What’s it like?
This bizarrely-named hotel is part of the Swiss Giardino group which also has hotels in Ascona, Lake Maggiore and Champfer. Owned by a Qatar Investment Group it is also a member of Design Hotels.
Dating from 1970, the original Hotel Atlantis was designed by architects Hans and Annemarie Hubacher and Peter Issler in the late 1960s and opened in 1970 and was latterly known as the Hotel Atlantis Sheraton. The hotel shut in the early 2000s and then found other uses including as a refugee centre. It was extensively renovated by Monoplan, reopening at the end of 2015 to incorporate the latest technology into the existing structure. New details enhance rather than soften the original starkness of the design, such a reverse printing technique on the façade to emulate the original structure’s aggregate concrete front. The low-rise, four storey building is built in a three-winged Y-shape to take advantage of its sloping position at the bottom of Zurich’s Uetliberg mountain for both views and to catch the sun. As you pull up the steep, curved drive to the entrance, the curved white front has a feel of Miami rather than Switzerland, although when we arrived after a delayed Easyjet flight around midnight, we did wonder where we had booked since the hotel is in a residential area and overlooks a hospital. Even at that time the welcome was genuine and we were taken to our room by one of the two receptionists / night managers on duty.
The next morning we could see more of the design. London-based hospitality design firm Gallery HBA has completely reimagined the hotel but with respect for the way it once was, using historical photographs, so wherever wood and marble was formerly used, the same materials were replicated. The centerpiece of the building is the original spiral staircase, constructed of polished concrete, restored to its imposing glory. Most of the new furnishings are bespoke designs by HBA, manufactured by Molteni in Italy, including the reception desk carved from walnut wood and sitting on a bronze-coloured copper base. Some items reflect the style of the late 60s, early 70s and seem to take you back to Miami, others have art deco touches, while various other objects seem to be a quirk such as the brass lion guarding the front entrance.
Where is it?
In Friesenberg, 10 miles from Zurich Airport and about 3 miles from the centre of Zurich. The rail and tram stations of Triemli are a five minute walk away (around 20 minutes to the city centre) and the hotel has a free shuttle service running every 30 minutes to the main shopping street of Bahnhofstrasse.
As part of the refurbishment the room count has been reduced from 149 to 95, although eight of these are rooms contained within the top floor (4th) Penthouse Suite which is the biggest hotel suite in Europe. This is completely different from the rest of the hotel. You can see by how much by looking at this website for The Royal Residence.
In the rest of the hotel’s rooms, Italian manufacturer Molteni has custom-made the furnishings and sourced furnishings and the fabrics from manufacturers like Pierre Frey, Altfield and Zimmer + Rohde. Although tones are muted, richness is added through texture and detail – walls softened with fabric and suede; desks, tables and cabinets with art-deco style curves, trimmed in antique brass; dark wood doors with contrasting fabric panels; floor to ceiling marble in the bathrooms chosen for its striking stripes.
Rooms facing the back of the hotel look out onto the forested foothills of the Üetliberg mountains, and those at the front enjoy panoramic views across the city of Zurich. Room rates include breakfast buffet, a complimentary alcohol-free minibar, free wifi, free shuttle service hotel-city-hotel, flat-screen television and media hub, bathroom with bathtub and shower, Dipiù Spa body care products, bathrobes and slippers, free daily newspaper, Nespresso coffee machine and Wellmondo tea service.
Entry level Classic rooms are 30-34m2. The majority of the Generous rooms (34-38m2) have wood-panelled, glass fronted balconies with cushioned seating, as do Luxe rooms (37-41m2). Junior suites (44m2) include a living/study/dressing area, with a sofa and coffee table, and generous-sized desk with USB points and international power sockets.
Food and drink
The hotel has a fine-dining Michelin starred restaurant for its Ecco restaurant (Two-Michelin-starred chef Rolf Fliegauf from Ascona and former sous-chef Stefan Heilemann). This also has a private dining room and is open Wednesday to Sunday evenings (and Sunday lunch). The main restaurant where breakfast is served is Hide & Seek, a large, glass-fronted space, again more suggestive of West-Coast America than Europe, with panoramic views overlooking the city of Zurich. The white marble floor reflects the light streaming in from the windows, contrasted with black marble-topped tables, black bookcases, and sage-green velvet banquettes and upholstered chairs. Central pillars in white polished concrete are caste to look like bookshelves housing the spines of books.
Next to the restaurant, the centerpiece of the stylish bar is a wall made of brass safety deposit boxes, a nod to Zurich’s financial history. High-backed chairs from the original hotel have been reupholstered in blue fake fur. A room off the bar leads to the Cigar Lounge.
There are three main meeting rooms: Tide, which is a boardroom meeting space (accommodating between 8 and 22 people) which can be divided into two (then called Low Tide and High Tide and with floor to ceiling windows; Drift: a meeting & banqueting room accommodating up to 40 people and Wave, the main event hall holding up 200 people, with a large terrace area with great views.
There is a 25-metre outdoor pool, flanked on one side by a geometric water feature, and on the other by large natural flat rocks, placed by the poolside for sunbathing. The loungers and curtained day beds on the decked area are shaded by trees as well as umbrellas, and have views of the mountain forests beyond, and a soundtrack of tinkling goat-bells from a nearby farm. In summer there is the Ocean Bar which serves lunch. Inside, the indoor pool in the spa is perfect for bad weather days. There is a small gym in the basement in what looks like it was once a bank vault, but a better option is to take your exercise outdoors. Paths behind the hotel lead to trails that criss-cross the mountain slopes, popular with runners, Nordic walkers and mountain bikers (bikes are free to borrow from reception). The Dipiù spa (di piu is Italian for more) would not be out of place in a wellness resort, with an extensive Ayurvedic treatment menu, bespoke Dipiu treatments, plus a selection of Aveda massages. You can book one-on-one personal training, Pilates or yoga sessions.
A good choice if you want to combine business in Zurich with some quality downtime – although a short tram ride from the city centre, the hotel has the restorative vibe of a mountain retreat. It’s also a welcome antidote to corporate blandness – this is a hotel with a unique history that remains reflected in the quirkiness of its design.
Atlantis by Giardino, Döltschiweg 234 8055 Zürich, Switzerland +41 (0)44 456 55 55