The Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa stands as a monument to Switzerland’s past. It is as immutable as the mountains that surround it and as lovingly cared for as an aged parent. The hotel first opened its doors in 1865, and has survived two world wars, a depression and many recessions since to become an institution.
Many renovations later (the latest bringing the addition of a new Sensai Japanese spa), and the hotel has managed to weave the past with the present, with not a lingering musty smell to sniff at, we’re pleased to say.
In the past, painters, poets and artists came to the hotel to be inspired by its beauty and, while we are certainly in awe of its lavish, palatial surroundings, the most important thing for us was the comfort of the bedroom (and whether or not such an old building is home to any ghosts). Apparently not; the bellboy reassures us.
On settling into our room (which combines a bedroom and living room) we begin to take stock of our surroundings. The bed is soft and of ample size, and the minibar is stocked with everything from chocolate to champagne. At first glance, the room itself, with its polished wood floor, hanging drapes and classic furniture, looks like it has remained untouched since the hotel opened. Only the flat screen TV and hi-tech phone give the game away.
The bathroom is another story; chrome and marble and crisp linen hand towels adorn the walls and furnishings. The bathtub is spacious enough for three (should you want to share) and the shower is so powerful it leaves you in no doubt that you’re awake.
The Victoria-Jungfrau actually began as two stately hotels, when the guestbook of the Victoria was filled with royalty and notable people of the day. In 1991, the neighbouring Jungfrau Hotel was joined to the Victoria with a gleaming glass atrium, and renovations to both structures began.
Virtually every detail of the Belle Epoque style was preserved: stained glass skylights, intricate ironwork, rich murals, gilded statuary and ornate columns feature throughout. Restoring the Brasserie in the Jungfrau cost US$4 million alone, and was only completed recently. For nearly 100 years, wall panels and a false ceiling masked the Brasserie’s opulent origins. But now ornate stuccowork, rich carvings and exquisite murals once again grace the walls and ceilings.
However, the jewel in the crown is the hotel’s wellness area. The gentle sound of trickling water greets spa guests as the huge pool beckons, while its tributaries lap softly in the spa lobby.
The pool lies beneath a vaulted glass ceiling, with marble pillars and gold-accented tiles reminiscent of ancient Roman baths. Whirlpools, steam baths and saunas are all available in the 1,400-square-metre facility. Nowadays, most hotels come with a spa, but few have managed to maintain such a sense of style. Realising its potential, the hotel runs many ski and spa packages throughout the year.
The truly unique thing about the Victoria-Jungfrau is that every day spent there is filled with moments of rare beauty: afternoon tea is as much a visual presentation as a gustatory one; special evenings with the chef and other events are featured year-round; of the 212 rooms in the hotel, no two are alike; and outdoor terraces offer guests panoramic views of the snow-covered Alps.
Rating: The best hotels remove you far away from the ordinary and, sitting in the spa’s relaxation room, with brilliant sunlight streaming in through the windows, we realise that the Swiss know how to relax very, very well.
THE IMPORTANT BIT
Cost: Prices range from US$571-US$2,134 a night
Location: Interlaken, Switzerland