Bad Ragaz, first mentioned in the 9th century, is located in Switzerland’s Rhine valley and has a population of slightly over 6000. It is famous for its thermal baths, the water of which originates in the nearby Tamina Gorge. Its reputation has grown beyond Switzerland and over time has attracted illustrious visitors such as Victor Hugo, Rainer Maria Rilke, Thomas Mann and Friedrich Nietzsche. And around 1880, Swiss novelist Johanna Spyri was inspired by the magnificent landscape here to create her bestseller “Heidi” !
We recently spent a family weekend here, discovering the Tamina Gorge, the five-star Grand Resort Bad Ragaz and Europe’s largest open air sculpture exhibition: Bad RagARTz.
Let’s start with where it all started: the hot spring. The spring with 36.5C thermal water was discovered in 1242 by hunters from the local Abbey of Pfäfers and the first baths were installed in the gorge in the 14th century. At the time, spa guests were lowered down into the gorge on ropes and would spend several days soaking in the water. As demand for treatments increased, the water was piped in wooden channels in 1630 to a larger and more accessible part of the gorge. Between 1704 and 1718, Abbott Bonifaz Tschupp and Abbott Bonifaz of Gilgen built in Altes Bad Pfäfers a baroque bath house that was in use until 1969. It was renovated between 1983 and 1995 and serves today as a museum and location for cultural activities, such as the current Festival of Small Sculptures. It is easily accessible from downtown Bad Ragaz with the local bus or a 75 minute walk.
Old Bad Pfäfers is also the starting point to the walk to the source of the hot spring. The Tamina Gorge is very narrow and photogenic here. Don't forget to bring some rain gear though to protect your camera ...
Since 1840, to make the thermal water even more accessible, it has been funnelled in wooden channels over a distance of 4km to Ragaz.
Grand Resort Bad Ragaz
The history of the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz goes back to Swiss architect and entrepreneur Bernhard Simon. He was born in 1816 in Niederurnen as the son of a shoemaker and peasant. At the age of 19, he walked in 10 days to Lausanne to start an apprenticeship in construction under his uncle Fridolin Simon. In 1839 he moved to St.Petersburg and founded his own firm which became one of the most busy architectural practices in St.Petersburg. For health reasons he returned to Switzerland in 1854. In 1868, Berhard Simon was able to purchase the Ragaz Estate and in 1869, he opened the Hotel Quellenhof. Today the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz is composed of 4 hotels: the Grand Hotel Quellenhof, the Grand Hotel Hof Ragaz, the Spa Suites and the Hotel Palais Bad Ragaz.
After leaving our car to the valet, we entered the resort lobby. Swiss interior designer Claudio Carbone has been responsible for the latest redesign of the Grand Hotel Quellenhof in 2019. The fireplace in the middle of the lobby is illuminated by Swarovski crystals that were previously part of the chandeliers of the Restaurant Bel-Air. A 16-meter-high chandelier with 2500 clear and blue spheres decorates the main staircase and flows like a waterfall through the 4 stories.
During the check-in we were given a quick and very helpful orientation tour of the different hotels, restaurants and baths of the resort. We stayed in a wonderful Family room in the Grand Hotel Hof Ragaz with separate parents and kids bedrooms and great views from the large balcony !
Time to hit the baths ! Our room already had bathrobes and slippers ready and as a wellness resort, we were encouraged to walk with them to any of the baths in the resort ! There are four of them: the Family Spa, the Garden Pool, the historical Helenabad, and the Tamina Therme.
Shortly after opening the Quellenhof, Bernhard Simon started building Europe’s first indoor swimming pool and the original Helenabad opened in 1872. Initially built with wood, it was rebuilt in 1923 and most recently in 2009. The Helenabad is only accessible to hotel guest age 16 and above.
A forest of 115 pillars made of 2,200 Swiss fir trees forms the load-bearing structure of the publicly accessible Tamina Therme. Entrance is free for hotel guest. It was designed by Zürich architecture practice Smolenicky & Partner and completed in 2009.
The baths opened our appetite and we had dinner at Olives d’Or and breakfast next morning at Verve by Sven. Both were amazing and we just loved sitting on the terrace with the beautiful views.
Bad RagARTz, the 8th Swiss Triennial of Sculpture, is held this year from May 8 to October 31st. 83 artists from 16 countries exhibit 400 sculptures on the theme “Distance sharpens the view” (Distanz schärft den Blick). Entrance is free and the artworks can be seen all over the town of Bad Ragaz and some of them even directly at the Grand Resort.
Many of them are installed in the Kurpark Bad Ragaz
Or can be discovered while walking through the town
Some sculptures from previous editions have become permanent installations, such as "Laura non c'é" by Bruno Walpoth which was part of the 6th edition of Bad RagARTz.
It was a great restful week-end that the whole family enjoyed! We’ll be back for sure !