“Come up, slow down” is the motto of Gstaad, and it couldn’t be more apposite. The hardest thing you’ll have to do? Learn to pronounce the Swiss town’s name  -think “KuhSchtatt”. Situated in the west of Switzerland, but to the East of the Leman Lake -which you’ll observe in all its splendour if you take the train to Gstaad – it’s a melting pot of French, Germanic and Swiss cultures, and you’ll regularly hear all three languages spoken interchangeably during your stay.

According to legend, the Saanen region’s five valleys were created by the fingers of God’s splayed hand. It’s hard not to imagine some divine intervention when you take in your first panorama of Gstaad: picture a backdrop of majestic mountains, a middle-ground of forests and meadows in the lushest greens, while in the foreground you’ll see traditional wooden chalets peppered across the landscape at different altitudes. The Swiss chalet style is mandatory for any buildings constructed in the area (even warehouses and petrol stations adhere) and the effect is overwhelmingly charming.

Despite a history of tourism dating back more than 100 years, a genuine Alpine lifestyle still prevails in Gstaad. The area’s 7,000 cows are tended to by a dedicated farming population with fascinating seasonal rituals: farmers and their herds move between three farms at different altitudes throughout the year according to the freshness of the pastures. In autumn, when the cows are brought down to Gstaad, they are dressed with flower crowns and pass through the centre of town in a procession.

To experience food at the heart of Alpine life, I would highly recommend visiting a traditional cheese farm. You’ll observe a rustic lifestyle and methods from a bygone era – not to mention being treated to local culinary delicacies: the cream, meringues and wide variety of cheeses all owe their existence to the cows and chickens you’ll meet on site. We visited Vorder Eggli farm – a full list of farms can be found here. Cheese is a religion in Gstaad and no trip would be complete without trying a fondue. So great is the local dedication to the delicacy that selected picnic tables in Gstaad are actually shaped like giant fondue pots, offering all the facilities for melting a fondue which you can pick up in a local shops.

If you intend to indulge, it’s only sensible to balance this out with some exercise. The surrounding area is famous for its ski slopes, but walking, hiking and mountain biking are just as popular, especially around the many nearby lakes, and are available in all seasons. To wind down after an active day, Gstaad has a number of state-of-the-art wellness facilities. A special mention goes to the Ermitage Hotel which has taken wellness to the next level with 3,500m2 of facilities featuring include outdoor and indoor saltwater pools, a heated outdoor sports pool, ten different saunas and a never-ending list of treatments.

Accommodation-wise, Gstaad has something for every budget. Right in the middle with excellent value for money and some of the most breathtaking balcony views is the Alpenland Hotel, a short distance from Gstaad centre, and a stone’s throw from the picturesque Launen Lake.

However, Gstaad is renowned for its old-world sense of luxury, and nowhere embodies this better than the town’s first-ever luxury hotel, Gstaad Palace. Presiding over the town from a hilltop, the Palace breathes history and it’s easy to see why their roster of guests has included Elizabeth Taylor, Princess Diana, Grace Kelly and Michael Jackson (Jackson wanted to buy the hotel, but his offer was turned down). The walls tell a thousand stories – I was captivated by the poster advertising the opening of the Gstaad Palace in 1913 – “a hotel with hot and cold running water!” – as well as the Art Deco poster advertising the hotel’s Olympic size swimming pool as the ultimate day out in the 1930s. The hotel’s underground fondue restaurant had a previous life as a secret storage bunker for government gold during World War II and sitting in the ballroom, I felt a pang of jealousy for the lucky few who’d sat there and heard Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong perform.

History, wellbeing, sport or cuisine – Gstaad certainly has something for every taste and after four days of trying a little of everything, I can definitely vouch for the description by local resident Julie Andrews: “Gstaad is the last paradise in a crazy world”.

Gstaad is best reached by train from Geneva Airport. Rooms at the Gstaad Palace start at 410CHF/night. For more information, see Gstaad’s website or visit My Switzerland.