With its grand, gabled façade on Appenzell’s main square, Landsgemeindeplatz, the Romantik Hotel Säntis creates quite an impression from the first. Run with unpretentious charm and a genuine belief in warm hospitality by the Heeb family, it combines the history of this picture-book pretty town in northeastern Switzerland with modern comforts, culinary prowess and a pinch of its romance. It’s the kind of place where you’ll want to snuggle up and pray for the flakes to fall in winter, or strike out on the many hiking trails that wend their way up into the hills and mountains chiming with cowbells in summer.
I receive a heartfelt welcome from staff who are well versed on what to see in and around town. It’s snowing outside, untimely for the season but not unheard of. Outside, the gabled, muralled facades that rim the square are dusted in a fresh layer of white, as are the slopes that reach up to forests beyond. It’s like a scene straight from a snow globe.
Floors that creak with history lead up to my room, peaceful and generously sized, with solid wood furnishings, pastoral paintings on the walls and dainty lace curtains that lend it a certain rustic quaintness. The bed is incredibly comfortable, with a plump mattress and downy bedding that promises for a sound night’s sleep, while the marble bathroom has a tub that I earmark for a long soak later. The décor is old-school without tipping the balance into twee, and all the usual facilities you’d expect for the four-star price tag are there – a minibar, safe and free Wi-Fi that works. Junior suites crank up the luxury and romance further still, with floral fabrics, pastels, exposed beams and corner bathtubs.
Many guests use Appenzell as a base for exploring the wider region, with its fabulous walking and cross-country trails, crowned by the 2502m Säntis the highest mountain in the Alpstein massif of northeastern Switzerland. After a day of activity, the hotel’s sauna and bar, which serves the local Appenzeller beer, offer respite.
I’m lucky enough to snag a window table in the hotel’s gourmet restaurant, which has received many accolades for its region-driven cuisine, served with a dash of refinement, including 14 Gault Millau points. The restaurant is a sophisticated affair, with wainscoting, tables draped in crisp white linen and lit by candles and formal service. The tasting menu is an ode to the seasons, with simple but profound flavours along the lines of poached scallops with lentil-melon salad and sorrel, fillet of veal with port wine-vanilla jus, shallots and sugar snaps, and goat’s cheese gratin with thyme honey.
Breakfast is very good, too, with an array of fresh fruits, rolls and pastries, cereals and local yoghurts and cheeses. It sets me up for a day of exploring the town, where I discover the Appenzell Museum, which shines a light on the region’s rich heritage of dairy farming and Bauernmalerei (pastoral painting), the late-Gothic St Mauritius Church, lavishly decorated with frescoes, and, just on the other side of the River Sitter, Brauerei Locher, where you can sample and buy local beers. From the river, the gaze is lifted from lush meadows to pine and peak.
Romantik Hotel Säntis, Landsgemeindeplatz 3, 9050 Appenzell, Switzerland
Tel: +41 71 788 11 11
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: 4-Star Hotel
Number Rooms: 30 rooms and 6 junior suites
Families are welcome, and the hotel can provide cots and extra beds. There is meeting space for functions catering for up to 100 people and try to book a window table in the gourmet restaurant for fine views over the square.
Price Band: Medium to High
Reviewer’s Rating: 10/10
Kerry Christiani is an award-winning freelance travel writer, author and MA-qualified translator.
Photographs courtesy of Romantik Hotel Säntis