This Restored Palace Is A Mediterranean Retreat In The Heart Of Switzerland

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The aristocracy of Switzerland began acquiring a taste for the Swiss Alps as early as the 1760s. Lucerne—a small fishing village at the foothills of the Alps, with its temperate climate and easy access by road and rail—made the perfect launching pad for hiking and mountaineering. By 1835, the first hotel opened in Lucerne and the city soon grew into one of the largest tourist destinations in the country. In 1903, Swiss entrepreneur Franz Josef Bucher purchased a plot of land on the north shore of Lake Lucerne for $900,000 Swiss francs. After a three-year construction, Palace Hotel Luzern opened its doors, setting a new standard of luxury for hospitality, not just in Switzerland, but in Europe at large.

Today, Bucher’s original dream of making the palace a Mediterranean retreat in the heart of Switzerland lives on with a five-year makeover and reopening as the Mandarin Oriental Palace, Luzern. Local architects Iwan Bühler Architekten and London-based interior designers Jestico + Whiles were tasked with honoring the palace’s legacy as a Belle Époque landmark while simultaneously bringing the 20th century hotel into the modern age. The result is an architectural masterpiece that elevates the Mediterranean-inspired details of Bucher’s original design.

These original details remain some of the most striking features of the hotel—the chequered black and white marble and terracotta floors, and regal burnt umber scagliola columns, for example. But new additions—such as golden ornaments, terrazzo tiles and creative light fixtures (think: fluted brass wall lamps and a minimalist orbital brass chandelier juxtaposed against traditional ceiling mouldings)—breathe new life into the Mediterranean theme. Playful textures and lines add sumptuousness and warmth to the hotel: from the three types of marble in the bathrooms to the locally hand-woven cream wool rugs laid on the oak parquet to the curved Molteni furniture sourced from Italy.

Designed to complement the sparkling lake and snow-capped mountains outside, the hotel’s 136 guest rooms and suites present a palette of natural oak, powdery whites and serene blues. While the hotel boasts 45 of the city’s largest suites, the 1432-square-foot presidential suite is undoubtedly the standout. Few areas of the hotel exemplify the emphasis on curved lines better than this room, with its circular light fixtures, round couches and curled sculptures.

The oval-shaped living room is the centerpiece of the suite with a plaster ceiling rose that replicates the rippling of water and deconstructed chandelier made of hand-blown glass inspired by fluttering leaves and flocks of birds. The bird theme continues with hand-tufted rugs mimicking the pattern of a swan’s densely packed feathers covering the wooden mosaic floors. Decorative motifs are similarly found in the guest rooms with palms and lilies featured in the wall and floor coverings, upholstery and window décor.

Another ode to nature is the hotel’s art collection—‘The Power of Nature Through the Ages’—which spans from the early 19th century to present day. Nature paintings from European pioneers of the Romantic movement are juxtaposed with modern glass paintings, installations and abstract nature photographs spread throughout the hotel. Original pieces from Palace Hotel Luzern’s collection are marked by their gold frame.

The natural beauty of Switzerland is also celebrated at SPA Bellefontaine where treatments showcase natural ingredients from the Alps. One such ingredient is Edelweiss flower extract, known for its antioxidant properties due to its ability to survive harsh altitude conditions of the Swiss Alps. The powerful flower extract is incorporated into facial treatments designed to boost collagen and strengthen the skin’s barrier. It’s just one of many ingredients cultivated on Bellefontaine’s family-owned farm in Switzerland. Bellefontaine’s founder Peter Yip is originally from Hong Kong so treatments also incorporate elements of Traditional Chinese Medicine, such as foot reflexology. The symbiosis of Asian and Swiss beauty traditions made Bellefontaine a natural choice for the Mandarin Oriental, a hotel group that also originated in Hong Kong.

While local ingredients are applied to the skin in the spa, downstairs, they’re presented beautifully on the plate at the hotel’s four restaurants. At Quai 10, colorful Mediterranean dishes like courgette fritters with tzatziki are served al fresco overlooking the lake while inside, MOzern Bar & Brasserie offers Swiss interpretations of Asian flavors like spiced pork sausage with a chili Thai slaw and cured alpine salmon drizzled in dashi. The Asian influence of the Mandarin Oriental brand is also evidenced by Minamo, the hotel’s new 8-seat Japanese Omakase concept. Translating to “reflections on the water,” Minamo showcases local Swiss seafood specialities and produce from Japan.

Next door, an equally luxurious fine dining experience is had at the palace’s French restaurant Colannade. While vegetables are often overlooked in French cuisine, here they take center stage. Fregola sarda—a pearl-shaped pasta similar to couscous—is decorated with whole mini-carrots and delicately coated in a root vegetable sauce. Of all nine courses, the cheese cart is arguably the most impressive. Guests are guided through an impressive variety of Swiss cheeses presented to them on Colonnade’s ‘chariot des fromages’ (cheese cart). Their selection is paired with accompaniments of their choice (honey, bread, and crackers) and a glass of 150-year-old port wine. Having such an opulent culinary experience surrounded by soaring 20th century columns and sparkling chandeliers, it’s hard for guests not to feel like royalty after a stay in this modern palace.

Source : Forbes