Zurich: The Dolder, A Grand Re-Opening

dolder2Befitting its status as both one of the newest uber-luxury hotels in the world (it re-opened last year, after a four-year, $400 million renovation) and one of the oldest (2009 marks its 110th anniversary), the Dolder Grand makes no bones about impressing visitors from their first moment of arrival.

Perched high above its residential Zurich neighborhood on a hillside in the surrounding forest, this grande dame is accessible either by an arduous climb or, a smarter option, a 5-minute ascent via a charming red caboose of a cable car.

Don’t bother murmuring ‘I think I can,’ ‘I think I can,’ while visiting, though. This is luxury not for the aspirational, but for the truly already-there. With double room rates starting at 870CHF a night, scads of marble and rare wood, a sprawling subterranean spa, and the best-dressed guests this side of the Ritz Paris or Park Hyatt Tokyo, the Dolder Grand oozes money.

It’s a big investment — try to catch an off-season ‘deal’ or get someone else to pick up the tab —but the experience is priceless. You’d be hard-pressed to find more luxe urban hotels rooms anywhere in the world. (Zurich’s even-older Baur au Lac, which has been continuously owned by the same family since 1844, has also completed a major renovation. Its public spaces are lovely and serene, filled with grace and Euro-elegance, and it boasts a superb in-town, parkside location. Its traditionally-designed rooms aren’t  jaw-dropping is all, think of it as the stately Arizona Biltmore to the Dolder’s glitzier Phoenician.)

The Dolder renovation takes the form of two rather silly-looking, curving wings that have been added to the central, original turreted building. The conceit of architect Sir Norman Foster was to tear down all “interventions” that have gone up through the years, and one suspects this was a good idea, knowing how horrendous such additions can be. But while his replacement exteriors are a little too bold for their own good, internally everything connects seamlessly and, thanks to 21st-century modern architectural bents, serenely. The palette is dominated by “zen” hues of gray and beige.

photos courtesy of The Dolder Grand
photos courtesy of The Dolder Grand

Guest rooms are, simply put, gaspable. Swathes of gauzy curtains are everywhere, enveloping the striking floor-to-ceiling windows (and lake views), as well as the bed and the entrance to the bath area (which is a whole entity onto itself). Surprising accents of lilac give everything zing, and the mod-est of cons (such as an adorable but ultimately puzzling device, courtesy of Bang & Olufsen, that promises to remotely control the whole whizzbang, shebang of the room) place us squarely in the 21st-century.

Public spaces, a mix of the old and the new, are less showy, with the notable exception being the bar. Reaching new heights, literally, the lighting in this space is in the shape of candles hanging from the ceiling: a romantic and pretty stunning effect. Finally, even if you skip a treatment, make tracks to the spa. Special touches include a private (indoor) meditation path that moves in concentric circles to a comforting center; Japanese-style kotatsu footbaths, filled to the brim with nicely-toasted black pebbles; and, best of all, a “snow paradise,” the likes of which I, at least, have never seen before. A sort of briskly chilly closet, complete with snowy floor and ice formations, it gives a witty nod to the fact the Dolder Grand is and will always be a thoroughly Swiss treasure. ###

While in Zurich, JoAnn Greco recommends you sample luscious Luxemburgerli.