The Park Hotel Vitznau is anything but your usual luxury hotel.
From the splendid belle-époque architecture resembling a fairytale castle to the highly unique interior design filled with symbolism and exquisite materials, this remarkable five-star luxury hotel on Lake Lucerne will surprise even the most discerning of travellers.
Immersion into a real life fairytale (castle)
Although I had seen the iconic fairytale castle on Lake Lucerne from aboard a ship and knew that the Park Hotel Vitznau is one of the most sought-after luxury hotels in Switzerland, I quickly realised that I was about to experience something very unique the moment I walked into the hotel.
First impressions count and the Park Hotel Vitznau knows how to make one
As you enter the hotel lobby your eyes are immediately drawn towards the magnificent postcard views of Lake Lucerne. The grand, yet minimalistic entrance is kept mostly in shades of white as if not to distract from the panorama. At the same time, the hotel lobby exudes an air of intimacy, calm and sophistication. Understated luxury as some would call it.
Awkward elevator silence could become a thing of the past at the Park Hotel Vitznau
Entering the glass elevator that would take me to my Suite, I was in for another surprise. The elevator shafts feature murals that depict a story as you travel to the next floor. The 17th century economic crisis referred to as ‘Tulipomania’ being one of such stories.
You won’t find any dark narrow hotel corridors
Instead you’ll find what the hotel calls ‘Galleries’. Wide landings featuring 3D miniature display boxes and digital art reflecting the topic of the ‘Gallery’ as well as massive glass doors that allow a glimpse of the interiors of non-occupied suites with the shimmering waters of Lake Lucerne and the Bürgenstock as a backdrop.
The ‘Galleries’ at the Park Hotel Vitznau are therefore filled with light, one of the key requirements of the original design brief. The magnificent light-coloured Bulgarian limestone flooring, which is found throughout the hotel’s public spaces as well as most Suites and Residences, further enhances this effect.
The philosophy of the Park Hotel Vitznau is based on three main themes
The themes ‘Art & Culture’, ‘Wine & Dine’ and ‘Health & Wealth’ form the pillars of the entire hotel in terms of the hotel’s amenities and the interior design. Each floor aka ‘Gallery’ is dedicated to a specific topic that falls within one of these themes.
Whilst I’m still taking it all in and becoming increasingly eager to explore every corner of this awe-inspiring hotel, I’m taken to the ‘Finance Gallery’ and escorted to my home for the next couple of days, the ‘Sharpe Suite’.
The ‘Sharpe Suite’ is one of 47 uniquely designed suites and residences
Each suite is different as to its floor plan, layout and style. The interior design ranges from plush and classic interior design to contemporary and minimalistic interior design. The suites are either named after a famous person, place or institution according to the respective ‘Gallery theme’.
The Sharpe Suite is named after William F. Sharpe, an American economist, Nobel Memorial Prize winner in Economic Sciences and inventor of the ‘Sharpe ratio’. The latter, which is used to assess the value of investment of a portfolio, can be found engraved on the bathroom mirror and glass elements of the Suite.
Inspired by the interior design of a sailboat
Sharpe was an avid sailor, which inspired the overall contemporary design concept and maritime colour scheme of the interiors. Teak woods and the colour petrol dominate the space. White flat panel curtains reminiscent of sails and copper lamp fixtures complete the look of what reminds us of a classic sailboat interior.
A suite with a view
The 58m2 suite is divided into 3 areas; the entrance featuring a kitchenette and a guest toilet, the living zone and sleeping area, which are separated by a built-in divider equipped with a large flat screen TV on both sides.
Adjacent to the sleeping area is a spacious luxury bathroom fitted out with ‘Rainforest brown’ granite and a jacuzzi bath.
The living zone offers a lounge area, a small dining table and a workspace. Apart from the generous dimensions, the tall ceilings and the appealing interior design, the suite is all about the picture-perfect view framed by massive arches and Roman columns.
There’s also a narrow terrace that runs along the entire suite, granting a bird’s eye view of the gardens and the symbolic Bull and Bear bronze fountain below.
Travel back in time
As an interior designer, I was having a field day visiting some of the other suites and residences. It is evident that no details were spared during the most recent renovation. Speaking of which, allow me to take you back in time.
1903 marks the official birthdate of what the award-winning hotelier and General Manager of the Park Hotel Vitznau, Urs Langenegger, refers to as ‘My Old Lady’. However, technically the story of the Park Hotel Vitznau already began in the late 19th century.
From a fishing village to a luxury destination
Vitznau was a small fishing village on the shores of Lake Lucerne and at the foothills of the Rigi. Famous for its unparalleled sunrise, Mount Rigi soon became a favoured destination for anyone with rank.
Some climbed the Rigi, Queen of the mountains, others were carried to the top. Rumour has it that Mark Twain climbed the Rigi twice, but missed the sunrise on both occasions. The second time he at least made it for sunset.
The foundations of the Park Hotel Vitznau
In 1866 a Friedrich Pfyffer of Altishofen opened a guesthouse outside of the village, next to the shipping pier and named it ‘Pension Pfyffer’.
The opening of Europe’s first cogwheel railway in 1871, a true Masterpiece of Swiss engineering, resulted in a stream of travellers, who were keen to experience an easy and sweat-free ascent to the acclaimed Queen Rigi.
Although Vitznau continued to remain in the shadow of the Rigi, where luxury belle-époque hotels started to emerge, it would soon be awakened from its eternal sleep.
Hotel pioneer kisses awake the sleeping beauty
Anton Bon, one of Switzerland’s hotel pioneers and owner of the ‘Grand Hotel Rigi First’ (the German word ‘First’ meaning top of the mountain), was looking to diversify. Recognizing the potential of the village Vitznau with its Mediterranean climate, splendid lake views and Alpine backdrop, he purchased the ‘Pension Pfyffer’ at auction and renamed it ‘Hôtel & Pension du Parc’.
The most beautiful hotel architecture in Switzerland
At the turn of the century, during the era of ‘grand hotels’, Anton Bon announced the construction of his new hotel, which would soon be referred to as “the most beautiful hotel architecture in Switzerland.” He instructed Karl Koller, a popular hotel architect from Ragaz, who then went on to design the fairytale castle hotel as well as many other glamorous hotels in Switzerland.
The New Park Hotel became the symbol of Vitznau and a landmark for the region
The New Park Hotel opened in 1903. A fairytale castle, an English country park and the latest technology. The impressive asymmetrical building with its turrets could be seen from afar and not only put Vitznau on the tourist maps, but also further enhanced the magic of the region. A region known as the birthplace of Switzerland as well as for its many myths and legends, including the legend of the Swiss folk hero William Tell.
Through wars back to glamorous times
The Park Hotel remained in the hands of the traditional hotel family even after Anton Bon’s death in 1915. It became home to soldiers during WWI and a refuge for Europe’s nobility on the run after the war. During WWII potatoes were grown where the pool is now located.
Thanks to heavy advertising in local and international newspapers, such as the New York times, the Park Hotel soon became the place to be once again for all types of official meetings and celebrations as well as the Water Ski Championship.
Change of hands and a new era
In 1980 the hotel was bought by the ‘Oetker Collection’ (think baking goods) and doubled in capacity with an extension to match the original design. The Park Hotel soon became a popular hangout for business moguls and celebrities as well as the backdrop for luxury car launches and Hollywood films.
Nearly 3 decades later the property was sold to the Pühringer Group named after Peter Pühringer, a very successful Austrian wealth manager and philanthropist.
‘Preserving the past, designing the future’
This was the motto and the underlying concept of the transformation.
Whilst the interiors of the original buildings were completely gutted, insulated to the highest standards and fitted out with the latest technology, the exterior façade was preserved.
The extensions were designed to match the original building and modern glass components were added, allowing a sense of lightness to transpire throughout the hotel. The exterior paint colour was carefully selected to match that of the inside of an oyster, resulting in the hotel being dubbed the Pearl of Lake Lucerne.
The transformation involved 160 building and design companies, 400 builders on site daily, 20 km of heating pipes, 40 different types of stones and marbles and so much more.
In 2013, three years of renovation works and 300 million Swiss francs later, the Park Hotel Vitznau reopened its doors.
A new concept, beyond a luxury hotel
The new buildings are not only home to the exclusive Park Hotel Vitznau, but also the Cereneo, a centre for Neurology and Rehabilitation, the family offices of the Pühringer group, their foundation and an endowment centre.
As a patron of the arts and sponsor of medical and economic research, Peter Pühringer has donated large sums to the advancement of the ‘Vienna Boys’ (‘Wiener Sängerknaben’) and to research at Austrian and Swiss Universities.
At the Park Hotel Vitznau, he had a gigantic parlour organ installed inside the ‘Verlinde hall’, named after the Belgian artist Claude Verlinde, who painted a mural called ‘The Mirror’ on a wall measuring 6 x 16 m. An impressive collection of Verlinde’s surreal and thought-provoking paintings can also be admired throughout the hotel.
The most exclusive hotel in Switzerland
The present-day Park Hotel Vitznau is showered with awards and accolades. Forbes, the global authority in the world of luxury hospitality, chose the Park Hotel Vitznau as the most exclusive hotel in Switzerland in 2021. Additionally, it was recently honoured with 5 stars by the Forbes Travel Guide in the boutique hotel sector. [Source: Forbes Travel Guide 2022]
Guests of the Park Hotel Vitznau get to indulge in first class accommodation, a luxury spa featuring one of Europe’s largest private aquariums, one of the most beautiful infinity pools in Switzerland, a tennis court and pristine gardens.
Award-winning cuisine and culinary adventures
The luxury property also boasts with three restaurants, which combined score a total of 48 GaultMillau points and 3 Michelin stars, a stylish bar, an old-world style cigar lounge as well as 6 wine cellars, home to around 33’000 bottles dating all the way back to 1811!
Whilst I didn’t get to experience the praised restaurant ‘focus Atelier’ by Patrick Mahler’, I was overjoyed to dine at the fusion restaurant Prisma by Phillip Heid. As a vegan, I was delighted to discover that the Michelin star chef had recently launched a new menu, which is mostly plant-based and where fish and meat are only added upon request.
I was treated to a 3-course vegan tasting dinner with countless dishes combining European and Far Eastern cuisine that took my taste buds on a joy ride.
One of the most historic hotels in Switzerland
Given the uniqueness and historic background of the Park Hotel Vitznau, it comes as no surprise that the hotel has been listed on ‘The Most Famous Hotels in the World’, a library of hotels with historic significance. [Source: The Most Famous Hotels]. Actually, the beautiful coffee table book by Famous Hotels in the World about the Park Hotel Vitznau served as one of my sources for this article.
A must-visit for those with a weakness for luxury travel
Writing this article has allowed me to relive some precious moments and hopefully made you travel to this magnificent hotel vicariously until that day, when you get to experience it for yourself.
Happy stylish discoveries!
Park Hotel Vitznau Construction documents
Park Hotel Vitznau by Andreas Augustin (part of the book series ‘The most Famous Hotels in the World’)
Interview with Urs Langenegger, General Manager at Park Hotel Vitznau
POK Pühringer AG
Courtesy Park Hotel Vitznau