If you want to spend some wonderfully relaxing family time in a signature spa in a quiet beautiful place, Grand Resort Bad Ragaz is just the place for you! This Swiss resort is situated in the middle of what is called ‘Heidiland’, and stretches from the western part of Lake Walen to Bad Ragaz in Eastern Switzerland. Johanna Spyri, best-known author of Heidi, was inspired by these beautiful landscapes when she wrote her most popular novel over 150 years ago. Learning about this, our girls get even more exited: “Will we maybe meet Heidi and Peter for real?”, asks the youngest as we approach the resort.
Well it isn’t Heidi we see, but rather the beautiful sculpture park in front of the resort. With over 450 sculptures by 77 artists from 17 countries, it is the largest sculpture park in Europe and it is amazing. The best thing? There is no entrance fee! Strolling through the park landscape transformed by this art is a special experience. And maybe the best thing is that most installations are ‘kid- proof’. So, our girls can really explore most of them while coming up with completely new versions of hide and seek. It almost feels like a highly sophisticated amusement park. During our stay we frequently visit it, discovering something new each time. Our whole stay is a kind of discovery trip; to start with the resort is spread out over an impressive acreage of land. It comprises four more or less separate hotels. The Grand Hotel Quellenhof and the Grand Hotel Hof Ragaz are housed in mid-19th century buildings, both of which are traditional in style. The new Spa Suites house in an impressive tower building set a little to the side of the other two hotels. We stay at the Grand Hotel Hof Ragaz. After a very warm welcome a staff member escorts us to one of the new two-bedroom family suites. We adore the modern decor and the view of the mountains. The girls are spoiled with teddy bears, sweets and the butler even prepared a mini table tennis table for them, such a nice gesture. The rooms are very comfortable and spacious, the bathroom has a separate toilet and shower. Two terraces are equipped with furniture and the Nespresso coffeemaker is a welcome sight, so we are assured of some fresh Espresso in the morning. The Grand Hotel Quellenhof is up for renovation next season which will bring it into the 21st century, mixing new design elements with architectural features that are part of the history of this hotel built in 1869. The Spa Suites only opened in 2009 and can best be described as both elegant and purist. Light-flooded rooms, a breath-taking view of the surroundings, clear lines and shapes, the finest natural materials combined with high-end technology and a stylish interior. The lofts and suites include a private spa area with steam bath, freestanding whirlpool and in some cases even a sauna. And this all adds up to something unique: all running water comes from the thermal source.
Everything here revolves around water and wellbeing. The resort is one of world’s most famous and popular spa destinations, as evidenced by some of the other guests. We even rub shoulders with royalty and celebrities. The ascent from Bad Ragaz to a world health resort begins in 1840, when the 36.5-degree warm thermal water of the Tamina spring is led for the first time from the Tamina gorge four kilometres out of the valley into the Ragaz farm. Famous bathers such as Rainer Maria Rilke, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Thomas Mann and Victor Hugo pay tribute to the former farming village.
One of the most amazing things is the Tamina Therme, the public bath. Resort guest can use all the facilities free of charge. The water feels very nice and everything is well cared for. At the end of your visit you get heated sheets, for example, to warm up a bit when walking back into the locker/changing rooms: amazing! In typical Swiss fashion, it is spotlessly clean. The main pool is 50 meters by 25 meters and has jets located along the walls for soaking and massaging your back and joints. An arrow lights up when it is time to move to the next station, so everyone gets a chance to get the benefits of allowing the jets to do their work. There is also a big outdoor pool; it too offers the benefits of the healing, thermal water and stations where you can lay out and have the jets work their magic on your joints and back. Again, well behaved kids are welcome, so we are having a few nice hours together as a family while the spa water works its healing miracle. And we must admit, afterwards we feel completely relaxed and rejuvenated which results in some of the best nights of sleep we have had in a long time. Although we luckily didn’t have to use any of them, the resort also offers a multitude of health services ranging from occupational and physical therapy, dermatology, cosmetic procedures, Chinese medicine, sports therapy... etc, etc. And let us not forget to mention the elaborate and luxurious spa world which includes a Finnish sauna, a steam bath and a non-nude salt sauna. The absolute highlight, however, is the herbal steam bath with Swarovski crystals. The spa treatments are so extensive, it’s difficult to choose but they fit everyone’s needs to the full, and the lunchroom outside serves lovely coffee, smoothies, juices and scones. The resort even offers daily activities from spa events to exercise classes which is included in the rate.
And we experienced all this even before we find the Family spa at which moment our enthusiasm really peaks. This spa totally dedicated to kids is a world of experience across 550 square metres. The different water zones range from 0.2 to 1.3 metres deep and are filled with soothing 33-degree warm water. A wooden Alpine hut is a reminder of the story of Heidi and all manner of water games such as the mini slide invite the little ones to splash around in the warm water. Although somewhat geared to the real young ones, the one thing our girls really get excited about is mermaid swimming. They donned a tail costume that binds their legs and ends in an effective fin and then are guided by a very kind and enthusiastic instructor. After some struggling they both master the hip thrust that propels them forward. Eventually they even manage to swim through some underwater hoops. Afterwards they both immediately proclaim this the best event of the whole holiday. Unfortunately, the girls miss out on the special child friendly spa treatments or the curiously named ‘funny Choco’ or the ‘Sweet Honey’ massages. And we are quite relieved they didn’t hear about the opportunity to have their nails manicured and polished.
During the warm summer months there is the attractive Garden Pool with reclining chairs and bar. Our girls love to do tricks in the water while we take the opportunity to read a little while admiring the beautiful view of the surrounding mountains. The historic Helena Bath is the only pool which is limited to guests 16 years and older. Imagine being transported back more than a hundred years and swimming in an indoor pool whose design clearly was inspired by the ancient bath architecture. A miracle to behold!
So, our first impression is that this is probably one of the most elegant and luxurious hotels we have visited. The service is above and beyond. As it is a larger facility and easy to get lost, the staff are eager to show you the way in a most accommodating manner. From the moment we arrive, we feel as if our every wish will be granted.
Most of the hotels and resorts we review have a kids club. The one at the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz is almost outer worldly; it is not a makeshift structure somewhere hidden out of sight (and in many cases hearing distance), no it is a complete villa. Bigger than our own house, it offers three stories and multiple rooms full of games, a climbing wall, PlayStations, their very own kid’s kitchen, beamers and screens, books, art materials, etc, etc. First-class care by qualified staff is there for children aged three and up. Whatever your kids decide to do: dancing, crafts, role playing, painting, baking or playing games – you will probably have a hard time getting them to leave at the end of the day. And do not bother picking the kids up for lunch as in most cases they will pop up in the hotel’s kitchen to bake their very own dish (pizza in our case) under the supervision of one of the chefs.
Directed by the very well informed staff we spend a full day at the Flumserberg. After taking the cable car, we embark on the CLiiMBER; an imposing structure of wood and steel with 100 climbing stations laid out on 3 different heights with various designs and levels of difficulty There is even a safe and easy climbing zone for children from the age of 4. So, depending on the age of your children and their comfort with heights, you can increase your level of difficulty as you climb up to the third level at the lofty height of 15 metres.
If you are not into climbing, we highly recommend you try the fantastic toboggan run FLOOMZER which descends 250 meters down. On this modern and childproof toboggan coaster, you experience three loops, two tunnels, countless curves, bridges and waves. You hurtle down a 2 km route from Chrüz to Tannenboden, and the entire run is surrounded by breath-taking mountain scenery. We are really having a blast. The Flumserberg offers a fullness of interesting and unique opportunities for sports and outdoors enthusiasts. Well-built hiking paths, 3 adventure paths for the big and small ones, bike routes, outdoor tennis-courts, idyllic fire places, many beautiful playgrounds and starting places for paragliding. If you get slightly overwhelmed by all this, just relax at one of the idyllic mountain restaurants for some refreshments while you plan your day together.
Besides all this, Mount Pizol, Bad Ragaz’s local mountain, has countless hiking trails, including what is arguably the most beautiful panoramic route in Switzerland. Allow your gaze to wander over the Alps of Eastern Switzerland, Grisons and Austria, study the Pizol Glacier on the summit of Mount Pizol (2844 metres above sea level) and the Graue Hörner group. For bike enthusiasts the idyllic countryside around Bad Ragaz offers many kilometres of mountain bike and cycle routes throughout the Heidiland holiday region and the different, off-the-beaten-track routes are perfect not only for cycling, but also for horseback riding. Also in the immediate surroundings of the resort there are multiple opportunities to stretch your legs. The resort is conveniently located within walking distance of town, where there's quite a few shops, bakeries, restaurants and even more art installations.
This overwhelming amount of activities both in and outside the resort (a daily newsletter is delivered the night before informing you of the programme), make us really very busy, not to mention all the different dining options we just have to sample. We start our culinary journey at the restaurant Namun, where we are transported back to memories of a previous trip to Thailand. Awarded with 13 Gault Millau points, the chefs at Namun prepare authentic Thai dishes that wouldn’t be out of place in the best Bangkok restaurant or any other restaurant in Thailand for that matter.
As we visit the resort in summer, we enjoy all this ‘al fresco’ on the outside terrace while the girls play with the hammocks sprung between the pines in the big garden. Another evening we drive up to Hotel Schloss Wartenstein, also part of the resort, for diner with a spectacular view of the valley. If you go there make sure to have a look at the nearby ruins of Burg Wartenstein, a castle originating from the 12th century. Your children will love it too.
For a real gourmet experience we encourage you to make a reservation at the "IGNIV" by Andreas Caminada restaurant. Rather than relying on a traditional menu with individual starters, main courses and desserts, the chef creates different sharing dinners comprising up to 30 different dishes. Although for families maybe the Olives d’Or restaurant with its Mediterranean cuisine is more suitable. Or you could try the more French orientated Restaurant Bel-Air, well-known and extremely popular for its traditional Sunday buffets and equally famed summer barbecues. And last but not least the Restaurant Zollstube, typically Swiss, traditional cuisine but with a cosmopolitan twist. We enjoy a marvellous Champagne/Cheese fondue. And the best thing is: it is just a short stroll to your room afterwards, so why not indulge yourself with one or more of the 15 kinds of craft beer on offer? Breakfast buffet was excellent too and we appreciate them staying open until 11:00 a.m. It offers a very wide range of choices of bread, eggs, fruit and vegetables and with anything you can imagine. You can even choose from a dozen different teas.
On our last evening we experience the spectacular multimedia production in the famous Tamina gorge, Light Ragaz. Thanks to state-of-the-art projection technology you are transported into the mystical world of spring water and the power of the elements. At up to 80 metres high, the rocks become the largest natural projection screen in the world. Visual 3-D effects are incredibly projected precisely onto the rocks’ structures and shapes. The girls absolutely love it. “Dad and Mum, can we please come back to this resort? We have never done so many amazing things in one hotel, everything was really cool” and they are completely right. We had a great resort experience!
# We have not met one single member of staff without a smile in their faces showing us how proud they are to serve the guests and to work for such an amazing and historical hotel resort. All our expectations have been met with a delightful and perfect service around the clock.
# Magnificent natural surroundings with a wide range of activities. There are some wonderful places to visit if you like natural trails or you can enjoy mountain biking as well. You could stay here a month and never be bored.
# Luxury and exquisite design of the hotel and an extra-ordinary spa. Not to mention the kids facilities and sport opportunities in Summer such as biking, tennis, badminton, (mini)golf, boccia and ofcourse skiing, snowboarding and tobogganing in Winter.
Grand Resort Bad Ragaz can be booked through The Leading Hotels of the World, Swiss Deluxe Hotels and the Private Selection Hotels and Relais & Chateaux.