SWITZERLAND'S ALPINE REGION OF Andermatt may be synonymous with snow and ski, but summer brings with it its own unique pleasures. Here's what to expect:
In summer, the atmosphere in this municipality in the canton of Uri is entirely different. The temperature is mild, and the alpine air is refreshing. Indeed, some 1,890 hours of sunshine per year in Andermatt makes it one of Switzerland's top 10 sunniest spots.
Meander around the quaint town, lined with old architecture. Browse around the shops or stop for an aperol spritz. There's a quiet charm here. You will hear the therapeutic babbling of the nearby river or the periodic chiming of the church bells. If you listen carefully, you might hear melodious cow bells in the distance. There are no busloads of tourists; just locals contentedly going about their daily lives.
The honour system is still practised here. Explore one of the smaller streets, and you will find an outdoor mini fridge stocked with alpine cheeses, butter, milk and eggs. The town's self-service milk bar of sorts - pick what you like but make sure to drop some Swiss francs into the box.
Breathing new life
For more than a century, Andermatt was a military base for the Swiss Federal Army until a cut in recruits saw growth and population dwindled two decades ago.
Egyptian billionaire and visionary Samih Sawiris was invited in 2005 by the government of Canton Uri to "resurrect" this once sleepy area into an all-year-round destination. The real estate mogul, who is a majority shareholder in Andermatt Swiss Alps, launched The Chedi Andermatt Hotel and Residences in 2013. The much-needed revival subsequently kicked off. To date, a total of CHF1.8 billion has been invested to develop this place.
The first phase of the sought-after apartment blocks has been completed with more being launched in future. Many of the residences are sold out, thanks to low tax and favourable inheritance law. What's most attractive is that there are no restrictions on international buyers. Aside from The Chedi and Radisson Blu, there are more hotels coming up in the near future. These buildings are developed with sustainability in mind, with a focus on renewable energy sources.
When the residences were constructed, upscale restaurants and casual cafes were also part and parcel of the lifestyle experience.
To dine with a view, take a gondola up to the mountains at 2,334 metres above sea level, to Gütsch by Markus Neff, a one-of-a-kind restaurant with a stunning vista. Using mostly locally sourced produce, the restaurant earned one Michelin star in 2021, making it the highest-ranked mountain restaurant in Switzerland.
Nearby is The Japanese by The Chedi Andermatt, overlooking the surrounding landscape. Opened 3 years ago, it's also been awarded a Michelin star. For a casual meal, head to Restaurant Alp-Hitta at Nätschen, halfway up the mountains. Settle into one of the outdoor benches lined with fur, and tuck into generously portioned braised pork knuckle with saffron risotto and porcini mushrooms, or share the massive pizzas.
For classic Swiss meals in a cosy village restaurant, book a table at Sonne. It is located at the 150-year-old Hotel Sonne, which boasts an unmissable wooden façade. The rustic restaurant is known for fondue specialities and homey cooking.
For a taste of alpine cheeses, drive up the mountains via the winding Furka pass. A scene from the James Bond movie Goldfinger was filmed here in 1964. There are serious hairpin bends, but it's worth the effort to get up to this small family farm at the Galenstock alps, 2,000 m above sea level. The Meyer family handcrafts cheeses and butter using fresh milk from their own cows. For a unique edible souvenir, pop by the tiny hut at the cliffside for dairy products and homemade jams (again via honour system).