Twin City since 1991
The name of Saanen (Sarina = the victorious) reminds the early Celtic settlement. The area of Saanenland lies in the western corner of the Bernese Oberland. The community of Saanen includes four villages, best-known thereof is the famous car-free holiday resort of Gstaad. About 7,500 locals are living in the community.
Saanenland is strongly marked by tourism. With the construction of the railway line from Montreux to Zweisimmen in 1905, replacing the stagecoach, the Saanenland began to prosper and came to be a tourist centre. There are overall 2,000 guest beds in all categories, and 10,500 beds in chalets and holiday apartments.
With the motto "Gstaad, come up – slow down", the tourist federation presents the associated villages of Saanenland as one destination, since one single place has no meaning outside the entire region. This is like a pearl which becomes a necklace only together with other pearls.
A leading role was played for many years by the long-time only luxury hotel, the Gstaad Palace, that after its opening in 1913 was the main destination of some big names. In the last 20 years, the so-called five-star hotels have increased a lot and marked the international high quality tourism here.
Until the beginning of the 20th century however, agriculture was the strongest economic branch. The about 350 small and middle-sized farms are still producing mainly milk and cheese. In summertime, the milk is processed into cheese at the alpine huts, creating the so-called Saanen Plane Cheese that meanwhile gained world-fame and is regularly chosen the best cheese of its class in Europe.
The present wealth of the community is based on its perfect interlinking of the four economic pillars of agriculture, trade, services and tourism.
Saanenland is rich in very beautiful old houses and chalets built in a typical style. The strict building rules, allowing only wooden constructions and coverings, are still valid today. As a consequence, the political centre of Saanen was classified a monument of national significance. It had been nearly totally destroyed by a fire in the year 1575, but some houses still date from the time of reconstruction. There is also a lively cultural creativity, especially the art of silhouette and the love for local songs are widely spread.
In winter, Saanenland offers a fantastic and varied supply of lifts and ski runs with various "Snow Events", like skiing and snow boarding contests.
But Saanen/Gstaad is not only attractive in winter. On more than 300 kilometres of walking, hiking and alpine ways, a grandiose mountain landscape may be studied and discovered.
The Beach Volleyball World Cup, the international ATP tennis tournament, the Polo tournament, and weeks for gourmets or golfers attract a great number of foreign guests to the sunny Saanenland.
In the months of July/August, the Menuhin Festival for classical music is known, with concerts in the churches of the region and in a specially constructed music tent.
Yehudi Menuhin, freeman of Saanen and world famous violinist, used his affection for Saanenland, his art and love of music, and the excellent acoustic in the church of St. Mauritius at Saanen, to mix it all into a music festival that first took place in 1956.
Saanen is twinned with Darmstadt since 1991.