Switzerland is a fantastic country for walking breaks, long or short. The public transport system is so good that it is possible to be based almost anywhere using a combination of trains, buses and in some cases boats and lifts.
This series is intended to highlight some of the towns and villages we have found to make ideal bases. Some of these are less known than the more popular destinations, and can therefore be less crowded. We have based the selection on the following criteria:
- Convenient access by public transport – no car required
- Great places to stay and eat
- Excellent walking that is easily accessible either direct from your accommodation or by using local transport services such as buses and lifts
- Stunning surroundings (not difficult in Switzerland!)
For more information on travel passes in Switzerland, please see our page of Recommended Resources.
Elegant Gstaad is known for the Swiss Open Tennis Tournament (usually the second week of July), glamorous shops and hotels, and being a bit of a hangout for the jet set. Less well known is that Gstaad is surrounded by walking trails that will suit any ability, and also has an excellent network of lifts to get you up into the mountains. Coupled with the fact that it is so easy to reach by public transport, these features make Gstaad ideal for a short walking break.
Getting to Gstaad
Gstaad is really easy to reach by train, particularly from Geneva Airport. Wherever you are coming from you need to get Montreaux (train is easiest). Then just change for the train to Gstaad. See Voyages-sncf for routes, timetables and tickets from the UK or Europe, Rail Europe for routes, timetables and tickets from the US and Canada, and Interrail for rail passes including multi-country passes.
The train journey from Montreaux to Gstaad is a pleasure in itself. This is the beginning of the Golden Pass line. Literally from leaving the station in Montreaux the train begins to climb into the mountains, and the journey is scenic all the way.
Where to Stay
Staying in Gstaad is not cheap, but you can get a much better price if you stay outside the main holiday seasons. Here are some suggestions for mid-price hotels:
- Gstaaderhof Swiss Quality Hotel
- Hotel Christiania
- Geniesserhotel Le Grand Chalet
- Arc En Ciel
- Posthotel Rossli
For more options, including apartments and guesthouses, try searching on booking.com. Rooms often get booked up very early in Gstaad, so it is worth planning ahead.
For planning walks around Gstaad, I highly recommend Walking Easy in the Swiss and Austrian Alps by Chet Lipton. Although it is a little old, the routes have not changed, and this book is a really useful guide. Just be sure to check that the lifts are all operating before you set off, as they are occasionally closed for maintenance. If they are, alternative routes will be available.
A simple introductory walk is The Menuhin Trail from Gstaad to the next village Saanen (Yehudi Menuhin regularly played in Gstaad). This pleasant trail takes about an hour each way, or you can return by bus or train.
A longer, popular walk begins at the top station of the Wispile lift station (which can be reached on foot or by the Gsteig bus). From the top station of the gondola lift you follow the signs to Krinnenpass. You are then walking along the Meteopfad, or Weather Trail, with fantastic views.
At the highest point (around 1940 m) there is usually a field of llamas.
The Meteopfad then descends to a junction, where there are options.
You can turn left and continue towards Krinnenpass, and then descend to either Lauenen or Launensee (you can get a bus back to Gstaad from either of these finishing points)
Or you can turn right at the junction and descend to Gsteig. From Gsteig you can get a bus back to Gstaad. Whichever option you choose, the entire walk should take around 3.5 to 4.5 hours. The descents are a bit steep in places, but there is nothing too demanding. It is best to do this walk in dry weather because the descents can be a little slippery. Here are some pictures from the walk to Gsteig:
Another very popular walk involves taking the train from Gstaad to Zweisimmen, and then taking the gondola lift to Rinderberg. You then hike along a comfortable trail along the spine of the mountain to Hornberg. From here you can catch a bus down to Saanenmoser, where you can catch a train back to Gstaad. Here are some pictures:
Using combinations of buses, trains and lifts there are several more scenic walks to do around Gstaad. We stayed here for a few days to get used to walking before carrying on to Saas Fee.