Our family decided to escape city life with a brief sojourn to the town of Bad Gastein, Austria, set in a valley in the Austrian Alps. It is difficult to convey the sheer scenic beauty here — the word “stunning” does not begin to do it justice. Once referred to as the Monte Carlo of the Alps, Bad Gastein is a world-renowned Austrian spa town, and it boasts a long and illustrious history of relaxation, wellness and family that is still alive today.
We stayed at the Hotel Grüner Baum in Hohe Tauern National Park. Owned by the same family since 1931, it has a very old-fashioned family feel. The hotel draws upon its memorable heritage to create a property that is service-oriented in every way.
Our stay at Grüner Baum is one of our family’s all-time favorite holidays in Europe! Here’s a look at what makes it so memorable for families:
Family-Friendly Review of Hotel Grüner Baum
The hotel has several buildings and room configurations that work for families. We stayed in two connecting rooms, each with a separate bathroom including a tub and shower.
The rooms are large, so this configuration provides ample space along with a breathtaking view of the Alps. Families may also choose larger suites consisting of two rooms and one and a half bathrooms. All rooms have free WIFI for as many devices as needed.
What makes Hotel Grüner Baum so special is that parents feel safe having their children roam around the property unsupervised. Our kids had a great time exploring the property, including the small adjacent farm harboring goats, rabbits and other animals.
Parents can truly relax and enjoy their vacation with this kind of cloistered location. And kids love this level of independence!
Hotel Grüner Baum is bio- and eco-conscious. All food at the two restaurants and the poolside grill is organic and sustainably grown. Even the wine options are organic and surprisingly good.
We visited in May, and the outdoor pool was open, but it was still too cold for swimming and the outdoor grill was not yet open. Still, we dreamed of warmer weather and imagined glorious long days in the pool and at the table while gazing up at the Alps around us.
Both of the full restaurants have kids’ menus, and there is always something appealing on the regular dinner menu, as the choices change every night. The breakfast buffet offers every food choice imaginable, from custom-made omelets to cereals, breads and yogurts. To encourage a family atmosphere, guests are assigned one table for breakfast and one for dinner, and all meals throughout the stay are eaten there.
At breakfast, a daily schedule of activities, plus a few fun area facts, is placed on the table for guests to peruse. It’s a nice morning greeting, similar to the daily newspapers of times past.
Hotel Grüner Baum offers boundless activities for families with kids of all ages. Here are some highlights from our stay:
Evening Torchlight Excursion
One night we took advantage of the evening torch walk. I wan’t sure what to expect and, being American, I assumed torches meant long and powerful flashlights for our 60-minute nighttime walk in the Alps. Not so!
To the delight of the kids, we were given actual torches with fire blazing at the ends. We walked along the hillside, past sheep, through trees and down pathways as the guides talked about the area and interesting nature and animal facts. It was the perfect amount of time and degree of difficulty for kids. This activity is great for school-age and up children.
Historical Walk in Bad Gastein
The kids stayed behind for this activity, but I enjoyed a guided historical walk from the hotel into the town of Bad Gastein.
There’s an extensive ropes course built into the trees on the property, and a guide runs the course rain or shine. After all, the prevailing philosophy of the hotel is to encourage guests to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible.
We all suited up in climbing gear and worked our way through the course, set in amazingly beautiful surroundings. Like the torch walk, the course has a perfect balance of challenge, interest, and safety for children.
Thermal Swimming Pools
Indoor and outdoor swimming pools are filled with thermal water from the hotel’s own spring. We spent the majority of our time in the indoor thermal pool. Kids are always allowed in; there are no age or time restrictions.
The pool water is a balmy 70 degrees, so enjoyable that we swam for hours on end. There are also plenty of kickboards, noodles and balls available for play, as well as a baby pool for kids age 2 and under.
Bikes are available at any time, free of charge. We hopped on mountain bikes and went for a long ride along a nearby stream and throughout the forest.
No single characteristic makes Hotel Grüner Baum special; rather, it’s a combination of many things. The stunning scenery, accessibility, and devotion to outdoor activity and exploration, paired with the resort’s commitment to wellness, service and kindness, all make for an extraordinary experience. From the front desk clerks at check-in to the restaurant staff, every interaction is personable and genuine.
As we drove away at the end of our visit, we were all silent for a bit in the car. In the end, the only word we could think of and agree upon to describe our time at Hotel Grüner Baum was “Wow!”
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Things to Know about Hotel Grüner Baum and Bad Gastein
> Hotel Grüner Baum is not easy to access and a quick stopover is not optimal. There is only one mountain road by which to approach it. Getting there is an effort, but well worth it.
> At least one restaurant is open at all times, which is helpful with active children who always seem to be hungry. There are also several restaurants in town, but it’s not walking distance with kids.
> All activities are located on the hotel grounds. Once the car is parked, there is no need to drive it again.
> There is a large Spar market nearby (5-minute drive) for any and all food items. Keep in mind that it, along with everything else in the town and surrounding area, is closed on Sundays.
> The closest airport is Salzburg, Austria. From there, it’s about a 90-minute train ride to Bad Gastein. The hotel has a shuttle service and offers pickup at the train station.
> There is a full-service, supervised kids’ club located in the main building. Our kids are too old for this, but it’s a service I would have loved years ago!
Editor’s Note: Kirsten was offered a media package for her stay. As always, our opinions on Ciao Bambino are our own. Photos by Hotel Grüner Baum.