Switzerland’s Historic Bürgenstock Resort is Reborn

The largest resort in Western Europe is an architectural petri dish, with modern additions and conserved heritage buildings.

The cliff-hanging facade of the Bürgenstock Hotel.

Once a popular outpost for the wintering upper crust before years of deterioration, Switzerland’s historic Bürgenstock Resort, on an alp overlooking Lake Lucerne, has been reimagined as a getaway fit for the 21st century. The ambitious project encompasses four hotels, twelve restaurants and bars, and, at 107,000 square feet, the largest wellness spa in Europe, a cantilevered, glass-walled cube by MKV Design. The 148-acre Bürgenstock is already the largest resort in Western Europe—and one of the most venerable, with roots that stretch back to 1873. Blending heritage buildings with bleeding-edge architecture, the project studiously avoids the uniform look, which seems an anathema to Swiss hotelier Bruno H. Schöpfer, the resort’s driving force. “The new buildings should be very much in their own time, not aligning with buildings that are 140 years old,” he says. Then, to emphasize the concurrent preservation efforts, he adds, “But the future has a past.” And what a past! There’s an 18th-century chalet-like storage shed, an 1879 tavern, and the midcentury Wrightian “Hollywood pool.” In the 1950s and ’60s, the biggest names in international cinema used the Bürgenstock as their playground: Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti lived in an on-property chalet; Audrey Hepburn married Mel Ferrer in the resort’s bijou chapel; Sean Connery stayed there while filming Goldfinger. After an ambitious makeover, the resort is primed to recapture its allure. A highlight is the new Matteo Thun–designed Waldhotel, a healthy-living sanitarium whose three-dimensional exterior is composed of limestone gabion, larch wood, and hanging gardens that mimic the local Walser style of architecture. The restaurant’s organic Mediterranean cuisine is spiced with herbs grown in the on-site garden and a multidisciplinary team of doctors is on hand to offer a range of treatments. The resort’s centerpiece will be the new Bürgenstock Hotel, with its no-nonsense, Brutalistic lines conceived by MKV. Guests arriving from Lucerne will travel by ferry to an 1888 funicular (Switzerland’s first electric railway) that drops them inside the new hotel. The 102 guest rooms are awash in natural materials such as walnut parquet floors and Greek quartz walls, while the lobby lounge showcases soaring windows looking over the lake and surrounding peaks—the view as remarkable as it always was.  

The Waldhotel designed by Matteo Thun. Inside the lobby bar of the Bürgenstock Hotel.
Inside a deluxe lakeview room at the Bürgenstock Hotel.
The indoor tennis court designed by Rüssli Architekten.
The Palace Hotel overlooking Lake Lucerne.
Massage tables at the Alpine Spa looking over the lake.

(Photos: courtesy Bürgenstock Resort)

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