Situated in Pontresina, St Moritz’s understated sister, the Grand Hotel Kronenhof was one of the first Swiss mountain hotels and has been welcoming guests since 1848.
The charming neo-baroque building looks like a grand wedding cake and appears almost fairytale-esque in the snowy landscape. At moments you feel like you’ve gone back in time or stepped into a Wes Anderson film.
The service is exceptional, and from the moment the car picked us up from the station (cue the classical musical and fresh sparkling water) to the moment we were dropped back, everything was taken care of.
We were lucky to be staying in one of the thirteen rooms designed by French interior designer, Pierre-Yves Rochon. Famed for his work at the Four Seasons and the Shangri-La hotel groups, Rochon brought his take on contemporary luxury to the Kronenhof in 2017.
Our room was decorated with a beige and peach colour palette, a nod to the hues of traditional Engadine houses, and decorated with modern abstract art. It’s certainly not a case of style over substance with practicality thought of at every stage. There was a large walk-in wardrobe, spacious sofa area, double sink set-up and a separate bath and shower.
It’s the old school hospitality that really blew us away. I never personally met the unbelievably efficient maid who snuck into our room on a twice-daily basis but I wish there was a way I could arrange for her to work her magic on every area of my life. Whether it was the always full fruit bowl or the slippers and goodnight towel at turndown, every detail was thought of, and nothing was ever out of place. For instance, on the last night, we came back to our room to find a note reminding us of the changing clocks and a walnut cake to enjoy on our train ride home.
In total there are three restaurants at the Kronenhof with breakfast and dinner being served in the Grand Restaurant. Complete with original Neo-Baroque features – gold gilded mirrors, a four-part ceiling fresco dedicated to the seasons, and a chandelier so huge I startled at how it stayed suspended – it truly lived up to its name.
Breakfast is an extensive buffet of both cold and hot dishes. It was a daily dilemma (the largest of all First World Problems) choosing between the array of tropical fruit, towers of pastries and tempting cheese board. Dinner is a five-course affair with a daily changing menu of fine dining dishes. Favourites included the roasted scallops, champagne sauerkraut soup, and roasted sea bream served with red polenta.
You can also have dinner at The Kronenstubli. While the decor has a more laid-back feel with traditional pine panelling, both the food and service is more high end. We ordered three courses but lost count of how many we ended up eating (I’d hazard a guess at six). This is the type of restaurant where dessert is preceded by an amuse bouche and followed by both petit fours and a parcel of truffles to take home. It’s truly a special dining experience that’s full of surprises at every stage. While it’s famed for the Canard à la Presse, as pescatarians we skipped this pressed duck dish and tried a mixture of fish and pasta dishes. My starter of ravioli, complete with a swiss cheese sauce that was poured over just at the right moment, and the main dish of sea bass were both cooked to perfection.
For lunch you can also dine alfresco at The Pavilion, the least formal restaurant situated by the hotel’s very own ice rink. Sinking into one of the sheepskin chairs while sipping an ice cold glass of rosé and looking up at the mountains is nothing short of heavenly.
In true Swiss style, the spa facilities are seriously impressive. You could spend a whole day there before even sampling the treatment menu. The pool is arguably the star of the show; positioned to face the large panoramic windows, the reflections of the mountains sparkle in the water and swimming a few lengths is a real pinch-me moment.
We were like giddy school children when we found the ‘sauna world’, an endless warren of rooms. Our favourite was the Floating Grotto, a warm dark bath with underwater music and light projections – sounds gimmicky but was instantly relaxing. We equally loved the The Kneipp Footbath, a series of hot and cold pools which you walk through to energise tired legs after a day’s skiing. When you’ve had enough, you can simply lie back in a robe on a sunbed staring out the mountains while sipping on herbal tea.
The hotel also has an extensive gym. This didn’t get a look in on our visit but we did sample one of the yoga classes. With the mountains visible from the studio, it was certainly a downward dog with a view. Our multi-talented yoga teacher was also a masseuse, and my full body massage treatment helped with both my skied out limbs and a pesky oncoming cold.
Out and about:
While Pontresina is famed for cross country skiing, it’s also situated a stone’s throw from three downhill ski areas: Corviglia, Corvatsch and Diavolezza. Considering the weather gods delivered perfect weather (wall to wall blue skies and sunshine), it would have been rude not to take advantage of the skiing. Much like everything at Kronenhof, this couldn’t have been easier to arrange. The morning after our arrival our ski passes were waiting at reception and our hired equipment was delivered to the locker room. Forget traipsing across town in your ski boots for the bus, both mornings the charming concierge team whisked us the slopes in the efficient style we’d become accustomed to. The skiing at Corviglia is dubbed an immediate paradise and we loved cruising the wide red pistes with plenty of stops for a hot chocolate or an Aperol Spritz while taking in the stunning views.
However, you don’t need to be a skier to enjoy Pontresina in the Winter. There are hikes aplenty, and on our last morning, we picked up a map and walked to St Moritz. The one and half hour saunter weaves its way through forest tracks before bending around St Moritz’s famous lake and into the town.
Who goes there?
Guests at the Kronenhof come back year and year again. We were told it attracts mainly a European and Swiss crowd while the Kulm (it’s St Moritz sister) appeals more to the international jet set.
The best thing:
The impeccable service and world-class spa.
The worst thing:
I wasn’t a fan of the smoking in the bar (Swiss laws haven’t caught up quite yet) but that’s a personal bugbear. After my visit, I was informed that the bar has now changed to non-smoking.
Three hours by train from Zurich. With the stunning UNESCO-approved views my book remained closed the entire journey as we gawped out the window at the changing scenery.
Rates at Grand Hotel Kronenhof are based on two people sharing a double room on a half-board basis and start from CHF455 (14 June to 20 October 2019) in summer and CHF545 in winter (6 December 2019 to 13 April 2020). Book online at www.kronenhof.com.