It is no secret to our family, friends, and regular readers of Passport magazine that Zürich is one of our favorite cities in the world. My partner Don and I have been coming here at least once a year for 18 years. Our friends who live here joke that we know more about the city than they do. We have stayed at many of the five-star hotels in Zürich, but the famed Baur au Lac (www.bauraulac.ch) is truly one of our favorite.
Operated by the same family since Johannes Baur opened it in 1844, the Baur au Lac serves as an elegant residence for guests from around the world, and the hotel has long been a favorite of the international elite, hosting such luminaries as Austria’s Empress Elisabeth (aka Sissi), the German Emperor Wilhelm II, Composer Richard Wagner (who gave the world premiere of Die Walküre (The Valkyrie) at the Baur au Lac), Franz Liszt, Zubin Mehta, Plácido Domingo, Elton John, Marc Chagall, Joan Miró, and Fernando Botero. It was at the Baur au Lac in 1892 that Bertha von Suttner convinced the Swedish industrialist, Alfred Nobel, of the need for the international Nobel Peace Prize.
Overlooking Lake Zürich and the Alps on one side, and the Schanzengraben River on the other, the Baur au Lac is set in its own private park only a few steps away from the Bahnhofstrasse, Zürich’s famous shopping street. The location of the hotel couldn’t be more perfect. There’s some- thing quite wonderful about waking up and going for a walk, run, or swim just a few feet from your door with the majestic Alps forming a stunning backdrop.
The Baur au Lac is one of the world’s oldest luxury hotels still owned by its founding family.
Over the last 18 years, some 160 million Swiss francs have been invested in new facilities and renovations at the Baur au Lac. Between July 2008 and September 2009, a further 45 million Swiss francs (approx. $45 million) were invest- ed in the renovation of 22 sumptuous suites and rooms, as well as the Pavillon gourmet restaurant and the delightful summer terrace.
The hotel has more than 120 rooms and suites, 75 of which are standard rooms, 27 junior suites, and 18 suites. Frédéric d’Haufayt saw it as his task to design new suites and rooms that would convey the warmth and personal ambiance of a private apartment that offers the highest possible standard of comfort, luxury, and high-tech amenities. Exquisite art deco artifacts skillfully contrast with French period furniture and modern elements using only the highest-quality materials. All furniture and carpets were specially created for the Baur au Lac by Frédéric d’Haufayt and manufactured by the world’s best workshops in France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the United States.
After a recent trip to Bangkok, we decided to stop in Zürich for a few days before heading back to New York. This gave us a chance to spend time with friends and to celebrate Don’s birthday.
The moment we arrived at the Baur au Lac, we felt at home. Everyone at the hotel made us feel special and did all they could to make our stay a memorable one. Before heading to dinner one night, we discovered that there was a gala happening at the Kunsthaus museum in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Dada art movement that started in Zürich in 1916. I had no idea how to get tickets, or even if they were available, so I asked one of the concierges to find out if it was possible to
attend. The next morning the hotel had managed to get tickets for us (now all we needed were costumes!).
Whether it’s obtaining hard-to-get tickets, arranging for dinner reservations at popular restaurants, or helping you celebrate special occasions, the Baur au Lac provides its guests with everything they need.
After shopping for gifts along the Bahnhofstrasse one afternoon, we returned to the hotel to find a bottle of wine and a birthday cake waiting for us. A card next to it said: “Wishing you a very happy birthday!” We don’t know how they knew it was Don’s birthday, but he was moved and delighted by their sweet gesture.
Whether you visit Zürich for business or pleasure, try to book a table for lunch or dinner at the Pavillon in the Baur au Lac. This Michelin-starred restaurant is helmed by Laurent Eperon, the chef de cuisine. As head of the Pavillon kitchen since 2009, Eperon has delighted diners with his unique interpretations of French contemporary food. His guiding principles are fresh seasonal products that create a refined harmony of textures, color, and flavors. “Being awarded a Michelin star is an incredible honor for our team,” he said. “Maintaining the high standards involved and inspiring our guests with new creations each time they visit the Pavillon are both my biggest challenge and greatest motivation.”
During the warm weather months when we are in Zürich, we always take time to have cocktails or Champagne outside at the Rive Gauche Terrasse. There is perhaps no better place in the city to enjoy food and drinks with friends (old and new) in an enchanting al fresco setting. The tables and seating areas are bordered by magnificent olive trees and rosemary shrubs, while chill music and soft, colorful lighting completes the contemporary lounge ambiance of the terrace.
Further culinary magic takes place inside at the Rive Gauche Restaurant where casual fine dining attracts a diverse group of people who come for the great selection of meat, seafood, and vegetarian dishes, as well as some of the best martinis in the city.
It is always a pleasure staying at the Baur au Lac, but when you book one of their suites you will realize what we mean by living “The Suite Life.” These exceptional accommodations are truly a home away from home in Zürich, and provide everything you need to make you comfortable.
Whether you choose a junior suite with a courtyard view or a deluxe lake view corner suite, you will appreciate why guests of the Baur au Lac return year after year to enjoy anniversaries, birthdays, and romantic week- ends. In fact, the property from spring through autumn is an ideal location for a wedding or honeymoon celebration.
Take a look at the beautiful photos featured of the Baur au Lac in Zürich. Pick your favorite suite, and let us know about all the wonderful experiences you have during your stay.
This is a place of tradition and innovation, and we have to agree with what was written about it in 1854 by the Leipzig Illustrated: “Zürich is made more beautiful. Art must vie with nature, which displays, even lavishes, all of its charms here. The exterior of the hotel promises a great deal, but when one goes inside and walks through the luxurious salons and bedrooms, all of one’s expectations are exceeded.”