The Rigi Kulm story


Milestones from 1601 until 1816

1601: The first mention of the name Rigi Kulm

The Lucerne town clerk, Renward Cysat, mentions Kulm as the name of the highest summit in the Rigi.

1814: Wood used for the first summit hotel

The cloth cutter from Arth and Mt. Rigi Director, Joseph Martin Bürgi, is flying high. Bürgi is the host of the hotel he built in 1805 “Krone auf Rigi-Klösterli”. His dream is to have an inn on the Kulm, so he cuts down some trees, transports the tribes to the summit. But Bürgi runs out of enough money to carry on his Kulm Project in his first year.

1815: Early crowdfunding

Heinrich Keller (1778 – 1862), the famous panorama illustrator from Zurich who often lodges at Bürgi’s hotel, kicks off an appeal for funds to build Bürgi’s inn in Zurich, with huge success. He manages to raise 971 Swiss Francs, which equates to approx. CHF 25,000.00 nowadays. Bürgi uses this to finance the construction of the Kulmhaus. Shortly afterwards, he once again runs out of funds.

1816: Numerous investors

A second plea from Keller reaches some influential contemporaries in larger Swiss cities. 338 benefactors donated a sum of 1400 Swiss Francs (today: approx. CHF 36,000.00). Bürgi uses this money to buy the hotel furnishing.

6th August 1816: The grand opening of the Kulmhaus

The first summit hotel in Switzerland has 6 beds.  The constructors and works are the first overnight guests.

14th August 1816: Here come the guests!

The first five names in the guest book are Publisher Sauerländer from Aarau, Dr. Feer, Councillor Zürrer, Mr and Mrs Dolder.  This summer season brings in 294 visitors into the hotel.

Milestones from 1833 to 1875

1833: Generation change

After the death of the first summit hotelier, his son, Caspar Bürgi-Ritschard and daughter-in-law, Elisabeth, take control of his house.

1837: Full steam ahead

The start of the steam boat journey on Lake Lucerne really boosts the tourism sector.

8th June 1848: Started with 6, now there are 130 hotel beds

Opening of the new, stone built Kulm Hotel with 130 beds. Prices: CHF 2.00 for room, service: CHF 1.00, breakfast: CHF 1.50 lunch and evening meal, CHF 3.00 each. Nowadays, around 40-50,000 tourists visit the Rigi per year.

1856: Second Hotel on Rigi Kulm

Opening of a second hotel with 200 beds, courtesy of the C. & J. Bürgi brothers.

Named Regina Montium «Königin der Berge». The Zurich-born architect, Ferdinand Stadler is responsible for construction. He had also designed the first plans for the Bundeshaus in Bern.

The house has 200 beds and a dining room with the same amount of seats. A hotel sensation! An overnight stay costs CHF 4.00. During construction, the Rigi railways are not yet in service and all of the construction materials must be laboured up the mountain. This job is done by the Rigi porters, who first haul the materials up and then bring the guests to the summit.

The building plot costs CHF 57,000.00 and it costs CHF 30,000.00 for a 10-year prohibition of competition on Rigi Kulm.

1871: The first mountain railway in Europe travels on the Rigi

The development in tourism on the Rigi gains even more momentum at a time when the cogwheel railway commences operations.

7th June 1875: Pure luxury at Hotel #3

The opening of the Grand Hotel Schreiber made it the third hotel on the Kulm, definitively making the Rigi summit a summer resort hideaway in polite society. The grandiose hotel boasts 300 beds, two restaurants, billiard, reunion, women’s reading and music rooms. The Schreiber promises its guests ultimate comfort (the advert at the time read: “that leaves nothing to be desired when it comes to comfort”). The most famous head chefs, including Escoffier, meet the whims and desires of their pampered customers. A day packaged used to cost CHF 20.00, which in those days equated to a labourer’s weekly wage.

The summer season alone was enough for hoteliers to earn money. Although the Grand Hotel was only ever open from the end of June until the middle of October every year, it can still be profitably managed over the years.

The Arth-Rigi railway commenced operations directly before the hotel opening.

Time leap: Bavarian King, Ludwig II., who often came to stay in the Grand Hotel Schreiber with his entire following, brings a tea set with him as a present, which is now preserved in 2016 in a display cabinet in the present-day dining room at the Rigi Kulm-Hotel.

Milestones from 1903 to 2016

1903: Guests from around the world

The peak day is 8th August with 237 arrivals. 72 Germans, 47 Frenchmen, 30 Americans, 21 Russians, 11 Swiss and 5 Englishmen are welcome to the hotel. The total income for August (only income from rooms and guesthouses, excluding the revenue in the two restaurants) mounts to CHF 99,208.15.

August 1908: An impressive “shopping list”

The Kulmhotel grocery order for August:
14,100 bread rolls,
1,730kg of bread,
141 kg of Brussels biscuits,
1,980kg of chicken.

1912: The patron dies

Death of the long-standing director and sole proprietor, Dr. jur.  Friedrich Schreiber.

1914: The world changes

World War I results in a complete slump in guest numbers.

1936: Hard times

The total number of beds across the three hotels at Rigi Kulm is reduced to 300. The decline begins.

1949: The Käppeli family takes over the hotel

The Schwyz building contractor, Ernst Käppeli, takes over the hotel company.

1950–1954: A new era begins

The move away from the old “Palais Schreiber” makes way for the new building of the modern-day Rigi Kulm-Hotel. A special recycling scheme uncovers a hidden gem steeped with history: all of the materials and objects that can still be used are used for the new building. The hardwood flooring in the rooms, sandstone staircase and corner ashlars, mirrors, cabinets, panel paintings etc … all allow you to relive the past in the present in a lively, exciting manner.

1994: More room, more facilities

The domestic engineering and the kitchen facilities are completely renovated. Thanks to the newly-built terrace and veranda, the panoramic view looking out from the Rigi Kulm-Hotel is a wonder of nature and comfort.

2007: Modern comfort

Comprehensive renovation in all the rooms. The colours of sunrise are reflected in the newly designed rooms.

2016: A reason to celebrate!

200 years of hospitality at Rigi Kulm.

During the anniversary week at the beginning of August, the Queen of the Mountains wears a crown of lights. It always sparkles at the blue hour and is visible all the way into the surrounding valleys and far into the Mittelland. For the final event, the Rigi Bahnen bring 8000 guests to the Rigi summit. The programme also includes a Schwyzerörgeli record attempt. The ambitious goal: 200 Schwyzerörgeli players are to play a birthday serenade. The huge success: in the end there were 256 musicians, the youngest 9 and the oldest 84 years old.

On the occasion of the 200th anniversary, a permanent exhibition is created. The title says it all: “From pimples to selfie sticks”, travel utensils lead through two centuries of tourism on Rigi Kulm.

The 2020s

2020: Far-sighted and calm

The view from the Rigi is legendary, and the mountain experience is unparalleled. The 360º all-round view at 1800m ASL offers the incredible number of 125 named Alpine peaks and 13 lakes.


Spring sees a return to normality in Switzerland with the lifting of most of the Corona measures. People enjoy it and are adventurous. When the sun shines, the Rigi summit is bustling again.