The benefits of waking up in a city hotel are plenty. Just steps off the lobby, you might find an artisanal bakery, cozy cafés, and cobblestone alleys. Lakeside resorts, on the other hand, have scenic views and opportunities for early morning swims.
When it comes to sheer life quality, the city of Zürich is often rated among the top in global surveys. One of the reasons is that Zürich offers lots of contrasting experiences wrapped in a small package.
Three of the city’s most luxurious hotels have now teamed up to offer an essential Zürich experience. As part of the City & Lake Resort concept, they will let you have your cake and eat it too.
On invitation, we recently had the chance to test the latest Zürich experience. We slept in one of the hotels for two nights, toasted on the rooftop of another, and spent a day by the lake in the third hotel. Our hosts at the Widder Hotel, Storchen Zürich, and Hotel Alex made sure that we get to try it all.
The Widder Hotel redefines historic charm
Located in the heart of Zürich, the Widder Hotel is surrounded by cobblestone alleys and attached buildings of various shapes and sizes. In fact, the hotel itself is part of this urban fabric as it is a conglomerate of nine individual structures.
From the outside, one can hardly guess that the nine façades house a single hotel. But miraculously, everything is connected on the inside. Staircases, walkways, hallways, low and tall ceilings, and a central elevator shaft make up the Widder Hotel.
Our corner room wears 700 years of history on its sleeves.
While the room offers all the modern amenities one might expect, they are not overbearing. Instead, the emphasis is on the unique character of the space. The painted ceiling and terracotta floor tiles are juxtaposed with a sleek wardrobe and designer furniture.
Despite the regular church bell chimes, I sleep tight in the king-size bed. The following day is set to be a sunny, and if my counting is right, the hour is 7 AM. Before the entire city wakes up, I decide to grab my camera and venture into the old town.
Here are some of my early morning impressions of Zürich:
Instant vacation vibes at Alex Lake in Thalwil
Today, we will be going from the city to the lake. We pack our swimming gear, sun lotion, and the latest issue of the Transhelvetica magazine into a beach bag. A two-minute walk from the Widder, our boat shuttle is set to depart from the pier in front of Storchen Zürich.
Guests who book a City & Lake Resort package enjoy a complimentary transfer to Thalwil on the Hotel Alex boat. The vessel is unique in that it was modified to be a shuttle. The transfer starts out as a slow cruise; we only pick up speed with enough distance from the shore.
Hotel Alex Lake in Thalwil is the third member of the resort concept. On approach, we first spot the large window panes of the lakeside restaurant. An outdoor patio with sunbrellas sends instant vacation vibes our way.
Have we just arrived at a Mediterranean resort? The restaurant’s menu sure fits the bill.
Think sea bream ceviche, grilled octopus with chorizo, or vegan lentil curry with sweet potato. These cosmopolitan varieties are perfect for a hot summer day by the lake. And they have the creative handwriting of Tino Staub, a chef we have met on several occasions.
The Hotel Alex stand-up paddleboards are included in the package. We flash our City & Lake Guest Card and before too long, we are paddling out onto the lake. This new perspective reveals the many public lake baths of Thalwil. And the longer we gaze at the lake-facing rooms of the hotel, the stronger our desire grows to stay here one day.
The Nest is Storchen Zürich’s amazing rooftop bar
Back in the city center, Zürich is buzzing. It is one of those mild evenings before the endless loops of storms would hit. Dressed for a night out, we walk from the Widder through some side alleys back to the Storchen.
The Nest on top of Storchen Zürich is an outdoor bar in constant high demand. Clearly, those in the know about this oversized stork nest do not mind waiting for their turn. As hotel guests, we are privy to the fast lane. It’s only thanks to the City & Lake Guest Card that we gain instant access to the hottest outdoor bar in Zürich - on a Saturday night!
Our verdict about the City & Lake Resort concept
After experiencing it all, it is time to reflect on the City & Lake Resort package. More often than not, we find a competitive atmosphere among city hotels. Naturally, they would rather keep the guests (and their spending) in-house. Yet, when there is a collaborative spirit, everyone benefits in the end: the hotels, the guests, and the destination as a whole.
By bundling various experiences into one package, we are allowed sneak peeks into related hotels and restaurants. While staying at the Widder was a top priority this time around, the Alex in Thalwil is now on our radar as well. Let alone the Storchen with its new Chef’s Table…
A word about The Living Circle
During our stay, we hear several times that many of the fresh ingredients are sourced locally. Curiosity gets the better of us and we wonder: where are those breakfast eggs really from?
In order to source fresh products from local suppliers, the member hotels have joined forces. The Living Circle is a sort of sustainability umbrella covering several luxury hotels in Switzerland. As a result, they now have dedicated farms supplying everything from honey to wine, and from rice to dairy. Also: eggs.
Here in Zürich, the Alex, Storchen, and Widder hotels cooperate with a farm just outside the city. On our way home, we make a stop at the Schlattgut farm above Herrliberg. Mamiko really wants to meet the chickens in charge of our breakfast eggs...
The Living Circle claim, “luxury hotels fed by nature,” could not describe the idea better. It is quite remarkable that five-star hotels that are traditionally used to serving foie gras and caviar would make a transition to more sustainable practices.