There is no hotel experience quite like that found at the greatest, grandest Swiss hotels. To this point in the six-year plus history of Gemütlichkeit, greatest and grandest has meant the Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne, Geneva's Le Richmond, and Les Sources des Alpes in Leukerbad, in no particular order. Let's make it a foursome.

Victoria Jungfrau in Interlaken. The most lavish spa we've ever seen; sumptuously furnished guest rooms; ornate, exquisitely Victorian public rooms; a magnificent restaurant; four indoor and three outdoor tennis courts; faultless service and, right there framed in your window, floating in and out of the clouds, the imposing mountain for which it is named. The town's main street, the Höheweg, is dominated by the V.J.'s long, Belle èpoque façade, striped awnings over every window, and commanded by a square Victorian tower. Once inside the hotel you'll walk down high, wide corridors past 10-foot high beveled glass doors with dark wood frames that open onto elegant salons, past marble fountains and under dazzling crystal chandeliers.

The term "swimming pool" doesn't begin to adequately describe the V. J.'s extravagant natatorium of Roman opulence and Art Deco ritz. Under an arching roof that opens to the sky, azure columns rise from the water. Each narrows to a black cylinder that supports a white, basketball sized, light globe. Nearby are the hotel's four indoor tennis courts. Outside are three more.

Our junior suite, Number 414, on two levels, was beautifully decorated and equipped. Both in the upstairs sleeping area and downstairs in the living area we found bathrooms, TVs and a kind of security phone-a-vision that allows the room's occupants to both talk to and see, on a small TV screen, someone knocking at the door. The spacious upper bath had a shower separate from the large Jacuzzi-style tub.

The 228-room hotel, which marked its 125th birthday in 1990, has two restaurants, the Jungfrau-Stube, which serves an upscale but traditional Swiss cuisine, and the more formal Le Terrasse. The hotel's orchestra plays in the Victoria Bar, a tinkling piano sets the cocktail hour atmosphere in the Intermezzo Bar and, at the Racket Club/Tennisbar, snacks, beverages, coffee and cakes are served throughout the day. Dinners in Le Terrasse were the best European meals of the last 12 months. The best dish of the four or five we tried was slices of veal served in a light roquefort sauce with sautéed fennel and buckwheat crêpes. Almost as good was thick, pink duck breast in a spicy curry/chutney sauce accompanied by a variety of winter vegetables. The cheese cart had approximately 20 offerings and the three or four we chose were served with walnuts or grapes and a dark bread from the Valais. But no sooner had the cheese-mobile pulled away, than the dessert cart glided to a halt in front of our table. Profiteroles filled with chocolate mousse, fresh strawberries and whipped cream, and a mousse of both white and dark chocolate were just two of some 15 cart choices. Without beverages the per person price averaged about $55 and was worth every penny.

For some reason, a fleeting, revealing glance as we passed Le Salon Rouge—one of the hotel's "meeting rooms"—sticks in the mind. It took less than a second for our eyes to invade and record the scene: a prosperous looking family of six or seven gathered around a long, well-set table for a Saturday luncheon. They appeared at ease in such elegant surroundings, though the big room and table seemed almost to miniaturize them. Men and boys wore coats and neckties. A beautifully coiffed and dressed little girl of five or six ran around the table. At one end lounged the patriarch, a black haired, slightly portly man of about 40. Perhaps a banker from Zürich. Maybe a gentleman farmer who had brought his family to Interlaken for the weekend. Or possibly a local family who decided to rent the best room in town to celebrate a birthday. Whatever the event, it was a scene from a hundred years ago. The Victoria Jungfrau is that kind of hotel. Gourmet magazine recently said, "with the single most breathtaking view of the Jungfrau, it is the jewel in the crown of Interlaken." Agreed.

Street Address: Höheweg 41
City: Interlaken
Country: Switzerland
Phone: +41 (0)33 828 28 28
Fax: +41 (0)33 828 28 86
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Quality: Rating: 5 stars
Value: Rating: 3 stars
Price Level: $$$$
Type: Hotel