In a city renowned for its legendary hospitality, the Widder Hotel stands out as timeless masterpiece against the canvas of Zurich.
Just as their motto “At Home in Zurich” suggests, tranquility can be found here in their uniquely appointed living spaces. So much more than a hotel room, each of Widder’s 49 rooms and suites tells its own story, rich in history and heritage. A collection of nine former private residences, dating back some 700 years, the Widder underwent a meticulous ten year restoration project under the watchful eye of 1000 preservationists, archeologists, architects and designers. The result of which is a distinctive luxury ensemble which retains the allure of its medieval heritage while introducing the comfort of modern amenities.
From the moment you step foot into the Widder Hotel, just a short walk from the high-end shops that line the prestigious Bahnhofstrasse, the feeling sets in that you have just arrived as the distinguished guest at an opulent home. In an ode to the modernity of the interiors, the walls and gangways are beset with a modern collection of art that would rival any museum. This juxtaposition of contemporary artwork by notables such as Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Max Bill balances well with the inherent medieval décor while preserving the unique independence of the surroundings.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Corina Söhner, Widder’s Sales & Marketing Director, in the expansive library surrounded by a handful of perfectly placed Eames’ chairs to discuss how this fabulous hotel was assembled into a single complex from its historic beginnings.
BB: What could you tell me about the restoration process and who contributed to the architecture and furniture design we see before us?
CS: This project was designed wholly by Mrs. Tilla Theus, the first woman in Switzerland to single-handedly be appointed such a task. She chose every piece of art, fabric and furniture and for this reason there is one voice. Her duty and goal was to create a timeless hotel with a classic design and it has worked very well. We like to think that some of our guests have the same furniture at home that you see here.
BB: What is the philosophy of the Widder Hotel?
CS: Our slogan says it all, “At Home in Zurich.” We are run more like a private home. Each room is individually designed and this reflects our philosophy. We take enormous care in managing the history of our clients. We keep track of which rooms they have stayed in before, their likes and dislikes. We also make sure to give our frequent guests a different room each time they stay here in order to show them the variety of our hotel. Our product cannot be copied, based on the uniqueness of the design and concept. Medieval frescos cover the walls, where else can you find that?
For the business traveler, the location cannot be beat. For them, we provide an understated luxury, we have no dress code for example and we can tell they enjoy the relaxed atmosphere.
Having spent a few days at Hotel Widder, I can vouch for this statement. I noticed on several occasions that the eight elegantly appointed conference rooms were being used to their fullest extent. Presentations were on display in each of the rooms, lounges and halls supplemented by state-of-the-art equipment, while an endless supply of staff whisked refreshments and delicate entrées to the palates of busy businessmen.
I was able to partake in the cuisine that the Widder offers during its morning meals in the light and airy breakfast room. An endless array of fresh bread, cheese, thinly-sliced deli meat, yogurt and the freshest selection of fruits are laid out in a pristine display. The staff kindly notified me that I could also request a hot meal of eggs, prepared any style. They serve to satisfy any craving. After being fully satiated on delicious lox and two varieties of crusty bread, one can gaze up into the Zurich sky through the ultra-modern retractable glass ceiling and forget that today is after all, a weekday.
In keeping with the spirit of friendliness that permeates throughout the hotel, courtesy of the thoughtful staff, the concierge arranged for two bicycles to be ready as soon as our morning meal was complete. We were able to spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the city, all the while knowing that respite awaited our tired bodies in the form of the most comfortable of guestrooms. Pleasing to both the body and the eye, the sophisticated rooms create an ambiance and air of class that is distinguished by the finest of materials organized in a central theme for each of the nine residences. A special wood and stone is designated to each residence, while the wooden wall panelings, cupboards and desks in each house are fitted with décor inlays.
I had the pleasure of viewing Widder’s top class suites, and was in constant awe of the placement of mahogany, burl wood and Breccia verde marble throughout. Complete with a private balcony, sporting the highest viewing perch in the area, this is the place to spend an extended holiday, bathed in the most unique subdued luxury.