Consider Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, in the St Gallen Rhine Valley of east Switzerland, for a rejuvenating getaway this spring
There’s something in the water in Bad Ragaz, Switzerland; everyone is more fresh faced, well rested and all-together happier than I’m used to seeing under the thick cloud cover of London.
Located in the St Gallen Rhine Valley of east Switzerland, Grand Resort Bad Ragaz has become a must-visit wellness resort thanks to the healing powers of the thermal springs that surround it. In 1242, the source of the thermal water, which consistently sits at 36.5 degrees, was discovered. When the locals first found steam rising from within the Tamina Gorge back in the 13th century, however, they believed it to be the entrance to hell. Thankfully, the healing properties of the water soon revealed themselves and the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz has now celebrated over 175 years of thermal water at the resort.
With the power of the thermal water drawing people, including me, to the area, Bad Ragaz has become a steady, beating heart of health and wellbeing. Switzerland’s calm, clean, private stereotype is alive and well at Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, as I discovered having flown from Gatwick to Zurich with Swiss Air.
This five-star complex resides across four buildings, creating a rabbit warren of thermal swimming pools, treatment rooms, restaurants and pockets of relaxation. There are also two golf courses, a business and events centre, a casino and the Tamina Therme spa which is also open to the public. With only a couple of days to explore, my only worry is that I might not get to see it all.
Although this may not be a feature you expect at a top-class hotel, the resort also boasts the internationally renowned Wellbeing and Medical Centre, complete with a team of experienced professionals, including dermatologist and venereologist Dr Brigitte Bollinger MD and brings a next level approach to healthcare. Guests can partake in any number of procedures and treatments, from dentistry to cosmetics and you can recover at ease within the resort.
The world’s sporting elite can often be found here recuperating after tournaments, relaxing after victories. They don’t come here to be seen, but there is that world famous Swiss tennis player known for his class, style and that sweeping mop of hair that may or may not have spent some time here. And who can blame him? Nothing is too much trouble at the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz.
When I fancy an early morning aqua aerobics class to wake me up, the solution is in the swimming pool. When I want some secluded down time in the resort, there’s a hammock waiting for me and when my throat merely tickles with the hint of thirst, my drink is refilled before I’ve even registered it.
From the outset, this resort feels like home. With 267 luxury rooms and suites, it may not sound like your average boutique, family run hotel, but it still manages to maintain the intimate, personal level of care and hospitality we all crave. Walking into the hotel entrance you’ll find roman columns and looming pillars holding up this statuesque fortress. In one room I can see lavish lighting displays, quirky art installations, and customary marble floors, but even with opulent interiors washed with gold, it still possesses a calming welcoming quality. My suite may be extensive too with a lounge area, four poster bed, hallway, dining area, balcony and plush bathroom, but it only serves to comfort me. It’s not a customary, confined square box; it’s a house in itself.
Pulling myself away from my palace, and struggling to settle on which pool to test out first, I wander around the luscious, manicured grounds. Ladies play bridge on the terrace while couples sip champagne in the fading sun and I sense how at ease everyone feels here. Whether they’re here for medical care or enjoying a spa weekend, no one will ever know; privacy is imperative at Bad Ragaz.
Ladies play bridge on the terrace while couples sip champagne in the fading sun and I sense how at ease everyone feels here.
The outdoor pool, lined with snow-topped Swiss mountains, draws me closer, but just around the corner one stand out building steals my attention. The thermal spa, and the pride and joy of the whole resort, is a stunning contrast to the main hotel. Flanked by classic historic buildings, it stands out as a temple to the water that has made this region what it is. It’s clad in white wooden panels and elongated oval windows frame the stunning scenery behind it, the perfect backdrop for a dip in the therapeutic healing thermal water.
Low in minerals, unbelievably soft and great for the skin, the thermal water is like bathing in silk. In fact it’s so soft, that regular visitors often speak of no longer needing to use hair conditioner. And its importance at the resort doesn’t stop there; Grand Resort Bad Ragaz truly does worship the water. The hotel boasts seven different sommeliers to guide you when it comes to tea, wine, cheese and coffee, but what fascinates me is the three dedicated solely to water. You can even have your meals paired with different waters.
Bathing in the therapeutic thermal water as often as I physically can, it seems rude not to find out more about its source while I’m here. Follow my lead and take a bus to the Tamina Gorge to see the reason so many people have flocked here over the centuries. The sight of the gorge is completely unexpected and in a narrow, tunnel-like ravine, you can watch the master at work.
Low in minerals, unbelievably soft and great for the skin, the thermal water is like bathing in silk.
The setting is fairy-tale worthy so it’s no surprise author of cult classic Heidi, Johanna Spyri, referenced Bad Ragaz within the book after spending much of her time here. Now you’ve managed to tear yourself away from the resort, make the most of the local area and hike to the top of the mountain, where you’ll find a rewarding lunch spot that offers stunning views of Bad Ragaz.
Then for dinner, be sure to stop off at the hotel’s Igniv restaurant by three-Michelin-starred chef Andreas Caminadas’. Taking sharing plates to a new level, over several hours, we dine on in excess of 20 dishes of culinary delights, each with its own backstory. Tens of courses later and I’ve forgotten to leave room for dessert, which is not a problem at Igniv, when you can grab some five-star pick and mix on the way out from the sweetie bar. After such a filling but sumptuous meal, the thought of eating again this year, let alone at breakfast tomorrow is tough, but it’d be rude to pass up such beautifully hand crafted sweet treats. And what better place to sit back, relax and let my food go down than this place?
A few days bathing in the thermal water, against a fairy-tale backdrop of Swiss mountains, and I’ve been charmed by Bad Ragaz. I might not have tried out any of the medical treatments on offer yet, but I already feel lighter, calmer and healthier. I think I’ll pass on the Botox this time because there really is something in the water.
Nightly rates at Grand Resort Bad Ragaz start from CHF 245 /£198* per person sharing a double room. Rates include breakfast, welcome aperitif, use of the 36.5° Wellbeing & Thermal Spa area and Tamina Therme, fresh fruit and Ragaz water each day and daily fitness and relaxation lessons as well as VAT. *Prices in Pound Sterling are according to today’s exchange rate.
SWISS offers up to 119 weekly flights from London City, Heathrow, Gatwick (seasonal), Manchester, Birmingham and Dublin to Zurich. All-inclusive fares start from £49 one-way*, including all airport taxes, one piece hold luggage and hand luggage, plus meal and drink. SWISS are also happy to transport your first set of ski or snowboard equipment and boots free of charge in addition to your standard free baggage allowance.
(*Please note this is a seasonal one-way Gatwick – Zurich leading fare and is subject to change, availability and is not available on all flights. Terms and conditions apply.)