28 Jun 2021

History of Kempinski Palace Engelberg – Titlis Swiss Alps

Engelberg, 28 June 2021 - The new five-star superior hotel Kempinski Palace Engelberg opened its doors on 25 June 2021 after a construction period of around five years. It has 129 spacious rooms and suites, top-class gastronomy, a luxurious rooftop spa and a modern event area with a listed Kursaal.* The construction of the hotel has benefited not only the economy of Engelberg, but also the entire region of Central Switzerland. Around 130 new jobs were created as part of the hotel's operation, as well as long-term relationships with construction companies, suppliers and local and regional businesses. The village of Engelberg has been characterised by tourism for over 100 years: In the middle of the 19th century, the village, located in the middle of the Central Swiss Alps, experienced a tremendous boom and first became known as a health resort for drinking and bathing cures. 

The development of the Engelberg hotel tradition towards the end of the 19th century 

The hotel history of today's Kempinski Palace Engelberg began in the spring of 1890, when the hotelier and politician of the time Eduard Cattani (1841 – 1908) bought a piece of land from the Benedictine monastery in Engelberg and had a spa built on it. The connection of the mountain village to the railway network in 1898 – at that time the longest electric railway line in Switzerland – was followed one year later by the opening of the spa by the successful Engelberg hotelier Eduard Cattani. He had already realised the first luxury hotel in the valley in 1865 with the Hotel Titlis.

Construction of the hotel as well as alterations and ownership over the course of time

Since the spa could not be heated in times of winter tourism, which developed from 1903 onwards, Cattani commissioned his brother, the internationally renowned hotel architect Arnold Cattani (1846 – 1921), to construct the Grand Hotel Winterhaus – later better known as Hotel Europäischer Hof, which opened in 1905. Three years earlier, in 1902, the present Kursaal was built as a banqueting hall in the space between the two hotels. The Kuranstalt and the Grand Hotel Winterhaus were known as the most luxurious guest houses in Engelberg, with an excellent reputation far beyond the borders of Switzerland. The buildings, arranged in a semicircle with the Hotel Titlis, the Grand Hotel Winterhaus, the Kursaal and the Kuranstalt, were soon the talk of the town and known as "Little Versailles".

In December 1939, the brothers Eduard, Alfred and Arnold Cattani sold the "Grand Hotel Winterhaus with concert hall and bar annexe together with surrounding grounds" to the Obwaldner Kantonalbank. In 1953, the spa was closed and demolished, but the Europäischer Hof continued to operate. In the same year, the German hotelier Otto Schick acquired the hotel before selling it on just two years later, in October 1955, to the then Deutsche Gesellschaft für Kaufmanns-Erholungsheime, Kur- und Genesungsheime für Handel und Industrie e.V. in Wiesbaden. The latter carried out two major renovations to the hotel rooms in the 1970s/mid-1980s before the property changed hands again in December 1987 – it went to the Leibrecht family of entrepreneurs from Southern Germany. Under the new owners, the hotel was subjected to a 1990 The exterior was restored, but the interior remained largely in its original condition preserved. At the end of 2011, the Leibrechts decided to sell it to the current owner.

Apart from the above-mentioned alterations and restorations, the building has remained largely original to this day and has been largely left in its original state. The Hotel Europäischer Hof, the Kursaal, which was given a contemporary room envelope in 1955, and the music pavilion in the neighbouring spa park, which was realised at the same time in the neighbouring Kurpark, are classified as cultural objects and are therefore protected monuments. In 2010, the Kursaal was restored to its original state from the time of construction. The monuments and surroundings go hand in hand here and form a spatial unit.

Planning and construction of today's Kempinski Palace Engelberg

The first plans for the realisation of today's Kempinski Palace Engelberg were drawn up as early as 2002 by a local architectural firm on behalf of an investor. In 2004, the Engelberg-Titlis Tourismus AG commissioned three architectural firms to examine the realisation of a four-star superior building. In 2005, Halter Generalunternehmung AG Zurich brought Eberli Generalunternehmung AG Sarnen on board, and two years later, they jointly awarded a study contract to five architectural firms. The vision was to use the historic building and the new building to create a strong and uniform identity for the entire complex. The hotel was to become a luxurious grand hotel once again, as it was in its early days, and thus become a flagship of Engelberg tourism. 

After a project that had been realised in the meantime under a direct contract was rejected by the electorate, a revised building project was presented to the people of Engelberg at the beginning of 2013, continuing the tradition of building on, which could also be found in hotels in Lucerne around 1900. The hotel was closed in April 2013, but the construction work continued to be a long time coming. The groundbreaking ceremony took place on 4 April 2016. 150 craftsmen worked flat out every day during the main construction phase on the renovation and new construction of Engelberg's first luxury hotel. The coordination was very complex; in particular, the project to replace the existing building, which was more than 100 years old, with five 18-metre-long and 17-tonne iron trusses to be connected to the new building. 

However, the selected bridge construction between the old and new buildings ensured that no additional loads would act on the Kursaal, which is a listed building in the middle of the two. At the same time as the extension was being built, the former Hotel Europäischer Hof, dating from
the Belle Epoque era, was also being carefully converted and rebuilt to create a harmonious operational and architectural unity. 

Added value for people, the environment and the economy 

The new Kempinski Palace Engelberg sends strong impulses beyond Engelberg. It revitalises the luxury hotel segment, which has so far been scarcely represented in Central Switzerland, and can thus fill a niche. The opening will also bring many new and increasingly wealthy guests to Engelberg. In addition, there is the economic benefit of creating around 130 jobs in the new hotel. Previous experience from similar hotel projects shows that for every three jobs inside the hotel, an additional job is created outside the hotel.



About Kempinski Palace Engelberg – Titlis Swiss Alps 

“Embrace Swissness” - On June 25, 2021, Kempinski Palace Engelberg was the first international five star-superior hotel to open in central Switzerland's largest winter and summer holiday destination. The successful Engelberg hotelier Eduard Cattani (1841 – 1908) had his brother, the architect Arnold Cattani (1846 – 1921), design and build the historic building, which was known far beyond the borders of Switzerland at the time. Together with the new six-storey hotel building, the listed hotel, which opened in 1904 as the “Grandhotel Winterhaus” now forms a consummate architectural unit. The 129 rooms and suites offer state-of-the-art facilities as well as a unique view
of the breathtaking mountain landscape. Culinary variety is provided by the signature “Cattani
restaurant” featuring also a large summer terrace, “The Palace Bar” with “Cigar Lounge” and the
“Wintergarden” with regional and seasonal products. A unique 880 sq m rooftop spa with infinity
pool and views over the mountain panorama, as well as a modern event area with nine conference
rooms and the listed Kursaal* for up to 1,000 guests round off the diverse range of facilities. The
hotel is conveniently and easily accessible all year round by car, train or in around 75 minutes by
car via Zurich airport.

About Kempinski Hotels

Founded in 1897, Kempinski Hotels is the oldest luxury hotel group in Europe. Kempinski offers its guests first-class hospitality and personal service worldwide, complemented by the exclusivity and individuality of the respective resorts. Kempinski currently operates a total of 78 five-star hotels and residences in 34 countries. This range is continually extended by the addition of new hotels in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Each reflects the strength and success of the Kempinski brand without losing sight of its heritage. The portfolio includes historic grand hotels, superb city hotels, outstanding resorts and superior residences. Kempinski is also a founding member of the Global Hotel Alliance (GHA), the world’s largest alliance of independent hotel brands.

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Media contact
Alexandra Ellerkamp · Cluster Director of Marketing & Communications
Kempinski Palace Engelberg – Titlis Swiss Alps
Dorfstrasse 40 · 6390 Engelberg · Switzerland
T +41 41 556 40 57· [email protected]