Spa Trek: Grand Resort Bad Ragaz – Review

By Lucy Cleland

6 months ago

Sustainable methods to transform you inside and out


New year, new you? Let one of the world’s oldest spa hotels, Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, give you a helping hand, says Lucy Cleland.

Spa Review: Grand Resort Bad Ragaz

Thermal spa with marble pillars and a chandelier.

‘Everything is going to be alright,’ blazes out Brit artist Martin Creed’s neon artwork from its vantage place atop the stately, elegant Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, in the beautiful canton of St Gallen, Switzerland. Incongruous? Maybe, but the Schmidheinys, fourth generation majority shareholders of one of the world’s oldest – and considered Switzerland’s finest – spa hotels, are art fiends. Sculptures, such as Xavier Mascaro’s colossal iron The Guardians, are everywhere (there’s a 90-minute trail to follow) and the resort hosts the Swiss Triennial of Sculpture – Bad RagARTz – every three years.

But I’m not here for the art, gorgeous though it is. I’m here for the water and the wellness. Because through the bowels, pipes, fountains, showers, taps and pools of much of this vast resort flows the elixir of natural thermal water – served up at a perfect 36.5 degrees. And with it, its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, detoxifying, immune- system boosting, microbiome-balancing, mineral-packed healing benefits.

The source of this wonder water was discovered four kilometres away up the Tamina Gorge (you can walk there in spring and summer) by hunters from the nearby Pfäfers Benedictine monastery, but it was in 1840 that pipes were constructed to carry the water down to Ragaz. The Quellenhof hotel followed in 1868 (there are four hotels within the resort – each attracting a different clientele), built by architect Bernhard Simon, who made a deal with the town that he could use the thermal waters in his hotel as long as he built a public bath – the famous Tamina Therme and a public watering hole, and it is here that I’m staying, my spacious golden-hued suite looking out to snow-sprinkled mountains swirling with clouds and trees resplendent in their autumnal glory.

Bedroom with white and green colour palette and a view of the mountains.

Back to Martin Creed’s motto, I know everything is going to be alright because here resides a crack team of doctors, therapists and practitioners. So well-known are the first-class facilities, in fact, that football teams such as Bayern Munich take camps here; the doctors look after the Swiss Olympic Team and Saudi sheiks and princes fly in incognito and hide away in the private spa suites – with direct access to the facilities without having to mix with the hoi polloi.

For mere mortals like me, there are the scientifically backed NEWYOU wellness programmes, which gently coach guests to bring sustainable wellbeing practices into their everyday lives – not for them a strict regime of broth and chewing on stale bread for a week to send you home ten pounds lighter, only to pile it all on again. Its philosophy is all about education and pragmatism; it wants you to understand and take control of the benefits of looking after yourself – through fitness, nutrition and mental wellness – so that you are able to carry on back home.

Getting a measure of your baseline health with blood tests, examinations and an accurate reading of your metabolism (get ready to drive up your heart rate on a static bike) is where it all starts. Then programmes are really geared to what you bring to the table. Are you super stressed? Do you worry about your gut health? (The thoroughly knowledgeable nutritionist, Helena Kistler, will help you with that.) Do you just want some R’n’R? Regimes are implemented through nutrition, exercise, mental recovery and rest. Included is a session with the phenomenal, no BS mental trainer Tina Dyck – she’ll read you and your issues like the most open of books and has transformational results – she works with the Olympic team too, bringing mental focus and clarity to their ambition.

Sauna with red tiles and grey seating.

The sports coaching is integral to the NEWYOU approach; your daily PT sessions are aligned to what your regime is at home – whether you are a gym bunny, a runner, a yogi or none of the above, the team works to give you actionable exercises you won’t ditch a week later because it’s unsustainable. All exercises they suggest are captured on an app that you can easily use back home – you can even book in online lessons with the team to keep yourself really motivated. 

But wellness isn’t just doctors in white coats; it’s hiking on vertiginous mountain trails or meandering through alpine meadows in Heidiland (yes Joanna Spyri’s children’s classic was set here and gave the area its name); it’s saunas, steams, tennis and golf; it’s brilliantly accomplished dishes served up by Sven Wassmer, pupil of Nuno Mendes, who presides over Verve by Sven, one of seven restaurants (which share between them six Michelin stars).

The NEWYOU method is thankfully no starvation regime. Your balanced nutrition is served up as the perfect confection of vegetables, proteins, carbs and fats expertly alchemised into dishes of wonder: delicately sautéed venison escalope with earthy mushrooms, wild cream sauce and comforting red cabbage or roasted pikeperch fillet (skin always crispy) with braised fennel and a delicate bouillabaisse mousse.

View of Grand Resort Bad Ragaz with a view of the Swiss mountains.

And because it’s not just a medi-spa, Grand Resort Bad Ragaz is humming with life – children and dogs roam the restaurant, laughter mingles with the tinkling of glasses, family members share meals with long-term patients in recovery. Life abounds, rather than being shut off in a clinic-like setting where guests in white robes disappear like ghosts come evening time. This is wellness with heart, and water, of course.

BOOK IT: From approx £4,582 pp (exc.luding accommodation), for a minimum of three nights. resortragaz.ch

Lucy’s return flights had a carbon footprint of approx.114kg of CO2e. (ecollectivecarbon.com)