The 39-room boutique Marktgasse hotel has taken over what was one of Zurich’s oldest inns, dating back to the late 1400s. Occupying a series of three higgledy-piggledy houses (now restored and interconnected) the building looks down on what was once a Medieval market square in the Old Town, just metres from the river.
The property was bought in 2004 by local Swiss entrepreneur Beat Curti, and after a two-year renovation project led by the Ospena Group, it was opened as the Marktgasse hotel in November 2015.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
The Marktgasse has a very cosy, positive vibe to it – it’s like staying in a chic house that offers your own room but also inviting communal areas downstairs to and eat, drink and work in.
It incorporates Scandinavian-style furnishings (from Nordic brand &tradition, Switzerland’s Vitra and Italy’s Cassina and Viabizzuno) into refreshed historic interiors – wood paneling has been painted grey, oak parquet floors laid down, stucco-work revitalised and century-old columns protected. Some rooms facing the street have slanted floors, which adds to the charm.
Access to the hotel is through a street-level entrance and then upstairs or one level up in the lift to reception. Check-in is in a calming lounge with free coffee and jars of tea you can help yourself to, along with bowls of apples, magazines and croissants in the morning.
Staff are chatty, relaxed and welcoming. Everything is pleasantly illuminated, warm and convivial. It doesn’t feel like a typical hotel – I actually felt like I was going to miss it when I checked out. A lot of properties claim to be a home away from home, but this one really achieves it.
WHERE IS IT?
In the heart of Zurich’s Old Town, a minute’s walk from the Limmat River and no more than five minutes on foot to the Bahnhofstrasse, which connects to the station at one end and the lake at the other. It’s a small city so easy to navigate on foot or via Uber, although note that these vehicles can’t always drop off directly outside the hotel. It is a 15-minute drive to the airport.
Entry-level Single rooms measure 15 sqm and have everything a solo traveller could need, except for a bed big enough for two. For that, you have to book a Cosy room or above. Although modest in size, the smallest rooms are well designed, with beds placed in the centre of the room backing on to a headboard that divides off a neat work area with a desk behind.
Instead of a wardrobe there is a rail for clothes, a TV that allows you to stream your own movies to it and a slick bathroom (en suites were added during the renovation project) with black and white tiles and expensive Aesop toiletries.
One of the Junior suites comes with a rooftop terrace, while the standout Marktgasse suite has a small balcony looking out on to the square. (Note that at night it can be very noisy with drunken revellers if you have the window open.) Wifi is free throughout the whole hotel.
There are no minibars but communal fountains for water are found throughout the hotel in the corridors, and carafes are provided in the room for you to fill up. The décor and concept is appealing in its simplicity and lack of ostentation but nothing about it is cheap.
Room service is available 14 hours a day and you can also bring up food ordered at the restaurant or café. Phones are provided if you need to call reception, safes are stowed in a drawer, there is air conditioning, robes and slippers. Suites (measuring 33-40 sqm) also come with Nespresso machines, Geneva sound systems and day beds that are handy for a child or friend who needs to crash. All rooms have supremely comfy Schramm mattresses, twin duvets folded in half (very European) and vintage-style Flos lamps.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS
The Marktgasse’s restaurant, bar and café are excellent, and as popular with locals as they are hotel guests. What helps is Delish Café’s location on the corner of the square, where there is plenty of passing trade drawn in by the sight and smell of trays of cinnamon buns in the window.
Inside is an Ottolenghi-inspired deli counter of organic salads, savoury tarts and gourmet sandwiches. I ate here two mornings, and ordered up “green eggs” with avocado on toast (SFr 14/£11.30) one day and delicious fresh fruit salad with yoghurt and granola.
In the evening I had a cocktail at Baltho Bar, a sultry speakeasy that leads into Baltho restaurant on the lower level. I tried the Baltho Spritz (SFr 14) made with Aperol, vermouth, beet infusion, Cremant de Limoux and soda. It was a great twist on the over-familiar Aperol spritz, and went well with a bowl of thick hummus chips with garlic aioli (best bar snack ever).
After, I went for a bite in the restaurant, which has a varied menu of international dishes spanning bang-bang chicken, tuna tataki, boeuf bourguignon and eggplant curry.
I sampled a filling starter of aubergine baba ganoush with falafel, pomegranate and mint oil (SFr 18/£14.50), followed by the flavourful Panasia Tofu with a miso glaze, coconut milk, sugar snap peas, edamame, sesame, mushrooms and coriander (Sfr 28/£22.60). Staff were cheerful and attentive, popping over to top up water and wine.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES
Being a small hotel, there’s no grand ballroom, but there is a very inviting, light-filled Library with a long communal table for co-working. I set up here for a couple of hours on a peaceful Sunday morning and did some work (there is free wifi and a few of plug sockets for laptop charging).
There is also a smaller anteroom attached with a collection of art books dedicated to the Dada movement (born in Zurich), a table and a couch. Both venues can be hired for private functions. The Delish Café will provide catering, there is a huge flatscreen TV for presentations and video-conferences, and seating for 14 delegates board-room style.
There is no spa, gym or pool on-site but Zurich is a great city for running (and swimming in the lake during summer). What’s more, hotel guests are given free access to the impressive Fitnesspark Hamam Munstergasse around the corner. I went here one Saturday morning and found an expansive, well-equipped gym, and a superb Turkish-style sauna and steam complex. It was all very clean and luxurious. Highly recommended. Just ask at reception for a wristband to gain entry.
I would also recommend taking a taxi to the Thermalbad and Spa, a short drive away. It’s an old brewery turned bathhouse with a maze of thermal pools both in the vaults and on the roof, as well as treatment rooms for massages. (You will need to pay to get in.)
A fantastic boutique hotel with a homely, relaxed feel. It is well located in the old town, has excellent venues to eat and drink, and will be popular among independent (possibly younger) business travellers, freelancers and entrepreneurs.
HOW MANY ROOMS? There are 39 rooms across six categories – Single, Cosy, Generous, Junior suite and Marktgasse suite.
HIGHLIGHTS Simple Scandi interior design, Aesop bathing amenities, healthy food and old town location.
PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in April started from SFr 285 (£230) for a Cosy room.
CONTACT Marktgasse hotel, 17 Martgasse, Zurich; tel 0041 44 266 1010; marktgassehotel.ch/en/