Park Hotel Vitznau: Lake Lucerne’s most iconic hotel

Switzerland, Hotel Interior Design

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.

Park Hotel Vitznau hotel lobby with lake views

Transparency is one of the key design elements of the Park Hotel Vitznau.

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.

impressive chandelier and elevator shaft paintings depicting monkeys at a dinner table

The impressive chandelier measures 16.5m and emulates the fringes of a Charleston dress (l). Images of monkeys tell the story of the famous financial crash ‘Tulipomania’ in one of the elevator shafts (r).

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.

Bordeaux suite featuring a wall made of wine cases

The Bordeaux Suite in the ‘Wine Gallery’, features an entire wall made from wine cases.

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. 

Wiener Philharmoniker Suite at Park Hotel Vitznau featuring musical notes on the wall

Contemporary interior design and musical notes on the wall in the ‘Wiener Philharmoniker Suite’ in the ‘Music Gallery’.

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. 

Suite reminiscent of a sailboat interior

The Sharpe Suite, reminiscent of a classic sailboat interior with a maritime colour scheme that matches the shimmering colours of the lake.

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.

suite with views of Lake Lucerne

Waking up to views of Lake Lucerne and the Swiss Alps sure is a special treat.

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. 

Park Hotel Vitznau gardens and Bull and Bear sculpture

The gardens of the Park Hotel Vitznau featuring the iconic Bull and Bear sculpture fountain and the classic pavilion.

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. 

Pfyffer Pension in 19th century Vitznau

The Pfyffer Pension before the turn of the century. (Image: courtesy PHV | Famous Hotels publication)

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. 

Park Hotel Vitznau historical building resembling a fairytale castle

The uncanny resemblance to a fairytale castle of the New Park Hotel when it reopened at the turn of the century.

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

vintage painting of Park Hotel Vitznau

Promotional flyer of the Park Hotel Vitznau around 1900 – 1950 (Image courtesy: SWA Schweizerisches Wirtschaftsarchiv)

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. 

1930s dining hall at the Park Hotel

The Park Hotel’s dining hall around 1930.

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. 

The fairytale castle belle époque building on Lake Lucerne

The fairytale castle style was preserved, enhanced and given a modern touch.

‘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.

The Verlinde Bar at Park Hotel Vitznau featuring a back-lit onyx bar counter

The Verlinde Armagnac & Cognac Bar takes on a magical glow thanks to the collection of bottles, the back-lit onyx bar counter and the magnificent chandelier reminiscent of droplets of cognac. To the far right you can see one of Verlinde’s paintings.

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.

Park Hotel Vitznau elegant spa reception

The Spa is designed in mostly black and white and dominated by glass, allowing for the focus to be on the view.

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.

infinity pool and spa garden at Park Hotel Vitznau

The infinity pool and the spa garden are the ideal spot for some ‘dolce far niente’.

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!

Michelin star restaurant with contemporary interiors

Contemporary design and elaborate joinery work dominate the interiors of the Restaurant Prisma.

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. 

beautiful presentation of vegan fine dining

This vegan ‘Noix Gras’ not only looked spectacular, but also tasted amazing. (Photo: Simone Aïda Baur)

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! 

Simone xx 

www.parkhotel-vitznau.ch

Park Hotel Vitznau is a member of:
The Leading Hotels of the World www.lhw.com
Swiss Deluxe Hotels www.swissdeluxehotels.com
Virtuoso www.virtuoso.com
American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts 

P.S. If you like historic hotels you may also like the Kulm Hotel St. Moritz, the hotel Les Trois Rois Basel and the Beau-Rivage Geneva.

Sources: 
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
Press releases

Photography:
Courtesy Park Hotel Vitznau

 

About the Author

Interior Designer and Blogger

Welcome to Global Inspirations Design’s Blog!

I’m Simone Aïda Baur and I invite you to embark on a design journey with me. My blog is your passport to global inspirations and where I share my passion and discoveries from the world of interior design.

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