LUCERNE, SWITZERLAND - I hang over an enormous copper bowl cradled in a hammock like a tea bag waiting to be submerged. My spa therapist Julia encourages me to relax. So I close my eyes and take a deep, nervous breath in anticipation of what’s to come.
My eyes snap wide open and my body stiffens as the sound of the empty bowl being struck with a large piece of wood reverberates off the walls of a small treatment room on the main floor of the legendary Palace Luzern Hotel.
Suddenly, my body starts to vibrate - first my toes, then my feet, my legs, even my chin is vibrating.
“What’s happening?” I ask Julia.
“This is an ancient Asian ceremony that will sooth and relax you in equal measure,” Julia tells me. “No other treatment in the world can achieve this.”
Above: The hanging bowl spa treatment is like no other you've ever experienced and it works.
The young therapist then informs me that the “Giant Singing Bowl”, as it’s known, is one of the Palace Luzern’s most popular spa treatments.
It’s certainly unique, just like everything else at the 5-star Palace Luzern, which rises like a fairytale castle along the shores of iconic Lake Lucerne overlooking the Alpine majesty that surrounds this most beautiful of Swiss cities.
I’m curious to know what effect the Giant Singing Bowl treatment will have on me.
“You’ll certainly pee a lot as your body relives itself of toxins,” smiles Julia, who informs me the spa’s 1.2 ton copper bowl is the largest of its kind in the world. (The model for the hotel’s Giant Singing Bowl took 15 years to develop on the basis of studies into the effects and workings of traditional Asian singing bowls.)
With one strike generating roughly five minutes of reverberations and millions of vibrations, guests like me quickly experience just how wonderfully relaxing sound can be.
As I start to drift off, I hear Julia say: “guests sense millions of oscillations during the treatment.”
From the moment you walk into the legendary Palace Luzern you’re overwhelmed by the sophistication and elegance displayed throughout this magnificent property, which has been welcoming guests now for 111 years. The level of service at this 5-Star gem goes well beyond what one expects at a property of this repute, but it’s not until you enter your lakeside room that you truly appreciate what this hotel offers.
Above: The Palace Luzern looks like a royal palace sitting on the edge of tranquil Lake Lucerne.
When Katrin Seifert, the Palace Luzern’s Senior Sales Manager, swings open the balcony door in my spacious room, I gasp with delight at the Alpine scene framed in the doorway. When I walk out onto the terrace, I see small and large boats dotting idyllic Lake Lucerne and a wall of snow-capped mountains is reflected on its mirrored surface. Few words can describe the overwhelming beauty I’m looking at.
“You can see the top of Mount Pilatus from here,” says Seifert as she hands me the magnifying glasses that come with the room. Pilatus, at 2,118 metres high, dominates the view from my recently updated room that's the size of a small suite.
The Palace Luzern is defiantly fit for royalty and actually owes its existence to England’s Queen Victoria. The British monarch’s three-week visit to Lucerne in 1868 sparked enthusiasm for this relatively unknown, at the time, Swiss outpost amongst her subjects, and many were inspired to visit here afterwards. That resulted in a hotel construction boom along Lake Lucerne and the Palace Luzern was among many that were built during that period.
Above: The hotel's lovely entrance has welcomed some high profile guests over it history.
Now commoners like me are treated like royalty when we arrive at the Palace Luzern, which was recently purchased by Chinese investor Yunfeng Gao. No surprising since Lucerne gets about 300,000 Chinese visitors a year and in 2016 they spent over $1 billion (U.S.) purchasing Swiss-made watches in this city alone. Gao is expected to spend millions more on new upgrades, but improving this masterpiece won’t be easy.
And it won’t be the first time this Grand Dame of Swiss hotels has undergone a facelift - and each time she looks better. For instance, in 2005 the Palace was "modernized" and its original 168 rooms and suites were reduced to 129. Then in 2013, 42 rooms, including my lakeside beauty, were redesigned and more modern features were added at a cost of 7 million Swiss francs ($10 million Cdn). With the Chinese having an endless supply of money, it seems, it boggles the mind to think what the Palace Luzern will look like when Gao is finished.
In the meantime, guests who arrive for a stay are treated to lavish accommodation, pampered in one of Europe’s best spas, enjoy haute cuisine in the Palace’s two excellent restaurants, waited on by an attentive staff who anticipates your every whim, and get to look out on a natural setting that is simply stunning.
Left: The rooms are regal and look out on the lake. Right: The hotel's fish restaurant is one of Europe's best.
While the Giant Singing Bowl treatment room is located on the first floor of the property, the lovely Palace Luzern spa is actually on the fourth floor. There’s a simple reason for that, Julia tells me - “The copper bowl is so heavy that if we put it on the fourth floor it would probably end up on the first floor, anyway.”
The spa, or "Sparadise" as staff like to call it, opened in 2005 and has earned rave reviews for its treatments and the expertise of its therapists. The design was influenced by its lakeside location and its contemporary look actually blends well with the building’s neo classic facade. The 72 square metre private treatment room is a couple's paradise and the focal point of this outstanding facility.
The hotel is like a museum with lots of fine art displayed in the rooms and public spaces. Because of the hotel's close association with Lucerne's Rosengart Foundation, it has secured reproductions of three famous paintings; Marc Chagall's "Evening at the Window", Wassily Kandinsky's "Multiple Forms", and "Study for the Circus Horse" by Joan Miro. The hotel's emphasis on fine art is not surprising considering Lucerne is one of the great cultural capitals of Europe.
The city is also well known for its annual music festivals - the world renowned Lucerne Festival and the equally famous Blue Balls Festival draw huge crowds to the city every year.
Many of the distinguished guests and performers attending the classical music Lucerne Festival, which dates back to 1938, stay at the Palace Luzern. And the hotel makes each evening of the Lucerne Festival memorable for guests by hosting an "Apéro" on its romantic lakeside terrace, which usually includes a glass of bubbly. Afterwards, the elegantly dressed guests are shuttled by boat across idyllic Lake Lucerne to the spectacular Jean Nouvel-deigned KKL concert hall on the opposite shore for the nightly performance. When they return by boat after the performance, they are treated to some delicious culinary treats. This year’s Lucerne Festival runs from Aug. 11 - Oct. 1 and features a Who’s Who list of classical music greats. Book early. Rooms at the Palace Luzern fill up fast for this event.
Many of the world famous conductors who have performed at the Lucerne Festival, including American Leonard Bernstein, have also stayed at the Palace Luzern and the hotel honours their presence by naming rooms after them.
The international Blue Balls music fest features over 100 events and showcases the best talents from the world of blues, jazz, soul, funk, rock and pop music. The 2017 edition of the Blue Balls will be held from July 21-29.
The Palace Luzern’s distinguished history makes it stand out from other hotels in Lucerne, but it’s the attention to detail in the guest rooms that keep people coming back.
Furnishings made from tulip wood and wall coverings reflecting the colour of Lake Lucerne make the rooms as soothing to the eye as the Giant Singing Bowl treatment is for the body.
Another stunning in-room feature are the lamps, which were specially crafted for the Palace Luzern. The bronze lamps have been silver-plated by a French craftsman and they, along with modern oil paintings by Latin-American artist Ruby Estrada and American Patrick McCarthy, make the rooms a pleasure palace within a Palace.
The Palace Luzern’s main restaurant, Marlin, is the only fish restaurant in Lucerne and one of the best in Europe. Executive Chef Armin Egli prepared a salt crusted sea bass for me and it was the culinary highlight of my week-long visit to Switzerland, which included stops at several of the country’s haute cuisine gems.
Equally good is Les Artistes, the hotel’s breakfast restaurant, where you start the day enjoying farm-fresh ingredients while looking out on the splendour of Lake Lucerne.
A visit to the Palace Luzern is an experience that will leave you vibrating with excitement long after your stay.
The Palace Luzern is a member of the prestigious Swiss Deluxe Hotels, a consortium of 41 of Switzerland’s best hotels that are located in some of the most coveted locations in the country. To find out more about Swiss Deluze Hotels, go to www.swissdeluxehotels.com/en / To find out more about the Palace Luzern, go to https://www.palace-luzern.ch/en / The best way to get to Switzerland from Canada is with Swiss International Air Lines - www.swissair.com/ - which flies direct to Zurich from Montreal, or Air Canada - www.aircanada.com - which offers direct flights to Zurich from Toronto. / The best way to get around Switzerland is by train. Swiss Travel System - www.myswitzerland.com/ - and Raileurope - https://www.raileurope.ca/en - offer many options. For travel brochures on Switzerland, go to firstname.lastname@example.org / To find out more about the Lucerne Festival, go to https://www.lucernefestival.ch/en/program/summer-festival-2017