Park Hotel Vitznau

The Park Hotel Vitznau on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland first opened its doors in the spring of 1903, after a three-year building project. A century later, history repeated itself: in 2009 the hotel closed for three years during a multi-million-dollar renovation, reopening in 2013 as a lavish modern luxury hotel and spa, full name: Park Hotel Vitznau Health and Wealth Residence.

The hotel has a rich history, having experienced visitors on the Grand Tour, when young upper-class men travelled around Europe almost as a rite of passage to learn about art and culture. With the advent of railway lines in the mid 1800s, the route also extended to the middle classes. Way back in 1871 the Vitznau-Rigi Railway to the summit of Mount Rigi (1550m) opened – Europe’s first mountain cog railway (using cogwheels on a toothed track, designed for steep gradients) - which climbs 1115 metres. This scenic train ride attracted many visitors to the area, and in 1903 the luxury Park Hotel Vitznau, designed by architect Karl Gottlieb Koller, welcomed its first well-heeled guests.

When you sit in the gardens of this hotel, looking across Lake Lucerne to the snow-peaked Swiss Alps and the "chocolate box" village of Vitznau, you know it’s a paradise, and the original owner, Josef Anton Bon, was both a visionary and a genius. The most exclusive rooms here are called Residences and come with a price tag for the seriously wealthy. The Residence is more than a hotel room; it’s more like a top-notch luxury penthouse apartment with breathtaking views to Lake Lucerne. Every opportunity has been taken to provide the most spectacular possible views of the lake from the hotel rooms.

The elegant facade of the Park Hotel Vitznau brings to mind the Belle Epoque, France’s Golden Age in the late 19th century and early 20th century. A hotel situated on a lake must be photographed from the water, as it’s essential to see the setting; this stretch of glassy water is the landscape within which the hotel sits. Without Lake Lucerne caressing the garden of the hotel, which leads right down to the shore, the scene would not be as typically Swiss and pristinely beautiful.

There is something about waking up in Switzerland - the clean Swiss air, perhaps - that makes you feel good. Couple this with an immaculately-prepared breakfast box of home-made conserves and bread, plus fresh juice shots oozing with vitamins, and I can’t think of a better start to the day.

The spa is one of the most beautifully designed - as a photographer, the infinity pool with its picture wall is almost unsurpassable. This has to be one of the world´s best luxury hotel swimming pools, with that same breathtaking view to Lake Lucerne and the Swiss Alps. The hotel is only minutes’ walk from the village of Vitznau, and the whole area is extremely photogenic.

One unique distinctive feature of this hotel, which I have never seen before and I think is an excellent idea, is glass doors. Each Residence suite has a floor-to-ceiling glass inner door. If a residence is occupied by a guest, the wooden outer door is closed; however if a room is available, the wooden door is left wide open and the glass inner door protects the room from guests wandering in, while allowing them to see into rooms and especially the view from the room to the lake. So you get a sneak preview of their individually designed decor (each suite is totally unique) and can decide which Residence to choose when you return for a second stay. Or perhaps you may want to make it your business to stay in each and every one of the Residences.

In terms of dining, the Focus restaurant, led by Head Chef Nenad Mlinarevic and his team, can only be described as exquisite. The six wine cellars and champagne cellar are reputed to be among the finest in the world, with 30,000 bottles worth a total of $28 million. Beautifully designed, they can be visited on a guided tour with the sommelier, along with a tasting.

The gardens of this hotel are absolutely immaculate and the high-tech side also extends to robotic lawnmowers which sense obstacles and change direction; they seem to carefully groom each blade of grass. It’s a joy to be out in the gardens and around the pavilion with its lakeside terrace, savouring the peace and tranquillity of this wonderful scene. Art lovers will not be disappointed, with paintings, murals, and a magnificent revolving bronze sculpture-fountain called ‘Bull & Bear". The bull and the bear are symbolic beasts of finance, referring to rising (bull) and falling (bear) markets.

This is a hotel offering every conceivable luxury service and feature: the limo transfers, the butler, the private dining, the history, the design, the high-tech gadgets, uber-luxury in every piece of fabric and furniture throughout, a first-class spa, superb cuisine, plus a destination that can only de described as heavenly. The Park Hotel Vitznau is a member of The Most Famous Hotels in The World.

The photos which Michelle Chaplow and her crew shot for the hotel were featured in an elegant hardbacked coffee table book by Andreas Augustin for The Most Famous Hotels in The World, published in January 2014.


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