Large and imposing, the Schwanen dominates the middle of Rapperswil, standing in front of the castle and overlooking the lake. Much space is devoted to banqueting and meeting rooms for companies from Zurich and although our inspector found the restaurants rather impersonal, he liked the less formal bistro-bar with its high ceilings, terrace and innovative menu.
   At the back of the bar, glass doors lead to a gallery showing the work of local artists. This is the idea of Margrit Riva, who believes the hotel should be part of the community. Her interest in design ensured that its conversion in the 1990s from old to new retained the character of the building, but in a striking format. Corridors and bedrooms are furnished in dramatic black and white. 'I loved it, but some people won't' commented our inspector, who was even more impressed by the split-level suite. Climb the spiral staircase to the bedroom under the eaves and its circular bathroom with windows overlooking the lake.