While you may not have heard of Stanglwirt, you’ve certainly heard of many of its guests. The five-star Austrian wellness resort, located in Going am Wilden Kaiser, has hosted everyone from Gwyneth Paltrow to Jason Statham to Hillary Clinton, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is a frequent visitor. Nestled in the Tyrolean Alps, Stanglwirt has everything: a high-end spa, wellness center, tennis courts, boxing ring, fitness garden with equipment donated by Schwarzenegger, a bowling alley and a children’s farm, where parents can leave their kids for the day.
Stanglwirt tends to attract European locals, but in recent years, more and more Americans are catching on to the hotel’s charming combination of nature, wellness and friendly hospitality. Maria Hauser, whose father, Balthasar Hauser, owns the hotel, has been an instrumental part of bringing Hollywood to Stanglwirt over the past decade.
“We had Jessica Alba here and she went on a hike with me,” Hauser told Observer. “She loved this earthy, grounded feeling we have here and on the mountain where our cows are. Nowadays so many things are very superficial, and people are longing to have this grounded-ness and this feeling of being back to nature, while at the same time being in a five-star environment. It seems like those would be opposites, but we have a harmonious combination where it can be both, and nature is the real luxury.”
What is the history?
Stanglwirt was first opened as a local tavern in 1609. It has passed down through the same family since 1722, and has hugely expanded since 1889, when the tavern and inn began to attract more tourists. The hotel’s current owner, Balthasar Hauser, transformed the property into an eco-friendly hotel in the 1980s by focusing on sustainable construction and design, incorporating organic ingredients from the farm into the menus and serving water from their own spring. Being environmentally conscious has remained a focus of Stanglwirt in the years since, and they even have their own biomass power plant that creates energy out of bark waste from local sawmills.
Today, the property is composed of a vast collection of buildings attached to the original tavern, Gasthof Stanglwirt, which still houses an indoor barn for the dairy cows (you can see them through a window while you dine).
What’s the clientele like?
Over the years, Stanglwirt has hosted quite a few athletes, world leaders, actors and musicians, including Muhammad Ali, Buzz Aldrin and Pamela Anderson.
“Celebrities are in our history,” Hauser told Observer. “When my grandmother was running the Gasthof, our traditional inn, we only had one room with three tables, and already back then she had guests like Clark Gable and Bing Crosby here. People who are working in the limelight are always confronted with a lot of superficial encounters and people that want something from them. They’re hardly ever seen as a human being. I think they have a longing to be seen as who they really are and that’s what happens here. When they enter the house, they are themselves.”
An important aspect of Stanglwirt’s modern success is the annual Stanglwirt Weißwurst Party (“White Sausage Party”), held the evening prior to the famed Hahnenkamm downhill ski race at nearby ski resort Kitzbühel. The event began in 1992 as a casual party for the skiers, with attendees eating Bavarian white sausages to gear up for the race. Now, 2,800 guests attend the lavish party, and Schwarzenegger regularly opens the event with a speech.
“I don’t take this for granted because this is so special that he opens with us every year,” Hauser said. “I ask him every year, ‘Would you like to open it again with us?’ And then he always says, ‘Yeah, this is my pleasure.’ He always says, ‘Let’s make this the biggest Weißwurst party in the world.’”
How do you get there?
The resort is located less than two hours from the Munich airport by car. Visitors can also fly into Salzburg or Innsbruck, both about an hour away. From Germany or Austria, Stanglwirt is accessible by train (St. Johann in Tirol and Kitzbühel are the nearest stations), or by car or taxi. The hotel can arrange a transfer to and from one of the airports or train stations. International travelers should take advantage of Stanglwirt’s location to explore more of Austria, or to add on extra days in nearby Switzerland.
What are the rooms like?
Stanglwirt embraces a traditional Alpine aesthetic. The rooms and suites, which vary in size and shape depending on the part of the building, are made from Arolla pine. The hotel caters to families with family rooms—some which have bunk beds—and there are numerous levels of suites, most of which are outfitted with wood-burning fireplaces, balconies with mountain views and spacious bathrooms. The décor is relatively sparse, but it suits the classic vibe of the hotel. All stays include the sumptuous buffet breakfast, which offers everything from champagne to cheese made on the Stanglwirt farm, and access to the wellness areas. If you really want to live the life of a celebrity, Hauser revealed that the famous guests tend to book into the larger accommodations, like the Kaiserbogen Kaiser Suite.
Where can you eat?
Stanglwirt has three on-site restaurants. Gasthof Stanglwirt, the 400-year-old tavern, is the highlight, serving traditional Austrian cuisine in its intimate dining rooms and on its terrace. Reserve a table in the so-called cowshed room to watch the dairy cows while you eat—don’t worry, you can’t smell them. Stanglwirt’s Hotel Restaurant hosts the daily breakfast buffet, as well as dinner, which is offered as a coursed menu. It’s an indulgent affair that often includes live entertainment, like a harpist or a mentalist who goes table to table. There’s also a hotel bar in the lobby and a casual daytime spot, Kamin Bistro, where you can grab a healthy lunch in your bathrobe. Be sure to order something that features the Stangl Alpine cheese, which is made on-site by the hotel’s own cheesemaker.
Most guests tend to stay within the resort, but there are also local restaurants in the area, as well as in Kitzbühel, which is known for its upscale vibe. Popular eateries in Kitzbühel include Rosi’s Sonnbergstuben, Il Gusto and Gasthaus Eichenheim.
What’s the spa like?
Wellness is the main draw at Stanglwirt. Guests are encouraged to wander around in their bathrobes to best experience the labyrinthine sauna complex, indoor and outdoor pools, and the relaxation areas. The wellness areas are divided into adult-only, where you’ll find the nude section, and family-friendly. There’s also a specific children’s pool, with a massive waterslide. The spa itself offers every possible treatment, from massages and Rolfing to facials and body wraps. Hollywood favorite Dr. Barbara Sturm visits Stanglwirt regularly to give high-end cosmetic treatments to guests.
Stanglwirt is constantly updating its offerings in the spa and wellness areas because, as Hauser explained, they want to embrace the motto “where trend meets tradition.” They plan to add cryotherapy in the coming months, and are in the process of building a new restaurant in the wellness area.
What else is there to do?
The better question is: What doesn’t Stanglwirt offer? The hotel emphasizes sport and fitness, with numerous options for those looking to be active during their vacation. Outdoors, there’s hiking, mountain biking, Nordic walking, fishing and cross-country skiing, depending on the season. Inside, you can take a boxing class, learn tennis from a pro, take a yoga class or visit the expansive gym. Stanglwirt is also home to a driving range and eight outdoor tennis courts (and they’re currently looking into adding pickleball). Equestrian lovers can book a lesson or a trail ride on one of Stanglwirt’s Lipizzaner horses.
When should you go?
Stanglwirt is a year-round resort. In the winter, there’s skiing and snow sports, while the spring and summer are perfect for hiking and mountain biking. The hotel also hosts special events, like an Austrian Thanksgiving dinner and an annual Christmas market that opens in November. When you go depends on what you want to do. It’s important to note, however, that because of the hotel’s eco-friendly initiatives, not all the rooms have air conditioning, which can be challenging during the heat of summer (although housekeeping has fans at the ready). Many guests return each year, including Schwarzenegger himself, making a stay at Stanglwirt into an annual tradition.