by Terry Ward
Zurich’s most spectacular hotel sits mere minutes outside of the city center, atop a forested hill overlooking the lake of Zurich. A ride up the funicular (part of Zurich’s public transportation system) from the city center brings you to The Dolder Grand, five-star Swiss luxury at its apex and a world away from any urban rush. The hotel was originally built in 1899 as a “curhaus,” a place for wellness and relaxation, and was designed to resemble a Swiss castle. The turrets and storybook facade that greet you as you arrive at the hotel’s portico definitely conjure a fairy tale feel. Things really got interesting at the property in the new millennium, when London’s revered architecture firm Foster + Partners (of Lord Norman Foster fame) took the design helm. They delivered comprehensive renovations that added rooms in two new wings (called the golf and spa wings), which extend from the original building in a curving design that echoes the smooth contours of Zurich’s rolling terrain. The hotel was closed for four years during the renovation, from 2004 to 2008, and when The Dolder Grand reopened, it was an even more incredible version of its former self, with 173 rooms and suites and a seamless blend of contemporary style and historical grandeur that few hotels can match.
For starters, there’s the incredible museum-standard art on display (yes, that’s a Warhol over the reception desk) that belongs to the private collection of the hotel’s owner, Urs E. Schwarzenbach. As you walk through the buildings and beautifully landscaped outdoor areas, the works of Damien Hirst, Keith Haring, Salvador Dali and other major names from the art world can be seen. By now, you might be wondering where kids fit into this picture, with such extravagance at every turn. The Dolder Grand’s family-friendly appeal comes from its five-star service (you ask, they deliver), prime setting and plentiful activities that include ice skating and sledding in the winter, and golf, swimming and hiking during the warmer months. It also helps that Zurich — with its excellent children’s museums, beautiful lake beaches for swimming, summertime open-air cinemas and endless cultural opportunities — is just a short taxi ride or cruise down the funicular away.
Our Editor Loves
- Fairytale-like setting
- Ice-skating and lake swimming
- Public transportation nearby
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Free Wi-Fi
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Whether you prefer a traditional room in the hotel's original main building that dates back to 1899, or your style trends more contemporary, along the lines of the white-washed sleek rooms in the new golf and spa wings of the hotel, the hotel's 173 rooms and suites offer various configurations for families.
All the rooms are outfitted with king beds, and for children under the age of 4, there's no cost to request a crib (available in small and larger sizes) for the room. Kids between the ages of 4 and 12 years old can sleep on comfortable rollaway beds that can be delivered to the room for an additional charge. If you have more than two adults and one child in your party, you will have to spring for connecting rooms (with a king bed in each and the option to add a rollaway bed to each room, too, for a maximum of six people between the connecting rooms).
Only the four suites -- decadent, multi-level affairs with balconies and one or two bedrooms with their own bathrooms -- have full kitchen facilities. But all rooms have mini-fridges with enough space to stock your own snacks inside.
perhaps they just don't like Americans, but in three separate encounters ( reception, reservations, concierge ) arrogance was the theme. Tried to change a booking made
on my behalf, " impossible " tried to change dates " of course ..not " and wanted to leave luggage for a few hours " really ?"(with raised eyebrows )
don't mind paying top dollar , when one gets top service. like imperial tokyo or mandarin bangkok, where am frequent visitor . The Dolder seems to be in a category of its own , high prices and high opinion ... of themselves
Champagne with Warhol, breakfast with Murakami, and soaking in the outdoor whirlpool with Botero while snowflakes float toward you is magical! Please take a tour with their artwork iPad if you have the time. Love all the tech upgrades, the room controls via iPad, the Bang Olufsen, the complimentary mobile phone with city guide, the cars. The room service is excellent, stay in one morning for breakfast, open your window and listen to the quiet ding of the mountains, and I believe you can hear church bells or it could be Swiss wind chimes? Lol it’s been too long
Hotel guests ages 3 to 12, can enjoy the supervised kids room on Saturday and Sunday.
City Center and Nature
Thanks to public transportation that is always clean, safe and on time, along with a wealth of natural and cultural attractions all within city limits, Zurich is one of Europe's most welcoming cities for families looking to enjoy a city break that lacks the harried factor of bigger metropolises. The Dolder Grand's location, in a forested green zone overlooking the lake of Zurich, is surrounded by trails into the forests and quiet, almost rural roads that are perfect for a family stroll after a day tackling the city sights. Winter may be gray much of the time in Zurich's lowlands (that's part of the reason city residents often escape to the nearby Alps), but there are plenty of winter activities to enjoy not only in the city, but also right at The Dolder Grand.
One of the city's favorite family attractions during wintertime is the Dolder Eisbahn, an open-air ice-skating rink where, for a very affordable daily rate, you can rent skates and skate figure eights on the large ice rink that often welcomes local hockey teams. Access to the rink is free for hotel guests, so you'll just have to pay to rent skates. The atmosphere is particularly magical at night, when a giant Christmas tree dazzles in the center, teens hold hands and flirt, and people gather rink-side at a cozy cafe for mulled wine and hot chocolate.
Wellness Area and Pool
The hotel's wellness facilities are sleek and beautiful, but the indoor pool hardly begs for Marco Polo-playing kids -- only children ages 12 and up are allowed in the wellness area and indoor pool. But at a smaller property, the Dolder Waldhaus (a four-minute walk away), there's a nice indoor pool that's great for family swimming.
During the summer months, the Dolder Bad, a large public swimming pool with a separate kid's pool and diving boards, opens near the ice-skating rink facility, and admission is free for guests of The Dolder Grand. The hotel's concierge can arrange nearby sledding trips in the winter. And at the Dolder Sports facility, a short walk from the hotel, there's a nine-hole mini-golf course for kids and families, as well as three tennis courts where you can get active with the gang.
The hotel has two options for onsite dining. However, The Restaurant, a two-star Michelin restaurant, is really an adult spot.
Your best bet for dining at the hotel with the whole family is at the Saltz Restaurant, a sunny room with expansive glass windows that extends onto a beautiful terrace and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The focus here is "light European cuisine with a Swiss touch" with views overlooking the lake and Zurich's green and rolling hillsides. Kids' dishes on the menu are very straightforward, and are the same for lunch and dinner: wienerschnitzel (fried, breaded pork), veal escalope with cream sauce, chicken nuggets, fish nuggets and noodle dishes such as spaghetti Bolognese. For breakfast, the kids can order pancakes, cereals, eggs and the like.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Switzerland is a notoriously expensive destination, and Zurich is about as wealthy as the country gets. You'll find many of the snack items your children are used to eating at home available at Zurich grocery stores; just don't look for familiar packaging. For groceries, the MIGROS and Coop chains are both very good. Most MIGROS outlets have prepared food cafes where you can sit as a family to dine on relatively inexpensive meals that include noodles, pastas and meat and vegetable spreads. Dairy products are particularly delicious in Switzerland, and if your children love yogurt, they'll go nuts for all the flavors available at the supermarket, including stracciatella and hazelnut.
Babysitting services with trusted sitters from the area can be arranged through the hotel's concierge for an additional cost.
The fitness center is complete with top-notch weight and cardio equipment and is open 24 hours. There are also several fitness studios where yoga classes and personal training sessions are sometimes offered.
Self-parking or valet parking at the hotel will cost you the same per night.
Wi-Fi is complimentary and works well everywhere on the property, from the lobby lounge to the hotel rooms.
There aren't any public laundry facilities at the hotel, but dry cleaning services are available.
The Art of Smart Timing
Zurich is a four-season destination, and so is The Dolder Grand. During the winter, snow occasionally blankets the hotel's turrets, outdoor sculptures and gardens. And in the spring and summer months, you'd hardly believe you were in the middle of a city, thanks to all the surrounding greenery.
In the winter, you have city highlights like the lovely Christmas markets, ice skating at the Dolder's rink and sled runs down the Uetliberg. And in the summer, of course, it's all about swimming and boating on the lake and river, open-air cinemas and strolling the tree-lined paths along the waterfront. The fall months can be dreary and gray, but a trip to the higher elevations in the nearby Alps usually delivers sunshine.
The hotel doesn't have a busy and non-busy season, per se. And whether you'll find the place empty or crowded has less to do with the time of year you're traveling, and more to do with whether it's been booked out for a conference, or if there's a big international event happening nearby. At the end of April, during the Basel World fair, rooms tend to sell out. The same goes for The World Economic Forum, held at the end of January each year.
Zurich Airport is serviced by nonstop flights with major U.S. airlines. Airlines also offer easy connecting flights through major European hubs, such as London, Paris and Frankfurt.
The hotel is 20 minutes from Zurich Airport by car, and for an extra fee, you can request to be greeted at the airport by a limousine shuttle (Mercedes) for transport to the hotel. That's the pricey option. For a less expensive way to arrive, use your ZurichCARD to travel to the main train station from the airport and catch the Number 3 tram to Romerhof, where you can ride the Dolderbahn (the funicular) directly to the hotel's entrance (exit at Bergstation Dolderbahn).
All the major car rental companies have desks at Zurich Airport, and taxis into the city are available just outside of Arrivals.
The hotel runs a complimentary shuttle bus into the city hourly from about 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. every day. The shuttle also runs from the city back to the hotel. The trip takes about 10 minutes and transports you to the main shopping street, the Bahnhofstrasse.
It's easy to travel from the hotel into the city using public transport (the funicular connects directly with trams that take you all over the city), and your best bet for saving a few francs is to invest in the ZurichCARD, which gets you unlimited travel on public transport all over the city (boats, busses, trams and trains) for periods of 24 or 72 hours. It also provides free admission to more than 40 city museums and attractions.
For Mom and Dad
The hotel's 40,000-square-foot spa and wellness area is about as decadent (think La Prairie products used in treatments) and sublime as these places get. It's a true space for serenity and reflection, and if your children want to swim in the pool, they have to be at least 12 years old and you should advise them to be on their best behavior. The separate men and women's wellness areas have steam baths, saunas, aroma pools, footbaths and solariums. The spaces open into a common area with a large indoor swimming pool and three pools of varying heat-strengths just outside and overlooking the forested hills. Be sure to take some quiet time for yourself in the mosaic-mirrored meditation room, reached by a spiraling walk near the treatment rooms, whether or not you splurge on a treatment (massages, facials, scrubs, wraps and bath rituals).