Life in Switzerland’s Bad Ragaz

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Two doors face you in the Tamina Therme at Grand Resort Bad Ragaz: one leads into the “textile sauna” for clothed individuals – and the other into Saunawelt (Sauna World) where scores of health enthusiasts wander in the nude. For some people from the States, the prospect of public nudity might be daunting, yet when in Switzerland, it’s best to follow local protocol, especially in matters related to health and well-being. Furthermore, as you remind yourself, Grand Resort Bad Ragaz is home to the Swiss Olympic Medical Centre. Olympic bodies, enough said.

For nearly 800 years, ever since the discovery of thermal waters in the Tamina Gorge in the year 1242, legions of health fanatics have sought out the healing properties of Europe’s largest hot spring. Back in the day, those in search of a cure for their bodily ailments were lowered by ropes into the Tamina Gorge where they remained for days on end, seated in 98°F therapeutic waters.

Fortunately, health resorts have evolved since then, and Grand Resort Bad Ragaz is a five-star superior property complete with two five-star hotels, seven restaurants with a total of six Michelin stars, two golf courses, two thermal spas, twelve pools, a medical clinic which is home to the Swiss Olympic Medical Center, a sculpture garden, and a casino with over 100 varieties of gin. In other words, just the sort of place where you want to sequester yourself for a week of spa treatments and gastronomy. All in the name of health, of course.

The village of Bad Ragaz is located approximately 90 minutes by train from Zurich. When you step out onto the train platform, you might imagine that you hear a cowbell in the distance. Surprise, you’ve arrived in Heidiland, a vacation region in Eastern Switzerland which is widely-celebrated as the birthplace of Heidi, the little girl raised in the Swiss Alps by her grandfather. But before you have time to yodel, your Mercedes transfer to Grand Resort Bad Ragaz has arrived to whisk you to the expansive health resort that fuels the local economy.

Founded in 1840, the Hotel Hof Ragaz offered thermal treatments flowing directly from a three-mile wooden pipe that carried the water from the gorge to hotel guests. But it was not until 1868, when the renowned Swiss architect Bernhard Simon bought the domain of Ragaz, that the area became internationally celebrated and associated with Russian nobility and Belle Époque aristocrats who flocked to the area to take the waters.

You might wonder what’s so beneficial about these thermal waters that flow from atop the Alps. After an 11-year journey through the mountains, the hot spring water emerges at a temperature of 98°F with a well-balanced combination of minerals that promote the healing of rheumatic ailments, metabolic disorders, and neurological and musculoskeletal afflictions. Not only does your skin feel velvety to the touch, but bathing in these waters boosts the immune system, increases circulation, and relaxes the muscles to promote well-being.

Throughout the resort, you’ll see scores of hotel guests wandering the grounds in hooded spa robes and slippers on their way to and from the thermal waters and the saunas. The resort’s numerous hotels, restaurants, cafés, shops, salons, and wellness clinics are connected by gleaming corridors and motion-detected doors that glide open upon approach, and at times, you feel as if you’re walking through Starship Enterprise on your way to an alternate reality.

A member of Leading Hotels of the World and Swiss Deluxe Hotels, Grand Resort Bad Ragaz offers three unique hotels, each furnished in a style befitting the building’s original provenance. Upon entrance into the five-star Grand Hotel Quellenhof which was completely refurbished in 2019, guests are greeted by a magnificent 52-foot waterfall chandelier of 2,500 glass spheres. A second chandelier of 30,000 Swarovski crystals hangs above the lobby’s centerpiece, a circular fireplace with lounge seating.

At 550 square feet, the hotel’s Junior Suites are larger than many city apartments and offer luxuriant bathrooms with gold-leaf lavatory and electronic bidet. Walk-in showers feature gold-leaf flooring, and the massive soaking tub is backed by a marble mural of the Swiss Alps. The in-house toiletries are infused with the resort’s thermal waters – and hospitably include face cream and bath salts. The living area offers a wet bar with crystal goblets and glasses, spirits and wine, and a Nespresso machine for early morning coffee served on the balcony with panoramic views of the Swiss Alps and the resort’s sculpture garden.

Every third year, the village of Bad Ragaz becomes Bad RagARTz, an international triennial sculpture festival. For six months, from May through October, the entire village transforms into a public art exhibition with numerous sculptures and artworks placed on the grounds of Grand Resort Bad Ragaz. An early morning walk through the property on the way to breakfast becomes a lesson in art and cultural history.

After breakfast, most guests at the resort make their way to either the hotel’s Thermal Spa (reserved for hotel guests) or Tamina Therme which is open to the public with free access for hotel guests. It’s not uncommon to find many people making an entire day of it, wandering hither and yon from one pool to another, indoors and then out, pausing for a juice or a smoothie at one of the various cafés, reclining on chaises in relaxation rooms, then returning to the steam baths and saunas. You might see students reading university texts while others catch the mountain sun on outdoor chaises. The multiple saunas in Saunawelt include Finnish, bio-sauna, infrared, Sanarium, Scandinavian Kelo infusion, Latvian, and a Nera ritual sauna where Banja rituals and infusions are performed around the sauna stove.

One of the more innovative and immersive treatments is haki® flow therapy, which was developed by therapist Harald Kitz. A holistic concept that focuses on the head, spine, and pelvis, haki flow treatment is conducted in the thermal waters in the early hours before Tamina Therme opens to the public. During the 75-minute session, your legs are attached to flotation tubing, with a flotation device beneath your back, while the therapist guides you through the water, slowly pulling and stretching your body. Some haki therapy fanatics compare it to the embryonic motion prior to birth, and there are times when you might feel as weightless as a jellyfish, as fluid as algae on the sea floor.

By day’s end at Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, you feel so healthy that you’re tempted to eschew alcohol, and certainly there are a number of non-alcoholic cocktails served at the Michelin-starred Verve by Sven. That said, the spirits-loaded cocktails are composed of botanical ingredients that make you feel both healthy and high. And given all your good intentions throughout the day, you’re entitled to order the deliciously decadent waffle and caviar, as well as the organic hourly egg served with potato mousseline and plenty of Perigord truffles. The renowned chef Sven Wassmer has earned five Michelin stars for his two restaurants at Grand Resort Bad Ragaz which highlight Alpine fine dining alongside healthy, sustainably-sourced ingredients.

In the evenings, hotel guests gather at Verve by Sven Bar around the fireplace at Hotel Quellenhof for a nightcap, or they head to the casino, or for an evening stroll – and yet it’s equally indulgent to fall into bed. A pillow menu offers no less than ten pillow choices, including Swiss stone pine. An indigenous conifer grown high in the Alps, the Swiss stone pine is known locally as the “Queen of the Alps” for its aromatic essential oils and therapeutic properties. Numerous studies have shown that the scent of Swiss stone pine purifies the air and lowers your heart rate while promoting a deeper, more restful sleep. But then, at Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, sweet dreams are all but guaranteed.

Last modified: June 12, 2023