Swiss family hotels: the Waldhaus, nestled between lake and forest

Swiss family hotels: the Waldhaus, nestled between lake and forest

The Waldhaus of Sils-Maria (GR) concentrates all the superlatives of the mythical hotel. Built on a hill overlooking the Upper Engadine valley, it outdoes the region’s establishments which flourished at the beginning of the 20th century and which stretch from Saint-Moritz to Pontresina. Built in 1908 by Josef Giger and his wife Amalie Giger-Nigg, it has been in the hands of the same family for five generations.

The hotel built in 1908 by Josef Giger and his wife Amalie Giger-Nigg (below with their daughter and granddaughter) welcomes its guests to its plush lounges and, for some years now, to its wellness center -be.

© DR

Like all myths, it is not easily accessible. From French-speaking Switzerland, more than seven hours by train are necessary. The journey is worth it, especially the section in the Rhaetian trains that plunge in endless curves into the Graubünden mountains. The prize also deserves, commensurate with the exceptional history of the establishment. At the Waldhaus, there is no ostentatious luxury or touch screen to lower the blinds, the fittings and the decor are from the period (with the advantages and disadvantages).

Warm environment

When you arrive at the hotel, after crossing Switzerland from west to east, you are welcomed by the whole family. We address you as if you were part of it. The clientele is made up of tourists who have come to spend a few days, celebrate a wedding, a birthday or spend a romantic weekend, but also lucky people who live there for several months or all year round.

Old ladies chat while waiting for the late afternoon concert, offered by musicians, some of whom have been there for sixty years; distinguished gentlemen read the newspaper, the NZZ Where the Times in the library with ornate tables, the staff – more than 150 employees – slip discreetly from the music room to the dining room.

© NINA BAISCH
© NINA BAISCH

Place of art and philosophy

A slew of artists and intellectuals have spent some time there, among the most highly rated: Einstein, Bowie, Thomas Mann, Visconti, Cocteau, Primo Levi, Proust, Rod Stewart. To stay in the homonyms, Kristen (who is not Rod’s daughter) stayed there to shoot the film with Juliette Binoche Sils Mariaby Olivier Assayas.

Staying at the Waldhaus in Sils-Maria means soaking up the old-time atmosphere but also enjoying a wellness center which, since 2010, has brought a touch of modernity. Well, not everyone enjoys tennis, reading the international press or Hungarian rhapsody.

And in the region?

In Saint-Moritz, a few minutes by bus from Sils Maria, the Segantini Museum houses beautiful works by the painter from Grisons, who died at the age of 41 of peritonitis in 1899. In the small church by the roadside, we discover his large paintings that tell of the simple life of peasants under the incredible skies of the Engadine.

Follow in the footsteps of Nietzsche, who lived in Sils-Maria and whose house has been turned into a museum; take a stroll around the lake and reread the elliptical sentences of his works which line the walkway. “I am again in the Upper Engadine, for the third time, and I feel that this is here and nowhere else is my true homeland and my nest,” he said, writing. Thus spake Zarathustra.

© GIAN GIOVANOLI

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