Upon our arrival at HUUS Hotel in Saanen, Switzerland, one hot Saturday in August, we immediately bump into charismatic owner Günter Weilguni and resident DJ Ewald Klassen greeting us like long lost friends. Both have just come back from the Glacier 3000 run; a 26 km parcours at the top of the 3,000 meter (9,842 ft) mountain. Although it is clear they haven’t just taken a walk in the park, both look remarkably fresh and relaxed. This little encounter sums up the HUUS Hotel experience quite well: extremely friendly, homely, sporty and a dash of entertainment.
Actually, some of you may already know that we almost never go back to the same place more than once, but this is our second visit. A few months earlier we were fortunate to stay a few days this Winter. You will find our extensive review of this visit here.
So, the sight of this rather big hotel is familiar to us. In some way it resembles a big streamliner partly moored in the hillside. Most rooms are situated on the southern, sunny side around 100 meters above the main valley with views across to the mountains on the other side. Driving up to the front entrance is deceptive as the size of the hotel is masked by being ‘submerged’ in the hill. It is one of the biggest hotels in the region, but you will hardly notice this during your stay due to the clever layout over more than 7 stories. The levels are counted in reverse direction that go down from the entrance, lobby and restaurants on the main level. There is only one floor above. A very cleaver setup which ensures a stunning views of the whole valley from the rooms, the lobby, the pool deck or sauna, which makes it amazing just to sit and enjoy the view. But hey, there is much more to do.
The enormous range of activities in the weekly outdoor program is one of the benefits. And it’s precisely why we love this place and will be fans for life. They offer all guests free activities such as guided bike tours (including bike, helmet and gloves), Indiana Jones’ adventure trail, river rafting, family canyoning, climbing lessons with mountain guides, water activities, etc. We participated in some and these are serious undertakings guided by a professional outdoor company. And besides it is very convenient to have a fixed activity schedule, and it is also a cost saver. Imagine, a river rafting activity alone costs CHF 100.00 per person if you book it for yourself. From the first moment we visited the area of Saanen and Gstaad we fell in love with it. It is smack in the middle of what we would call ‘Heidi-land’; and we mean this in a very good and positive way. Especially now in summer, the landscape is breath-taking and although quite a few other travellers are enjoying all this beauty it is still relatively quiet. Although HUUS hotel is almost a temple of good taste and design it also pays tribute to the rich heritage of the area, which is impressive. Tourism has actually been growing in this area since 1900 when new hotels started to open.
The lovely town of Saanen is an easy 5-minute downhill walk. The Alte Kastlanei and the Church are listed as Swiss heritage sites of national significance and the entire village is also included on the list of Swiss Heritage Sites. This second visit we spend some more time just wondering the cobbled streets, eating an occasional ice cream and just soaking up the village atmosphere. A little further afield is the better known village of Gstaad, maybe even prettier but also more sophisticated and maybe just a little snobbish with luxury brands and top-notch restaurants rubbing shoulders with traditional wood worked, local shops.
But back to HUUS Hotel, as it is a Saturday it is also somewhat of a party time. While DJ Ewald prepares his set, a sushi chef is also busily preparing what later appears to be a sublime dishes of sushi and sashimi. Slowly but steady the lounge fills with hotel guest, locals and creatives. Not surprisingly because the lobby, bar and balcony are the perfect places to hang out. The HUUS lobby is the centre of the hotel, where everybody can feel at home - there are guitars and games for guests to use and the arrangements of objects of art and curiosa are worthy to be included in every high-end design magazine – and in fact HUUS hotel has been featured many times in all kind of international media. It’s all very cleverly thought through. For example, there is no tea/coffee maker in the room, the idea being to seduce guest to leave their rooms and come together in the lobby to enjoy themselves and meet others.
We are staying in two connecting suits on the ground floor. If you’re looking for comfort, some extra space with sofas: this is the ultimate place. Really, there’s nothing we can think of that can improve this room. It’s amazing modern design with dark contrasting colours offers a relaxed feeling as soon as we step in. And our kids love it even more when they step out and find a cool playground and lovely garden to relax in, just there. When we are there, the owner is just pointing out the place for a new wooden sculpture made by a local artist.
You might even see an occasional celebrity popping in for an incognito night out. The fun part of it all is that it is very sophisticated – think very well-made cocktails and amazing finger food – while at the same time, laid back. Hikers that return from a long walk, drinking some refreshment still in their hiking attire, dogs and kids running around, musicians, painters and other creatives walking in or out with their art work or residents from the village taking a table for a quick lunch or dinner. We seldomly see such a vibrant, homey, welcoming and yet stylish place.
A lot of this success of HUUS Hotel has to do with the staff. The front desk, bar/restaurant, owner Gunter, general manager Mirka and housekeeping staff, all take a team approach and they strike the perfect "sweet spot" between being fun and friendly while always remaining professional and anticipating everything we might need.
As mentioned, the food on-site is excellent and a quick drive to Saanen or Gstaad will assure plenty more options. Because of the lovely weather we spend two evenings sitting in one of the lounges on the balcony grazing on some great finger food accompanied by some (kids)cocktails. The other evening, we are having an evenly pleasant experience while eating a four-course dinner on the terrace of their La Vue Restaurant. The kitchen delivers a true taste of the Alps with straight forward, honest and contemporary cuisine. In the summer, a barbecue may be organised in the garden. Also, a great option is the HUUS Gstaad Restaurant on the 4th floor with a set lunch and dinner. This is also the place where every morning an enormous buffet spread is laid out including a chef preparing any style of egg you like. Adjoining this restaurant is the kid’s restaurant, movie room and play room/nursery. So, parents can enjoy their diner while the kids are being fed and entertained afterwards.
If you are travelling with teenagers you sometimes find yourself in trouble because, as is often the case in hotels, the activities are mainly geared towards the younger ones. But not in HUUS hotel. Besides the barrage of outdoor activities, HUUS Hotel offers a huge room equipped with a dozen or so big screens with WII and PlayStations. If your kids are into gaming, you will most probably have to drag them away from this.
Or you might chose to leave them there after all and spend some quality time in the spa. We certainly suggest you try the Finnish panorama sauna with an amazing view over the mountains. Rejuvenate those weary bones and minds further with the aromatic sauna, ice fountain, herbal steam bath, spa lounge, kid’s Spa, two treatment rooms for massages and a state-of-the-art gym with high-tech equipment. The 135m2 panoramic swimming pool comes with a spacious outdoor terrace lined with comfortable lounge chairs which are great in summer.
Accommodation-wise, for families we recommend the connecting rooms with a small gallery. They have rich and warming chalet-style interiors and come equipped with all kind of handy stuff like backpacks from Mammut, binoculars from Zeiss and tablets filled with newspapers, magazines and travel tips. The rooms are of a decent size and most have a balcony.
Besides the many activities provided by the hotel, we make some outings by ourselves. One of the things we really recommend is a trip up Glacier 3000. We do not attempt the run like Gunter and Ewald did, but take the gondola. During summer, Glacier 3000 offers a variety of activities: a breath-taking panorama, the suspension bridge Peak Walk by Tissot, a walk over the glacier as well as great hiking trails, a challenging fixed rope route … or a tour with the snow bus. And the thing our girls love most: the Alpine Coaster - the world’s highest bobsleigh track. It’s best to go here in the morning with less chance of clouds, but even in the afternoon: what a thrilling experience!
Speaking about a thrilling experience, owner Günter pointed us to Paragliding School Gstaad with instructor Fabrice Bielmann for a family paragliding session. This was something of a bucket list thing for us, so we arrange for a joint tandem glide. Accompanied by Fabrice and three other pilots we go up on the mountain and after a short, lovely walk end up at the take off zone. The pilots are taking great care preparing for the flight and in no-time we are airborne all together as a family. An amazing sight to see each other flying past like eagles. Of course we are accompanied by years of experience, so we are surprised they even let us steer ourselves for a short while. Followed by doing some cool stunts in the sky for those who feel comfortable; check out the amazing flights of our brave youngest girl:
Surely something we would highly recommend for everyone. And if you prefer it a little more relaxed: take a hot air balloon ride over the majestic Swiss Alps and allow yourself to be blown away.
Actually that is also the term that comes to mind when we think of our second visit to HUUS Hotel. Again, we were blown away by the experience. Go there and share that same feeling we had!
# The style and atmosphere of the place is about having a fun experience, incorporating elements of the local nature into the design and bringing local activities to the hotel as well.
# One of the best benefits: the weekly program. HUUS hotel is heaven for teens and younger children alike with its whole host of professionally-led activities like river rafting, trekking, climbing and rope courses that are destined every kid the adventure of their lives. And in winter.... find our review here.
# Every day we have some great adventure or activity, and the friendly, engaging staff were always happy to help us plan and arrange our fun. Back at the hotel due to the warm weather, each night we could eat ‘al fresco’ on the terrace besides the Vue Restaurant.
This property can also be booked through iescape-huushotel.