Checking in at the Dolder Grand in Zurich

Dazzling art can be found in every nook and cranny of the Dolder Grand Hotel, a fairytale castle high above the city of Zurich.

Robert Chilton May 2, 2017

The Dolder Grand looks like a Disney castle sitting on top of a hill overlooking Zurich and its lake as well as the Alps. It is imposing, grand (the name of the hotel is highly appropriate) and classically Swiss. But upon arrival you quickly realise that this hotel has a mischievous streak - you could even say it has a naughty side.

Take the giant red sculpture outside the lobby for example, in which artist Paul McCarthy depicts an alternative, saucy scene from Snow White that will make you blush. Outside the hotel bar, meanwhile, is a metallic sculpture of a topless Dita Von Teese sitting in a martini glass that may make you splutter into your aperitif.

Inside, after a super slick check in, you’ll spot a chubby backpacker in shorts, slumped in the corner of a room having a nap. No, he’s not a guest, it’s another startling sculpture that is so lifelike it’s unnerving.

Stretching across a wall above the lobby is a stunning Andy Warhol piece; down the corridor is a riff on the American flag from the renowned Robert Indiana; while on a wall near the entrance is a series of artworks that take the form of signs written by homeless people begging for food and money and referencing Paris Hilton. 

The Dolder Grand, in case you hadn’t figured it out already, is an art hotel with more than 150 pieces inside the property and in the gardens. It lends the hotel an eccentric energy that is hugely refreshing. The work of Keith Haring, Joan Miro, Damien Hirst, Salvador Dali and Anish Kapoor also appear and all the pieces can be tracked on the hotel’s iPad, which provides a handy walking tour.

Do your art research during the day and then impress people that evening with your new-found knowledge at the Dolder’s dungeon bar with its hanging electric candles.

Although most of the art is modern there are pieces dating back to the 18th century. The hotel itself was built in 1899 and renovated by the acclaimed architect Norman Foster between 2004 and 2008 when two new wings were added to the main historic house. It has 175 rooms, a spa (more of that later), two restaurants, e-bikes, its own herb garden, and two golf courses. Oprah Winfrey and Rihanna have stayed here, as have Qatari royalty.

The bright and casual restaurant Saltz continues the art theme, with remarkable touches by artist Rolf Sachs. A real rock the size of a suitcase (below) suspended by ropes and hanging at knee height definitely stops guests in their tracks as they walk back to their breakfast tables with a muffin. Elsewhere, Swiss coins are sewn into the restaurant’s bright red banquettes, while one wall is covered by the country’s famous Mondaine railway clocks.

Gourmet food is a key theme at the Dolder Grand, led by chef Heiko Neider who’s in charge of The Restaurant, which has two Michelin stars. A lively and charismatic chap, Neider told EDGAR, “My food is all about combinations” with venison and dill being one of his most applauded creations.

EDGAR stayed in an ultra modern pad in the Golf Wing with gorgeous views of Lake Zurich. The room was beautifully curved, with the wardrobe and bed moulded together into one piece of furniture. A short stroll down the curved corridor, past some more weird and wonderful sculptures from Takashi Murakami and you’re in the spa that pushes the boundaries. 

You could lie down in the Japanese oval shaped baths filled with heated black crystal chips for example, or brave the -15 degree snow room filled with real snow. Maybe put on headphones and listen to binaural beats as you try the meditation walk that concludes in the spa’s relaxation chamber. The pool has three cylindrical cages that give aqua massages, and there are several hot pools and Jacuzzis on a terrace outside that provide an opportunity to sample the bathing culture Switzerland is famous for. While swimming or exercising, keep track of the time on beautiful, minimalist wall clocks from Junghans.

Zurich my have a reputation for being a little on the dull side with its focus on business, but the Dolder Grand shrugs off that stereotype as it gazes down on the city and gives it a cheeky wink.