Gstaad, a seasonal and exclusive village nestled in the Swiss Alps has consistently ranked among the top echelon for the most expensive towns worldwide, high cost of living index and highest price per square metre of real estate. The hyper-affluent town plays the role of a peaceful, quiet mountain resort where the breaking news is what the local (and only) cinema is showing that week. Alternatively, during the Christmas period for about two weeks, dawns Gstaad’s alter ego: a winter playground where millionaires get lost in a sea of billionaires.
Gstaad, much like St.Moritz or Aspen, hosts a small population that explodes when wealthy vacationers come to party. About 7500 permanent citizens reside in Gstaad, and the population rises to around 35,000 during December. In fact, 60% of Gstaad property owners are not Swiss residents. It’s not just the population that increases, it’s everything. Some 2,000 employees reside in Gstaad and its surrounding towns yet that number jumps to 17,000 that cater to the rich and famous during the peak period, often housing in nearby towns such as Lauenen and Saanen. The energy consumption increases drastically too, so much so that in 1999 at the turn of the millennium, the electricity usage was so overloaded it caused a 4 day blackout, subsequently there are now 300 backup generators at a hands reach. Taxi Simon, a family run luxury taxi service company based in the Gstaad area, has two full-time employees and 2 part-time during the off-season and come Winter, that number reaches 20 plus – strictly Mercedes of course.
Locals however, don’t want to see their quaint mountainous town turn into the hyper-exclusive village of $9 water bottles, $20 juices, $50 burgers – but it’s a battle they aren’t winning. Gstaad has transitioned in recent decades into a ritzy village of designer stores, MICHELIN star restaurants and even a private jet rental office….celebrities such as Madonna, Valentino, Virat Kohli, Anne Hathaway and Saudi Royalty are known to often frequent Gstaad.
Sitting atop the mountain’s edge looking over the whole town is Gstaad’s crown jewel, the Palace Hotel. The 90-room hotel serves as an alternative to those living the hard life and don’t own one of the multi-million dollar chalets. The stone castle-like hotel boasts 5 restaurants and for peak times, you’ll need to book over 3 years in advance. While hosting VIP’s in December, Palace staff take no days off and often work 14-hour days catering to all the outrageous needs and requests of their high paying guests. Guests remain anonymous and the Palace does a great job at keeping their guest list hidden from media outlets.
Gstaad holds the record for highest price per square metre of real estate in Europe currently at 60,000 Euros per square metre. Most of which consist of near identical chalet’s. Apart from shopping sprees at Louis Vuitton and Hermès, skiing and millionaire champagne parties – Gstaad is known for something else, hosting the most expensive school on Earth. Le Rosey is a boarding school that prides itself on providing a premium education, a level above the rest. Alumni at this particular school are often children of some of the world’s elite, and for $120,000 Euros a year in fees, there is still a chance your application can be refused. Graduates include ex-prime ministers and presidents, royalty and high-profile business persons.
Oh to have endless money….