There’s a saying in Switzerland that if you’re on time you’re already five minutes late. Blame it on the diminutive European nation’s storied history of horology: The world’s most illustrious watch brands are crafted in Geneva in a tradition that dates back to the 17th century and is on full display each year at the century-old Baselworld. Punctuality isn’t a matter of manners here—it’s carefully woven into the cultural fabric, an inborn way of doing things.
I shouldn’t be surprised then when Andreas Dieckmann, a massage therapist with a heavy German accent and an even heavier handshake, raps on the door of my treatment room at Bürgenstock Resort’s sweeping Alpine Spa. Have a “few minutes to change” passed already, I wonder? Darting between the silky heated covers of the massage table, I steal a look out of the curtainless picture window behind me. Nature spills out all around, an exquisite paint-by-number landscape of fir trees and rolling hills and low-hanging clouds. Dieckmann promptly steps back into the room, but I can’t help thinking: What’s the big hurry in Switzerland?
Still, I abandon my tardy American ways, arriving early for every excursion, guided tour and dinner reservation on my Bürgenstock Selection Swiss Escape itinerary. The deluxe hotel group launched the program last October, offering personalized travel plans built around themes for visitors to experience the best of Switzerland from the comfort of its destination properties in the historic cities of Bern, Lausanne and Lucerne.
It’s ideal timing for the program: According to the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, Switzerland had a record year for visitors from the United States in 2018, up 10% from the previous year. Shouldered by five countries and home to four national languages, Switzerland’s reputation on the world stage is wrapped up in all the finer things in life: Banking and finance have long been its primary industries; schussing around the Alps is the top leisure activity; and no one else makes chocolate quite like the Swiss. It’s no wonder Switzerland has been the posh playground of the rich and famous for generations.
The mainlobby at the Royal Savoy Hotel and Spa in Lausanne, within walking distance of Lake Geneva, is one of three hotels in the Bürgenstock Selection hotel group
The country’s highly efficient, well-maintained rail system makes crisscrossing the country appealing to any tax bracket, especially with a Swiss Travel Pass in hand for unlimited access. After touching down at Zurich Airport, my own trip starts with a scenic two-hour train to Bürgenstock’s elegant Royal Savoy Hotel and Spa in Lausanne.
Often referred to as the Swiss Riviera, this Olympic city situated on crystal-clear Lake Geneva has an undeniable resort vibe despite its charming cobblestone streets and medieval architecture. The best way to experience both the lake and Lausanne’s cityscape is with a breezy boat ride to Lavaux. The circa 11th century UNESCO World Heritage Site is famed for its terraced vineyard.
Back in the city center, Lausanne is poised to be the buzz of the European art world when the new Plateforme 10 debuts next October. The $185 million endeavor brings a trio of existing local museums together under one roof to carve out an expansive arts district. It’s a prime location, as Lausanne is a two-hour train ride from Basel, birthplace of the famed global contemporary art fair, slated for June 18 to 21.
Bürgenstock Resort is situated 1,600 feet above Lake Lucerne and famed for its dramatic infinity pool
Basel is an ideal stop on the way from Lausanne to Switzerland’s capital, Bern. From the centrally located, stately Hotel Schweizerhof Bern & Spa, I set out to explore the Albert Einstein Museum (he was once a resident) and snap a picture in the shadow of the landmark Zytglogge clock tower.
No matter where you begin your trip, spend your final daysin Switzerland at the singular Bürgenstock Resort. The 148-acre property opened in 1873 and recently completed a sweeping renovation. “After a $550 million revamp, the four hotels, 10 restaurants and bars, and two signature spas are the beacon of Swiss five-star hospitality,” says General Manager Robert P. Herr. “You can easily spend a week in the resort, indulging in fine dining, playing golf on our nine-hole Alpine Golf course, visiting the health and beauty clinic, or going for hikes.”
The resort’s deluxe lake-view room invites the outdoors in with its cozy-chic design
My arrival here is nothing short of dramatic, with a quick cruise across Lake Lucerne to a funicular that scales the mountainside to deliver guests to the resort’s entrance, 1,600 feet above the lake. The Bürgenstock was a favorite of silver-screen icons Audrey Hepburn, who married her first husband in the resort’s tiny white chapel, and Sophia Loren, who had a modest home on the grounds.
With those legends in mind, I spend my last days in Switzerland channeling Hepburn and Loren at every turn: swimming lazily in the infinity pool overlooking Lake Lucerne, savoring a petit puff pastry presented on a rock scavenged in the woods that same morning by the chef of Michelin- starred Ritz Coffier and slipping into one of the resort’s faux fur coats for an espresso with a side of crisp Alpine air on the terrace at wellness-minded Verbena restaurant. On my last night, I sneak outside to take in one final sunset over the lake, scheduled promptly for 9:32PM. I am late, naturally, but like all things in Switzerland, it is right on time. Swiss Escape package from $1,530 for five nights for two people, buergenstock.ch