Set in the most beautiful surroundings along the shores of Lake Brienz in Berner Oberland is the Belle Epoque fairy tale castle of Giessbach. If the roads to the hotel is now nicely paved for easier access, it is still worth the trip by boat which may be taken from Interlaken. Hoping into the historic 1914 Lötschberg paddle steamer from Interlaken West boat pier is like a journeying back in time while enjoying the lovely Lake Brienz. The boat trip from Interlaken takes about one hour and from Brienz village can be taken in just ten minutes. As the boat reaches the destination, the boat pier of Giessbach can already be seen from the lake. Visitors would come and spend a day especially to see the waterfalls and the wonderful walks, but it is highly recommended to stay overnight at the historic Giessbach hotel to really get the feel of this enchanted place. Giessbach was already known since the early 19th century, first visited by artists before it becomes part of the tourist route around Lake Brienz especially for its famous waterfalls. It was in 1818 when Daniel Wyss, the priest of Brienz and Johann Kehrli the school master were given the task to make a footpath from the lake shores thus paving the way for visitors to get to the waterfalls. Visitors came, wooden benches were installed, then a small restaurant was built followed by an inn till finally a small guesthouse was built in 1832 which lead to the construction of a palace hotel initiated by the Hauser family and designed by Horace Davinet, the Swiss French architect. A small commemorative monument homage to the architect can be seen in the forest footpath path next to the waterfalls. The Grand hotel Giessbach opened its doors in 1875. Approaching the boat pier of Giessbach, the view of the fairy tale castle protruding from the forest is splendid.
If in the olden days visitors arriving by the steamers would have to walk up the steep path towards the hotel, by 1879 the first cable hauled funicular railway operated by hydraulic system opened linking the boat pier and the Grand Hotel Giessbach. Electrified in 1948 the Giessbachbahn funicular remains the oldest funicular in Switzerland. Here it is, the oldest funicular and up to the Grand Hotel Giessbach.
This was a wonderful experience – sitting on those wooden benches and to imagine, where ladies in their fabulous dresses and gallant gentlemen in their handsome suits, guests to this magnificent place once sat. Giessbach seems to have become that nostalgic place for some locals, where many come to celebrate their wedding receptions and for generations this remarkable place has become part of the area’s cultural and social heritage.
The lovely Belle Epoque castle passes through many hands and saved from destruction by Franz Weber who acquired the property in 1982 from the Frey brothers. With the foundation he created, Franz Weber founded the public limited company with shareholders enabling the help he needed to renovate the hotel in stages while keeping to its original style, and finally reopened in 1984. As soon as the old funicular drops you at the entrance of the Grand Hotel, you do get that feel of journeying in time – the Turn of the century when the Grand hotel was at its heights. Climb the steps towards a lovely porch leading to a magnificent entrance hall and the reception lounge. A living legacy of the Belle Epoque the Grand Hotel Giessbach is the ideal place for weddings and receptions. There were two sumptuous wedding receptions hosted during my stay and like many, I was charmed by this magical place.
As I arrived in the early morning hours, I had some time to walk around the property while browsing through the lovely turn of the century style rooms.
The waters Originate from the mountain source of the Schwarthorn that falls onto the small lake of Hexen then to Lake Brienz passing through the forest to become the famous Giessbach waterfall, today enjoyed by world wide visitors coming to admire its beauty. This place was already mentioned as early as 1841 by the French journalist and writer Adolphe Joanne’s in his book “Itinéraire descriptif et historique de la Suisse, du Jura, de Baden-Baden et de la Forêt Noire” describing the waterfalls and the famous firework illumination. Giessbach was later mentioned in 1876 Thomas Cook’s handbook for tourists – “a railway will be opened in 1879 from the shore to the hotel” in another paragraph “The Falls are brilliantly illuminated with Bengal lights every evening, from middle of June till the end of September on Mondays and Saturdays only. Fee 1 1/2 franc” If during the early days each individual levels of the waterfall were illuminated with simple torches, it wasn’t till 1863 Professor Johann-Rudolf Hamberger began to use pyrotechnics to present a theatrical fireworks light show on Giessbach waterfall. The spectacular firework, show might not be shown anymore and has become that splendid remnant of the past, but the waterfalls remain as beautiful as when the first visitors cast their eyes on it. The forest park is a joy to walk and the ideal place to meditate among the sounds of the falling water and nature. Climb the paved steps to the highest waterfall and cross over through wooden bridges to get that amazing vista of the Hotel and the surrounding forest lake or follow the hiker’s path to Schweibenalp / Axalp or Iseltwald.
I can spend many hours just walking around the forest park and enjoy the splendid waterfalls. This place is truly a gem for nature lovers and hikers. There are fabulous walks around forest paths from the waterfalls and behind the hotel toward a fabulous view point the Gippi – through the 150 years footpath created by Eduard Schmidlin, the landscape gardener and manager of the hotel during the mid nineteenth century. You will certainly not be bored if you love nature surrounded by pristine forest.
After my meditative walk along the marvelous forest path time to unwind with an appetizing meal at their most lovely Cascade restaurant overlooking the gorgeous waterfall, serving mouthwatering seasonal dishes …
A moment of relaxation while enjoying an afternoon tea at their delightful terrace overlooking the lake.
The sun is setting and soon I find myself heading towards the lovely bar to sip some of the its lovely aperitif drink while listening to some romantic piano music softly echoing throughout the lounge.
As the evening queen begins to unveil her night robe, time to try out the gastronomic restaurant Le Tapis Rouge. Set in a romantic atmosphere, it serves an array of tasty and innovative cuisine superbly orchestrated by chef Mike Zarges …
Here it is the creative dishes at Le Tapis Rouge …
A moonlight walk after this lovely treat while enjoying some stunning views from the hotel terrace before retiring to my lovely top floor lake side view room.
To wake the next morning for a hearty breakfast before continuing my journey … My enchanted stay at this historic place ends but it certainly has left me some wonderful and memorable moments, reminding me at times of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Hotel Budapest film inspired from Stefan Zweig’s writings starring Ralph Fiennes. A truly wonderful experience and would certainly recommend to any visitors in search of magical moments to stay at the Grand Hotel Giessbach.
The Grand Hotel Giessbach
Telephone + 41 (0)33 952 25 25