Tim Firmager explores the Swiss region of St. Moritz and surrounding area to discover luxury LGBT-friendly accommodation, Kulm Hotel
Think Switzerland, and we think of a very green country (in terms of countryside, and environmentally friendly), skiing and chocolate. It turns out that the Swiss are one of the most hospitable and friendliest nations towards LGBT travellers we at Vada have travelled through. In fact same-sex sexual activity has been legal in some parts of Switzerland since 1798.
In the well-known (winter) resort area of St. Moritz, we explore luxury accommodation for LGBT travellers. The region itself is actually becoming just as popular during the summer season, with enough sun to get a touch of tan, and an abundance of outdoor activities including hiking trails and cycling. Second in this two-part series is Kulm Hotel in the town of St. Moritz.
The Kulm hotel has existed for well over 160 years. It was originally a farm building, which was expanded to provide several guest rooms. The Badrutt family were responsible for expanding the property into the palatial size it is today. The Kulm has often been at the forefront of hospitality, for example in 1878 its Grand Restaurant was the first building in Switzerland with electric lights. In fact, the Badrutt’s continued to buy and sell land in St. Moritz allowing the Kulm to develop its own golf-course.
It is thanks to an impressive bet by hotel pioneer Johannes Badrutt in Autumn 1864 that St. Moritz was launched as a winter tourism destination. In fact this bet paying off was the catalyst for many of the popular winter sports in existence today. The Kulm continues the ideal to improve its offering to guests by supporting the local area and town surrounding it, most recently a worldwide volleyball championship.
Today Kulm Hotel continues to be a paradise for affluent guests, boasting luxury rooms and suites, elegant dining venues attached to a rich sporting heritage, and now with a spa sized over 2,000 square metres. In fact, it is not just the spa that boasts space, the entire hotel has palatial, grand spaces for guests to relax in.
On arrival Kulm hotel impresses with a vast, ornate lobby. There are a myriad of communal spaces for guests to enjoy at their leisure, multiple restaurants, bars, function spaces and a kids club.
Service is a big part of the product offering. We did encounter a hiccup at the beginning of our stay, as our bags were not unloaded from our limo transfer from the station, so did receive several apologetic calls from the concierge and delayed luggage; however it was dealt with in a professional and efficient way. As per its sister hotel (Gran Hotel Kronenhof), staff were courteous, professional and welcoming, although in a noticeably larger hotel, the atmosphere is slightly different at the Kulm Hotel. Despite the size, staff are very knowledgable about each individual guest, their preferences and able to quickly provide information as needed.
Vada rating for service: 9/10
Accommodation at the Kulm hotel is split into three distinct sections (as the building has grown over the years). We stayed in a lakefront south junior suite (room 484) in the newest section, known as ‘new Kulm’. Rooms in this area have been completely refurbished with wood and modern soft furnishings, giving a high-end, luxury lodge ambience. So comfortable are the rooms, in fact it’s very easy just to curl up on the sofa with a book, or have jazz album playing taking in the view. The lakefront junior suites offer 45 square metres of space, consisting of a plush living area, an exceptionally spacious walk-in wardrobe (and further additional storage areas), and a bathroom finished in black marble and mirrors. Some suites (including ours) also feature a small balcony space.
The south-facing lake views are perhaps the biggest selling point of this room category, watching sunrise and the fog lifting over the St. Moritz lake. The usual technology and expected mod-cons are found in the room, including streaming-speed wifi and Nespresso machine – a standard feature in all luxury hotel rooms, with coffee capsules topped up daily; however (as British travellers) we would have liked to see options for tea in the room too. What we did struggle with is travel adaptors, the plug sockets are very specific (slim) in size that don’t fit all travel adaptors. Without any USB or international outlets, our devices were only charged with the grace of borrowed adaptors from reception.
We valued the space in the bathroom, with capacity for a double sink, separate bath and walk-in shower. The use of the London brand Asprey for toiletries was a welcome touch of home.
The Kulm Hotel, like its sister hotel, Grand Hotel Kronenhof, offers a pillow menu concept. This is a great concept idea, as different pillows are available for different types of sleeper e.g. those that want a deeper sleep, who want a cold pillow, for wrigglers.
Vada rating for accommodation: 10/10
The spa facilities are located in the lower part of Kulm Hotel, which, as it is built on a hillside, means there still is plentiful natural light across the indoor pool area. This 2000 square-metre wellness facility has been recently refurbished, originally being one of the first wellness addresses in Switzerland. A 20m indoor pool is the main focal point indoors, with a whirlpool, saunas, foot baths, a salt grotto and steam baths also indoors. One of the most enticing attractions of the Kulm Hotel spa however is the open air heated pool, with multiple jacuzzi and relaxation areas. This pool, surrounded by pristine nature and overlooking St. Moritz lake is a truly remarkable way to sooth muscles after a day of activity.
Gym facilities, yoga and personal training is all available in the fitness area. We did find the spa facilities popular with guests, there was always space to relax, but we would have preferred the pools to have adult-only hours also. Complimentary juices and available to guests, and staff on hand to arrange spa treatments, personal training or answer any other questions.
Vada rating for spa and well: 9/10
The Kulm Hotel offers more than just a restaurant, this venue boasts a broad range of dining and drinking establishments. The Grand Restaurant is the most well-known, where breakfast is served, and in the evenings where elegance is a requirement of diners as much as of the food. Kulm County Club offers more relaxed, but nonetheless discerning dining. Other venues include The Pizzeria, Chesa al Parc, the K restaurant and Bob restaurant (open in the winter, with much more of a gastro-pub feel). And there are the bars: Altitude bar, where a chic cocktail creates a sophisticated setting, and Sunny Bar and lounge, lined with photos of cresta and other winter sports, feels like a true speakeasy. With its reputation for jazz music each weekend, Sunny Bar pulls a crowd, and despite lack of smoking ban, maintains a lively atmosphere.
The Grand Restaurant, less ornate than it’s counterpart at the Grand Hotel Kronenhof, is nonetheless a showcase for elegance. A 6-course dinner here is offered as part of the half-board package. We sampled this menu paired with wines, particular favourites of ours were the sweet and sour prawns, and the regional, roasted lamb with ratatouille mille-faille herb potatoes.
Food quality and presentation of matches the five stars of the hotel, and the near silver service means that we rarely had to ask for anything.
A few minutes’ walk from the main building of the Kulm Hotel is the Kulm Country Club. A Norman Foster-designed extension means this venue can host outdoor events, and when we were there, this meant a worldwide volleyball championship. At the Kulm Country Club we enjoyed a much more intimate evening meal, in an interior finished in wood, dedicated to the sporting prowess of the region.
Vada rating for dining: 9/10
The Engadine resorts of St. Moritz and Pontresina are known for their winter activities, with four main peaks, 350km of slopes, 200km of cross-country trails and 150km of winter hiking trails. In the summer, there are equally as many walking trails, hikes and kilometres of roads for cycling. For guests staying 2 nights or more, the Kulm Hotel offers a travel pass with access to the chair lifts and funiculars across the Engadine peaks.
Summer activities include hiking up to (or via the funicular like us) and around Muottas Muragl. For the more adventurous, take the chair lift and hiking route to touch the Morteratsch Glacier. Closer to St. Moritz, pleasant in a stroll around the St. Moritz lake, or a ride up the funicular to Corviglia, or even higher, to the viewing platform at the mount of Piz Nair, at over 3,000m high.
For anyone who loves the outdoors, or remotely enjoys getting away from city life, and roaming open fields and green woodland, the summer countryside in the Engadine is pure bliss.
Vada rating for experiences: 10/10
There are regular flights from the UK to Zurich (the nearest international airport), from Swiss Air operating flights from Birmingham, Manchester and London Heathrow, with prices starting from £124.
Hire car or trains from the the airport are the two options to the southern mountains and St Moritz, which takes 3.5 hours to drive or approximately the same time via the efficient and reliable Swiss train system, as we chose. This involves a couple of changes; however the itinerary includes platform numbers so it’s very easy to know where to head to from one train to the next. Tickets are available at sbb.ch.
Kulm Hotel’s three main accommodation areas means that there are varying options for different accommodation types. During a late summer stay, Kulm Hotel offers a mid-week 3-nights-for-the-price-of-2 deal from 325 CHF (Swiss Frances) per night for two people in a standard class double room. For a south-facing lakefront south Junior Suite, like our accommodation, the price starts from 587 CHF (approximately £460) per night for 2 people.
For the discerning LGBT traveller, Kulm Hotel in St. Moritz offers an elegant lifestyle, with grandeur that will not disappoint. We found service to be of a superior offering, with staff ensuring simplicity and minimal fuss or interruption on guests’ stays, despite a minor luggage hiccup at the beginning of our stay.
The views and beauty of the St. Moritz lake and the lush green Engadine mountain range has much to offer those with an active lifestyle. And after a busy day outdoors, the sizeable spa facilities provide succour and much needed indulgent pampering. Equally guests looking for an impressive menu or wine selection, will relish in food at the Grand Restaurant, Kulm Country Club or a cocktail in Sunny Bar.
Vada overall rating: 9.4/10
Kulm Hotel is located at 7500 St. Moritz, Switzerland
For more information or to book, visit kulm.com.