Travel – A Seductive, Old-World Grand Hotel Outside St Moritz

The Waldhaus Sils Hotel has been around for more than a hundred years, but it’s lost none of its charm and grandeur. Ski bums (and others) from around the world are enchanted with the nostalgic rooms, the impressive staircase and the sophisticated manner in which this has remained a young hotel. Still run by its founding family, this is a place where aficionados, gourmets, artists and nature lovers feel right at home. From the thrills of the nightlife, or the Cresta Run – if extreme tobogganing is your thing – to the simple pleasure of skiing in its breathtaking mountain landscape, there’s obviously no shortage of good reasons to visit St Moritz in winter.
Some spectators choose to stay in St Moritz itself, but discerning locals have long since directed us to the five-star Waldhaus Sils hotel, which overlooks the pretty village of Sils-Maria, a 20-minute drive away in the Upper Engadine valley – and over the years its many charms have made it a reason to visit in its own right. The hotel, which opened in 1908, is perched on a hillside like a romantic baroque castle. It offers tremendous levels of comfort and service, enhanced by a renowned forest- and garden-fed restaurant, a wine cellar boasting 35,000 bottles (of which around 30-40 per cent are Swiss) and a pristine modern spa.
But what is truly special, for us, about the Waldhaus is that it has remained in the same family, currently represented by the brothers Claudio and Patrick Dietrich, for five generations. There are no external managers or partners – you can’t say that about many grand hotels these days – and no modern extensions. It has retained its elegant original dimensions and a gracious old-world atmosphere that is highly seductive.
The great and the good in the arts world, from Marc Chagall and Hermann Hesse to David Bowie and Thomas Mann, all frequented the Waldhaus – and the genial Felix Dietrich (father of Claudio and Patrick), who ran the establishment for 30 years, believes that it was the hotel’s “welcoming simplicity” and personal style that attracted them. It certainly keeps us going back.
And while the outdoor hot tub with its glorious mountain backdrop is an understandable draw, for us the most inviting part of the establishment is the lounge just off the foyer, adjoining the library and oak-panelled bar. We relish sitting there, in extreme comfort, enjoying “kaffee” and “kuchen” in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows. It’s a sanctuary, whether you have just returned from the ski slopes – or the races ­– or you want to sit in peace enjoying a drink and a book, glancing up occasionally at the snow falling silently on the mountains outside.