Issue 15

Zurich’s Crown Jewel:

The Dolder Grand

Words by Emily McDermott
Snowy Castle: The Dolder Grand

As I headed to what has been acclaimed as one of Europe’s top luxury hotels, the anticipation rose as my train zipped past Lake Constance en route to Zurich. And when a driver picked me up in a pristine Mercedes S class, I knew something majestic was in store. We drove through the winding city streets, eventually making a left-hand turn and climbing higher and higher.


As the city centre grew smaller and Lake Zurich came into aerial view, The Dolder Grand hotel slowly revealed itself. I exited the car and checked in to what can be best described as an elegant, fairy-tale meeting point for open-minded individuals; as a place where old meets new, where long-standing tradition meets contemporary flair.

a wooden piano under a staircase in a modern room

Perched on the Adlisberg, a hill high above Zurich amongst a sprawling forest, The Dolder Grand was constructed between 1897 and 1899 by architect Jacques Gros. Three towers defined the traditionally Alpine structure, with its exposed wooden beams, small turrets and sloped roof. The grand hotel expanded in 1924 and again in 1964, but by 2004 signs of wear were obvious and it was time for a complete overhaul.


Around the same time, renowned architect Norman Foster took a helicopter ride over Zurich on a cloudy day. In the air, as the story goes, he saw a single wooden spire peeking through the fog. Foster allegedly asked, What’s that?, to which a colleague replied: Why, that’s the pinnacle of the hotel you were asked to renovate. Taking this as a literal sign from the sky, Foster agreed to revamp the property.


To reimagine the hotel, which reopened four years later in 2008, Foster painstakingly restored the historic structure from 1899, demolished the later additions and added two expansive wings clad in slatted aluminium façades. From the outside, Foster’s additions simultaneously shimmer among and blend into the surrounding forest, their architectural curves embracing and gently enfolding the historic building, while an arced metal driveway leading up to the main entrance seems to float in sky.



Two pictures of the modern outside of the hotel

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