I’ll start with a little backstory as to how we came across this picture perfect Pontresina hotel. St Moritz was the location of my very first ski holiday in 2019. My husband and I enjoyed the experience enough that we wanted to do it again this year. Left so impressed by the beauty of the Engadine region in Switzerland, we decided to visit the same place once again.
Last year though, we had opted to book the Kulm Hotel in St Moritz – the birthplace of winter holidays. What we were not aware of is that the Kulm also had a sister hotel in a neighbouring town – the Grand Hotel Kronenhof, the most glamorous Pontresina hotel. Not wanting to ski at a different location, this ticked all the boxes for us. It allowed us to ski on the same slopes, yet experience a different hotel and learn about a new town – Pontresina, Switzerland.
- The Grand Hotel Kronenhof – What You Need to Know
- Pontresina, Switzerland
- Grand Hotel Kronenhof – The Only 5 Star Hotel in Pontresina
The Grand Hotel Kronenhof – What You Need to Know
|Hotel Star Rating||*****|
|Address||Via Maistra 130, 7504 Pontresina, Switzerland|
|Location||Pontresina, in the alpine valley of Upper Engadine, Canton of Graubünden, Eastern Switzerland. 6km away from St. Moritz|
|Transport Links||Car: Guests are offered a free transfer with the hotel’s limousine service from and to Pontresina train station (15 minutes’ walk) |
Train: Rhaetian Railway
Air: see note below
|Nearby Attractions||Diavolezza, Alp Languard & Muottas Muragl, Bernina Express, Alpine Museum, Bellavita Adventure Spa and Bath.|
|Distance from Airports||Engadine Airport: available for private flights ONLY. The airport also offers air-taxi transfers to national and international destinations. |
Zurich Airport: 3 hour drive
|Suitable for Families?||Yes|
|Smoking Rooms?||No, all rooms are non-smoking, however the hotel does offer a cigar room where smoking is permissible.|
|Contact Information||Phone: +41 81 830 30 30 |
Many of you have probably heard about St Moritz and know it for its opulence and grandeur. It certainly has as much of a reputation for glitz and glam as it does for its stunning ski slopes. Pontresina on the other hand, is probably not so well known. Whilst it is only 6km away from St Moritz, Pontresina is a wind-sheltered side valley sitting at an altitude of 1,805m above sea level. It is home to just over 2,000 permanent residents and has welcomed tourists as early as the 19th century.
This quaint little village has its own charm and atmosphere that is palpably different from St Moritz, but by is by no means inferior. This charm is partly derived from the blend of old Engadine houses, characterised by their decorated walls (or ‘sgraffito’ for those in the know) from the 17th and 18th centuries and elegant Belle Epoque style buildings. The village is also very close to the Bernina Massif, home to the two famous peaks of Engadine: Piz Palü and Piz Bernina (the highest peak in the Eastern Alps), making it ideal for mountain-climbing enthusiasts.
Pontresina turns off from the main motorway which means that the village remains quiet and undisturbed, and relatively sleepy compared to its neighbour, St Moritz. In fact it was this peace and quiet which made the village so much more charming to me. It is the perfect village to escape from the world for a few days, to take long and leisurely walks though the village and by the lakes, to ride cable cars and to explore other nearby villages.
Pontresina or St Moritz?
St Moritz also offers its own beautiful lakes, high-end hotels and shops but my opinion is that Pontresina is ideal for a longer winter holiday, where travellers can get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. On the other hand, I felt that St Moritz is ideal for a weekend trip, especially if you are into the social scene.
Whether you decide to stay in Pontresina or St Moritz, you will likely be using the same ski resort St. Moritz – Corviglia. There are 155km of slopes, 8km of ski routes and 24 lifts to transport the guests – it’s safe to say that whether you are into skiing, snowboarding or country skiing, there is definitely something for everyone to enjoy.
The slopes are packed full of cosmopolitan visitors and you can very much sense the ‘champagne atmosphere’ that makes the skiing in St Moritz some of the most famous in the world. If you do decide on St Moritz, I would recommend the Kulm Hotel. The Kulm is the sister hotel of the Grand Hotel Kronenhof and was our choice of hotel for our St Moritz holiday last year.
Travel to Pontresina
There are three ways to get to Pontresina, and therefore the Grand Hotel Kronenhof. I briefly mentioned them above but these are basically by car, by railway or by plane.
This was our choice of transportation for two years running now. We flew into Zurich airport and drove around 200km to reach the Engadine region. If the traffic is on your side, the drive takes approximately 3 hours. The journey is equally doable from other countries or parts of Switzerland:
- Milan – St. Moritz: 175 km, 3 hours
- Munich – St. Moritz: 300 km, 4 hours
- Basel – St. Moritz: 250 km, 4 hours
It is important to note that in the case of snow drifts, it is only possible to make the journey using snow chains or 4×4 cars. In such weather conditions, it is advisable to use the car train from Vereina tunnel at Klosters in Lower Engadine.
It is possible to reach Pontresina by train from Chur (click here for the live timetable). Whilst this is not something that I myself have experienced, I’m told it is one of the most beautiful and scenic routes in Europe thanks to its loop tunnels.
This was a mistake that I foolishly made. I had seen that the Engadine airport was located in nearby Samedan. What Google Maps doesn’t tell you is that this airport can only be used for private jet charters. If flying in on a commercial airline from another country, the closest you can fly to is Zurich, after which you will need to rent a car.
The airport also offers air-taxi transfers to national and international destinations. Naturally, you should only consider these as feasible options if you have the budget to do so.
A Pontresina Hotel
Lastly, there are a number of Belle Epoque hotels in Pontresina, but only one 5-star superior – the Grand Hotel Kronenhof. I include some of the other Pontresina hotels below, however note that this is solely for completeness of the article and not recommendations as I have never stayed in them. I did however spend three magical days and two nights at the Grand Hotel Kronenhof and would definitely recommend this winter wonderland to anyone looking to treat themselves to a luxurious ski trip.
|Hotel Rating||Hotel Options|
|***||Hotel Pontresina | Hotel Garni Chesa Mulin | Hotel Schweizerhof Pontresina | Hotel Allegra | Hotel Albris | Hotel Steinbock | Hotel Rosatsch | Chesa Quadrella|
Grand Hotel Kronenhof – The Only 5 Star Hotel in Pontresina
If the cars parked outside the entrance didn’t give this away already, then maybe the crown at the top will. Kronenhof does, afterall, mean crown. Affectionately known as the ‘Grande Dame of Engadine’, the Grand Hotel Kronenhof is one of the best-preserved 19th century hotels in the world and has been welcoming guests since 1848. At present, it is one of the finest luxury and wellness hotels in Switzerland, as well as a member of Swiss Deluxe Hotels.
Upon entering the Grand Hotel Kronenhof, I very much felt as though I was walking onto the set of the movie ‘Grand Hotel Budapest’. In fact, this could very well have been used for filming. It’s Swiss elegance at its finest, with beautiful murals on the ceiling, a grand chandelier and large imposing windows with views that overlook the Roseg glacier in the distance and the alpine beauty that Switzerland offers. This magical mix of natural beauty and neo-baroque architecture, modern comfort yet with a rich history that dates back to the 1800s, makes this one of the most exquisite hotels I have ever had the pleasure of staying in.
The History of the Grand Hotel Kronenhof
The hotel first opened its doors in 1848 as the ‘Rössli guesthouse’. In its cellars, a Veltliner wine shop was established, along with stables for the horses that transported the wines over the Bernina Pass. Over the years, the hotel has been through many conversions and iterations. The first was in the second half of the 19th century when the owner at the time, Lorez Gredig, was able to extend the premises thanks to the business booming. Below are some images of the oldest room in the premises.
Rumour has it that Mrs Gredig would sit at that chair and look out the window to see the guests that were arriving at the hotel on their carriages. She would pay particular attention to the amount of luggage that they brought with them. The rationale? The more luggage they have, the wealthier they must be, and therefore higher rates would be charged. This is of course, just a rumour, but it definitely makes for an interesting story.
The main section of the current hotel (a registered historical landmark), was built at the end of the 19th century and opened in 1898. It was during this period that the hotel was renamed from the Rössli guesthouse to the Grand Hotel Kronenhof & Bellavista. Since then, the building has been a horseshoe-shaped three-wing structure with a forecourt, and with more than 350 beds.
In the first half of the 20th century, the two World Wars had greatly impacted the tourism industry in Engadine, but thanks to the wine trade, the business was able to survive these times of hardship. That all changed when the second Winter Olympics was hosted in St Moritz in 1948. It resulted in a resurgence of tourism to the region and guests began to return to the hotel. Below are some images of skis that were left at the hotel by former guests. Ironically, the address on the tag is just a short walk away from where I currently live in London.
The last iteration was in 2004, when the Grand Hotel Kronenhof was bought by the Greek Niarchos family, who invested in a CHF35 million extension to the property, which was completed in November 2007. This made room for a large underground car park, 28 new guestrooms and a sublime spa that covers more than 2,000 square metres. The refurbishment is ongoing and since 2016, 13 new rooms and suites were built, as well as a cigar lounge and a billiards room by Pierre-Yves Rochon in the historic part of the house.
If you’re anything like me and find the story behind these old establishments fascinating, click here to read the full history.
Rooms and Suites
That part of arriving at a hotel that we all look forward to – getting to our rooms and dropping our luggage and collapsing on the bed. This is particularly true if you’ve had to take a flight, as well as a 3 hour drive to get to your end destination. There are some occasions though were the room impresses you so much that collapsing on the bed gets delayed in favour of exploring. This was the case at the Grand Hotel Kronenhof. I had the privilege of viewing both rooms and suites at the hotel (on top of the one I was staying in) and what they all had in common was a look of sheer elegance, combined with modern comfort.
The hotel is comprised of 112 rooms and suites. All the south-west facing rooms and suites offer panoramic views of the mountains, in addition to the Corviglia and Roseg glaciers. Our room also had a view of the hotel’s private ice skating rink, located just outside the lunch restaurant. Sizes of rooms begin at 35 square metres, with some suites going up to 75 square metres. Whatever the size, each of the bathrooms are made of granite and marble, and some rooms even offer a walk-in wardrobe. We were indeed lucky that our room offered this too, and anyone who has been skiing before will know that it is not the kind of holiday where you pack light.
The pictures below show both our room, as well as the star ‘Kronenhof Suite’ and its wonderful jacuzzi.
The Double Room
The Kronenhof Suite
Grand Hotel Kronenhof Spa
Speaking of jacuzzis, it reminded me that one of the main highlights of the hotel is the 2,000 square metre spa and wellness centre, where one side of the spa is built entirely of glass and offers picturesque views of the snowy mountains. It has to be one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. We took some shots just as the sun was setting over the valley and the view was a dreamy mix of dusty pink and lilac blue hues, surrounded by the fresh white snow. Magical.
The good news is that the Grand Hotel Kronenhof Spa is open to both guests and non-guests. Click on the previous link to learn more about you can access the spa as a non-resident guest.
I happily explored all the spa and fitness centre had to offer including the sauna, steam room, ‘water in motion’ pool and salt grotto and was able to book myself in to an early morning yoga class the day we were leaving. There were only about 5 of us in the yoga studio which allowed each of us to get sufficient attention from the instructor. I cannot think of a better place to meditate than a room with a view of snow top mountains. Classes are available to hotel guests free of charge, but booking in advance is advisable.
The ultimate treat is the Grand Hotel Kronenhof spa’s private suite, where couples can enjoy a hydro jet bath, a refreshing body scrub in the steam bath and an aroma massage. The treatment ends with being served small and intricate delicacies and a glass of champagne, while lounging on a double waterbed with a view of the mountains. The ultimate Valentines Day treat in Pontresina.
Aside from the spa, there are plenty of activities to keep guests entertained without having to leave the hotel – both for adults and families with young children alike. I already shared images of the billiards room and cigar room – needless to say, this is not one for the kids. Also, did you notice how the cigar room also had service bells next to each chair? The bar is situated next to the cigar room and if your glass suddenly becomes dry, just press the service bell and a member of staff from the bar will bring you a top-up. The epitome of luxury treatment! Bar staff also cater to guests in the billiards room.
Speaking of the legendary Kronenhof bar, it’s also worth having a look in the pictures below. It’s a suave and sophisticated meeting area before dinner, where you can enjoy some classic cocktails and the bar’s fine selection of gins.
Older kids can of course use the billiards room during the daytime, but each night we visited it was much more of an older crowd so that might be something worth noting. Instead, they can enjoy some time in the hotel’s very own bowling alley, which is available for use by hotel guests up until 10pm. It has a quirky old worldly feel to it, yet with a modernised touch of mechanical pinsetter. Just ask at the hotel reception for them to switch it on and watch the room come to life. It would make a great location for parties, especially as Swiss fondue and Raclette are served here!
It is worth pointing out that the hotel does all it can to ensure that younger guests enjoy the hotel as much as their parents. Professional nannies are available to look after guests aged three and upwards at the hotel’s Krönchen Kids Club – where the programme changes daily to ensure that a diverse offering of arts, crafts and games are made available. The hotel is also home to Rondelle – a restaurant just for children where a special menu is served, all under the supervision of a nanny.
Once you’ve had your fill of indoor activities, head outside to Le Pavillion for lunch in the Engadine sunshine, with a glorious view of the Grand Hotel Kronenhof spa and it’s very own ice rink. If you are guests of the hotel, you can rent ice skates free of charge.
I’ve covered two of these already, Le Pavillion and Rondelle, but I’ve left the finest to the very end. The jewel in the hotel’s crown is the Grand Restaurant where breakfast and dinner are served. Before even tasting the food, I was in such awe of the beauty of the dining room, complete with dazzling chandeliers and beautiful ceiling frescoes by 19th century painter Otto Haberer, as well as a minstrels’ gallery.
I will admit that I was slightly concerned about food options given that I was taking part in Veganuary and cannot eat gluten, but there was no need for me to feel concerned. All of the staff were fully understanding of our dietary requirements and explained that there were in fact three other tables also requesting vegan meals. They appreciate that more and more of the world are requesting meals that cater to specific dietary requirements and they continue to work hard to improve their offering. The food throughout was excellent, with very reasonable prices considering the location and ambience of the restaurant.
The hotel is also home to award-winning gourmet restaurant Kronenstübli – a living piece of history that includes original Engadine furniture as part of its decor. Whilst the Grand Restaurant is only open to hotel guests, Kronenstübli is open to the public. Reservations are a must. Given that both my husband and I were following a vegan diet for the month of January, we did not visit, but the restaurant is well-favoured amongst epicureans, particularly as the chef’s speciality is Canard à la Presse.
Last but not least, if you are looking for a light lunch or afternoon tea, then the hotel lobby will not disappoint either, because no meal can ever be bad when this is the view in front of you.
And so for me, in summary, The Grand Hotel Kronenhof allows you to experience the best of both the glitz of St Moritz, and the peace and quiet of this alpine retreat that also happens to offer some of the best sps facilities in the world. Perfect for couples seeking a romantic weekend as well as families that are looking for wide-ranging facilities to keep young children entertained. For the food lovers who are looking to sample some of Switzerland’s finest, yet also for vegetarians and vegans who do not want to worry about whether they will find food options on their holiday. The Grand Hotel Kronenhof fully deserves to wear that crown.
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If you have yet to go on a ski holiday and would like a little more information on what to expect and what to pack, check out the Dukes Avenue ultimate ski trip packing list.
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