GSTAAD â€“ twinned expertly with Cannes â€“ is an odd place. Youâ€™d think, from the high profile of its name, that it would be some kind of glittering Geneva-in-the-Alps, a fantastically expensive mountain paradise. Yet although its instant name recognition may effortlessly attract Europeâ€™s royal households, celebrities galore and countless lesser hangers-on, Gstaad is in fact just a one-street village, a rather charming, attractively located place full of restored weathered-wood chalets â€“ even if there is an overabundance of jewellery shops and furriers. Nonetheless, its high-roller status makes it a village like no other. If you fancy being snubbed by the worldâ€™s richest people, come here for Christmas week, scene of a heady round of sparkling soirÃ©es and lavish banquet-style dinner parties all but barred to ordinary mortals.
Glossy magazines may advertise the town as some kind of winter wonderland, but St Moritz steals its luxury-class thunder on this score: Gstaad is really more of a place to spend the odd ten grand renting a hillside chalet and sipping champagne around town than it is somewhere you can get stuck into any serious skiing. Where Gstaad really enters into its own, prosaically enough, is as a centre from which to hike the little-known Saanenland during the summer months.