Tried & Tested

Hotel check: Intercontinental Geneve

27 Nov 2006 by business traveller

What's it like? The five-star Intercontinental Geneve opened in 1964, and was one of the earliest of the group's hotels to open in Europe (Frankfurt was the first, in 1963). With the United Nations based 10 minutes away, the hotel receives a constant stream of VIP guests, including over 400 heads of state, Kofi Annan, tennis player Roger Federer, and Sophia Loren. While I was there, Stephen Hawking was in the bar. The hotel has just undergone a £14 million refurbishment of the exterior and public areas, with design by Tony Chi. The entrance is framed by giant bamboo and the lobby area is now a beautifully designed space (where previously there was a shopping arcade) with an eye-catching sculpture that draws you towards the reception desk. There are no signs, which Chi believes makes it feel too formal and are a constant reminder that you're in a hotel. There are huge limestone columns and grand staircases, and a two-storey limestone fireplace in the bar.

Where is it? Most of the international hotels in Geneva are situated on the lakeside, but the Intercontinental Geneve is located close to the United Nations and 10 minutes' drive from both the airport and the city centre.

How many rooms? 328, including 102 suites (with lakeside views) over 15 floors.

Room facilities All rooms have the same facilities and traditional decor; they differ only in size. The last major renovation of the rooms was 10 years ago and it shows: the contrast between the style of the guestrooms and the newly revamped public spaces is noticeable. My room felt quite dim, and there are TV sets rather than modern flat-screens. All of this will change, however, as in 2007 the rest of the hotel will be treated to the "Chi" effect, a process that is expected to take around two years to complete. I saw a sample of the new room design, which is contemporary, in neutral creams and browns, and directional lighting. There are superb updated bathrooms – a huge contrast to the old interior. There isn't a Club Intercontinental floor at the moment, but this could be a consideration when the redesign begins next year.

Currently all rooms have wired internet access and keyboards for access via the TV. Interestingly, the new rooms will not have wifi – apparently the Intercontinental Group has decided it is not secure enough and so will not be installing wireless in any of its hotel rooms in the future worldwide – wifi will only be available in public areas.

Restaurants and bars The hotel used to have three restaurants but now has one, called Woods. As you enter, you pass a sculpture – a huge wooden table made of tree trunks, carved and smoothed into a half ball with a large flat top. Woods serves gourmet modern food and wine by the glass – a Swiss wine worth a try is the Chasselas de Peissy from local vineyard Les Perriers (which can be visited through the hotel's "In the Know" package, a scheme that aims to give guests a chance to get acquainted with Geneva, which also involves a trip to a chocolate factory). The restaurant is large and airy, and decorated with wooden features on the wall. I chose seafood for most of my meals, although the veal with home-made crisps, and the steak were also exquisite. The desserts were particularly impressive; the restaurant has a dedicated patisserie chef. There is an option to eat on the terrace. Breakfast is served here, and it was the largest spread I have ever seen, and the best hotel breakfast I have had, with yoghurt and fruit, freshly squeezed juices served in test tube-like vases, and a huge range of breads, cereals, cheeses, hams, salmon and pastries. There is also the option of a cooked breakfast, and omelettes made to order. The buffet breakfast costs CHF39 (£16.37).

There are two bars. Bar des Nations is the lobby bar and has separate seating and a bar area, with a high wooden table where people can sit alongside each other and work or dine privately. The O'Bar is on the mezzanine floor overlooking the lobby and has leather seats and high bar stools. There is a live jazz singer on certain nights. Opposite the O'Bar is the Mezo café, a stylish breakout area for conference guests.

Business and meeting facilities There is wifi in all public areas (you first have to buy a card from reception). The 24-hour business centre, on the ground floor by the lifts, has five computers, each with a printer. The centre is staffed between 1000 and 1800, but outside these hours the concierge can help with most requests.

The conference facilities on the first floor are extensive and all recently refurbished. There are 16 meeting rooms, all but two of which have natural daylight. The biggest can take 84 people theatre-style, 54 classroom-style, and 30 boardroom-style. The rooms are all equipped with screens and integrated speakers and have some quirky details such as sheepskin panels on the cupboards. The ballroom is a huge 752sqm and can hold 450 people classroom-style and 600 theatre-style. The space is divided using embroidered silk screens, and the huge silver-plated doors were designed for the hotel by Paris-based silverware specialist Christofle.

Health and fitness facilities The new Clarins Institute & Day Spa is a beautiful addition to the hotel. Based on the second floor, the spa and gym cover 220sqm and include a hamman and a dry steam room as well as a relaxation area and separate changing rooms.

The Clarins Institute & Day Spa is managed separately from the hotel and has six treatment rooms (one for couples) and a balneotherapy suite (a therapeutic medicinal bath). The spa attracts local business as well as guests in the hotel. The rooms are large and airy with views over the mountains. The ceilings are painted to resemble the sky, and they change colour from pink sunsets to bright white fluffy clouds. The signature treatment is the anti-jet lag treatment. The spa is open 0900 –2100 but the gym is open 24 hours – you just have to insert your room card to access the area. There is an outdoor swimming pool open from May to September.

Prices CHF341 (£145) for a standard room and CHF167 (£392) for a deluxe room.

Verdict The hotel has never had a problem with occupancy, being the unofficial place to stay for visiting delegates and celebrities, but this redesign has kept it right up to date. The meeting and conference facilities are extensive and the spa is a great asset. The food was superb and staff very helpful.

Contact Intercontinental Geneve, 7-9 Chemin Du Petit Saconnex, Geneva, 1211 Switzerland, tel +41 22 919 3939, ichotelsgroup.com.

Felicity Cousins

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