Location is arguably the most important factor when it comes to real estate. So what do you do when you inherit an auto and transport company on the edge of a popular mountain resort overlooking a beautiful valley? Well, the new owners didn’t have to think twice. Running a small hotel had always been a dream of theirs and in 2001 they took the leap and opened the Hotel Arnica Scuol, a small 3-star hotel.
If you have been reading my blog posts about the hotels that I visit, you will have noticed that usually I only write about 4 star if not 5 star properties. I can’t deny it, I do have a weakness for luxury hotels. So why would I visit a 3-star hotel and write about it you may wonder. I asked myself the same question. However, what I have come to realise is that what I love most about the usual 4-star and 5-star properties I visit, is their design, in particular the room design (I only visit hotels with beautiful and interesting design), their location and the fact that they usually have a spa. So what if a 3-star property offers all of that? I decided to find out for myself. After some initial research, I was confident that I was going to like the Hotel Arnica Scuol.
Hotel Arnica Scuol is a Garni hotel, meaning there is no restaurant service except for breakfast. In the past, this meant that regardless of the design and other amenities the hotel may have, the maximum rating they could get was 3 stars. In the meantime the rules have changed, but the owners of the Hotel Arnica Scuol decided to stick with the 3-stars and simply add superior to the name after adding a completely new building in 2012. They told me that they prefer to pleasantly surprise their guests, instead of risking for them to be disappointed. I, for that matter, was pleasantly surprised. The rooms are even more beautiful in real life than in the pictures, albeit they look pretty great already I think. I therefore feel more than comfortable and happy to write about and recommend the Hotel Arnica Scuol in my blog.
The bedroom design is very minimalistic and puristic, yet oozes comfort and invites you to relax. The latter I partially attribute to the enchanting smell of the Swiss pinewood, a smell that brings back lots of childhood memories of holidays spent at my grandparent’s house in Scuol.
With that said, Scuol holds a special place in my heart and even though I had been back as an adult a couple of times, each time I visit, memories of early childhood keep coming back. I love to revisit the places I used to love so much as a child (some of which have not changed one bit), drink the amazing mineral water with its very distinct taste straight from the village fountains, much like I used to as a kid and admire the painted facades, the so called sgraffito of the houses in the old village of Scuol.
Back to the room design (before I get carried away with nostalgia), you will certainly appreciate the stunning views across the forest, mountain peaks and the old village of Scuol just below. Thanks to the slightly elevated built-in wooden bed and the floor-to-ceiling windows, the view is the first thing you see as you open your eyes in the morning. The views, however, can also be enjoyed whilst lying in the freestanding oval shaped bathtub (reason enough to go back to the Hotel Arnica Scuol) and from the generously sized balcony. Personally, I am convinced that looking across a forest and smelling the freshness of the mountain air automatically helps your body and mind to relax. In fact, that’s what the Hotel Arnica Scuol is all about: relaxation. The lack of distractions in terms of design and deco, but also with regards to activities (within the hotel) really encourage you to just relax.
For the ultimate relaxation we headed down to the in-house spa. 240m2, well equipped and nicely designed is more than I expected from a small 3-star property. Much like the rooms, the design is minimalistic with clean lines and mostly wood and stone throughout. You will find a sauna overlooking the valley and a steam room, where you can release those sore muscles from hiking or skiing. If you want to go all out on the pampering, I’d highly recommend getting a massage. The in-house masseur is simply amazing and seems to have a sixth sense as to which areas of your body need most attention. I almost felt as if I were hovering above the floor, when I walked from the treatment room to the relaxation room overlooking the beautiful mountain panorama. And it was here, where I found my favourite spot in the entire hotel. The swings! You simply got to try the swings. They are pure bliss! Personally, I like hammocks, but I found the sensation of swinging back and forth, rather than sideways, very different and extremely soothing. I can’t say whether it was some fetal instincts that kicked in or it’s simply more natural to the body to swing back and forth, but I and my mom for that matter (I invited her to come along to Scuol) both could hardly part from those swings.
The breakfast room at the Hotel Arnica Scuol also overlooks the valley. It is simple in design, featuring lots of bright green elements as well as colourful abstract paintings by a local artist on the walls. You will find more artwork by the same artist dotted throughout the property, such as in the hallways and the rooms. The flooring throughout the hotel is a pigmented anhydrite screed in a light grey, adding to the minimalistic look, but also creating a sensation of natural stone much like in nature.
One of my favourite features in terms of design was the reception area. The counter is made of a big trunk of wood and combined with steel panels featuring intricate carvings reminiscing of the typical Engadine ovens. The latter would be used to get undressed before bed, before heading up to the sleeping area, which used to be under the roof.
The architecture itself of the Hotel Arnica Scuol (the new building*) is worth mentioning as well. The oval-shaped building with its façade wrapped in Swiss pinewood panels, was built in such a way that all rooms face the gorgeous views overlooking the valley, forests and nearby mountain range. The top of the building features a beautiful roof terrace and is the ideal place to relax, soak up some sun and enjoy the 360 degree panorama.
Needless to say, the Hotel Arnica Scuol is all about the views and relaxation. I found some blissful moments there and I am sure you will too.
*Please make sure you book a room in the new section of the hotel. The original building is very different in design and has not yet been renovated.
BONUS TIPS: Must dos and must sees
The rugged beauty of the lower Engadine and its authentic villages:
The Lower Engadine is one of my favourite parts of Switzerland, where nature is wild and somewhat archaic. In summer you can top up on clean, fresh mountain air, whilst hiking alongside rivers, through valleys and up mountain tops. One of the region’s highlights is the Swiss National Park featuring a rich flora and fauna. In winter you have about 70 km of slopes on your doorstep as well as other winter sports activities.
Other than the old village of Scuol itself, the village of Guarda, where the movie Schellenursli (The Bell of Ursli) was filmed, is also well worth a visit. Another somewhat unique activity is to visit the many fountains. You will find several fountains in the old village of Scuol, which is a must see anyhow, near the hospital of Scuol and of course in the Thermal baths Bogn Engiadina (more about these below) where you cannot only drink mineral water, but bathe in it. Some fountains have several taps and each one of them has a different flavour. All of the waters are rich in minerals and some have a strong taste of iron. It’s a truly unique experience to do water tasting from some of the purest water you’ll ever drink! And… it’s free!
Soak in pure Swiss mineral water at Bogn Engiadina:
When visiting Scuol you must reserve at least half a day to visit the mineral baths of Bogn Engiadina, where you will find a wide range of facilities, services and treatments on offer. My personal favourite are the outdoor water pools surrounded by stunning mountain scenery. Massage jets, whirlpools and waterfalls create the ultimate bathing experience. Indoors you will find yet another range of pools at different temperatures as well as a salt water pool, a sauna and a steam bath.
For a more exclusive experience you can try the Roman-Irish bathhouse, where ancient Roman and Irish bathing traditions have been combined to offer a unique wellness experience. Moving through a circuit of 10 stations, including different types of saunas, steam baths, mineral pools and a brief body scrub or massage, takes about 3 hours. In most cases there will only be two people at any given time at each station, with the exception of the pools, where people tend to stay longer. The overall design of Bogn Engiadina though slightly dated, is well maintained and is continuously being upgraded by section. The pool area features an impressive cupola, decorated with surrealistic mosaics and stained glass windows by local artist Steivan Liun Könz. The somewhat odd depictions of the female body could be due to the difficult relationship the artist had with his mother. His mom, the author of Schellenursli (A Bell for Ursli), really wanted a little girl and therefore dressed baby Steivan in girls clothes. Obviously, as he got older, he could not live up to his mother’s expectations, hence their relationship was never easy. He travelled the world and worked as an artist and photographer until he died at only 57 years of age, having left behind his mark in his home region and beyond.
Schlosshotel Restaurant Chastè in Tarasp (Scuol) – a feast for the senses:
At the Schlosshotel Restaurant Chastè Tarasp I had one of the most memorable culinary experiences ever! Hands down! The hotel and restaurant are housed within 500 years old buildings just below the beautiful castle of Tarasp. The estate consisting of farmhouses and barns, has always been owned by the family Pazeller and has been home to 21 generations. The transformation started in 1912. What started out as a small inn and grocery store has now become a 4-star Relais & Châteaux boutique hotel and gourmet haven.
The interiors of the Schlosshotel Restaurant Chastè ooze nostalgia and showcase a combination of authentic rustic and classic design. The restaurant is very cozy and inviting with lots of pine wood and warm colours and has recently been awarded their 16th Gault Millau point. The service is attentive, yet relaxed and the food is truly worth raving about. Chef Andreas Heidenreich and his team really took our taste buds on a culinary adventure by using some of the most unusual combinations of sweet and savoury. Each course was accompanied by exquisite wines recommended by the host Gian Pazeller himself. The presentation was nothing short of spectacular and each of the five courses was like a piece of art! I was particularly impressed how they adapted their gourmet menu to suit my mostly vegetarian diet and still create culinary masterpieces!
Simone Aïda Baur of Global Inspirations Design, courtesy of Hotel Arnica Scuol, Bogn Engiadina and Schlosshotel Chastè.
Note: This blog post was created in collaboration with the Hotel Arnica Scuol, Bogn Engiadina and the Schlosshotel and Restaurant Chastè (press trip).
Posted by Simone Aïda Baur: I’m a multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-passionate award winning international interior designer, award winning blogger and ex-hotelier. Feel free to learn more about my story and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube.
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