If there’s one ski resort that truly encapsulates exclusivity, glamour and excitement, it would have to be Gstaad. The Swiss resort town’s magnificent location in the Bernese Highlands has helped it to become a favoured destination with wealthy luminaries throughout the decades, from F. Scott Fitzgerald in the 1920s to Elizabeth Taylor in the 1960s, all the way up to Madonna and Valentino today.
It isn’t hard to appreciate why so many stars have fallen under Gstaad’s spell – the timeless village has fiercely protected its unique identity against new developments and excessive expansion. The buildings in the town are still archetypally Alpine wooden chalets, with none of the glass and concrete trappings of the modern age. While other mountain resorts have lost their agricultural roots, Gstaad clings devotedly to its history. There are roughly seven thousand cows grazing on the pastures nearby, completing the picturesque scene and helping the regional farmers to thrive.
Gstaad first became popular as a winter destination for Europe’s aristocrats before the first world war, when the growing enthusiasm for a new-fangled sport known skiing saw the resort begin its transformation from sleepy village to ‘The Place’ – the nickname it would receive in the sixties. The resort now boasts 220km of ski runs spread over five valleys and remains an excellent place for dedicated skiers of all disciplines. However, Gstaad’s appeal is heightened by the fact that even during the ‘off-season,’ there’s a constant year round population. In the warmer months, Gstaad becomes a popular destination for hikers, cyclists and mountain climbers, with the idyllic scenery revealing itself as even more beautiful underneath the snow.
The village has a long-standing reputation for being attractive to foreign investors, especially those with families, thanks to the excellent international schools and peaceful atmosphere. Unlike St. Moritz and Verbier, Gstaad doesn’t have a bustling après ski scene, focusing instead on preserving the small and selective atmosphere. Just a quick look at the local real estate market is enough to confirm that this was a wise decision from the authorities.
Property prices in Gstaad are now comparable to those in central London, New York, and Tokyo, for the very simple reason that demand far outweighs supply. There are strict zoning laws imposed on the town, local farmers are reluctant to sell land and developments are heavily restricted. This is perhaps why interest in nearby towns like Gruben, Rougemont, and Chateau d’Oex has been growing in recent years. Benefiting from the buyers frustrated by the difficulties of investing in Gstaad, these villages can offer an enticing mix of lower prices and more space, handling transactions with the same renowned discretion that has attracted the international elite to this region for so many decades.
They’re still subject to an interesting Swiss law, however, which bans foreign individuals and couples from buying a property measuring more than 200m2. Larger properties tend to be split into technically self-sufficient apartments, facilitating ‘shared’ ownership between a group of friends or family. If you’re interested in making an investment in this highly desirable region, Engel & Völkers can help you with everything from navigating the Swiss legal system to finding that perfect property. With an office in the heart of Gstaad and a team of experienced, friendly agents, you’re guaranteed expert advice every step of the way.