The moment one steps off the plane in Zürich, one wants to be pressed and ready; as in swap the leggings and hoodie for a cashmere coat and Birkin bag. For the residents here, runway-worthy personal style seems to come from drinking the local spring water; and where fashion is concerned, no other destination in the city wears it better than the Widder Hotel.
At the Widder, running into the entire design team behind Apple at the courtyard bar, feels like a distinct possibility; as much so as bumping into J.Crew’s Jenna Lyons, while riding up the hotel’s glass elevator does. Basically, if there was a certified international list of “World’s Most Creative People,” (which would read a little like Forbes’s “World Most Innovative Companies” list, with the addition of artists), the Widder would be their “official” hotel.
Anything but typical, this hotel is where we suggest friends, couples and families retreat to when the sound of “Frosty the Snowman” begins to sound like nails against a chalkboard. In other words, The Widder is where the cool kids go to spend the holiday season.
Located in District 1’s Old Town—or as locals refer to it in German, Altstadt—this 5-star hotel sits amongst Zurich’s most beautiful architecture, dating back to the Middle Ages. Itself a restored historic relic or more, a roof for restored historic relics, the Widder is an architectural wonder; an artful amalgamation of winding townhouses that spares guests nothing of the beauty of the area’s old Roman roads, nor the unearthed treasures within the preserved homes, ranging from ancient murals to stunning mosaics.
In the 42 rooms available at the Widder, history is laid bare and displayed seamlessly alongside Jetson-style modern technology courtesy of Bang & Oulfsen, sleek designer furniture of the Frank Lloyd Wright variety and enough objects d’art to fill a small gallery in Chelsea. No two rooms are identical here, the lineage of each of the individual structures comprising the hotel, doesn’t allow for it.
Holiday travellers will be happy to reap the benefits of the hotel’s December offerings, which includes their X-Mas XX: deal, a package that sees guests upgraded one room grade without charge from the 12th to the 28th. And since this be the season of giving, there’s more to the offerings in this package, including a five-course dinner at the Widder Restaurant.
Art lovers will particularly feel at home in the suites of the Widder, where guests can expect to enjoy the sight of ancient stone walls and Medieval ceiling beans, providing the backdrop to paintings by artists including greats, such as the late Serge Poliakoff, an abstract painter of the ‘New’ Ecole de Paris movement (think back to your last visit to the Guggenheim Museum if you don’t recall him), and experimental mix-medium artist, Robert Rauschenberg (the man who, alongside Jasper Johns; became the most influential artist to react against the Abstract Expressionism of the ‘50s). The latter artist, in fact, created an original work of art for the hotel’s penthouse, as a friend and former guest of the hotel. Like we said, this is the unofficial hotel of the world’s most creative people. What other hotel features an original Andy Warhol on their walls, depicting their own namesake? In the Widder’s case, this is the ram, in honour of the Guild of the Ram—the society of butchers—who owned the corner house of the property back in 1401.
This cross-section of time is part of the unique harmony struck by the hotel’s architect and creative genius, Tilla Theus, the woman behind world renowned structures, including Zürich’s own distinctive FIFA Headquarters. Devoted to preserving the singular personality of each of the humble homes she restored to build the Widder Hotel, guests can say thanks to Theus themselves, by taking off their hats and looking up to the corner of the hotel’s exterior, where her image and creative savvy is honoured by way of a small painting of a sharp looking bespeckled cat, pictured wearing the architect’s own iconic frames.
Come Christmas Eve, grab a hot cup of coco made with Swiss chocolate at one of the near by cafés, and then make your way over to Lindenhof hill, a public square where breathtaking city views can be enjoyed on a park bench, followed by a game of chess, played with life size pieces. Tip: Don’t let the comical height of the King and his pawns deceive you, chess at Lindenhof is no joke; the pipe-smoking gentleman presiding over the games here, take their matches seriously.
On Christmas, a short walk over to St. Peter’s Church—the oldest parish church in the city, with foundations dating back to the 9th century—will take you to the site of the clock tower that had you in awe the day before, soaking in the view from Lindenhof hill.
Or, should your vacation bring you to the city during the days leading up to the New Year, spend New Year’s Eve at the hotel’s Widder Bar, a jazz hotspot in the city and preferred hangout of hip professionals—the type to set trends rather than follow them. The next day, ring in 2015 with breakfast in the hotel’s sunny glass-roofed pavilion (the traditional potato röstis is a must try, and comes served with melted Swiss cheese and finely diced tomato on top), followed by a jaunt across the beautiful Munster Bridge to Café Odeon for a coffee…and perhaps a morning eye opener, depending on what your midnight was like. Whatever your choice of drink ends up being, you’ll want to put on your sunglasses and wrap tight your scarf; the café’s sidewalk tables are the best seat “in” the house. Here, you can people watch and soak in views of the Limmat River, enjoyed by the likes of James Joyce, Freud and Picasso during their time.
Break with the expected this year, and spend the holidays visiting one of Europe’s oldest cities, while staying at a historic property that houses sights enough to trump the most beautiful of Christmas lights, culinary delicacies that please the palate far more than Grandma’s fruitcake and 5-star comforts that beat any gift that would fit under the tree. This December, forget the reindeer, follow the ram to Zürich’s Widder Hotel.