Just three miles from the glitz and glamour of St Moritz, the Nira Alpina is a more understated hotel in the pretty Engadin Valley village of Surlej, by Silvaplana. The genius of the hotel is that, unlike other St Moritz and Silvaplana hotels, the Nira Alpina is effectively a ski in, ski out property thanks to a private walkway to the Corvatsch cable car, which in turn whisks guests to the highest point of the entire ski area.
The hotel itself is part of the Design Hotels group, with sophisticated, contemporary public areas and rooms and suites that almost all have either terraces or balconies overlooking the Engadin Mountains and Lake Silvaplana. The design incorporates plenty of spruce, stone and suede to create elegant accommodation with granite bathrooms all featuring both baths and showers.
The Nira Alpina has several restaurants, including Stars, the star of the show and found on the top floor with wonderful panoramic views of the valley. Stars specialises in a culinary 'best of' selection of favourite dishes from around the world so you could have Peruvian cerviche to start with followed by Indian tandoori king prawns. There is also a funky top floor bar next door. Elsewhere, the charming stubli-style wood panelled Stalla Veglia trattoria serves good quality Italian dishes that are perfect for families. Also providing an excellent children's menu is the Nira Alpina Bistro, which offers healthy and quick dishes from an open kitchen. When the sun shines the Bistro's terrace is the place to soak up the sun with a coffee, hot chocolate or something stronger. Sweet toothed guests should also head to the in-house bakery for traditional chocolate croissants, vanilla turnovers and cupcakes. Finally, the cosy Pichalain is the hotel's apres-ski hut, which operates on a first come first served basis in winter for evening drinks and dinner.
In winter the Nira Spa is a sanctuary for resting tired apres-ski limbs, and has five treatment rooms, steam room, sauna, gym and whirlpool, and treatments on offer including a full range of massages, manicures, facials and other rejuvenating therapies such as hot stone chakra placement. While mums and dads enjoy the spa treatments, children can muck around in the Kid's Club and everyone can relax in the mezzanine floor library, complete with leather armchairs and cowhide rugs and which is well stocked with books for grown-ups and children alike.
Why We Love It
Guests never even need to go outside before reaching the highest point of the ski region because there's a covered walkway from the hotel to the Corvatsch cable car, which then whisks them up to 10,000ft in just 15 minutes.
Badrutt's Palace Hotel
In the heart of St Moritz - famously the luxiest of luxury ski resorts - is Badrutt's Palace Hotel, where the most glittering echelons of high society have been gracing the halls since the hotel first opened as the Palace Hotel in 1896. Alfred Hitchcock was said to have his best brain waves in the hotel, and Greta Garbo came here to be left alone.
Calling the quirky family run Badrutt's Palace, which has 120 rooms and 37 suites, 'luxury' would be dramatically understating its charm, elegance and attention to detail. The spacious rooms and suites - some of which are bigger than the average London flat! - retain many of the original features from the Victorian building, with all the modern creature comforts guests could desire. Classic furniture; cozy beds, perfect for a long day on the slopes followed by a thorough exploration of St Moritz's apres-ski offerings; and chic bathrooms lend an Old World elegance, while the thoroughly modern spa follows Badrutt's Palace's tradition of being at the cutting edge of modernity - the hotel was home to the first indoor tennis court in continental Europe. Most rooms look across the lake, giving guests excellent views of the annual polo competition on the frozen lake and the fur-wrapped spectators, or across the mountains. Suites have extra sitting areas and other amenities, including studies and libraries, though we aren't sure how much guests use these so close to the slopes! Our favourite, suite 501 (now called the Hitchcock Suite) is said to be where the legendary auteur dreamt up The Birds.
During your stay, tuck into delicious meals at the hotel's King's Social House, a stylish restaurant which transforms into an after-dinner disco in the late evening. For a nightcap, you have a choice of three bars: one at the hotel - Renaissance Bar - and two more at the neighbouring property, Chesa Veglia. When you're not relaxing with a glass of wine in hand, head to the spa. It has been designed to lift the spirits and put wellness - and, if we're honest, soothing poste-piste aches and strains - at the forefront of guests' experiences, setting the benchmark for all alpine resorts. Ahead of the curve where treatments are concerned, the spa therapists are trained in ancient and modern practices from around the globe to tailor make the best facials and massages to suit guests needs.
As for little skiers, unlike most luxury hotels of its kind, Badrutt's Palace's Kids' Club is excellent. Little snow bunnies can learn to cook alongside hotel chefs and enjoy wonderful yoga classes. Everything has been approved by the hotel's Junior General Manager, with the help of an expert panel of children, making sure that not one detail has been overlooked, gaining Original Travel's approval in the process.
Why We Love It
In a very Swiss twist, Badrutt's Palace Hotel's old library, while hosting many an interesting read, is also home to what they say is the original for Raphael's Sistine Madonna - which hangs in the Dresden Old Master's Gallery.
Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains
Set at the eastern entrance to St. Moritz, the hotel has fine views of the Engadine valley.
The 184 luxurious rooms and suites are thoughtfully designed and equipped with the latest technology, including an entertainment centre, while the bathrooms have under-floor heating in winter. Each room or suite, from the cosy Single to the Presidential Suite, has impressive mountain views and interconnecting rooms can be arranged.
The first-rate spa complex, based around the natural mineral springs that rise by the hotel, offers a range of health and beauty treatments, including the ultimate half day Alpine Vitality treatment. There is also a state-of-the-art gym, sauna, steambaths, massage service and an indoor pool with a view of the surrounding mountains.
The Kempinski has two excellent restaurants offering gourmet Swiss, Italian and international cuisine. The Kempinski Bar and Lobby serves perfectly chilled Champagne and patisserie, and the chic 'Enoteca' bar serves 'alpine tapas' and fine wines. The Cresta Run and St. Moritz' designer boutiques are within easy reach, and the hotel has its own casino.
Guests have direct access to the pistes via the Signal cable car just next door, and a cross country ski trail passes right in front of the hotel.
Why We Love It
Guests also have access to the Kempinski Mountain Lounge at the Corviglia mountain station, where you can enjoy lunch and the panoramic views.
Situated right next to the famous Cresta Run, the Kulm enjoys stunning views over the lake and the majestic mountain landscape. The Winter Olympics of 1928 and 1948 were officially opened from its terrace, and the hotel retains an aura of history and tradition.
A 'six-star' hotel, the Kulm offers all the comforts of a five-star hotel, with a unique 'whatever you like' standard of service accounting for the sixth star. The rooms and suites of various sizes are equipped with the latest technology. Each has views across the mountains or the village of St Moritz, and most of the larger suites have balconies.
The spa & health club has an indoor pool with scenic views, plus a gym, jacuzzi, steam bath, salt grotto, infrared cubicle, caldariums and saunas. A wide selection of massages and spa treatments, including thalassotherapy, is also available.
The Kulm also has its own ice rink for skating and curling, and is within walking distance of the Corviglia ski lift. The hotel offers a wide choice of restaurants, from the formal to the cosy, and has two bars, one of which - the Sunny Bar - serves sushi and is the traditional meeting place for riders of the Cresta Run.
Why We Love It
The ultra-luxurious Kulm was the first hotel to open in St. Moritz, way back in 1864.