Perched high above Zurich, with sweeping views of the glistening lake and city, and set against the backdrop of the snow-capped Alps, The Dolder Grand has won the hearts of its guests since the completion in 2008 of four years of reconstruction work. Architect Sir Norman Foster’s reinterpretation married a pair of modern, sleek, elegantly curved wings to the Belle Époque fairy-tale towers of the former Kurhaus. The remodelling turned the 117-year-old hotel into one of the best urban chic resorts in the world, complete with golf course and – during the winter – an ice rink.
The hotel’s best-known attraction is probably its unique assortment of museum-worthy art. Zurich’s most important private art collection is hung accessibly along the corridors and placed dramatically in the foyers. You cannot miss the massive Warhol piece, Big Retrospective Painting, which hangs above the reception area. Watch out for the giant Murakami mushroom sculpture and the Dalí painting on the way to dinner. Other treasures to be seen include works by Keith Haring, Henry Moore and Niki de Saint Phalle.
Art buffs are not alone in falling under The Dolder’s magical spell. Many a spa lover has found refuge in the hotel’s world-renowned, multi-award-winning 4,000-square-metre spa. Its curved limestone walls and charcoal floors give it an organic feel. The spa concept is by designer Sylvia Sepielli. Among the creations in Sepielli’s impressive portfolio are the YTL Spa Village Pangkor Laut in Malaysia, the Halekulani in Hawaii, the COMO Shambhala Parrot Cay in the Turks and Caicos Islands, and The Chopra Center for Wellbeing in California. Each is a sign that you can’t go wrong at The Dolder Grand Spa.
Guests come to soak up the urban retreat’s restorative offerings and often stay the whole day, happily traipsing around in their slippers and pearl-grey bathrobes, gently getting around to trying every single facility. The spa’s Aqua Zone is an oasis of relaxation and recuperation. It boasts a large black-tiled pool, big enough to swim laps in, loungers that are popular with regular guests and floor-to-ceiling windows giving a view of the natural surroundings and the heated outdoor Jacuzzi that overlooks the city – which is great on winter nights when it’s snowing. The Aqua Zone has a sanarium, a steam bath, a snow room for cooling off and Japanese-style sunaburo sand bath relaxation pods, where guests can while away the time buried in heated pebbles. In the separate women’s and men’s spa areas are crystal steam rooms, wet and dry saunas, plunge pools, hot tubs and kotatsu foot baths.
When you’re ready for your treatment, head upstairs to the waiting lounge, where your therapist picks you up and leads you to one of the 21 treatment rooms. The therapies include bamboo shiatsu, classic massages and body treatments, cosmetic touch-ups and Botox. The spa does facials using renowned brands such as La Prairie, Kerstin Florian and Amala.
Opt for one of the spa’s bestsellers, the Hydraheaven treatment. This means lying on a waterbed while the therapist controls the amount of water, changing it many times during the session and so creating a feeling of weightlessness. The treatment begins with a relaxing foot soak and invigorating dry brushing, followed by a gentle massage that can send you to sleep in no time.
Once you get to the chill-out area, oversized hanging lounge chairs with headphones attached will let you leave the world behind if you haven’t already. Check out the Hundertwasser-meets-Gaudí-style meditation walk, which spirals inwards and ends in a fascinating cupola with a mosaic of mirrored tiles and cushions arranged in a circle, evoking memories of the 1960s television show I Dream of Jeannie and her abode in a bottle. Devote time here to self-reflection, literally.
There are various other ways to prolong the ethereal post-treatment state. Chill out in the library and browse some of the 600 books, or pop over to the Spa Café, which serves up healthy salads, veggie sandwiches and green juices. Should you long for something a bit more sophisticated, there is always The Restaurant, which has two Michelin stars, where the 12-course Tasting Menu is full of delights. The sensorial experience at The Dolder Grand will leave you nourished in every respect.