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Switzerland is often considered to be the ultimate luxury winter wonderland destination. But, as my visit occurred during late summer, it seemed fitting to end my journey with one of Switzerland’s other big draws: a retreat at a fabled spa resort. While Interlaken and Lucerne are synonymous with glamorous alpine wellness retreats, the municipality of Bad Ragaz was also recommended to me, especially due to its convenient proximity to Zurich Airport (about an hourlong drive).
Bad Ragaz may not be as familiar to American spa enthusiasts, but the area is a well-kept secret among savvy Zurich locals who want to avoid the international crowds in Lucerne. In 1242, Benedictine monks were the first to discover the soothing properties of the area’s mineral-rich hot springs.
As my Swiss Rail train pulled into the Bad Ragaz station, I could also see why Zurich families love the town. Its storybook setting provided the inspiration behind “Heidi,” the classic children’s novel by author Johanna Spyri.
Later, the drive into Grand Resort Bad Ragaz’s main road was like witnessing an open treasure chest, revealing whimsical landscaping and modern sculptures, followed by a cluster of freestanding hotels including The Grand Hotel Hof Ragaz, Palais Ragaz (a Relais & Chateaux property dating to 1840), Hotel Schloss Wartenstein and, last but not least, Grand Hotel Quellenhof & Spa Suites, where I stayed.
There’s also Clinic Bad Ragaz, which recently merged with Clinics of Valens. The collaboration expands an already impressive roster of cosmetic, dermatological and medical services to include neurological, internal-oncological and musculoskeletal rehabilitation.
After reopening in July 2019 after an approximately $45.5 million renovation, Grand Hotel Quellenhof & Spa Suites presents itself as the Dom Perignon of the resort’s properties, down to bubble-like art glass light fixtures outlining its lobby’s central spiral staircase. The property has multiple restaurants, lounges and retail shops, in addition to its own boutique spa and Tamina Therme — the public baths that are the jewel of the entire complex.
Inspired by elements such as fire, water, air and earth, 98 opulently decorated rooms and suites make up the accommodations at Grand Hotel Quellenhof. I was assigned a fire-motif junior suite with plush furnishings and a sumptuous bathroom with natural stone.
That suite was difficult to leave, but lunch awaited me at Verve by Sven, the casual dining venue by Michelin-starred chef Sven Wassmer. Here, simply plated dishes and low-alcohol cocktails are surprisingly complex.
My next order of business was to bask in the nearly 98-degree Fahrenheit, magnesium-rich waters in the some 14,000-square-foot Tamina Therme — open free of charge to all resort guests and accessible by outdoor garden paths, indoor walkways and elevators. The public facility is a wonderland of mineral pools, whirlpools, a waterfall and a lazy river.
For clients looking for a more personalized hot springs immersion, Tamina Therme recently added the rustic-chic Ragaz Sauna Village, a resort-within-a-resort concept that offers an innovative mineral infusion ritual of salt containing magnesium, calcium and lithium. For those uncomfortable with the main sauna’s required nudity policy, there is also a “textile” sauna where traditional swim attire is permitted.
A Bad Ragaz vacation also can be rounded out with on-site cultural events, golf, minigolf, complimentary bike rentals, a chalet-inspired Children’s Villa and more. What’s more, the home of the real-life “Heidi” can be reached via a hike (as Heidi herself did) or by bicycle or car.
On the last night of my stay, signature restaurant Memories not only provided a stunning meal in a golden setting, but also demonstrated how Wassmer managed to earn multiple Michelin stars by age 33. Watching the chef and his team sculpt every course through a “leaf to tip” philosophy — while sommelier wife Amanda Wassmer-Bulgin paired the courses with Swiss wines — was a visual feast. Each dish was a conversation piece, from a hay-based kombucha palate cleanser to a salad arranged as a bouquet of micro herbs.
Wassmer explained that everything I tasted was inspired by his childhood memories. Fittingly, however, the dishes also seemed to reflect the future of Swiss cuisine and the age-old soils and springs that beget such rich tasting vegetables and herbs — an approach that epitomizes Bad Ragaz as a whole.
The DetailsGrand Hotel Quellenhof & Spa Suites www.resortragaz.ch
Grand Resort Bad Ragaz www.resortragaz.ch