Travel & Destination

Heidi, hot springs and spas: why Switzerland is the perfect family holiday destination

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Rolling up to Heidi’s hilltop in a white Porsche SUV is a sacrilege of nearly unforgivable percentages: the spotless, smooth leather interior of the car containers with the dark, straw-strewn ground-floor entry to the Swiss miss out on’s alpine sanctuary; surely goat-herding Peter would refuse me.

The needs of a household on vacation are terrific.

My son Henry, aged three, had developed a wholesome crush on Johanna Spyri’s captivating orphan and her gruff but caring grandpa. I, at 37, was struggling with the sort of perma-exhaustion that epitomizes being a parent and had actually established a deep gratitude for sleep. Therefore it was that Henry and I found ourselves in Heidiland, particularly in the dramatic Swiss health club town of Bad Ragaz, near the Austrian border. He came for a girl; I was having trouble sleeping and wanted to take a few days to concentrate on relaxation.< div itemscope="" itemtype="" data-frz-ancestor="" >

Homes in Heidi town


Not long ago, holidaying solo with a child was a dish for tiredness. Increasingly hotels are realising that parents want to spend quality time off both with and without their kids– more Marie Antoinette than Gina Ford, this is a flexible case of having your family holiday and enjoying it, too– and the places doing this finest of all are continental. While our European sis seem to have no qualms about examining their children into a club for the day, British mothers baulk. However, as Mothering Sunday approaches, why not put mums top of the program?

It was throughout this valley, in Maienfeld, that Spyri got her inspiration for the lady who introduced a thousand movies (the very best is the 2015 Swiss effort, readily available on Amazon Prime called into English). And it is here, too, that well-to-do Swiss and, increasingly, Russians and Saudis, flock to take the thermal waters, as people have done for 800 years.

Thermal bliss at the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz(imagined)

Health is the main draw at the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, an exceptional spa connected to 3 hotels. While there is an official environment, kids are welcome, and the on-site crèche uses forest walks, art tasks and plenty more for children aged 3 and older from 9.30am-5pm, at no surcharge(childcare is readily available, at an extra cost). The hotels share 6 dining establishments– one with a Michelin star– plus an 18-hole golf course.

As I visited the health club after breakfast on our first morning, Irina, a trilingual nursery worker, concerned fetch Henry, pied-pipering him away with a wood truck that she pulled from her bag. Progeny ignored, I started the severe company of calming down.

My day of relaxation began with a rigorous individually pilates lesson, followed by a complete gearshift into a “sequoia ceremony” massage routine. After a lean but delicious lunch of the health spa’s signature food equilibree (potato soup, followed by rice with roast veggies and chicken in helpings rather smaller sized than I’m used to), I spent the afternoon following a circuit through the medspa’s saunas and thermal pools, which draw 36.5 C waters from the mountains above.

This mineral-rich water is available to consume throughout the resort, too, and at almost the very same temperature. Is it really magic? I’m not ready to state no, because it holds true that I felt far better on its routine. After a facial to round out the day, I brought Henry from the kindergarten to check out the surrounding location.

Simply today, the headings again recommended that contemporary kids’s activity levels are in a disastrous march towards nearly nothing long before they leave main school. However Heidi’s Alps have ample space for shared adventures that would fit a mom and kid of almost any age.

Those white Porsche SUVs and some fierce-looking Harleys readily available for visitors to obtain, the Grand Resort has bicycles with kid seats that you can sign out. Henry and I took in the last of the day’s sunlight with a cycle by a tributary of the Rhine, bound for a lakeside playground where we fed ducks.

Another day, after our visit to Heidi’s house (where we found lovely alpine furnishings and some evocative if moth-eaten mannequins), we raised to Peter and Heidi’s fields, warding off the advances of some rather forward goats en route. A stroll through flower-filled meadows that extend up to snow-capped mountain peaks fosters relaxation as much as thermal waters; to share that scene with my kid was a reward.

Once we grew worn out of treking, we went for a swim in the indoor-outdoor thermal swimming pool complex adjacent to our hotel (while the day spa’s pools just admit kids prior to supper, keeping the complex blissfully child-free at other times, the extensive and clean adjacent community swimming pools enable young people to swim at any time they like).

The world has numerous “health clubs” of differing sizes– even my local council’s pool has a sauna, though it is frequently standing-room-only, evoking an underground carriage in Hell. Kids’ clubs are plentiful– some enjoyable, some less so. What sets Bad Ragaz apart is this: it is really fun for both adults and kids. While it is not marketed as a “family-friendly” hotel– beyond the kindervilla, whatever is developed, sophisticated, and lacking main colours or soft-play– it represents, I hope, the future of family hotels.

In Spyri’s book, the supreme healing powers of Heidi’s mountaintop are given the ultimate validation when her wheelchair-bound pal, Clara, check outs from the city and unbelievely learns how to stroll. Clara’s dad, a kindly gentleman from Frankfurt, concerns bring her and is overwhelmed by the power of the Alps. Another kindly gentleman from Frankfurt approached our breakfast table on our last morning, clutching a little bundle. “I have watched you over the past few days,” he said with old-fashioned sincerity. “What a delighted pair you are– the mountain air has offered you rosy cheeks and pleasure in your faces; seeing your son’s joy has made me feel young.” And, with that, he handed Henry a box of Kinder chocolates and strolled outside, smiling. I left the Alps smiling, too.

Wellness is on everybody’s program these days: there are prenatal colouring books, adult sticker books are marketed as “the perfect Mom’s Day present, set to be the mindfulness trend for 2017”. But do not buy the mother in your life flowers this year. Rather, think about a day spa holiday à deux; relaxing with a three-year-old isn’t a contradiction in terms, it’s the new method to take a trip.


Spaces at Grand Resort Bad Ragaz expense from ₤ 312 per night ( tt-badragaz ). Includes buffet breakfast, endless access to the health spa, and daily child care from 9.30am-5pm. A one-day restorative relaxation programme, consisting of lunch, consultation, a 90-minute massage, an hour-long exercise class and hour-long facial, expenses ₤ 400. Flights to Zurich cost from ₤ 58 ( Train from Zurich airport to Bad Ragaz expenses from ₤ 15 ( en).