The rich and famous have long gathered in Gstaad, Switzerland to enjoy the charming town and idyllic scenery while sipping champagne in the area’s gorgeous chalets. But among its famous fans, Elizabeth Taylor stands out as perhaps the most notable.
Ms. Taylor purchased Chalet Ariel in 1962. It was her home base during her time with Richard Burton, a favorite retreat throughout her life and the location of many family Christmases.
If you make your way to this exclusive alpine hamlet, follow in Ms. Taylor’s footsteps by stopping by her favorite spots.
Hotel Olden was Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s favorite place to pop in for a drink or a bite to eat either on their own or with the kids in tow. The proprietress at the time, Hedi Donizetti Mullener, bestowed special status on the faithful regulars of the bar in the restaurant by hand decorating glass beer steins with the customer’s name emblazoned on them. These would be hung, for the exclusive use of the designated patron, on hooks above the bar in the hallowed company of the few dozen other similar mugs.
“It typically took many, many years of dogged barfly attendance before you were deemed worthy of such a mug; I happen to know firsthand,” says Ms. Taylor’s son Chris Wilding. “You had to put in the time. They could not be bought and you weren’t ever going to get one if Hedi didn’t think you deserved one. Traditionally, only men were recipients of these special mugs, but my mother was the first woman ever to be so honored.”
Sadly, the mugs are no longer displayed at the bar but Hotel Olden remain a favorite watering hole of visitors to Gstaad.
In the 1960s, von Siebental functioned a bit like a general hardware store, selling everything from locally wrought cowbells for area farmers to plates and home wares for village housewives as much as for well-heeled residents like Ms. Taylor. Today the store focuses on high-end kitchenwares but remains family-owned. Pop in and ask Gottfried von Siebenthal to tell you some tales.
Rosie the Calf
In the small plaza outside von Siebenthal, you’ll find bronze-sculpted Rosie the Calf sipping from a stone trough. The delightful sculpture was commissioned by the village of Gstaad from Ms. Taylor’s daughter Liza Todd Tivey in 1999 to commemorate Switzerland’s most beloved animal. If you’re lucky you just might catch some local cows bellying up to the trough alongside Rosie.
Located halfway between Chalet Ariel and the village, the elegant Gstaad Palace hotel is where the Taylor-Burton clan would head for special occasions. The group also paid visits to the hotel’s exclusive discotheque, GreenGo, which is still going strong.
“There was also a Van Cleef & Arpels outlet (sadly, now closed) in the hotel, which was an additional draw” admits Wilding.
This centrally located stationery shop is considered a landmark in Gstaad and the go-to location for books, toys, souvenirs and magazines. “We used Cadonau as a rendezvous spot,” says Wilding. “Nowadays, surrounded as it is by ultra high end boutiques, it’s a bit of a throwback and a reminder of the simple character once possessed by the village.”