Most Famous Guests: Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev.
The very exclusive Dolder Grand, long regarded as one of Europe’s best hotels, sits on hill overlooking Zurich, Switzerland, a city in which it is very much an iconic building. It first served as a Curhaus or health spa in the late 19th century and still does today though with much more modern facilities at its 4,000 meter spa.
It has two fairly distinct sections, the old, Belle Époque era castle building with its copper topped turrets and the newer (completed 2008) modernist wings on either side.
The addition of newer sections to historical hotels is a tricky business and many have made serious blunders with such adventures, but not the Dolder Grand.
The new sections are Norman Foster designed, he of the Gherkin & Wembley Stadium in London, and Hearst Tower in New York amongst others, and are a typically elegant, sweeping blend of steel, stone and glass. Both buildings, though over a century apart in style, accentuate each other in an uncommonly aesthetic way.
Two other major things to note about the Dolder Grand are its tremendous two Michelin Star restaurant and its extensive private art collection with over 100 works by such iconic names as Salvador Dali, Henry Moore and Andy Warhol.
The art is on open display all around the hotel and the gardens, with your first introduction being a 10 meter Andy Warhol original, the ‘Big Retrospective Painting’, that sits directly above the main reception.
They have a total of 115 rooms and 60 suites set out over the original building and the Norman Foster wings. Both sections are different in character as mentioned above but it is difficult to say which, if any, is better. Check your options on the booking page here.
Many may prefer the smooth, sleek design of the modern wings, while others will be drawn to the older aesthetic of accommodation in the main building. You should note that the Superior level rooms and suites there lack a balcony though, whereas in the modern wings balconies are standard throughout.
If you are booking a room, as opposed to a suite, you can write a note on the booking page to request to be housed in the main section or the wings whichever you might prefer, or you can just leave it to fate, because both are equally enticing in different ways.
Most, but not all, of their highest level suites are located in the older building with the pick of the bunch being the enormous Maestro Suite which takes up a full 400 sq. meters (4300 sq. feet) of the main tower at penthouse level and must surely be one of the world’s finest hotel suites.
Named in honour of the infamous Austrian conductor, Herbert von Karajan, it has 2 enormous bedrooms, two bathrooms, kitchen and dining room, lounge with fireplace, a library, a huge terrace and a private sauna.
The other suites mightn’t fully climb those heights but are still fabulously opulent and come in various sizes and with various themes: The 100 Suite for example is named after London’s iconic 100 club and has a swinging sixties theme. The Messina Suite, named after the Italian actress Giulietta Masina, has a mid 20th century cinema theme while the Carezza Suite is inspired by the works of existentialist Swiss sculptor and painter, Alberto Giacometti.
The bathrooms in all the accommodation choices are lavish with warm Jura limestone and marble surfaces, Kerstin Florian toiletries, luxury showers and baths, and some rooms also feature whirlpool-jacuzzi baths, some of which have a view.
Check out all the details – prices, reviews and more photos – on the booking page here.
FACILITIES & THINGS TO DO:
The restaurant (titled, very confidently, as just ‘The Restaurant’) at the Dolder Grand is deservedly famous and has won two Michelin Stars under head chef Heiko Nieder. The food is innovative and exciting with menus of up to ten courses that blend influences from culinary traditions all around the world.
There is also the Alpine themed Saltz Restaurant which suffers a little in comparision with The Restaurant but which is excellent in its own right. Breakfast is served at the Saltz too but can also be taken in your room or suite.
The Dolder is fond of minimalist titles it seems and there is the classically styled ‘The Bar’ to unwind in après ‘The Restaurant’ maybe. It is a plush, elegant space with an extensive drinks menu, including some beautifully done classic and signature cocktails.
Then there is ‘The Lobby’ another elegant relaxed venue that treads the space between bar and cafe. It has live musical performances in the evenings, usually classical, and serves some opulent afternoon teas, various inventive sweet snacks as well as having full drinks and coffee menus.
The spa is another major draw at the Dolder. It is an oasis of quiet calm spread out over 4,000 meters, with a 25 meter swimming pool, saunas, steam and snow rooms, a fitness centre and a great range of tailored massages, beauty and medical treatments in its 18 different treatment rooms. To top it all up the Dolder also has two tennis courts and a golf course at guest’s disposal.
The hotel grounds are very pleasant to stroll around, it is surrounded by deep forest with some very nice woodland walking and biking trails, and some of the views are quite special too, over the city of Zurich, the lake; Zürisee and the distant mountains.
The Dolder is pet friendly and child friendly with a supervised play room for children and extra child minding/baby sitting services can also be arranged.
The Dolder certainly occupies a privileged position in the wonderful city of Zurich. The hotel is tucked into the peaceful forests of Adlisberg mountain which overlooks the city, and there are commanding views to be enjoyed.
It is 15 minutes by tram from the city centre to the bottom of the hill, (tram numbers 3 or 8, destination Römerhof) then a romantic funicular trip to the top.
A hotel shuttle service also runs the journey hourly to and from Münsterhof in the historical centre and takes around the same time depending on traffic. Zurich airport is just around 20 minutes from the hotel and transfer service, limousine pick up etc. can also of course be arranged via the concierge.
The original Dolder Grand Hotel was completed in 1899, as a Curhaus, or health spa, by the Swiss architect Jacques Gros. It was a lavishly designed building and quite quickly gained a reputation amongst the upper crust as the place to be indulged and pampered in those grand old Belle Epoque times.
During the First World War as Switzerland was neutral it, and the Dolder, began to be seen a place for European nobility to hide away, at least temporarily, and to escape the strains of living in a country at war.
Post WW1, in 1924, it underwent a major renovation with the main building being extended and somewhat, this being 1924, modernized. Come WW2 it renewed its reputation as a place for Europe’s well heeled to again savour life in a country untouched by war.
The post war period was also good to the Dolder maintaining its place as a meeting point for the rich and powerful and in 1964 it opened a new, more modern, complex with 60 extra rooms.
Urs E. Schwarzenbach become a majority shareholder in 2001 and was of the opinion that the hotel would at some point need an extensive redesign and renovation for it to compete with other emerging luxury hotels around Europe.
It was he who turned to one the world’s most famous architects, Norman Foster, for advice, and among the recommendations received was an ambitious suggestion to remove all buildings and extensions constructed after 1899, and to restore the facade of the main building back to its original 1899 look.
That plus the second suggestion to add two modern wings would mean a complete overhaul of the hotel and a brave decision was made to do just that in 2004. The huge project took a few years to complete and it wasn’t until 2008 that the new Dolder Grand was opened, to great fanfare.
WHAT OTHER GUESTS SAY:
“One of, if not the finest hotel in the world. Literally everything – the room, service, spa facilities, amenities within the room, attention to every single detail in every aspect of the experience…”
“All I can say is just visit. This place blew our mind and was easily in the top 1% of any hotel we have ever stayed at (and we’ve traveled a lot). Incredible…”
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- Kurhausstrasse 65