Grand Resort Bad Ragaz review | spa retreat, Switzerland
Massive medi spa with healing thermal waters
The Quick Read: One of the largest thermal spa resorts in Europe, the family-friendly Grand Resort Bad Ragaz in the Heidiland holiday region of Eastern Switzerland packs a powerful punch, with oodles of health and wellbeing programmes and fantastic spa facilities. The main reason to visit is to take to the 36.5 degree healing thermal waters, which are pumped down from the original source in a nearby gorge and which locals and international visitors from medieval monks to authors Rainer Maria Rilke and Johanna Spyri have been using for their ailments since way back in 1242. It’s an enormous place, with eight restaurants, 267 bedrooms, two golf courses, a public thermal spa (with a wondrous cathedral-like design) and its own casino and cigar lounge, as well as a highly regarded Medical Health Centre with expert doctors offering diagnostics, preventive care and rehabilitation – they’re also the ones who look after the Swiss Olympic Team. Take to the hills and return with whatever you need.
Who it’s best for: Well-heeled spa afficionados looking for true physical rehabilitation or an indulgent break, though in reality, whatever your age or condition, you could find what you need at this massive maze of a place.
You’ll feel more comfortable here with a companion, though solo guests visit regularly. Those looking for an intimate retreat experience should look elsewhere – though the good thing at a spa resort such as this is that you can totally lose yourself, and don’t have to speak to a soul. There’s a Children’s Villa for childcare, and kids get their own spa menu too.
What you can do: Every type of health and wellbeing programme you can think of is on offer here, from fitness and health check ups for men and women to breaks for burnout, weight loss or detox. Doctors specialise in everything from dentistry to psychology, and between times, you get to bathe in the healing thermal waters of the spa at the elegant hellenic pool, exclusive to hotel guests. There’s a spa guide to help you decide what saunas and steam rooms to move in and out of in the ‘naked’ area, plus a little Kniepp pathway, plenty of holistic treatments, a separate beauty treatment area and a gym and fitness studios with daily classes and activities.
To give you an idea of the depth of retreats on offer – we tried the 3 day Therapeutic Programme, which includes one yoga session, an aqua gym and floating session to reduce muscle tension, an andullation therapy session to activate metabolism and stimulate the body’s self-healing abilities, a Thalgo Aromacéane essential oil treatment designed to boost vitality, a sound waves meditation session to help you let go and a paraffin treatment for hands and feet to leave dry skin feeling soft and silky smooth and stimulate the circulation.
Where you stay: This massive spa resort has park and mountain views and is set in the heart of Bad Ragaz town a 1.5 hour train ride from Zurich.
Pick your room with care: those who like their design lines uncluttered and more contemporary should opt for a spa suite, where baths can be filled with the thermal waters. There are also traditional, rather fusty Christmas-cosy interiors and marble bathrooms at Grand Hotel Quellenhof, while those on tighter budgets will want to check into the Grand Hotel Hof Ragaz.
The spa itself feels a little bit functional – therapists wear sportswear and trainers, and the cold stone floors in the main reception-cum-lounge don’t make you feel super-cosy – but you’ll find your favourite corners, and there are lots of terraces and park land outside in which to lose yourself.
How was it for us: On my 3 day Therapeutic Programme highlights included an amazing bodywork session, gong bath and sound meditation with talented head therapist Zandi and the Sequoia Signature Treatment, a massage with poultices inspired by the giant sequoia trees infront of the hotel carried out by Dominica, who had lovely hands and a little diamond in her teeth.
I loved being naked alone in the Swarovski crystal steam room, then braving the ice-cold plunge pool, and drinking the thermal water all over the resort – there are taps and jugs everywhere.
Though I do a daily yoga practice, I enjoyed my hour-long session with Eva, a kind and refreshingly normal-looking yoga teacher who will make all non-yogic bodies feel very at home. I also rather enjoyed the session of Andulllation therapy, which surprised me, as it’s essentially a massage machine. At first I thought I’d rather have a massage with an actual person, but then a few minutes in, the machine started to work its magic, with heated pads vibrating on different parts of my body for 30 minutes. After it stopped, I fell into a deep and restful sleep for 30 minutes, and (deliciously) the therapist left me undisturbed while I did so.
My bedroom (number 170) in Grand Hotel Quellenhof was old fashioned for my taste but comfortable nevertheless, with a lovely spacious marble bathroom and an elegant balcony overlooking the garden on which I sat in the sunshine sipping tea quite frequently.
My favourite places to hang out were the red loungers in the quiet relax room by the Hellenic pool, listening to Brahms, and the wooden terraces with the sunshine on my face, my hair up in a white towel, watching in awe the black ruin of the castle Schloss Wartenstein perched on a nearby hill.
What we took home: A vial of Macadamia Nut oil, which you get after every treatment, and a tester of Shu Uemura leave-in hair conditioner for dry hair given to me by Joana – which, quite simply, is an awesome hair product and one I will be buying a lot more of!
Would we go back: If someone wanted to treat me to a stay in a spa suite, I was with a companion, I could book a three hour long massage with Zandi and have my hair cut with Shu Uemura products – yes.
People watch: All staff were attentive throughout, most especially the kind waiters. Zandi was a particular dream, but so was being given beauty treatments (not normally my thing) by Joana, who at only 20 years old had an expert hand and a lovely relaxing presence.
Food watch: Gourmet delights await you at the eight restaurants, which range from traditional Swiss fondues to Asian fare, but those on a health kick will want to choose the Cuisine Equilibreé menu at either Bel-Air or Olives d’Or, a daily changing range of gourmet wellness dishes developed with nutritionists – think poached trout fillets with orange brew; sautéed venison medallions with cranberries; salad bowls with quails eggs; fresh fruits and light chocolate mousse – the chef still uses ‘a little butter and sugar for taste’.
Breakfast is a buffet – there’s nothing especially healthy on offer, but you can go for bircher muesli, some fresh juices, and fresh smoked salmon and eggs.
What’s queenly: The service throughout. It’s the sort of place where suited waiters will show you to the same table each evening and remember that you wanted to read the International New York Times the night before, so maybe you’d want to see today’s paper too?
What’s lowly: The spa here is a mobile-free zone, but you will get people of a certain type abusing the rules – on our visit, a bare chested Russian guy wearing lots of medallions was walking around the ‘naked area’ talking loudly into his mobile phone.
Insider tip: To put things in context and get yourself out of the resort, be sure to walk to the gorge and the source of thermal waters – it’s a lovely, restful easy walk along a wide path and beside giant trees, and the other-worldly gorge is a treat to behold.
Price with a companion: From CHF 245 (about £162) per person sharing a double room. Rates include breakfast, welcome aperitif, use of the 36.5° Wellbeing & Thermal Spa area and Tamina Therme, fresh fruit and Ragaz water each day and daily fitness and relaxation lessons as well as VAT. On top you book your programme – the three-day therapeutic programme we tried is priced at CHF 1,270/£828 per person.
Price going solo: From CHF 380 (about £245) per person for a single room, all inclusive as above.
Value for Money: This is an expensive place to stay – but pick the right package for you, and it will be more than worth it.
Reviewed by Caroline Sylger Jones
© Queen of Retreats