A stately, 19th-century hotel, Waldhaus Flims has been given the most flattering of facelifts with an overhaul of its rooms, restaurants and public areas, which have been renovated with stylish contemporary furnishings by Peter Silling.
The 3,000sq metre spa, already a haven of contemporary calm, has been bolstered with extra treatment rooms, a private spa suite and a huge, state-of-the-art fitness room. Old-world Swiss charm meets modern style and amenities, within a magical mountain setting.
Half an hour’s drive from Chur train station, Waldhaus Flims is set among five acres of scenic parkland a 10-minute walk above the centre of Flims. Elevated from the resort both physcially and metaphorically, there’s a sense of tranquility and seclusion thanks to the fairytale-like views of pine-tree-clad mountains from every window.
In winter, it’s possible to ski from those mountains back to the hotel, and there’s a complimentary shuttle service running to the main lift station.
The Grand Hotel
The hotel is split into three aesthetically diverse buildings, connected via underground tunnels. The jewel in the crown is the five-star Grand Hotel, built in 1877. Its elegant facade has been immaculately maintained, and inside many original features remain, including high ceilings complete with Victorian coving and, in the lobby, the original wrought-iron-bannistered staircase.
These historic touches are complemented by updated interiors by Peter Silling. Specially commissioned abstract modern art adorns the walls, floating fires roar in the newly extended lobby, and there are brass fixtures, vibrant patterned carpets and accent chairs aplenty, adding design credentials to the palette of warm neutrals.
The juxtaposition of old and new is particularly arresting with the glass elevator running through the middle of the staircase, and the lobby is furnished with an ornate Victorian till. More artefacts from the hotel’s past, from art deco dressing tables to ancient skis, can be found in the charming ‘hotel museum’ within the Belle Époque pavilion.
A suite at Waldhaus Flims CREDIT: PIA GRIMBUEHLER PHOTOGRAPHY
While there’s a sense of space in common areas, bedrooms can be on the small side – the hotel’s listed status means extensive remodelling is forbidden. Deluxe doubles have balconies just big enough for two, while junior suites have separate lounge areas and floor-to-ceiling windows that flood them with light.
The Deluxe room where we stayed was, like the rest of the hotel, immaculately furnished (you wouldn’t think a scarlet carpet and olive-green bed would work and still feel serene, but somehow it does) and comfortable, but the bathroom was a disappointment. While stylishly fitted out in grey marble, it was compact to say the least, so lacked the sense of decadence usually associated with five-star hotel bathrooms.
Set apart from the Grand Hotel, the four-star-superior Chalet Belmond offers bigger rooms so is popular with families, although built in the 1970s it’s bereft of any period character. Villa Silvana (also four-star superior) has a more traditional alpine feel, with sloped ceilings and exposed beams.
Waldhaus Flims spa CREDIT: PIA GRIMBUEHLER PHOTOGRAPHY
Spa facilities 9/10
The 3,000sq metre spa is a destination in itself, its contemporary clean lines a pleasing contrast to the ornate grandeur elsewhere in the hotel. The sense of space is emphasised by the fact it’s minimally decorated, with ever-so-subtle Eastern touches such as sculptures in the lobby and a pebble-strewn water feature.
There’s a huge, well-equipped gym plus a studio that hosts pilates, yoga and workout classes (free for hotel guests). Thirteen treatment rooms offer facials, massages and beauty treatments from brands St Barth, Cellcosmet and Annané, and there’s a sprawling spa suite located in the old bakery, a new addition that features a private Jacuzzi and sauna big enough for six.
The spa suite in the old bakery
Two substantial sauna areas, all marble slabs and exposed stone walls (one for ladies only – nudity is mandatory in both) feature several different steam rooms, saunas, hammams and infrared cabins, and there’s a natural pond with ice hole outside for those who dare to take the plunge.
Upstairs, a glass-walled indoor swimming pool offers views of the pretty parkland and mountains beyond, while a large, well-heated outdoor pool with Jacuzzi areas and massage jets is an indulgent spot for stargazing as you breathe that fresh alpine air.
The indoor pool
The treatments 9/10
An extensive menu ranges from anti-ageing facials, medicinal massages and detoxification treatments to holistic therapies inspired by practices from around the world.
The 90-minute Mountain Crystal Body Treatment was developed by Annané specifically for Waldhaus Flims and brings into play the power of natural crystals – a broad selection of which were collected from the surrounding area and are on display in the tunnel en route to the spa.
The spa’s steam room area
My therapist asked me to select from magnesite, supposedly good for aches and pains; rose quartz, which claims to ease anxiety and bring a sense of content; and bronzite, which is said to have a calming effect. I chose the quartz, which she placed into heated water.
The treatment began with a full-body exfoliation using an Annané scrub infused with quartz crystals, which left my skin immediately softer and smoother. This was followed by the massage: first with hands and heated oil, then with the crystals. I found the quartz too ticklish, so my therapist swapped to the more robust magnesite, which she used to knead out knots around my shoulders and upper back.
The spa at night
The massage was interspersed with sound bowl chimes, which reverberated deliciously across my whole body and gave the impression of slowing my heart rate. It ended with the crystals resting on my solar plexus and heart chakras, and while it’s not designed to be an overly spiritual experience, I left in a state of blissed-out calm.
Food & drink 8/10
There are three restaurants: The Grand, offering a varied international menu (sushi, steak and spaghetti all feature); Il Taschler, where fondue is the main affair; and Epoca, set in the elegant Belle Époque building, where the emphasis is on fresh, local produce – the mountain trout is superb.
All have been stylishly refurbished and offer a more contemporary, relaxed atmosphere than the traditional Alpine five-star style, which can sometimes feel fussy and overly formal.
The Grand restaurant
A substantial buffet breakfast is served in The Grand, which with its floor-to-ceiling windows, leather furnishings and bronze chandeliers is a pleasant place to linger. The adjoining Summit bar, another new addition, is a stylish destination for apres-ski, with chandeliers fashioned from antlers and a collection of Zai skis. The hotel also owns Pomodoro, a casual Italian restaurant just outside the private driveway.
The spa: it’s easy to spend hours flitting between outdoor pool and saunas, and the massage, which was the ultimate way to relax.
Waldhaus spa sauna CREDIT: PIA GRIMBUEHLER PHOTOGRAPHY
Could be better
The size of the rooms and casual nature of the restaurants mean some guests might find the hotel lacking the ‘wow factor’ offered in other five-star Swiss hotels.
Value for money
Double rooms in the Grand Hotel from CHF460 (£350) in low season; rising to CHF660 (£499) in high, including breakfast. Facials from CHF85 (£65) and massages from CHF80 (£60); the Mountain Crystal Body Treatment is CHF190 (£145)
Via dil Parc 3, 7018 Flims, Switzerland (+41 81 928 48 48; waldhaus-flims.ch)