Pontresina, Switzerland's Grand Hotel Kronenhof
Pontresina, Switzerland's Grand Hotel Kronenhof
A quiet gateway to the Engadine Valley's illustrious snow sports
A collection of time-tested attributes unite behind the words "Grand Hotel." Some allude to a palatial structure, others reference five-star service and even more address historic international clientele. All of this can be found at Pontresina, Switzerland's Grand Hotel Kronenhof—and yet it's all conveyed with a quiet elegance. From the stunning 19th Century façade (and its contemporary jewel-box pool and spa addition) to a fireside sitting room complete with Eames lounge chairs, the Kronenhof's magnificence is draped in quiet, colorful hospitality. A sister to the Kulm Hotel, and located 15 minutes from downtown St Moritz (though in a peaceful, unpretentious town), many of its hidden treasures are surprising. The Kronenhof is certainly a gateway to the best of Switzerland's winter sports. But inside, one will find the oldest bowling alley in the country, Switzerland's largest gin bar and a gourmet restaurant with a signature dish involving a rather public preparation. With rooms starting at 360 CHF a night, it's pricey but most certainly within reach of aspirational travelers.
To the right of the lobby, guests find The Kronenhof Bar. Both areas play host to an extensive afternoon tea program with over 20 tea options accompanied by traditional and contemporary dishes. The bar has signature cocktails, wines, beer and a great selection of spirits, but most impressive happens to be the three-page gin list. A global selection of gins is supported by eight from Switzerland, with the broadest range of flavor profiles possible. As unexpected as the gin menu is, the bowling alley a few floors below is even more so. In a cavernous, low-ceilinged, and almost anachronism-free space sits an old wooden lane with heavy wooden balls. Known as the Kegelbahn, the lane is fully functional (and automated) and the entire space can be booked for private dining as well.
As with most hotels in the thick of snow activities, much attention has been paid to the spa. A pool, fitness center and spa rooms combine for a 2,000 square-meter facility, wrapped in windows with a view of the Alps. There's a dedicated bio-sauna for women only, and an all-gender Finnish sauna. Various grottos provide relaxation points and a separate children's pool isolates (within view) all playful ruckuses. Once a month, a night spa program extends the destination's hours until midnight.
We mentioned the price for single rooms upfront, because the very name Grand Hotel Kronenhof might sound daunting. Understandably, with a larger budget rooms grow in grandeur. There are spacious double rooms (pictured) with traditional Swiss pinewood paneling. There are also two categories of junior suites: Grand Premium and Grand Classic. The former are the result of a 2016 renovation by French interior designer and architect Pierre-Yves Rochon. All of the junior suites are south-facing and most feature either a balcony or terrace. As far as suites go, the Kronenhof has nine and each is uniquely decorated—with the decor pertaining to its location in the building and its views.
The Kronenhof features three restaurants (and a smaller kids' dining room with a dedicated menu). There's an outdoor pavilion and bar, with an excellent view of the hotel year 'round. The Grand Restaurant plays host to a superb breakfast buffet, free to guests. At night, it carries a dress-code and features a tasting menu with highly refined options. Our personal favorite is the gourmet restaurant Kronenstübli. In a Swiss parlor of wooden floors and panels, French and Mediterranean dishes are served with flair. The signature dish, Canard à la Presse, requires the chef and an assistant to arrive at the table and press a sauce directly from the duck meat before pouring it over the bird's most tender portions. Desserts are exemplary—and an order of ice cream is also made directly in front of guests.
Pontresina, as expected, is in close proximity to ski slopes and the hotel can arrange transportation. Neighboring St Moritz plays host to frequent global competitions, including the Cartier and Perrier-Jouët sponsored Snow Polo World Cup and the 2017 Alpine Skiing World Cup. There's more on offer than just skiing and snowboarding for guests, however. The Olympia Bobsled Run, the oldest in the world—and the only natural ice-track used in international competition—lets visitors bobsled between two professionals (a driver and a breakman). The experience lasts all but one-and-a-half minutes yet delivers 4.5 Gs of force. It's dazzling and dizzying. For those ski-capable, there's also skijoring—where one is tethered to a horse. And the most family-friendly happens to be dog-sledding. During our stay we experienced all three adventures and were better for it.
Room and restaurant images courtesy of the Grand Hotel Kronenhof, all other images by David Graver