ZÜRICH — A distinguished Englishman enters the stylish La Soupière restaurant in the palatial Hotel Schweizerhof Zürich and the maître d’ rushes to greet him like an old friend.
“Welcome sir and happy birthday. We have a nice bottle of champagne to help you celebrate your big day,” says the maître d' as a broad smile creeps across the elderly man’s moon-shaped face.
A woman sitting alone at the table next to mine leans forward, tells me she’s from Luxembourg and whispers “he (the birthday boy) has been coming to the Hotel Schweizerhof for many years. My husband and I always stay here, too, when we come to Zürich.”
It’s not hard to see why the Hotel Schweizerhof has such a loyal clientele.
Located across the street from Zürich’s main rail station and within easy walking distance of its famed Old Town, the property, which opened for business in 1876, is the perfect place to base yourself while visiting Switzerland’s largest city.
Opposite the hotel is Zürich's bustling Bahnhofstrasse, the city’s main shopping street that’s filled with high-end fashion and watch stores and where the best chocolate shops in the world are located. A few blocks away is the River Limmat — the bistros and cafés lined along its banks attract a lot of sun worshippers on Zürich’s many sunny days.
Above: The hotel's bar is one of the most fashionable in all of Switzerland.
According to many people, though, the best attraction in Zürich is the Hotel Schweizerhof, a landmark which is pointed out on city tours.
I’m welcomed to the Hotel Schweizerhof by a poster of the Red Doorman, which was painted by famed artist Alex Walter Diggelmann in 1935 and has been the hotel’s iconic symbol ever since.
I’m instantly impressed by the service level —most staff at Hotel Schweizerhof are long-serving members and respond quickly to guests’ every need.
Equally impressive is the lobby decor, especially the unique 3-D tile floor that gives the entrance an Art Deco feel.
Above: Rooms have been modernized without compromising to original charm.
“I see you like our floor,” says Jens Seeberger, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, who offers to be my guide on a short tour of the property, which has undergone a major facelift in recent years.
“Many of our rooms have been completely modernized,” reports Seeberger, who says the public areas are next to be “spruced up” — “but the tiled floor will remain.”
The Hotel Schweizerhof now offers guests the perfect balance of Old World charm and contemporary chic. The designers added lots of modern luxuries that younger guests demand during the remake but did not compromise the elegance long-term patrons have come to expect.
Off the lobby is the hotel bar, an oak-filled room that’s been a legendary gathering spot for decades — the place to be seen in Zürich. Café Gourmet at the hotel’s entrance is famous for its lunch, small delicacies and antipasti.
Above: The dining experience at La Soupiére is every bit as good as a a top Paris restaurant.
When I finally get to my spacious room that looks down on a courtyard filled with contemporary art, I’m impressed with the sunken living room and the large bathroom stuffed with lots of luxury toiletries.
The Hotel Schweizerhof harkens back to a time when grand railway hotels emerged all over Europe. Unlike many others, though, Hotel Schweizerhof was able to stand the test of time and is actually improving with age.
The birthday boy blows out the single candle on his mini birthday cake and the restaurant erupts in applause.
“I hope your wish comes true,” says the maître d.
The man smiles — his wish is probably to have another stay at Hotel Schweizerhof Zürich.
• For more information on Hotel Schweizerhof, go to https://www.hotelschweizerhof.com/en
• More on Switzerland: http://www.MySwitzerland.com