For a taste of old world charm without par, head to the 120-room Baur au Lac, Zurich's destination of choice for royalty, film stars, musicians, presidents and jet set for more than 165 years. Austrias Empress Sissi spent a summer at this five-star retreat; Richard Wagner premiered one of his compositions there; and a baroness convinced the Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel of the necessity of the international peace prize. History doesnt get more colorful than that!
But not all is tradition and glory past at Baur au Lac, which has been owned and operated by the same family since its opening in 1844. Set in its own park a short walk from Zurich's famous Bahnhofstrasse and steps from Lake Zurich, the hotel has recently completed a $50,000,000 renovation, raising the bar for service and comfort. The centerpiece was the reinvention of the hotel's Pavillion restaurant by starchitect Pierre-Yves Rochon. Formerly open only in the summer, this long-time Zurich favorite in a pastoral setting now works year-round. The hotel is also home to Rive Gauche restaurant and bar, an enclave of cosmopolitan chic and the place to see and be seen in Zurich.On my recent stay at Baur au Lac, I dined in the rotunda of the Pavillion, admiring the sculptures exhibited alfresco for the hotels annual Art in the Park exhibition. My memorable meal, conjured up by talented chef Laurent Eperon, started with a lime zest and Tahiti vanilla-refined tomato salad, accompanied by a tomato-mint sorbet. The next course to excite my palate was a fillet of wild sea bass, flavored with Arabica coffee and green olive oil, on a bed of black rice and leaf-spinach. Just in time for a night cap at the adjacent outdoor Terrasse which, as part of recent renovations, became a chic indoor-outdoor space ideal for informal meetings over cocktails or champagne.
It was a joy to return to my elegant suite, with its regal atmosphere, an exquisite marble bathroom, and every possible 21st-century amenity a discerning guest can think of. For more information, visit www.bauraulac.ch.