Many Swiss hotels, guest houses, and B&Bs can give you plenty of opportunity to stay in the mountains, enjoying spectacular mountain views from below. But now, the enterprising Swiss have constructed some options on top of the world: Hotels on a few of the more accessible mountains, where you can look down over surrounding valleys and mountain ranges.
Amazing Mountain Hotels in Switzerland
I recently stayed at two mountaintop hotels in Switzerland—the Rigi Kaltbad and Burgenstock Palace—both accessible by a Swiss rail pass. On other visits I’ve seen the splendor of Lucerne’s Mount Pilatus via surrounding hotels, and have learned of some others worth the view. Here are some of the best-perched ones for mountain hotel views.
Just outside Lucerne, Rigi is an easily accessible mountain popular with day-trippers. It boasts several top-of-the-mountain hotels. Hotel Rigi Kaltbad is a modern hotel designed so that most rooms offer a sprawling mountain view. The hotel also includes a restaurant and a mineral bath-spa complex. While the views are outstanding, Rigi is not a ski center, but you can experience spectacular winter sports like hang gliding into updrafts coming off the sheer cliff.
You can reach the Rigi summit from Lucerne by frequent lake boat to Weggis, then a cable car or by lake boat to Vitznau, then the Rigi Bahnen mountain railway; or reach it from other parts of Switzerland by rail to Arth-Goldau, then another Rigi Bahnen branch. Both cable car and Rigi Bahnen are covered by Swiss Travel Pass.
Burgenstock Mountain Hotels
Much smaller than Rigi, Burgenstock feels like more of a giant hill. But, the location on the crest just outside of Lucerne provides great views of Lake Lucerne and its surrounding mountains. It’s accessible by lake boat to its own dock station, Kehrsiten-Bürgenstock, and then by a cable car right into the heart of the resort. Adjacent is the older, classic Palace Hotel, plus condos, a wellness center, and other facilities. Large rooms are completely modern but retain the classic elegance of European “Grand” hotels.
On the other side of Lucerne, Pilatus forms a bookend to Rigi. It’s equally accessible and equally view-centric. As with Rigi, it isn’t a ski center, but it affords plenty of outdoor activities. It’s accessible from suburban Lucerne by public transit and a cable car from Kriens to Frakmuntegg, and a different cable car to Pilatus. You can also take a rail train or lake boat to Alpnachstad, then a cog railway to the top. Here you’ll also find the two top mountain hotels that are the luxury-class: The Bellevue and the equally luxurious Pilatus Kulm. Both offer great views.
Gornergrat Ridge, Zermatt
The Swiss Travel Pass for rail travel takes you up to the charming village of Zermatt, with dozens of mountain hotels to choose from. For many sightseers and rail enthusiasts, the most exciting part of the trip starts at Zermatt: The Gornergrat cog railway from the center of Zermatt to a terminal Gornergrat station at just over 10,000 feet in elevation, with commanding 360-degree views that include the nearby Matterhorn, and Swiss Travel Pass holders pay half price. Gornergrat is part of an extensive ski complex with lots of runs in the Zermatt area, plus the ability to ski into a complex of runs and lifts in Italy’s Val d’Aosta.
The Gornergrat-Kulm Hotel is just a few steps from the top terminal. It claims to be the highest-altitude hotel in Switzerland—be careful if you’re prone to altitude sickness. It’s also a ski center, so peak rates occur in winter. On the way up, you pass the Riffelhaus 1853, another classic, upscale ski center.
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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuses every day at SmarterTravel.
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