Many hotels often bleat about the luxuries they offer, but sometimes all you really want is genuine hospitality, a comfortable room for the night and a central location. The Hecht in Appenzell offers precisely that and with a generous slice of history thrown into the bargain, too. The baby-blue hotel fits neatly into the picture in the town’s heart, where slender, step-gabled buildings, elaborately festooned with murals, resemble overgrown doll’s houses. It’s storybook stuff, especially when you take into account the beautiful rural surrounds.
I arrive in the middle of an unseasonal snow flurry and am instantly given an umbrella to use. A lift cranks up to rooms spread across the higgledy-piggledy building, which adds to the quirky historic character of the place.
My room is spacious and well proportioned, with lots of natural light, parquet flooring, a soothing colour scheme of blues and whites, and a view to a quiet side street, now swaddled in snow. It’s just the place to retreat to after a long day hiking or cross-country skiing in the surrounding hills, overshadowed by the craggy summit of 2502m Säntis the highest mountain in the Alpstein massif of northeastern Switzerland. And there is, unusually for Switzerland, a bathtub for a long soak. Best of all, it’s utterly peaceful, despite the fact that it’s in the centre of the village, making for a restful night’s sleep.
Breakfast is a cut above average, with a generous spread of fresh fruits, rolls and pastries and Bircher muesli. Service is incredibly friendly and, as always, it’s the little personal touches that really make you remember a place. In this instance, a boiled egg with a knitted hat and a drawn-on face.
The games room is a nice addition for families, particularly when the weather is dreary, as is the use of the sauna in the hotel’s sister property, Romantik Hotel Säntis, a couple of minutes’ stroll away. The Hecht is also brilliantly located for exploring Appenzell and its surrounds, just a three-minute walk from the station and right opposite the Museum Appenzell, which gives a fascinating insight into the local tradition of Bauernmalerei (pastoral painting). Sidling up to the museum on Marktgasse is the late-Gothic St Mauritius Church, lavishly decorated with frescoes.
Appenzell is as indeed as pretty as towns come in these parts. The high street is lined with rows of brightly painted houses, many several hundred years old, and some adorned with huge cowbells, a nod to the region’s dairy farming tradition. Beyond the centre, many walking trails thread along the banks of the River Sitter and beyond, lifting the gaze from lush meadows to pine and peak. If you’re into your food and drink, be sure to factor in a visit to the local brewery, Brauerei Locher, and the local show dairy where you can try tangy cheeses from the mountains.
Hotel Hecht, Hauptgasse 9, 9050 Appenzell, Switzerland
Tel: +41 (0)71 788 22 22
Appenzell is located in northeastern Switzerland. By train, it’s roughly two hours east of Zurich. If you’re driving, it’s slightly quicker – just an hour and 10 minutes on the A1 motorway.
Type of Hotel: 3-Star Hotel
Number Rooms: 38 rooms and suites
Insider Tip: Check the website for a wide range of special deals and packages. The hotel hosts events from intimate meetings to private dining and functions for 10 to 280 people.
Price Band: Medium
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10
Kerry Christiani is an award-winning freelance travel writer, author and MA-qualified translator
Photographs courtesy of Hotel Hecht