Switzerland’s Surreal Spa In The Sky


If you’ve ever wanted to feel like you’re in a James Bond film, then all you need to do is climb aboard a small, unassuming boat at Lucerne’s boat pier, destination: The Bürgenstock Resort.

By: Francesca Lynagh

Standing on the front deck, feeling the warmth of the spring sun on your face, you can gaze out at the view that beats any image you will ever see of Switzerland on a postcard.

The green hue of the rolling hills is so vivid that it seems almost artificial, and the crystal-clear water looks clean enough to drink. A series of snow-capped mountains stand proudly in the distance.

Perched majestically on top of the steep hill straight ahead is The Bürgenstock Resort with its glass cube jutting out of the front of the main building: it is one of the resort’s restaurants, and you can only imagine how stunning the view is from up there.

A Movie Star Arrival 

Buergenstock Funicular
The Burgenstock Funicular

The boat pulls up to a pontoon, and just a few steps from the water awaits a bright red funicular carriage ready to transport us 500 metres up the cliff face. The carriage looks like it has stepped straight out of a Wes Anderson film.

As far as hotel arrivals go, it is probably as “movie star” as it gets.

We meander to the reception past the Lakeview Lounge, where people sit in plush armchairs admiring the view through an enormous floor-to-ceiling window.

Further, into the resort, there is a mezzanine outside and, while it may still be early in the year, everyone is wearing T-shirts and sunglasses as they sip on ice-cold rosé.

As the unseasonably warm afternoon slowly turns to evening, waiting staff emerge clutching snuggly fur coats for guests to wrap themselves up in.

Hotel History 

The Bürgenstock Resort was first established in 1873 by two already accomplished businessmen, who had to build their own road to the resort before they could even begin work on the hotel itself.

When it finally opened, it represented the epitome of fashionable hospitality and has been a destination for discerning and celebrity travellers, including the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Loren ever since.

A Labyrinth of Luxury 

A Senior Suite at the Bürgenstock Hotel
A Senior Suite at the Bürgenstock Hotel

The next stage of the resort’s evolution came in 2007 when Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund became the sole proprietor.

Ten years of extensive refurbishment later, the new Bürgenstock Resort opened its doors to reveal what can only be described as a labyrinth of luxury.

There are four separate hotels atop the ledge, each catering to different budgets and desired holiday experiences. Not to mention the shopping arcade (complete with an Omega store), the tennis court, and the impressive selection of fantastic restaurants.

The Alpine Spa

Outdoor Yoga at the hotel
Outdoor Yoga at the hotel

But of all the resort’s facilities, it is the Alpine Spa that draws the most attention.

I don my fluffy dressing gown and head down to see what all the fuss is about. Descending the steps into the water-warm pool, two automatic doors slide open – an invitation to enter the outdoor section.

A swim to the infinity pool’s edge is greeted by a truly jaw-dropping panoramic vista. Framed by white-dusted mountains and rolling green hills, Lake Lucerne glistens in the sunlight.

There can’t be many other spas in the world with such an extraordinary backdrop. The pool wraps itself around a second edge of the building, the far side featuring a bench and Jacuzzi jets.

Splashing and Flashing 

The hotel has introduced allocated photo-taking hours for exactly that reason. Dubbed “Splashing and Flashing” sessions, they are designed to limit the selfie-taking to just a few hours at the beginning and end of the day, protecting spa guests who simply want to unwind and have their privacy respected.

When the session begins, it is no surprise that a slightly frantic jostle for the coveted corner spot ensues.

Culinary Mecca of Central Switzerland

Lakeview Bar & Lounge_Vibe 2 ©Severin Nowacki
Lakeview Bar & Lounge Vibe ©Severin Nowacki

It is worth taking an evening meal at the RitzCoffier restaurant, which is adorned with 16 Gault-Millau points and now a Michelin star. It has a wine list so extensive that it is heavy to hold. I can’t help but gawp at the masterpieces arriving at the tables around me.

Something appears served in a whole onion with liquid nitrogen steaming out of it – apparently, it is the duck appetiser.

A perfectly cooked ribeye steak and one poached-pear pudding later, it becomes clear why this place has been described a “culinary Mecca of central Switzerland”.

A Hike Up The Mountain 

Golf Restaurant_Terrace 1

To work up an appetite again, the following morning involves a challenging 45-minute hike up the mountainside of the hotel.

The endpoint is the Hammetschwand, Europe’s highest outdoor lift, which was first opened in 1905.

During winter it is closed, but it usually carries passengers 153 metres to the summit in under a minute.

As I ascend the rocky mountain pathways, I stop to take a breath every so often, and I am stunned by the peace. All I can hear is the sound of a distant cowbell jangling somewhere in the valley below.

Back Down To Earth 

Soon thereafter, it is time to head back home to London. By then, dark, gloomy clouds have moved in below the resort and the view across the lake is completely transformed.

Coat pockets bulging with Bürgenstock-branded chocolate (supplies for the flight home), I reluctantly take a seat onboard the funicular for the return journey, all the way back down to earth.

The Essentials

When To Go 

Lucerne is so beautiful that any season suits it, and a trip to The Bürgenstock Resort could easily be combined with a ski trip in winter.

Where To Stay

  • Rooms per person per night start at:
  • Bürgenstock Hotel: CHF 898
  • Palace Hotel and Conference: CHF 388
  • Waldhotel Health & Medical Excellence: CHF 388
  • Taverna: CHF 310

Getting There 

Fly SAA flies to daily to Frankfurt from Johannesburg. From there, catch a connecting flight to Zurich with codeshare partner and fellow Star Alliance member Swiss Air. Visit flysaa.com

Train From Zurich, take a scenic 50-minute trail trip to Lucerne.

Drive The Bürgenstock Resort is a 20-minute taxi ride from Lucerne

Words by Francesca Lynagh


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