As soon as you pass through the gate of the Baur au Lac prepare yourself to emerge in another world. Travel back in time to a luxury hotel with a unique flair where Service is still written with a capital S. Ever since the Baur au Lac’s opening in 1844 it welcomed international royalty and it continues to do so to this present day.
Over 250 hotel employees welcome guests from all around the world to 120 rooms and suites. The hotel is owned and managed by the family of founder Johannes Baur who built the hotel on the shores of lake Zurich. The hotel is rich in history which can be seen and felt in many of the hotel’s quarters. Along royalty like Austria’s Empress Sisi and the Russian Tsarina many now legendary artists found their way to the Baur au Lac – among them Richard Wagner, Marc Chagall and Joan Miró to name a few. In light of this year’s Nobel Prizes awarded a few days ago a particular interesting story is that of Baroness Bertha von Suttner who convinced the Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel of the necessity for an international peace prize in the Baur au Lac back in 1892.
As far as location goes the Baur au Lac is blessed with one of the best locations in Zurich. Overlooking the Zurich lake the mountains form a stunning backdrop on a clear day. The hotel has a small private park bordering the Bürkliplatz and the Schanzengraben canal. Main sights like the Bahnhofstrasse shopping street, Zurich old town and the Opera are all within walking distance.
Valet parking is available for guests arriving by car. For those arriving by plane the Baur au Lac offers a service no other hotel in Zurich can match; the hotel’s own Rolls-Royce Phantom can pick guests up directly from the plane’s jet bridge at Zurich International Airport – and that goes for both private- as commercial flights.
The Baur au Lac was the second hotel opened by Johannes Baur in Zurich in addition to the Baur en Ville which is no longer owned by the family. The Baur au Lac was located outside the old city walls and primarily catered to guests who preferred to stay incognito. Today there is one suite in the hotel that allows guests to access and enter the hotel unseen from a side street. This suite is frequently chosen by heads of state and celebrities.
The Baur au Lac is a classic luxury hotel pur sang. The old world flair of luxury hotels of the past has remained including the small kiosk in the lobby and the concierge desk with the directory of room keys. But unlike many other traditional luxury hotels it doesn’t feel dated mainly thanks to impeccable maintenance and styling throughout the property. Classic details are mixed with timeless interior design using marble, suede and wood as main materials.
During the Christmas time there is an even bigger reason to visit the Baur au Lac. A large Christmas tree decorated with large golden balls graces the entrance. Outside the ‘Chalet au Lac’ provides a traditional Swiss environment for drinks and a typical Swiss dinner which is open every Tuesday til Saturday night from beginning of December until beginning of January.
Rooms & Suites
The hotel has 120 rooms including 18 suites and 27 junior suites designed by Frédéric d’Haufayt. Many rooms and suites can be connected to create exceptional family spaces. Our room with number 133 is a junior suite located on the first floor. Traditionally in the 19th century the first and second floor were housing the noble quarters hence that these floors are home to the high ceilings to present day. The hotel has seen constant renovations and updates over the last 170 years but the last major extension was in 1898.
Our room has a large white marble bathroom with double sinks, separate shower and large bathtub. Fresh flowers from the hotel’s own florist decorate the room and bathroom and spread a pleasant smell. The bed room is very spacious with a separate seating area and large double bed on the other end. A giant floor to ceiling mirror decorates the back well and provides a sense of endless space. A double door leads out to the balcony that overlooks the Schanzengraben canal with its berths for small boats.
In most hotels a large TV takes up the center of attention but the Baur au Lac has a traditional attitude towards modern technology – it is available but kept very discreet either hidden in a cupboard or mounted away from the key line of sights. Having said that, most modern amenities are available from central light switches next to the bed to a tablet which can be used as digital hotel directory, room service butler and city guide. The wifi and mini bar are complimentary. A Nespresso coffee machine is available only in the suites and would be a great addition to the deluxe rooms as well.
Restaurants & Bar
The Baur au Lac has two dedicated restaurants, one bar and ‘Le Hall’ – the very popular lobby lounge where guests and Zurich locals mingle for high tea, drinks or a small bite to eat. Le Hall is a very intimate space with a giant chandelier at the center of the room. Especially during afternoon tea in the weekend one cannot be overdressed with fur coats and custom jewelry belonging to the standard attire of the discerning guests.
The Pavillion is the hotel’s signature gourmet restaurant designed by star architect Pierre-Yves Rochon. The restaurant is located in a pavillion int he hotel’s park and awarded with one Michelin star and 17 GaultMillau points. Head Chef Laurent Eperon creates seasonal, dynamic and contemporary cuisine. The Pavillion at Baur au Lac is open for lunch Monday to Friday and dinner Monday to Saturday. In Summer guests can enjoy the culinary delights on the terrace in the shade of the nearly 170 year old tree that graces the park. Hotel guests can enjoy their breakfast in the Pavillion restaurant every morning until 11am.
In 2005 the hotel opened the Rive Gauche restaurant on the north-east side of the building. Hotel guests get to this casual-chic dining venue via a discreet tunnel. The restaurant and bar designed by Cornelius de Fries serves modern Mediterranean grill specialties along with vegetarian dishes under supervision of head chef Olivier Rais.
The Rive Gauche is one of Zurich’s hottest restaurants and the dark wooden tables, mint-colored leather sofas and matching ambient lighting give it a very trendy feel. I opt for the Salmon and Tuna tartar combination as a starter which comes with a fennel puree and wasabi. It is a true feast for the taste senses and paired with an Italian white wine from the hotel’s own 1.400,000 bottle strong wine cellar. The attentive service is friendly and personal and consistent throughout our stay.
For main course there is a large choice of pasta and vegetarian dishes and various fish and meat dishes including lamb and sea bass. But we opt for the tenderloin from the Rive Gauche grill specials that also include a selection of Wagyu. The tenderloin comes grilled to perfection with pepper sauce, potato puree and mixed vegetables on the side. The corn fed, wet aged black angus beef tenderloin is tender and full of taste and among the best pieces of meat I have had in a while. The paired wine is a strong full bodied Spanish red wine from Ribera del Duero. Having fully enjoyed the starter and main course I skip the dessert and we swap our table in the restaurant for a spot at the bar.
The Rive Gauche bar is popular among hotel guests as well as locals who enjoy one of the bar’s awarded cocktails or a night cap after dinner. The selection of drinks and cocktails is near endless. The bar also plays host to frequent events including the upcoming new year’s eve party and new year’s brunch.
The hotel offers guests a range of on-site facilities including a well equipped gym on the hotel’s 4th and 5th floor with stunning views over Zurich. Private trainers assist guests with their personal training programs in the gym or in the hotel’s park. Sadly there is no pool or spa but in Summer guests can visit one of the nearby lake pools locally known as a “badi”.
The Baur au Lac Vins wine shop started selling wines to locals and customers from outside the hotel as early as 1870. Today Baur au Lac Vins is home to one of the largest wine cellars in the country and sells wines to hotel guests, wine connoisseurs, restaurants and other hotels throughout Switzerland. The cellar in Regensdorf, 15 kilometers away from the hotel, holds 1.4 million bottles including a large number of precious vintage wines. In every room at the Baur au Lac you can find the current catalog which holds over 3.000 different wines from 300 vineyards worldwide.
The Baur au Lac has six conference rooms with seating for up to 400 people. The various meeting and event spaces are frequently booked for weddings, parties and business meeting and conferences. The small fourth floor rooftop terrace is ideal for small cocktail receptions.
The thing that truly set the Baur au Lac apart from the other luxury hotels in Zurich is the warm, friendly service. More than 50 employees work for Baur au Lac for over a decade and throughout our stay you can feel that 170 years of hospitality experience shows in the professional and personal service provided to the guests.
The range of services offered by the hotel is unparalleled with a 24-hour concierge, in-house florist, laundry service and full time maintenance team to keep the rooms and suites in ‘like new’ conditions at all times. Upon arrival your car is parked at the hotel’s own car park with refueling, car wash and even repair service available on request.
The hotel’s unrivaled central location, luxurious and comfortable rooms, the cozy lobby lounge and excellent restaurants and bar make the Baur au Lac the most desirable place to stay in Zurich. The best thing about the Baur au Lac however is the exceptional service and the classic luxury style in all its facets that gives you as guest the feeling you have returned to a grand hotel of yesteryear.