Known for its high society, luxury hotels, fine dining and expensive boutiques, Gstaad is the Bernese Oberland's most glamorous ski resort and the place for glittering socialites to be seen. The town has been the favoured holiday destination of the rich and famous for years, entertaining the likes of Roger Moore, Paris Hilton, Elle Macpherson and Tina Turner, among others. The picturesque village is traditional in style, with delightful alpine chalets, a pedestrian-only centre and spectacular scenery, and lies at the centre of the Gstaad Super Ski Region: one of the largest ski areas in Europe. With lush mountain scenery, miles of hiking trails, beautiful weather and good-quality hotels, Gstaad is also a great place to spend a few days in summer.
There is excellent skiing and snowboarding for beginners and intermediates in and around the Gstaad town centre but, for more challenging runs, it's best to make use of the Gstaad Super Ski Region pass, which is valid for about 155 miles (250km) of prepared runs spread over six different ski areas. The pass provides access to the ski areas of Chateau d'Oex, Rougemont, Saanen, Schonried, Saanenmoser, Zweisimmen, Lauenen and Gsteig, which are all accessible by train. Intermediate skiers are the most spoilt for choice, as a huge variety of blue and red runs are available near Gstaad, while the Diablerets glacier has snow most of the year and some challenging skiing and snowboarding for the advanced, as well as heli-skiing. Advanced skiers will also find off-piste possibilities in the Saanenmoser and Schonried area. There is an excellent ski school in Gstaad, and there are many others in the Gstaad region.
Gstaad's main shopping street is Hauptstrasse, which has a large selection of stores and boutiques that offer wares from the latest fashions and exclusive sporting goods to jewellery and pastry shops. Stores cater mainly for the wealthy.
Visitors to Gstaad are spoiled for choice when it comes to restaurants. A large number of establishments have been awarded with Gault Milau points for outstanding cuisine, such as Restaurant Le Grill at the Palace, while about 70 others offer everything from traditional specialities to Asian, Italian, fish and grills.
After skiing many people gravitate to one of the bars at Dorfstrasse for a beer or cocktail. The GreenGo bar and nightclub at the Palace Hotel is the place to be seen and is the centre of Gstaad's nightlife. Richi's Pub is a popular meeting spot for locals, and is a favourite among sports fans for watching sporting events. The more elegant Rialto bar also hosts live music in winter.
Besides skiing and snowboarding while on holiday, Gstaad offers ice-skating, tobogganing, ice-climbing and curling in winter, as well as a wide range of summer activities. In summer, hiking is popular, as are mountain biking, climbing, tennis, golf, horse riding and even beach volleyball. There are lots of excursions in the surrounding area, and a variety of top events throughout the year, including the Swiss Open Tennis Tournament, classic music festivals and international hot-air ballooning.
Gstaad has a reputation for being an exclusive ski destination and is expensive even by Swiss standards. The skiing might be a disappointment for expert skiers, and snow coverage is unreliable due to the relatively low altitude.