Updated: Jan 16
Our first destination as exclusive ambassadors of Switzerland Tourism. Despite its style and class, Gstaad has remained genuinely Alpine and down-to-earth. It is proud of its tradition and lives and breathes it every day.
What do you imagine when you think of Gstaad?
We have long wanted to visit Gstaad but we had always thought it was a resort for beautiful people and serious skiers and felt almost a bit shy about taking our average looking, non-skiing selves to this wonderful place.
We were so delighted then to discover that as part of our fabulous collaboration with Switzerland Tourism, we would get to visit Gstaad ourselves and see what it’s all about!
We set off on Saturday morning full of excitement for the weekend ahead. It’s a nice journey through beautiful countryside so it was really no hardship to be on the road.
Our first stop was to visit a cheese cave in Gstaad which took us up the slopes around Gstaad and gave us a better view of our beautiful new surroundings. We met René Ryser who runs the caves. He explained that he leads Molkerei; a cooperative of farmers who sell their milk for making into cheese. In the summer months, when the cows are out to pasture in the mountains, each farmer makes their own cheese. You can also hire a fondue backpack from the Molkerei to eat in the giant fondue pan! What a unique idea!
We descended the steep steps to the cave and our jaws dropped to the floor. The place had an almost ecclesiastical feeling about it with candles everywhere, soothing music playing and the beautiful sight of 3,100 well ordered cheeses filling the huge floor to ceiling shelves. The cave itself is an old water reservoir, which is perfect for the cheese with its subterranean cool climate. René told us a bit more about cheese production before moving to the all-important tasting session! The cheese produced by the Molkerei is classified double AOP (Appellation d'Origine Protégée), which is very rare and ensures the origin and quality of the production of the cheese.
The next part of the visit was the cheese sampling. This was our favourite part and the children were really enthusiastic about trying as much cheese as they could. It was especially astonishing watching Alba munching away as she’s going through a phase of eating almost nothing I prepare at home. We particularly liked the softer cheese flavoured with herbs - perfect with a nice glass of crisp white wine! This visit combined all the things we love and is definitely worth trying next time you are in the area.
All that cheese had whetted our appetites so the next stop on our visit was Charly’s for some lunch. We read that this is a must-visit when you are in Gstaad and we could see why when we entered to be greeted by the sight of counters full of chocolates and cake! We had a cosy window table and were soon tucking into quiche and salad, club sandwiches and chicken nuggets followed by a delicious dessert each (Alba’s attention had been grabbed immediately by a pink unicorn style cake, which she couldn’t possibly leave without trying). The service was impeccable and super-efficient.
After lunch we set off to Saanen where the next stop on our itinerary was a visit to Willi Bach’s farm, nestled at the foot of a ski slope. We parked right outside the farm and popped a sleepy Elio into the baby carrier again so that he could snooze more easily if he wanted. We met Willi himself outside his farm house and he took us to see the cows.
Willi was completely charming and clearly passionate about his livelihood. On our way to the barn, we passed some gorgeous ponies who Alba was happy to chat to. The cows were really impressive and we loved meeting the calves who provoked lots of giggling when they tried to lick the children’s sleeves. As usual Alba was up close and trying to feed them pieces of hay while Jude watched and cajoled from a bit further back. Willi introduced us to his oldest cow and it was clear that he was very proud of her and she was like a member of the family, which was really lovely. After we had said hello to many of the cows, Willi invited us to try some of his saucisson and the cheese they produce in the summer months. As a passionate foodie, I love to discover food from the source and learn about how it was made, stored and matured. It was really delicious and Jude and Alba kept going back for more. We were truly delighted with this experience and grateful to Willi for sharing his time and expertise with us.
We had a bit of spare time after that so we went for a walk in the centre of Gstaad. It’s really a beautifully manicured and peaceful town with smart shops, cafés and restaurants. We found a little coffee shop and stopped for a hot chocolate to warm ourselves and indulge in a spot of people watching before we continued our walk.
Now, the next part of our visit was a wonderful revelation for us as we headed over to our accommodation for the night, which was the Youth Hostel Gstaad Saanenland. I'm ashamed to admit that we panicked a bit when we heard the words “youth hostel” as we imagined sleeping in a mixed dormitory with all the children, and sharing a bathroom with strangers but in fact we were super comfortable and had absolutely everything we could need. Our room had twin beds in double configuration with bunk beds for the children and a baby bed for Elio, it was spotlessly clean with fantastic views and we had our own toilet and shower room. We had time to bring our bags in from the car and get settled before getting ready to go out to eat.
Our dinner destination for the evening was the Huus hotel restaurant. This place is amazing and our first impression was of the cosy bar and lounge area, which would be the perfect place for a pre-dinner cocktail in front of the fire. Not for us this evening however, with hungry children in tow, so we headed through to the dining room and settled ourselves in. Our meal was delicious and even the children ate everything on their plates. Elio was still feeling a bit under the weather and somewhat grizzly so we had to whizz though our dinners quite quickly - the service was great and they were very tolerant of our rowdy tribe.
Back at the hostel and we all slept really well. Jude excelled himself by sleeping soundly until 7am (instead of his usual 5.30!) so we were downstairs nice and early for a good breakfast.
We were delighted to have the chance to meet Eliane from Gstaad Tourism who was completely lovely and gave us some insight into life in Gstaad as well as some tips for other things to see during our trip. She also told us about lots of great summer activities including a volleyball competition, tennis championships and music events throughout the year which attract big names. We’ll have to come back for some of those!
We packed up the car and set off for our next activity, which was a horse and carriage ride in Lauenen. We were able to park the car just opposite the departure point and wrapped ourselves up tightly against the cold weather before climbing aboard the carriage. Alba was so excited and kept comparing the scenery to that in the film Frozen while she and Jude practiced making horse noises.
The ride was magical! We were amazed at how high in the mountains we went and how incredible the views were. We were bowled over by the charming sight of log cabins, glaciers and looming mountains. The gentle movement of the carriage and too much excitement meant that Alba fell snugly asleep about halfway through, and Elio split his time between sleeping and laughing. It was just a super experience and a great way to explore the area which we wouldn’t have discovered by car. You can also ski in this area and it couldn't be easier with parking at the foot of the slopes.
Lunch was really special as we went to Michel's Stallbeizli which is a small cosy restaurant built into a cow barn! When we walked in the first thing we saw was the cows on the other side of the glass windows separating them from the restaurant; so novel and exciting the children were giggling with excitement. We had a great table in the corner affording an up-close view of the calves which Alba loved. In celebration of his new-found love of all things cheese, Jude was adamant that we should all have fondue and he and Alba demolished theirs in no time (it was excellent so no surprise that they loved it. In fact Jean said it was the best fondue he had ever tried).
After our delicious lunch it was time for us to hit the road and head back home.
We came away feeling slightly baffled as to why we had missed visiting this wonderful place all these years, but happy to have had the chance to discover that there is so much more to do here than we had previously imagined. Gstaad somehow combines an upmarket feel with relaxed spirit and we were impressed with the easy-going soul of the place, which we hadn’t expected.
Every Sunday Jude draws a picture of a weekend highlight in his school book and he found it very hard to choose just one favourite thing about our trip, but in the end he opted for the horse carriage with all of us waving in the back.
Thank you to Gstaad tourism for this fantastic fun packed weekend. We’ll be back!
Try to win our delicious Gstaad Giveaway box including some cheese from Willi's farm, a locally produced speciality cake and 1 water flask! This contest runs until Sunday 31st January!
Congratulations to Matthew Holdsworth!
Destination Gstaad Promenade 41 3780 Gstaad/Switzerland
Tel +41 33 748 81 81 Fax +41 33 748 81 83 email@example.com
Genossenschaft Molkerei Gstaad
Jugendherberge Gstaad Saanenland
HUUS Gstaad Hotel