Review: Swiss Escape Coliving Space in Grimentz, Switzerland
A spectacular natural setting high up in the Swiss Alps makes this rare warm and cold weather digital nomad location well worth the cost.
Swiss Escape has pretty much everything you could want. And it’s all done well. Honestly, it’s one of the best outfitted co-living spaces we’ve been in. The internet is fantastic. There’s a different internet connection on every floor to make sure the connection is super-fast, but honestly, I never had to change because I never noticed any difference as I moved around the chalet.
The chalets themselves are new and beautifully appointed, including comfortable beds (and amazing duvets!), a fully stocked kitchen, a washer/dryer provided for no extra charge, ergonomic chairs (hallelujah!), a great table to work at, a pleasant living room, and a deck that gives you stunning mountain views I’ve ever seen. There’s even a table and chairs outside where you can work — if you can keep from being distracted by those views.
There aren’t private bathrooms, but given that there are only three bedrooms in the downstairs chalet, and four upstairs, the odds of having a bottleneck aren’t very high. (Plus there’s a bathroom with just a toilet up on the third floor of each chalet.) Even better, the bathrooms are very nice, including a heated towel rack (helpful in winter), plenty of cabinet space, and one of the two bathrooms even has a tub.
There is really only one co-working space per chalet — the big table on the third floor of each — but there is plenty of room for the maximum number of folks who could ever be here at one time. The kitchen is about two meters away, and as I write this, someone is cooking their lunch. So it’s not ideal in that respect. There is a Skype room, which offers a more quiet spot if you need it to be super quiet while you work (assuming it hasn’t been reserved). And if it’s summer, it’s easy to work out on the porch as an outlet has been provided outside. But be sure to put on your sunscreen!
You probably already know this, but lets just get this out of the way upfront: Switzerland ain’t cheap. Even by European standards, it’s a very spend-y place. But in regards to Swiss Escape there are a couple of caveats that we’ll get to in a moment.
But first, the price of lodgings. These are all based on a four week stay, though weekly stays are available. Like most places, Swiss Escape, located in Grimentz, Switzerland, has a high-season and a low-season. But since Grimentz is best known as a ski resort, the high season is actually during the colder months.
Located in two chalets, Swiss Escape offers both private and shared accommodations. In summer, a shared room in one of the chalets will run you €896/$1000, a single room €1619/$1800, and a double room €1869/$2100 USD. In winter, a shared room is €1309/$1470 USD, a single room €2069/$2300 USD, and a double room €2439/$2700 USD.
But now for those caveats. Keep in mind that the prices for Swiss Escape include your co-working, which can run up to nearly $200 USD in many places. And Swiss Escape is fantastically well-run with pretty much every thing you need already here. Plus, your hosts, Fanny and Haz, are super responsive, and any question they haven’t already answered, they’re happy to quickly do so. And given what lodgings can run anywhere in Europe in the middle of summer, Swiss Escape actually feels affordable.
I also appreciated rules were very well spelled out. You’d think you wouldn’t need to remind grown adults to clean up after themselves, leave the toilet seat down, and to do your dishes. But, well, you do, and Swiss Escape makes sure no one can claim they didn’t know the proper way to share living quarters. (In our month here, all of the other digital nomads we lived with were fantastic in this regard.)
I already mentioned that the cost of living in Switzerland is pretty high. And I’m afraid it’s even worse in Grimentz where there is one actual grocery store, and a lot of very expensive restaurants. How expensive? How about a hamburger for $29 USD or a pizza for $25 USD. Coop, the local grocery store, has most things you need, including a generic brand — Prix — that approaches affordability. But be prepared to spend more than you might like. For instance, two chicken breasts will cost you $8 USD and eggs will run about $3 USD for a dozen. Ouch.
Our first week here, it was just the two of us. Which was actually great, as we’d had a pretty busy couple of weeks beforehand. But by the second week, our chalet was full. But even then, that only meant five people at one. And the upstairs chalet was usually empty, except for a couple of short conferences that took place during our stay.
Despite the small number of folks present, we never lacked for a sense of community. That’s because Haz and Fanny (who live nearby), and Jacob and Taylor, the community managers during our stay, did a fantastic job of making sure there were plenty of activities. That included group dinners, hikes, walks through town, taking the chairlift to a restaurant up the mountain to work, and plenty of games of Exploding Kittens. Honestly, we’ve done co-living at places with more people that had less sense of community.
And a special tip of the hat to Jacob and Taylor, who were simply phenomenal. They kept the chalets running smoothly, were super friendly and personable, and cooked two fantastic meals while we were there. They plan on opening their own co-living eventually in Vermont — and we plan on being their first guests.
While Grimentz is tucked way way up in the Swiss Alps, there are three different ways you can get here, and Swiss Escape provides a great travel guide on how to make the trip. You can fly into Geneva, Zurich, or even Milan. (You’re really close to Italy!) Then you need to take a series of trains and buses to get here. But this being Switzerland, everything is well-run. That being said, once you arrive in Sierre by train, the travel guide doesn’t quite spell out how to get the right bus. We visited the tourist office to get directions, and they even sold us our tickets. You’ll also probably have to change buses in Vissoie, but the drivers are very friendly and will get you in the right direction. Oh, and unless you’re flight arrives really early, you probably don’t want to try and make the trip in one day.
Two other things to keep in mind: First, the bus fare from Sierre to Grimentz is $16 USD, which caught us off guard. You’ll also need Swiss francs, but the driver happily makes change. And the drive up to Grimentz can be a little intense. It involves 25 hairpin turns and some drop-offs you probably don’t want to look at too closely.
Grimentz is part of the municipality of Anniviers, which includes the other mountain towns of Ayer, Chandolin, Saint Jean, Saint-Luc, and Vissoie. It's located in the Val d'Anniviers in the Pennine Alps, and you are literally surrounded by mountain peaks in almost every direction you look. In Bulgaria we lived in Bansko, which is in the Razlog Valley and butts right up against the foot of the Pirin Mountains, but here you are living in the middle of the mountains —and Grimentz is one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever been.
The location means there are a multitude of outdoor activities. There are two chairlifts a two minute walk from Swiss Escape that will whisk you up into the mountains. You can hike from one of those two chair lifts to a second that will you take down into the town of Zinal, another charming Swiss village. Even better, anyone who spends at least a single night in Grimentz is eligible for the Liberte card which either gives you free or greatly reduced access to a whole host of activities including free rides on the Grimentz-Bendolla chairlift and half-price on the Grimentz-Zinal chairlift. as well as miniature golf, tennis, swimming, a tour to the nearby Moiry dam, just to list a few of the benefits. (Be sure to hike up to the restaurant overlooking the Moiry Glacier. It can be intimidating in places, but is well worth it.)
Plus, Grimentz itself is charming as hell. The town has very strict rules on what chalets can look like and even what kind of material they can be built from. Consequently, the town has a beautiful uniform look that prompts most visitors to say “This is actually what I imagined Switzerland would look like!”
Be sure to walk around Grimentz’s oldest section where the chalets are especially beautiful and the stream that runs through town flows through waterwheels.
Unless you’re European, Switzerland presents the unending curse of the Schengen Zone. Because even though Switzerland isn’t part of the European Union, they are part of the damned Schengen Zone, which limits non-EU citizens of most western countries to 90 days in any 190 day period. But at least you don’t have to apply for anything ahead of time!
Having just come from the steamy climes of Hoi An, Vietnam, I was overjoyed when I read that Grimentz’s average high temperature in July was 21C/70F. No air conditioning needed here. At night it could dip into the single digits Celsius, or about the upper forties. One morning we got up to find snow had dusted the tops of the lower ridges, perhaps 300 meters above us. Basically, the weather never got hot while we were here. But we had plenty of sunshine and bright blue skies, and the temperature was perfect for all of the fantastic hiking and biking available.
Winter, of course, is a different kettle of fish. With two ski resorts nearby, all we can say is that there is plenty of snow!
So should you come to Swiss Escape?
BRENT AND MICHAEL SAY:
Hell, yeah! Sure, Grimentz isn’t cheap when compared to other digital nomad locations, but when you factor in how well run Swiss Escape is, how nice the accommodations are, how spectacular your surroundings, and how much lodgings can run in other place, Grimentz actually feels like a pretty great value — if you can afford it in the first place.
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