Schönegg & National

A beautiful family portrait

Claude Hervé-Bazin
Pascal Gertschen
Winter 2022-2023

As hoteliers and winemakers, the Metry-Julen family masterfully manages two of Zermatt’s landmark hotels, which are both 4-star establishments, located on either side of the river: the Chalet Hotel Schönegg – member of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux association – and the National, which was recently renovated and is geared towards families.

It’s the only Relais & Châteaux property in Zermatt. And while, technically, the Schönegg is neither an inn nor a castle, it is an iconic structure in the ski resort: a large, historical wooden chalet, with balconies that are dotted by colourful geraniums and petunias. The Schönegg is a gem, a flag-bearer, and a safe haven for good living and wellbeing. It’s also in constant communion with the Matterhorn, which is in perfect view from both the hotel’s Infinity terrace and from three quarters of its rooms (and their balconies).

Refinement is inevitable here, whether that’s in the spa or in the gorgeous rooms, which waver between the more traditional Charme rooms and the contemporary, wood-forward Style Matterhorn rooms. The hotel’s Saveurs restaurant, which has been operating for the past two decades under the magic touch of chef Reinhold Wrobel, masters the art of incorporating local products into a tasting menu that changes daily (and boasts a vegetarian option). Take, for example, the exceptional Coq Au Vin, which is locally bred in Valais, marinated for two days in Pinot Noir, and then simmered over low heat for seven long hours.

Wine in their veins
None of this success is by chance. In the Metry family, much of it comes from wine, which they have been producing for four generations in Albinen, on the other side of the Rhone Valley. Pinot Noir and Fendant are the family specialities – with the latter featured on the menu in a delightful Fendant Cream Soup – and they produce some 2,000 bottles a year.

Leonardo Da Vinci once said, “I believe happiness comes to men who are born where good wine is made.” Perhaps that explains the happy nature of Valais. True to that philosophy of good living (which characterizes the canton), Sebastian Metry compiled a wine list of over 400 different regional crus, in addition to wines from Bordeaux and Bourgogne (including some splendid vintages). The impressive selection of wines available by the glass, which can be tasted and enjoyed at the bar Uncorked, exclusively features wines from Valais – a conscious decision made by the master of the house and his sister Anna, who, in the welcoming spirit of the place, also invites occasional guests into the wine cellar for a special backstage aperitif.

The National, transformed
On the opposite bank of the Matter Vispa river, Line Février – Sebastian’s wife – keeps a watchful eye over the National, and no one leaves here disappointed. Built close to the Gornergrat train station almost 40 years ago by “papa” (her grandfather) Johann Julen, the establishment is precisely perched on a 110° angle in relation to the Matterhorn, and every room faces the southern (and most beautiful) side of the mountains.

A long period of renovations, resulting in a near total makeover, have slowly transformed the National’s lobby, restaurant, bar, rooms, and spa over the past few years. As a result, the hotel feels brand new and is now open to the public 365 days a year. Yes, this luxurious hotel boasts cosy comfort, however it’s also not like all the others… While many hotels in Zermatt discourage families with children, the National embraces them with open arms.

A hotel that loves children
On the upper levels, family-style duplex rooms – the establishment’s newest bestsellers – set the tone for renovations, with their forest green walls and dark coloured floors. Contemporary and unpretentious. Parents stay downstairs, kids upstairs, in rooms with welcoming animal-themed wallpaper and a large skylight nook, complete with a built-in, suspended catamaran net that’s quite literally worth “hanging out” in. Here, as on the other floors, the bathrooms, balconies, insulation, and even the heaters have been entirely revamped.

The family-friendly touch is sprinkled throughout the common areas. There’s a playroom that’s perfect for entertaining the little ones while parents enjoy some one-on-one time. There’s a kiddie pool in the brand-new spa and wellness centre (that’s 400 m2) centred around a large pool, which allows the adults to enjoy the hot tub, the Finish sauna, or the fragrant steam bath in peace. Even the restaurant has something for children, with kids’ menus that are available all day. And there’s not just mashed potatoes- far from it! The Stübli restaurant features favourites from Valais. Meanwhile, the Restaurant National – under chef Max Latt, who hails from Alsace – features classic (and delicious) fondue and chateaubriand, along with seasonal dishes that boast a hint of international flavours. The result? A hotel that owns its comfortable identity, much like the Metry-Julen family and the village of Zermatt.