The iconic 19th-century, Belvédère Hotel
The iconic 19th-century Alpine hotel has seen better days. Rhône Glacier was a popular tourist destination in its early days, when it was at its most active. The Hotel Belvédère is on a magnificent mountain road that curves.
LIU Xiao, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The young hotelier Josef Seiler built a hotel in one of the hairpin turns here in 1882. The Hotel Belvédère grew to become one of the Swiss Alps’ most famous hotels over the years. The ability to drive so close to the edge of a glacier, stay in a hotel room with balconies overlooking the massive river of ice, and then walk down a paved path to the glacier below, which is only a few hundred yards away, is unheard of anywhere else in the world.
The Hotel Belvédère was built during Switzerland’s final major development wave, which began in the 1880s. The number of hotels in Valais increased four times in just over three decades, from 79 in 1880 to over 320 just before the First World War. During the same time, the number of beds increased to over 15,000, from just under 4,000.
Jakob Signer, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The Furka Oberalp Railway and the Glacier Express made it possible for more people to travel by train to the Rhone Glacier and the Hotel over the course of the 20th century. After the Second World War, more and more people were able to afford the pleasure of driving the mountain pass, stopping at the Rhone Glacier and staying at the Hotel Belvédère.
However, the number of guests at Hotel Belvédère and elsewhere in the Alpine began to significantly decrease in the 1960s. It used to take two or three days to travel through the pass, but now it only takes one day round trip because cars had become too powerful and fast. Previously overnight guests now make a quick trip to the Rhone Glacier, have lunch or just tea at the hotel, and then leave. The Seilers ran a second hotel in the village of Gletsch, which is just below the Rhone Glacier’s mouth and saw a rapid drop in hotel guests. Since then, the Hotel Belvédère has never been the same.
Zairon, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The hotel closed a few years ago, and despite an official announcement, it probably will never reopen. Some people think that the Rhone Glacier is no longer a tourist attraction because it has retreated so much over the past 100 years. Since the attraction itself is disappearing, so is the business that kept the hotel open.
In the high Swiss Alps, the Furka Pass is a road tripper’s dream. It’s beautiful to such an extent that it was highlighted in the James Bond film Goldfinger. In one of the most stunning locations, the Hotel Belvédère can be found close to the summit. To this day, tourists visit this location to see the once-thriving hotel and the glacier where the ice grotto once stood.
When the road opened in the summer, it was a 100-meter-long tunnel with an ice chamber. The Hotel Belvédère looks like something out of a James Bond movie because of its iconic shape and unique location. And it is, in fact.