ZURICH - I walk out of Zurich’s bustling main rail station and ask the police officer standing on the corner of the city’s busy shopping street, Bahnhofstrasse, for directions to the landmark Hotel Widder.
“Follow Bahnhofstrasse until you reach Rennweg and turn left. You can’t miss it — the Widder is the most beautiful hotel in Zurich,” says the helpful officer.
Besides being beautiful, The Hotel Widder is also one of the most unique members of the Swiss Deluxe Hotels group. The landmark hotel, which sits nestled amongst the historic buildings of Zurich’s Old Town, was created out of nine landmark townhomes and because of that, holds a place of honour on Switzerland’s National Registry.
Above: The nighttime view from the Widder's penthouse is truly brilliant.
Hotel staff tell me it took 10 years to complete the Hotel Widder and that during the painstakingly slow conversion of the 12th- century townhomes into one of the world’s great hotels, many treasured artifacts — among them Roman coins and paintings from the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries — were discovered.
Some of those paintings now hang in the hotel’s public areas and its 49 gorgeous guest rooms, each a masterpiece in its own right.
No one room at the 5-star boutique Hotel Widder is the same and there’s a surprise hiding behind every door. One suite may feature historic furnishings and venerable oak beams, another an antique tiled stove, grisaille murals, delicate frescos or elegant stucco. The only thing they have in common is that each is a beauty.
Designers and decorators of the Hotel Widder even managed to provide all the cutting-edge technology and comfort modern-day travellers desire without compromising the property’s Old World charm. For instance, rooms feature adjustable beds — mattresses can be varied from firm to soft — motion-sensitive night lights so guests don’t stub their toe getting from bed to bathroom, and Bang & Olufsen products provide the entertainment — TV and stereo.
Above: Zurich's best tourist attractions are in easy walk of the Hotel Widder.
Shortly after arriving, you’re on a first-name basis with the well-trained, congenial staff, who tell me one of the many strengths of Swiss Deluxe Hotel members like Hotel Widder is the longevity of senior staff.
“The average length of service among Swiss Deluxe Hotel GMs is 30 years,” Stefan Mathys, head of media relations for the group, tells me. “And one of our hotels (the Splendide Royal Hotel in Lugano), has only had five general managers over its 130 year existence.”
“We want to be a home away from home and we treat guests like family,” the delightful young woman at check-in tells me.
Swiss Deluxe Hotel members are also an exclusive club. The group, which was established in 1934, only accepts one or two new members annually, according to Mathys, and inspectors are regularly dispatched incognito to make sure standards meet rigid guidelines. The five posh properties I had the privilege of staying at all exceeded my wildest expectations.
Above: The Hotel Widder is located in the heart of Zurich's magical Old Town.
The Hotel Widder’s Penthouse suite is one of the most unique in the hotel business. Besides featuring opulent furnishings and priceless works of art, the Penthouse offers a rooftop terrace that looks out on the splendour of Old Town Zurich. On a clear night, it’s the perfect place for romantics and well worth the 4,000 Swiss francs ($6,000 Cdn) it costs.
Guests usually toast their good fortune of securing a room at this fabulous hotel with a drink at the famed Widder Bar, a classic American-style room whose award-winning selection of single malt Scotch is the talk Europe. It underwent a major facelift in early 2017 and looks better than ever.
The lovely AuGust restaurant connected to the Hotel Widder is a playful establishment that specializes in Swiss cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere.
Zurich’s Hotel Widder is the perfect ending to my “Deluxe” tour of Switzerland, a country where the term for remarkable hospitality must be “Swiss Deluxe Hotels.”
Swiss Deluxe Hotels is a group representing 41 of Switzerland’s best hotels, which offer unique experiences in some of the most visited places in Switzerland. For information, go to www.swissdeluxehotels.com/en
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