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Where is Grächen?
Grächen is a small town in the Valais, Switzerland. Bern (approximately 125 km) and Zermatt (20 km) are the nearest towns. The drive through the Mattertal Valley is absolutely breathtaking. The valley has deep gorges, high alpine meadows and 29 four-thousand-metre peaks. At the entrance to the valley, in Visperterminen, is the highest vineyard in Europe. Some of the oldest and rarest grape varieties are cultivated in these vineyards, which are up to 1,000 metres above sea level.
Back to my roots
I visited Grächen for the first time in 1979. From then on, this tranquil place was my winter destination for many years. I hold so many fond memories of this town. For example, it was where both my kids and I learned to ski there. When I met Bernie, I always told her about the beauty of the Valais mountains and my wish to take her there and introduce her to one of the most beautiful places in Switzerland. My wish finally came true when we planned the France, Italy, and Switzerland trip in June this year, and we could finally visit this wonderful place together. It would also be a new experience for me because I had never been there in summer.
The history Grächen
Grächen is situated on a sunny terrace high above the Mattertal valley at an altitude of 1620 metres. The town has about 1400 inhabitants and 6500 guest beds as it is particularly geared towards tourism. Interestingly, finds from the Bronze Age show that people have lived there for thousands of years. According to research reports, the first tourists arrived from England in 1858. In 1909 the first hotel was built in Grächen, the Hotel Hannigalp (the hotel where we stayed during our visit in Grächen). Until the road to Grächen was built in the early 1950s, the village could only be reached on foot or by mule. In 1953, the road was opened to the public, which increased tourism in Grächen. Today, tourism is the livelihood for about 80% of the inhabitants. In 1958, a cable car was opened to Hannigalp and since then Grächen has been added to the list of popular winter sport resorts in Switzerland.
I particularly like the fact that Grächen has retained much of its traditional and original character. It’s mostly a car-free area and you won’t find (like in many of the other ski resorts) large bungalows and private apartments, instead there are several typical Valais which are the historical wooden houses.
Why is Grächen a great holidy destination?
- A family-friendly and family-orientated holiday destination
Grächen has been voted the best family ski area in Switzerland and the best family ski area in Europe. It is a dream winter destination for children, and parents especially will get their money’s worth in this village. For example, there is a fairy-tale gondola (branded on the outside with fairy tale characters) that takes you up to the Hannigalp skiing and hiking area, where you can listen to fairy tales while you’re either on your up or down journey. Once at the top, a family park awaits you with water games, a climbing garden, and a summer tube railway. There are also several other parks for children (of all ages), for example, the Ravensburger play trail, a forest playground, llama trekking and childcare.
- Unique hiking experiences
Grächen is ideally situated as a starting point for many spectacular summer and winter hikes and walks. In particular, for winter there is 25km of prepared hiking trails.
The 250 kilometres of varied hiking trails include:
- The Europe Hiking Trail leads from Grächen to Zermatt, considered one of the most beautiful two-day hiking trails in the Alps. It consists of spectacular mountain and nature scenery and has the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the Alps.
- The high-altitude hiking trail Grächen-Saas Fee. This hike starts at Hannigalp and takes about 6 hours to complete
- Cosy skiing areas
Grächen offers 44km of ski slopes (piste) of varying degrees of difficulty. The slopes are well-groomed and situated. One can enjoy breath-taking alpine panorama scenery, including views of the famous Matterhorn, from the ski area which reaches up to 2,858 meter above sea level.
There are four children’s and family parks as well as a nursery in the middle of the ski area (free to ski-pass holders). I remember how much my children loved Grächen and can still recall how much fun they had while learning to ski there. However, if you want to enjoy a larger skiing area, you can take a day trip to Zermatt or Saas-Fee
Where to stay in Grächen?
During our stay in Grächen, we stayed at the Aktiv Hotel & Spa Hannigalp. As mentioned previously, the Aktiv Hotel & Spa Hannigalp was the first hotel to be built in Grächen. It is currently owned and run by Oliver Andermatten which is a 4th generation family member. This hotel is in the car-free zone of Grächen. The hotel offers a free pick-up service from the centre of town like most of the other hotels in the area.
Who would enjoy the Aktiv hotel in Grächen?
This hotel is suitable for people of all ages but, in particular, people who enjoy rooms with magnificent mountain views, relaxing spa treatments and warm hospitality.
The facilities of Aktiv hotel in Grächen
It was remarkably interesting to note that as early as 1984, the father of the hotel’s current owner decided to build an indoor heated swimming pool for the hotel, which is still today the only pool in Grächen.
On the bottom level of the hotel is a fantastic spa and wellness centre that houses several wellness activities such as jacuzzies (one indoor, one outdoor, both with spectacular mountain views), an indoor relaxing area with fireplace and mountain views, foot spas, two sauna, rain showers, etc.
The rooms of Aktiv hotel
There are 12 categories of rooms to choose from in this 70-bed hotel ranging from a small single (economy double) room (20 m2) to a 55m2 family apartment. We stayed in a superior triple room (24 m2) with a shared balcony and table with two chairs (the adjoining room shares the same balcony, although there are partial dividers between the room’s balcony spaces) with impressive mountain views and a partial roof view. Like most hotels in Switzerland, the room was quite basic and featureless but very clean. The matrasses were wonderfully comfortable, and the bedding and pillows (almost new) and fluffy. The room had a small seating area with two chairs and a sofa bed. The room had a flat-screen TV and stable free Wi-Fi.
Our ensuite bathroom was a fair size and had a bath (which is rare in this category of hotels), and shower combination, single vanity, heated towel rails (necessary in winter) and limited bathroom amenities (only the filled containers near the vanity and in the shower).
Disappointingly, the room had no bar fridge, coffee-making facilities or gowns.
What we most enjoyed about the hotel:
We enjoyed waking up to the most amazing views of the mountains from our balcony and bedroom window.
The free gondola pass up to Hannigalp was absolutely a highlight of our visit.
The town centre is less than 5 minute’s walk from the hotel.
All areas of the hotel make you feel warm and welcome and look really inviting (from the reception to the dining and wellness areas).
The staff of Aktif hotel & Spa Hannigalp
From the moment we enquired about the hotel to the moment when we entered the reception area, we were treated with the utmost care and warm hospitality.
We experienced such warm hospitality from the reception staff to the restaurant staff.
Dining options of Aktif hotel & Spa Hannigalp
The hotel has a cosy inside bar area and restaurant, as well as two separate outside seating areas for their restaurant.
Their menu has great traditional Swiss options and many contemporary dishes, such as pasta.
The breakfast consisted of various yoghurts, cereals, cheeses, cold slices of meat, freshly baked croissants, and cakes, including several English breakfast options.
Our verdict of Aktiv Hotel & Spa Hannigalp
The review is intended to assist you to plan a trip to Grächen, Switzerland. We enjoyed the hotel for its “Heidi and Peter” feeling due to its location high in the mountains and unprecedented views of small mountain huts. We loved the hotel’s authentic Swiss character and feel combined with modern necessities (such as USB ports in room, great heating system, wellness centre, etc.)
- Large rooms with great views from balcony and window
- Great location within 5 minutes’ walk of the center of town.
- The restaurant with spectacular mountain views
- Visit to Gasenried
- Gondola trip up to Hannigalp
Value for money
One must consider that this hotel is in the Swiss mountains. An economy double garden facing room is priced at R3274 or 195 € per night (June/summer season) and a superior triple room at R5407 or 320 € (like we had).
Considering the superb breakfast, the free gondola ticket (that often costs a lot of money at other resorts) and the great wellness centre, we believe this hotel offers immense value for money.
A visit to Grächen is incomplete without visiting the adjoining village named Gasenried. This village has always been very dear to my heart because we spend many carefree holidays here as children.
The road from Niedergrächen leads you up the mountain until you reach Gasenried. You have a breathtaking view of the surrounding mountains and the Riedgletcher from here.
From Grächen you can take a walk to Gasenried (4 kilometres).
Gasenried has one hotel, a small shop and some holiday apartments for rental. You can walk (very steep) the 4 kilometres from Grächen to Gasenried or take a car that will take less than 10 minutes.
I highly recommend you visit Gasenried, even if only to take advantage of some of the best photo opportunities. I recall Bernie saying this was the highlight of her trip to Grächen.
Please comment below if you have any questions about Grächen and this article.
Warm regards Petra
Our reviews are a true reflection of our experiences during our stay at the establishment. This allow us to comply to strong ethical practices to ensure our reviews are fair and trustworthy. We only do reviews of establishments that we have personally visited. Although this was a partially hosted review, we were in no way influenced by any person/s in our opinions, views or experiences.