others in the Alps don’t. A two-story Xanadu of Japanese architectural lines, it’s built around a gigantic stone-and-glass-block pool, beneath which a boardwalk emerges onto a miniature freshwater lagoon inhabited by free-swimming koi. It also has a wraparound heated pool, wood-heated grotto, and maze of treatment rooms, the pick of which is a suite built into the bones of the historic bakehouse.
Yet as far as reinvigorating tradition has created a kerfuffle among Switzerland’s grand hotels—and it has—the real hallmarks of Alpine luxury (the unparalleled mountain views, the dazzling light, the champagne air) remain the same as ever. But that, in essence, is why everyone keeps coming.
By: Mike MacEacheran