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Leuk & Leukerbad have been around a very long time – controlling access to the Gemmi Pass, which passes over to Adelboden, this valley had some importance from the time of the Romans, going back at least to the 5th century, if not sooner. 

Leuk

The first town out road to Leukerbad, Leuk is worth a stop to explore the historic well-preserved collection of medieval buildings, the historically & artistically important ***Leuk Charnel House, and the Mario Botta dome. 

The first church was built around the 6th century out of a preexisting Roman building. This was torn down and reconstructed several times before the gothic St. Stephan’s Church was erected in 1494. According to Atlas Obscura, “In 1981 the church undertook a restoration project. The restorers pulled up the floorboards with the intention of building a basement community center, but soon found that would be impossible. A hidden cellar had been housing a 9-foot-tall, 65-foot-long wall of skulls for centuries. During archaeological excavation the very next year, 26 statues were discovered hidden beneath three feet of bones. They were dated between the 13th and the 16th centuries, around the time the current church building was constructed. The artworks found in the charnel house included a remarkable Pièta and a well-preserved Danse Macabre fresco (the oldest in Switzerland), still on view in the charnel house.

In 1999, the Leuk Castle Foundation was established to restore and maintain the Bishop’s Castle in Leuk. As part of the restoration, one of the medieval towers was topped with a glass cupola by the architect Mario Botta – it’s very pretty. 

Leukerbad

The ski area is quite small and not quite worthy of a visit, but we want to come back for summer hiking. This is a pretty, sunny valley, packed with natural hot springs. The town is low-key and not fancy at all, but with the right hotel would make for an easy and pleasant getaway. We found it more attractive in winter, with snow covering the hills and obscuring the unfortunate predominance of 1960s/70s concrete apartment buildings. Note that the town mostly shuts down April 15-May 31 each year (which was a good thing in our books; we had the spas to ourselves).

There’s a pretty all-season hike around town, the Thermal Springs Trail, that gives you a good lay of the land and a chance to dip your hand in the natural springs. 

Most people come for the spas (in fact have come for a very long time – the oldest known document mentioning the spas is from 1315). Thermal tourism has been popular since the early 1500s. Many of the hotels have pools – we read there are around 30 spring fed pools – and there are two large municipal ones. Leukerbad Therme is an aging, kid friendly complex with waterslides, and the more adult-oriented **Walliser Alpentherme & Spa Leukerbad. It’s a bit institutional, but we enjoyed the pools and saunas, and had a lovely quiet afternoon with the facility almost empty in late April 2024.

Lodging

  • **Hotel Les Sources des Alpes: We really liked this – old school, but elegant and well-maintained, big rooms and very nice pools. Dining room was formal, food fairly typical (I’d eat elsewhere).
  • **Hotel de France, which is one of the Thermal Hotels. I find the website a bit confusing, but it appears that most of the hotels surrounding the Walliser Alpentherme are under common management as part of the Thermal Hotels cluster, sharing a check-in desk, breakfast area, and spa. Our room was small and rather basic, but with a comfortable bed. Breakfast across the street in the main building was quite poor. We did rather like the pools in the main building: three in total, one outdoor, one in a man-made “grotto.” There is (or was) a sauna area, but it appears to be either seasonally closed, or perhaps permanently defunct. Bonus points for having a hotel cat, Romeo.

Dining

  • Chinese restaurant **Canaan was pretty good – it appears to be family run, big menu, everything was relatively typical (which is high praise for Switzerland). 
  • **Restaurant Lounge 1411 is one of the fancier dining options in town. It’s very ugly on the outside, but the interior works better, food is tasty, service friendly.