It sits there on the road just outside Murten, a rambling, complicated wooden structure, sprouting a variety of turrets and gables. Impressive but not quite breathtaking. That comes later, inside, at first sight of the hotel's main public rooms: wide windows overlooking park-like grounds and a lake; delicate Murano-glass chandeliers; inlaid wood floors; terra cotta tiles; rich wall and window fabrics; woodwork that whispers master craftsmen; and a perfect choice of colors, furniture, and fixtures.

It's a show, but the line between opulence and kitsch is never crossed. Add a fine restaurant, gorgeous guest rooms, lush grounds, a lakeside location, faultless, congenial service and Le Vieux Manoir's selection as (1999 Hotel of the Year) by the prestigious European guidebook publisher, Gault Millau, makes perfect sense.

In recent years, a number of readers have touted this wonderful sanctuary, so we decided to see for ourselves. Our brief stay began with light lunches of perch filets in a superb lemon butter sauce and a feathery lobster and truffle lasagna. Two prices are offered for most menu items, depending on portion size. The smaller perch serving was 39 Sfr. ($25) (48 Sfr. ($30) for the jumbo serving) and the lasagna was 32 Sfr. ($20), one size fits all.

Afterward, we walked to the railway station and boarded a train to nearby (30 minutes) Freibourg, where the afternoon was spent browsing the old town. Had it been summer, we likely would have stayed at the hotel to sit by the lake with a book and a cool drink (with breaks for the occasional short swim) or perhaps have ventured onto the lake for some fishing (the hotel chef will cook your catch).

Dinner in the winter garden-style dining room, distinctive for its comfortable wicker furniture and blue and gold terra cotta floor tiles, was just informal enough that a blue blazer without a tie felt okay. Women, however, will not be able to get by without a dress. Fixed price menus range from 98 to 124 Sfr. ($62-$78) and include a multitude of courses. We passed on those, however, and started the meal with the usual mixed salads (16 Sfr./$10 each) followed by six belon oysters (36 Sfr./$23) which we divided. The oysters were served over crushed ice with a peppery vinegar sauce and salads were what one expects at these prices, of the finest ingredients and tossed in a delicious dressing. A grilled chicken breast was raised from the ordinary by a sauce flavored with truffles and nutty.

The hotel has no lift.

Street Address: Rue de Lausanne 18
City: Murten-Meyriez
Country: Switzerland
Phone: +41 (0)26 678 61 80
Fax: +41 (0)26 678 61 62
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Quality: Rating: 5 stars
Value: Rating: 4 stars
Price Level: $$$$
Type: Hotel