Steigenberger Belvedere, Davos

The Belvédere hotel edged its way along the north-west side of the Landwasser valley in Davos, expanding from the original 1875 premises into an elegant Edwardian terrace terminated by the villa-style ballroom building erected in the 1930s. Today, the long façade of the hotel – now one of the properties managed by the Frankfurt-based Steigenberger chain –sits above and dominates the middle section of the Promenade, the main street of what is the highest Alpine resort in Europe.

The Belvédere hotel edged its way along the north-west side of the Landwasser valley in Davos, expanding from the original 1875 premises into an elegant Edwardian terrace terminated by the villa-style ballroom building erected in the 1930s. Today, the long façade of the hotel – now one of the properties managed by the Frankfurt-based Steigenberger chain –sits above and dominates the middle section of the Promenade, the main street of what is the highest Alpine resort in Europe.

Consumption has played a big part in the growth of Davos. The town was once a centre for the treatment of the disease (aka tuberculosis), then thought to be alleviated by exposure to mountain air; the settlement grew in the second half of the 19th century from a small village to a health resort attracting 700,000 annual overnight bookings. In the last quarter of the 20th century, Davos achieved an international reputation thanks to the World Economic Forum, its annual celebration of global consumption – in the modern meaning of the term.

Although its clean, white exterior and airy, light rooms suggest otherwise, the Steigenberger Belvédère was never a sanatorium, unlike many of the older hotels in Davos. But thanks to its five-star status, shared by only one other hotel in Davos, the Flüela, it was a major venue for forum meetings: on one night during the 2000 event, no less than 23 heads of state gathered there for drinks with Bill Clinton.

For its regular clientele (skiers in winter, walkers in summer and conference delegates for much of the year), the hotel represents merely the height of languid luxury. It conjures up the life that rich people ought to live: calm and easy, comfortable and careless. But you'll have to be patient if you want to get a taste of the good life: the end of the ski season means the hotel closes tomorrow, re-opening for the summer on 31 May.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

The setting of the hotel, at Promenade 89 (00 41 81 415 6000), offers views across the valley to the mountains (best seen from the balconies which run along the front of the Edwardian terrace). But the Belvédère is proof that location isn't everything: it would still be a great place to stay were it set on the Hackney Marshes.

Time to international airport: Three hours, by mainline train from Zurich to Landquart, then on the little Rhätische railway which winds its way up through Klosters to Davos Platz station.

ARE YOU LYING COMFORTABLY?

Sitting, lying, standing: everything you do at the hotel is comfortable. There are no small spaces anywhere, certainly not in the standard or superior doubles (22-28 and 25-30 square metres respectively). Even after a large dinner at the excellent Romeo und Julia restaurant, you'll still feel comfortable, thanks to the light Italian cuisine.

Freebies: No showy, branded consumables in the bathrooms, just plain, good stuff. Swimming pool (with remarkable murals) in the old ballroom building; sauna; steam room. Shuttle bus to the ski slopes.

Keeping in touch: Phones and cable TV, but this is not a business hotel – only some of the 114 rooms and 27 suites have an extra laptop/fax socket.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Summer rates start at SwFr296 (£124) for a standard double with breakfast.

I'm not paying that: Why not? It's worth every franc. And while you're at it, splash out on a meal at the other Davos five-star hotel, the Flüela (Bahnhofstrasse 5; 00 41 81 410 1717), not just for the superb food but because you might be lucky enough to meet the owner, Andreas Gredig, who defines the ideal hotelier: dazzlingly charming, astonishingly well-travelled and entertaining.

Stephen Wood

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