Described by Julie Andrews as “the last paradise in a crazy world”, Gstaad is more than an exclusive resort for wealthy jetsetters
Although the rich and famous still flock to the region, they are more likely to be hosting private dinner parties in their chalets than staying at the local family friendly lodges and hotels. With fresh mountain air, a huge variety of outdoor activities and the quaint atmosphere of the old Swiss town, Gstaad is an ideal place to visit with children on a family holiday.
Step back in time with a visit to one of Gstaad’s traditional dairy farms. With a permanent population of one cow per person (7000 people to 7000 cattle), milk is a staple of the region’s diet and it’s fascinating to see cheese and yoghurt being made without industrial machinery. During your visit you will meet the cows resting in the barn with their calves; learn about what the farmers do in different seasons and sit down to a farmhouse meal.
Warm brioche, meringues, fresh cream and of course a selection of Alpkase (‘Alp cheese’) is on the menu. While in the kitchen you will see the morning’s milk boiling over the fire and watch the farmers make cheese by hand as you eat.
Your Swiss holiday wouldn’t be complete without hearing some yodelling, and what better way to find out about this ancient tradition than with a private lesson in the mountains? Local expert yodellers will dress in traditional Swiss costume and take you into the mountains to get the perfect acoustics. Listen to them regale you with centuries-old songs and have some fun as you tune up your vocal chords to try some yodelling yourself!
Race down the mountain at speeds of up to 40 km/hr on this hair-raising metal toboggan. Take in the panoramic views of the hills and farms as you take on sharp bends and jumps up to six metres off the ground. Children from three years old can whizz down the track with an adult’s help, and kids aged nine and over can take on the challenge alone.
Take a chairlift up to Glacier 3000, with stunning views of the nearby mountains and a peak-to-peak bridge for the really adventurous. Take a walk on the snow-capped mini tundra at the top and be rewarded with a visit to a tiny mountain-top cabin restaurant. After all that exercise hop on the Glacier 3000 bus for a relaxing ride home!
Hike around one of the most picturesque mountain lakes in the Gstaad region, the beautiful Lake Lauenen. Why not book a digital detox mini-break with the family, featuring three nights’ accommodation, a fondue backpack so you can enjoy al fresco dining and a horse-drawn carriage ride around Lake Lauenen.
This quaint wooden lodge in the quiet village of Lauenen has unrivalled views of the Swiss Alps and a warm and welcoming family-friendly restaurant. Enjoy hearty breakfasts surrounded by The Sound of Music scenery before a stroll into the hills. There is an outdoor playground and a games room for children and Alpenland is a dog-friendly hotel so the favourite furry members of the family can come too!
This turreted palace exudes Disney-esque charm and regal character from its prime location above Gstaad village. A favourite of the world’s elite, Gstaad Palace offers second-to-none service and a ‘never say no’ policy. Anything and everything from private helicopter transfers to Russian caviar flown in on express jets can be arranged.
Children can enjoy the Palace bouncy castle, the two playrooms and playground as well as the dedicated childcare staff to ensure young guests are treated as mini VIPS.
With a fireside hall for guests to curl up in on snowy days, to a panoramic hall ideal for afternoon tea, the Ermitage focuses on the enjoyment and wellbeing of guests as soon as they step into the lobby.
The sumptuous spa offers traditional and contemporary treatments as well as a couple’s massage bed, and the rooms are a stylish blend of traditional Swiss handicraft and modern design. Enjoy the outdoor pool or a drink at the One Million Stars bar that is encrusted with a million Swarovski crystals.
There’s nothing more indulgent than dipping a hunk of freshly-baked bread into a hot bubbling Swiss fondue- except perhaps eating it while sitting on rolling green Alpine hillside. Grab a ‘fondue backpack’ from a local dairy and head up the mountain path to where a bench shaped like giant fondue pot sits. Pop your ingredients in the pot in the centre of the bench, wait for it to melt and get stuck in!
For really relaxed dining, book dinner in this Alpine stable and enjoy a communal meal on long tables. The restaurant makes its own ham, cheese and bread and is a great place to taste local, freshly made cuisine in a child-friendly environment.
For a romantic evening out, try this chalet-style restaurant used to be a traditional Gstaad cheesery, also known as a “cheese dairy”. The menu changes constantly according to what is in local season and the chef’s new discoveries. Robert Speth, the acclaimed “Chef of the Year” according to Gault-Millau, runs the kitchen and has been awarded a Michelin star.
Tuck into homemade gnocchi with egg mushrooms from the region, or go for something sweet like the caramelised plum tart with cinnamon ice-cream.
The oldest restaurant in Gstaad offers authentic Swiss food in the heart of the picturesque village. Established in 1845, the restaurant and hotel offer families a cosy place to sip a hot chocolate and tuck into a croissant as part of the famous buffet breakfast, or sit out on the terrace for a long and lazy al fresco lunch. The fondue with Gstaad-dairy cheese is very popular; check out the seasonal menu for family friendly favourites.
Gstaad village is famous for its sumptuous designer boutiques. Strolling along the high street, visitors can pop into international fashion favourites such as D&G, Chloe and Louis Vuitton. The concierge of luxury hotels such as Gstaad Palace will happily arrange personal shoppers or order items to be delivered to your room. Other shops offer local delicacies such as fondue cheese, rare Swiss wine and premium cigars.
Price: Rates for Gstaad Palace start from £410 per room per night. Room rates for Alpenland start from £150 per room per night.
How to get there: Swiss offers return flights from London to Geneva from around £85. The train from Geneva airport to Gstaad takes around two hours and 40 minutes. Swiss offer a transfer ticket, for around £95, which covers return train transfers from Swiss airports to resorts.