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Discover Hotel Waldhaus Sils, which was first opened in 1908 under the direction of renowned hoteliers Josef and Amalie Giger.

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Hotel Waldhaus Sils, a member of Historic Hotels Worldwide since 2014, dates back to 1908.


A member of Historic Hotels Worldwide since 2014, the historic Hotel Waldhaus Sils has been operated by the same family since its founding in 1908. The first generation to manage this magnificent building were Josef and Amalie Giger. Born in tiny Murg on Lake Walen, Josef had spent his entire professional career managing grand hotels in like the Italian coastline and the Russian wilderness. While running the Hof Ragaz as a young man, Josef eventually married Amalie Nigg, the daughter of a mayor for the city of Pfäfers. In 1890, the two eventually moved to St. Moritz after Josef began supervising the Hotel du Lac. It was during Josef and Amalie’s time in St. Moritz that the two conceived of opening their own brilliant retreat. The couple hired local architect Karl Kollen to build their spectacular hotel upon a hilltop that overlooked neighboring Sils Maria. Construction, thus, began in 1905, and lasted for three full years. The Gigers invested heavily into the project, spending a few million Swiss francs to ensure that Kollen’s team only used the best building materials available. When the work finally concluded as such, the building stood as one of the most beautiful destinations in all of Switzerland. Kollen had created a masterpiece for the Gigers, incorporating a brilliant blend of Beaux-Arts-style architecture throughout its façade. Inside, guests encountered such outstanding venues, including a ornate lobby and a massive grand staircase that ascended to the top floor of the new hotel.

The newly christened “Hotel Waldhaus Sils” became an immediate overnight sensation due to its then cutting-edge amenities and unrivaled hospitality. But the prosperity of the new business proved to be short-lived, as World War I abruptly disrupted travel across Europe. Fortunately, Josef and Amalia’s daughter, Helen Kienberger-Giger, came to the rescue. Together with her husband Oskar Kienberger, Helen successfully guided Hotel Waldhus Sils through the remainder of the conflict. The Roaring Twenties saw a resumption of the hotel’s antebellum popularity, especially as Oskar’s managerial skills introduced a many lucrative business techniques. Among the novel strategies that Helen and Oskar embraced included the start of year-round operations. The decision brought hundreds of alpinists to Hotel Waldhaus Sils, as such, who adored hiking and skiing across the surrounding snow-covered mountains. The building also underwent significant renovations under Helen and Oskar’s guidance, with the hotel practically rebuilt from its foundation. The work installed many contemporary amenities throughout the facility, which helped the Helen and Oskar immensely while they guide the business through another global crisis: The Great Depression. Thanks to Helen and Oskar’s dedication, Hotel Waldhaus Sils preserved nonetheless.

In 1950, Rolf Kienberger—Oskar and Helen’s son—began to manage Hotel Waldhaus Sils alongside his parents, before gradually assuming sole managerial responsibilities two decades later. Hotel Waldhus Sils experienced great change under Rolf’s tutelage, as periodic renovations infused new life into the hotel. The restorations completely revitalized some of the buildings historic venues, including the Wedding Room and the Empire Room. But the construction saw the addition of many other fantastic facilities, such as the iconic indoor pool that now resides on-site. Then, in 1989, Rolf’s own daughter, Maria, began to manage Hotel Waldhaus Sils alongside her husband, Felix Dietrich. The couple began working with Maria’s brother, Urs, forming a successful partnership that shepherded the hotel into the 21st century. Embracing the motto, “respecting our history while having the courage to change,” the trio worked carefully to highlight historic architecture, while also modernizing where necessary throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. These efforts were eventually recognized when ICOMOS, the International Council on Monuments and Sites, honored them with the “Historic Hotel of the Year” award in 2005. With yet another generation of family members now entering into the family business, the future of Hotel Waldhaus Sils has never looked brighter.

  • About the Location +

    Located high in the Swiss Alps is the quaint village of Sila Maria, one of Switzerland’s most bucolic settlements. For centuries, the community lived in relative isolation, composed of ranchers, farmers, and outdoorsmen that made a living off of the land. While the first references to Sils Maria harken back to the height of the Dark Ages, the current iteration of the town emerged around the end of the 19th century. In the 1860s, the nearby town of St. Moritz began to undergo a rapid transformation into a prestigious resort community. A local hotelier named Caspar Badrutt specifically initiated the change by encouraging a group of affluent English colleagues to vacation in St. Mortiz one year. Convinced of its potential as a luxurious holiday destination, Badrutt wagered that his friends would thoroughly enjoy their stay and return again. Badrutt proved to be very insightful, as his foreign guests stayed throughout the summer and even into the winter. Word quickly spread across the continent of St. Moritz’s fascinating environment, prompting droves of new travelers to seek accommodation in the area. Quite a few new hotels and inns opened as such, reforging local skyline signifincantly. But not all of the local residents saw the growth positive, for a small minority were upset at the diminishing of St. Mortiz’s purely rustic character. Those individuals soon left in search of unaffected villages to call home, including the quaint hamlet of Maria Sils (also known as “Segl in Romansch.”

    Situated at the head of the fertile Val Vex, most found the local glacier-capped mountains to offer a perfect haven from the encroachments of the modern age. Only a couple hundred people resided in Sils Maria, as well, who primarily relied on fishing and farming for sustenance. Most of the houses were simple in nature, consisting of ancient stone walls, slate roofs, and wooden interiors. Nevertheless, the calm ambiance of Sils Maria’s surroundings eventually allured its own group of interested international travelers. One of the first guests to ever visit the tranquil confines of Sils Maria was the great German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche. Nietzsche greatly enjoyed his time within the Swiss Alps, even going as far as to construct his own seasonal cottage in the 1880s. (Guests can now tour the residence, which is known as the “Nietzsche Haus.”) Locals frequently spied the renowned intellectual hike the trails into the Engadin mountains, where he would spend up to eight hours walking through its dense wilderness in search of inspiration. Sils Maris has remained one of Switzerland’s most popular attractions well into the present. Just like Nietzsche before them, guests today adore sightseeing up in the Engadin and rowing across the Silsersee. They also love to gaze upon the town’s historical structures that date back to the 16th and 17th centuries, as well as to explore the nearby valleys via the Rhaetian Railway. The locale is even home to many fascinating landmarks, including the Sils Museum, the Biblioteca Engiadinaisa, and of course, the Nietzsche Haus.

  • About the Architecture +

    When Josef and Amalie Giger first began to explore the construction of Hotel Waldhaus Sils, they approached Karl Koller to design a structure that was “beautiful, practical, and solid.” An imaginative architect, Koller set about crafting a magnificent building that brought the Gigers’ dreams to life. Koller himself had conceived of an awe-inspiring exterior façade that reflected some of the finest Beaux-Arts architecture in Switzerland at the time. Inside, Koller laid out a floorplan that embraced the Josef and Amalie’s desire for a destination that was replete with beauty and elegance. Koller centered the new hotel around a great lobby that connected to other fantastic spaces, like a reading room and library. A marvelous grand staircase also ascended from the ground level to additional floors that bore the building’s luxurious guestrooms. But the future Hotel Waldhaus Sils contained many other gorgeous venues, including an ornate bar, a brilliant dining room, and even an on-site chapel. Construction on Koller’s designs began in 1905 and lasted for three years. The Gigers remained very involved throughout the whole process. In fact, the Josef and Amalie had spent a several million Swiss francs just to ensure that Koller’s team only used the best building materials available. When the building finally debuted as such, it stood as among the best retreats on the continent!

    Later generations of the Giger family have since endeavored to preserve Hotel Waldhus Sils’ appearance. They have frequently enlisted experienced conservationists, who have worked hard to restore the hotel’s original architectural details whenever renovations recommence. The family has regularly refurbished the hotel’s exterior and interior layout, with the first renovations taking place in the 1920s. The work affected areas like the grand lobby, with the Gigers installing a variety of new fixtures throughout the space. Additional renovations occurred later in the mid-20th century, too, as new architectural teams worked outstanding venues like the Wedding Room and the Empire Room. (Otto Glaus also constructed the hotel’s iconic indoor pool at the time, which displays a unique interpretation of Swiss-inspired “classical modernist” architecture.) This dedication to the hotel’s historical preservation has endured well into the 21st century, for the Giger’s oversaw a massive renovation during the early 2000s. The project touched upon everything, ranging from the guestrooms to the historical master staircase. To this day, Hotel Waldhaus Sils holds a prominent place within Swiss hotel architecture. The building has even garnered a few awards in recognition of the Gigers’ work. For instance, ICOMOS Switzerland, the International Council on Monuments and Sites, named it Swiss “Historic Hotel of the Year” in 2005. Then, in 2015, it even received a special anniversary prize “20 years of Historic Hotels of the Year.”

    Beaux-Arts-style architecture itself became widely popular in around the dawn of the 20th century. This beautiful architectural form originally began at an art school in Paris known as the École des Beaux-Arts during the 1830s. There was much resistance to the Neoclassism of the day among French artists, who yearned for the intellectual freedom to pursue less rigid design aesthetics. Four instructors in particular were responsible for establishing the movement: Joseph-Louis Duc, Félix Duban, Henri Labrouste, and Léon Vaudoyer. The training that these instructors created involved fusing architectural elements from several earlier styles, including Imperial Roman, Italian Renaissance, ad Baroque. As such, a typical building created with Beaux-Arts-inspired designs would feature a rusticated first story, followed by several more simplistic ones. A flat roof would then top the structure. Symmetry became the defining character, with every building’s layout featuring such elements like balustrades, pilasters, and cartouches. Sculptures and other carvings were commonplace throughout the design, too. Beaux-Arts mainly found a receptive audience in France and the United States though, as most other Western architects at the time gravitated toward British design principles. Nevertheless, the Beaux-Arts did appear in other countries with a connection to French culture, such as the provinces of Switzerland located along France’s eastern border. As such, architects like Karl Koller quickly embraced the design aesthetic, and incorporated it into their own creations.

  • Famous Historic Guests +

    Thomas Mann, author, essayist, and philanthropist who won the Noble Prize in Literature in 1929.

    Albert Einstein, Nobel Prize winning physicist known for his role in developing quantum theory. 

    Otto Klemperer, conductor who directed such renowned institutions like the German National Theater, the Kroll Opera, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.

    Max Liebermann, painter regarded as one of the leading proponents of Impressionism in continental Europe.

    Samuel Fischer, publisher and founder of the great German company, S. Fischer Verlag.

    Thomas Bernhard, novelist and playwright regarded as one of the most important authors active after World War II.

    Hermann Hesse, author known by his pen name “Emil Sinclair,” who wrote such works as Demian, Steppenwolf, and Siddhartha.

    Luchino Visconti, film director best remembered for movies like The Leopard, Senso, and, Death in Venice.

    Marion Dönhoff, well-known journalist and publisher who built a prestigious career working for the newspaper, Die Zeit.

    Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minster of the United Kingdom (1937 – 1940)

  • Film, TV and Media Connections +

    The Swindle (1996)