Eventful History and Rich Tradition

In 1873-5 the well-known Hauser family of hoteliers, from Wädenswil in the Canton of Zurich, commissioned the French architect Horace Edouard Davinet with the construction of the Grandhotel Giessbach. The elegance of its architecture blended in with the beauty of the surroundings and thus the hotel quickly became a worldwide attraction.

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Meeting Place for High Society

Painters, engravers, and photographers depicted the enchanting unity of buildings, gardens, and landscape. Poets, writers, and musicians sang the praises of the natural wonders of the Giessbach Falls. Until the First World War broke out in 1914, the Grandhotel Giessbach was a meeting place for the great and the famous. Royals and aristocrats and their entourage, leaders, statesmen, diplomats, and celebrated artists spent their summers at Giessbach, gaining new strength and exchanging society gossip and state secrets.

The End of the Golden Era

Two World Wars plus economic crises with their devastating consequences for the Swiss hotel industry combined with a different understanding of tourism led to the fading of the lustre and glory of the Giessbach. After many years of decline, the hotel closed its doors in 1979. There were plans for it the entire original complex to be demolished and instead to erect a modern concrete building in the style of a ‘Jumbo Chalet’.

New Hope

It was fortunate that in November 1983 the internationally renowned Swiss environmentalist Franz Weber managed, with the help of his association Helvetia Nostra and the ‘Giessbach to the Swiss People Foundation’, to purchase the Giessbach estate with its 22 hectares of land and to have it listed as a heritage site. His idea to ‘give’ Giessbach to the Swiss people and thus keep it intact for all time met with an enthusiastic response from the population.

"It takes us many years to understand how precious moments can be."

Ernst Ferstl

History of the Giessbach

Around 1817

Johannes Kehrli, the schoolmaster from Brienz, makes the Giessbach accessible to the first strangers. He lays out a footpath from the lake and entertains visitors musically with his family.


Kehrli built a simple wooden house and entertained the weary with milk, bread, cheese and a glass of his own cherry or plum water.


At that time, the strangers are usually rowed across the lake to the Giessbach by young women. The most famous among them is Elisabetha Grossmann, known as the "beautiful boatwoman".


Kehrli died at the age of 81. His descendants sold the land for 70,000 francs to Conrad von Rappard, a former member of the Frankfurt parliament who had fled to Switzerland after the failed revolution of 1848.


Together with his brother Hermann, Conrad von Rappard has a new hotel built, which opens on July 1. They commissioned Eduard Schmidlin from Württemberg to design the park. As a gardener and botanist, he is a proven expert, and as a former revolutionary, he is politically of the same mind as Conrad von Rappard. With his family, Eduard Schmidlin also takes over the management of the hotel.


As early as January, the Rappards sell the Giessbach site to the Vereinigte Dampfschifffahrts-Gesellschaft für den Thuner- und Brienzersee (United Steamship Company for Lakes Thun and Brienz), founded by the Knechtenhofer brothers, for a price of 300,000. Problems with the company's own screw steamer, which is allegedly hardly maneuverable, and public unwillingness to charge an entrance fee to visit the waterfalls may have tipped the scales in favor of the sale. Eduard Schmidlin remains at the Giessbach as administrator with his family.


After initial difficulties, the administrator Schmidlin is extremely successful and makes the Giessbach famous. The fact that young women entertain the strangers, including Schmidlin's daughters, is often praised in the travel literature of the time:

„The Hotel am Giessbach deserves its reputation. Hundreds hang around in the building and in its immediate vicinity, and yet one feels comfortable. One is never annoyed there by the crowd of waiters who run around in tailcoats and use their artisanal complimentary tailoring as a foil for their natural impudence. Two very young, picture-perfect girls provide service in the dining room; other female servants are their maids. As aloof as fairies, as simple as children, as elegant and distinguished as princesses, these lovely apparitions float through the hall, comparable to the damsels who in times long past served the noble pilgrims and the traveling knights in their fathers' castles.“

The Kurhaus is expanded several times and is regularly fully booked. Due to increasing conflicts with the landlords of Interlaken, the shipping company finally sells the Giessbach to the Hauser hotelier family.


The Hausers immediately set about expanding the facilities and commissioned the eminent hotel architect Horace Edouard Davinet to build the new grand hotel with the character of a French baroque palace.


In order to make it easier for arriving guests to reach the hotel, hotel director Karl Hauser-Blattmann applies for a concession for a cable railroad from the ship's landing stage up to the hotel in 1878. On July 21, 1879, the Giessbachbahn goes into operation. It is a pioneering work of the engineer Roman Abt, a student of Nikolaus Riggenbach: the first single-track funicular railroad with a switch in the middle, the so-called Abt'schen Weiche, which allows the crossing of two wagons.


A beer hall is opened. It survived until the late 1920s.


A third, simpler hotel was opened above the old one, the Pension Beau-Site. It was demolished in 1926.


On October 4, a fire destroyed large parts of the hotel, but by July 1884 it was reopened, in the Swiss wooden style, with a completely different roof.


In the old hotel, the Kurhaus, a water sanatorium is established.

1911 – 12

On July 15, 1911, the Giessbach establishment is sold to the Lausanne businessman Ferdinand Grillet. Under the management of Lüzza Bazzell, a native of Sent in the Lower Engadine, the hotels are extensively renovated and equipped with the latest technical facilities, for example hot water heating.

In 1912, the newly founded A.G. Hotel Giessbach takes over the facility.


The outbreak of the First World War put an abrupt end to the Belle Époque. The Giessbach hotels were forced to close. Hard times followed after the war. The hotels resumed their operations, but the management changed almost every year.

1923 – 1926

However, Director Robert Lips, who also managed the Grand Hotel Brissago, stayed for three years.


The new road to Giessbach is opened to automobile traffic.

1939 – 45

During the Second World War, the Giessbach remains closed.

1947 – 49

After the war, the hotel was to be demolished and a power plant built. At the last minute, the hotel was sold to Fritz Frey-Fürst, who had already helped the Bürgenstock hotels to flourish again. He reopened the hotel in 1949 as the Parkhotel Giessbach.

1949 – 1960

A swimming pool and a tennis court will be built as new attractions.

In the 70s

Historic hotels are hardly in keeping with the spirit of the times. There are plans to demolish the Parkhotel Giessbach and replace it with a Jumbo Chalet.

From the year 1966

Since 1966, the hotel had been running at a loss; the poor financial statements were covered by the profit of the power plant belonging to the hotel.

This economic situation was not only negative, it also caused the owners to postpone further investments. Thus, the planned modernization of the building was not carried out. It was planned to demolish the turrets, gables and balconies and to gird the hotel with a system of continuous balcony bands.

At that time, the hotel had only a few rooms with bathrooms; it was an establishment with floor bathrooms. The halls and vestibule looked used up and slightly shabby with their cream-colored paintwork.


In 1979, the owners, cousins Erwin Frey, owner of Elektrowerke Reichenbach, and Fritz Frey, owner of Hotel Bürgenstock, announced that this would be the last season of the old hotel. In the fall, they said, the house will be definitely closed, demolished, the rubble will be used to fill the depression between the hotel and the fall, and a new hotel will be built in the form of a large, beautiful chalet with a lot of wood. The project had been designed in collaboration with a founder of Ballenberg, Gustav Ritschard.

Advocate Rudolf von Fischer, a long-time guest and friend of the old hotel, immediately founded the "Giessbach Working Group", which brought together experts from all possible fields. It set out in a study the importance, the added value and the possibilities of the old hotel.

In long arguments, the owners of the Giessbach sought to badmouth the old house: The supporting structure was rotten because of the constant humidity; the time of the old hotels was over, the few guests got lost in the empty, oversized halls with the creaking parquet floors and, moreover, the Giessbach had a permanent problem: The waterfall was like a defective cistern that nobody could stop.


In 1981, the owners submitted the demolition application, which forced monument preservation and protection organizations to object to it.

As a result, on a cold July Saturday in 1981, there was a big debate in an empty, high-chairs hall between the owners, the communal and regional politicians and the Giessbach working group. The mood was frosty, as was the temperature, and one member of the council of the cantons made the statement that they had thought that the Bernese bailiffs had been driven out in 1798, and now they were coming back...

A drôle de guerre of 3 years ensued. The house was closed and barricaded, an eerie silence reigned at the Giessbach, in the press pro and contra were opposed, the canton commissioned an expert opinion, the working group was looking for finances. This proved to be difficult, the Bernese banks and companies were reluctant, the BLS promised only 50,000.


In 1982, the working group found the saviors of the Giessbach in Franz and Judith Weber, who, with their charisma and powers of persuasion, were able to turn the mood in the community of Brienz and the region around for the better and, in the form of nationwide campaigns, raised the funds for the purchase, modernization and restoration of the house and the park. Unfortunately, the power plant could not be purchased.


In June 1984, after four anxious years, the hotel could be provisionally reopened; from then on the house was open in summer, and in the following five winters it was built, restored and furnished. In the summer of 1989, the hotel could be definitively opened. The thanks of the region and the public went first and foremost to Franz and Judith Weber. Without them, the planned Jumbochalet, for which the funds would never have been raised, would not be standing at the Giessbach today, but a bratwurst stand. The empty hotel would have been vandalized and demolished long ago as an eyesore like the cable car. Not imaginable, but this is not fantasy, but realistic observation, there are enough such examples.

The rescue made the Hotel Giessbach a flagship in whose wake numerous historic hotels have been reappraised, valued and restored.