We love a hotel that can evolve, and we’ve had our style radar firmly locked onto the many creative incarnations of this alpine staple, which has been finally morphed as the design hotel Mari Pop by architect Bernhard Stoehr of Besto.ZT. Nestled in the cradle of Zillertal and the Tux Alps, Mari Pop’s exterior shimmers in copper cladding which neatly encircles geometric pine-framed windows. Moving away from chocolate-box alpine architectural tradition, the frontage is bold, brave and modern, made more so with black-stained pinewood wrapping.
Previously a family-run classic Grillhof in a historical village, the hotel also formally embodied a game-changing temporary pop-up where, like cutting into a birthday cake, the alabaster exterior gave way to a rainbow-hued interior.
This has now been swept aside to make way for a sleek boutique evolution of casual luxe decked in fresh alpine minimalism and a nod to folksy culture, topped by a fabulous panorama pool and spa.
A gold-glinting beacon, we’re encouraged to treat design hotel Mari Pop like a mirror image of the journey we take to reach this jagged-peaked landscape. Leaving behind urbanity is echoed in the basement where neon-coloured modern art, cultural events and book-lined walls reflect the lights and busyness of metropolitan city life.
The ground floor with its vast glazed windows that view onto rivers and mountains is like an extension of this wide-open valley, where the outdoors is let inside, in an area warmed by an open kitchen and convivial parlour dotted with cool designer bar stools and low pendant lighting. Ascend to the third floor and arrive at a metaphorical mountain top – where your eyeline meets the peaks and a sauna and rooftop relaxation area echo the rejuvenation of alpine awakening.
With owners Silvia Gschösser and Markus Rist’s forward-thinking approach to hotel living, Mari Pop bends hotel rules by creating a truly welcoming hub for all, a veritable open house. Design devotees will be drawn to the folksy-cool use of pared-back pine and less-is-more furnishings. Fellow creatives will find a workspace hub to ruminate with meditative mountain views. Artists will find a meeting of minds in the readings, exhibitions and concerts in Mari Pop’s cultural calendar, and active types and families will love the year-round access to the Alps, plus use of an indoor and outdoor pool. Us? You’ll find us at the rooftop spa, gazing at the mountain galaxies.
This open-arm notion plays through to the 45 rooms, divided into the main building and the guest house. Mari Pop describes their bedrooms as ‘for everyone: adults, the little ones, peace-seekers, newly-in-love and best friends’. And the simplistic décor is both stylish and soothing with plenty of exposed pine, cosy white nests-of-a-bed and sleek lighting.
The floor-to-ceiling windows create picture perfect portals from which to ogle the breath-taking scenery. Bathrooms are minimalist beauties with white ceramic and glass, chic floor-level showers and gorgeous soaps from hip young Austrian company Vielö. If you’re a group or family consider treating yourself to the cherry-on-the-cake rooftop suite that comes with a terrace and 360 degree sigh-inducing views.
Mari Pop’s cuisine takes inspiration from regional alpine traditions, using produce from the family-owned mountain farm in Hart im Zillertal to create much-loved family recipes that graced the tables of the Grillhof in the 70s. Today, though, like Mari Pop itself, old is fused with new, layered with innovative refinement.
Even more modern is Mari Pop’s way of creating open-plan spaces for sociable gatherings whether that’s a rustic fresh-from-the farm breakfast, a city-style brunch or a full meal from the a la carte menu. Guests can choose to dine at a long table with designer bar stools in the parlour or take a table by the window overlooking the mountain-scapes of Zillertal.
There are three areas for wellness at Mari Pop. In the flower-filled garden is an outdoor pool and loungers for lazy sunny days, plus a rustic garden sauna. Indoors, there’s another pool for snow-laden winter days and a family spa area where you can soothe strain away in the steam bath and Finnish sauna.
The third and perhaps the most inviting for some is the rooftop spa area for adults only. This sanctuary to peace and wellness creates a panoramic view onto the surrounding mountains and during the day or night, the magic of the mist-swirled peaks and the stars overhead combined with a hot sauna is guaranteed to reset.
Communication scientist Silvia Gschösser, who grew up on a mountain farm in Hart, returned to her roots in Zillertal in 2012 after having worked in Salzburg, Munich and Shanghai. Since 2012 she and her partner Markus Rist, 43, have been managing what would become the Mari Pop Hotel.
You’ll find Mari Pop Hotel in the village of Ried, within the Tyrolean Zillertal region of Austria, surrounded three-thousand metre-high peaks of the Tux Alps and the Zillertal Alps, sun-basked valleys and the River Ziller, whose crystal clear waters flows right in front of the hotel. The Zillertalbahn railway, which sometimes still operates steam engines, stops in Ried on its way through the Zillertal Valley. Skiers and snowboarders can explore the two nearby resorts of Hochfügen-Hochzillertal and Spieljoch, both of which are known as après-ski hotspots. In summer there is the Wildbachklamm gorge and the Schlitterer Wasserfall to visit as well as the spa and leisure centre in Fügen and the high rope adventure park in nearby Kaltenbach.
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