Like many major European cities, Zurich can be experienced through the remaining remnants of its long history, something we were able to do while staying at the Storchen and Widder hotels. The two hotels in Zurich, along with the Castello del Sole resort in Ascona, Switzerland, on the shore of Lake Maggiore, are managed by The Living Circle, which strives to create exceptional experiences for their guests with their hotels, dining and entertainment.
While reminders of the character and history of Zurich are evident throughout the Storchen and the Widder, that character is presented differently at each of the two hotels. This grand and historic hotel underwent major reconstruction in 2017, when half of its rooms received major updating, while the remaining rooms are scheduled for remodeling in 2021.
Although the Storchen boasts numerous restaurants, cafes and bars, there are also many attractions nearby. The property, situated directly on the Limmat River in the historic “Weinplatz” (literally “wine place”), hosts frequent open markets and other pop-up activities, while the historic Old Town area has plenty of cafes and high-end shopping options.
As should be expected at a luxury hotel housed in such an ancient structure, the 66 guestrooms at the Storchen vary widely in size, features and accommodations. They range from a Classic Queen Single to the Two Bedroom Suite, and both offer varying views of the Old Town, the Limmat River, the Weinplatz, Lake Zurich and, in a few instances, both the lake and the river. Although the rooms and views vary, they all feature modern features and facilities such as functional windows, so that guests can enjoy the gentle breezes from the lake.
The restaurants and bars at the stunning Storchen include La Rotisserie (a formal restaurant with a rustic Swiss atmosphere which also serves an excellent breakfast), Barchetta (the lobby bar with adjacent seating area on the Limmat), and the Cigar Bar (a rustic Swiss atmosphere where you can well, smoke cigars). Three other outdoor seasonal spots which are open from April through October include Terrace, offering outdoor dining on the banks of the Limmat, Piazza, featuring delectable dining directly on the Weinplatz, and the rooftop bar The Nest, which has unparalleled views of Lake Zurich, the Limmat and Old Town, complete with dueling clock chimes from the surrounding historic churches.
Wander over to the Widder, an architectural gem which was created by combining nine individual buildings, constructed in the 12th through 19th centuries, into one varying but cohesive structure. The conversion of the nine buildings, originally consisting of businesses, shops and private homes, took ten years of construction under the direction of famed Swiss architect, Tilla Theus. It is obvious that the overall goal of the project was to create beautiful and fun spaces that preserve ancient structures while incorporating modern accents required for construction integrity and livability. It may sound complex, but the building is a true treasure.
The staff of the Widder realize that they are caretakers of an important historic and architectural structure, and they are very accommodating of visitors who want to experience the common areas of this gem. Start in the lobby to get a taste of the beautiful symbiotic relationship between the ancient and the new. Here you will find modern features such as aluminum, steel beams and posts, which are used to support the upper floors and placed between the ancient wooden beams and posts. In order to differentiate between the old and the new, The Living Circle Sales Manager Jonas Schneider explained that “anything that is not original was made distinctively modern.”
This sensitivity for respecting older features while incorporating newer pieces is apparent throughout the Widder. From the modern steel and aluminum elevator, located in a former stone outdoor courtyard, to ancient small windows surrounded by glass and remnants of faded frescoes with modern pencil sketches hinting at the former glory of the now-lost image, the old and the new are both obvious and harmonious. A visitor is met with these wonderful contrasts almost everywhere they look.
As with the Storchen, the 49 guestrooms at the Widder vary greatly and range from Designer Double Rooms to Junior and Lifestyle Suites. There are also some Special Suites (lofts, and two and three bedrooms) including a Family Suite with a separate “bunk room” for the kids. Each resplendent room is individually designed to highlight the old wooden structure with its massive beams while incorporating modern facilities such as combination steam spa showers. For the ultimate experience, check into one of their four rooms which boast private rooftop terraces. The common areas preserve and highlight the ancient, though you will still notice the modern materials and construction techniques. You will definitely notice the upgraded luxuriousness and personalized touch in each of these J.MAK Hospitality properties.
The Widder is also located in the heart of Old Town Zurich, with its many restaurants, bars and shops, though you don’t even have to leave the premises to enjoy fine dining. The Widder offers several in-house dining options including AuGust Restaurant, which is reminiscent of the butcher shop that originally occupied the space, and the Widder Bar and Restaurant, a multi-level space offering a fine dining experience and live piano music every night.
The Widder Bar and Restaurant’s Executive Chef Tino Staub created a concept restaurant incorporating Asian fusion cuisine with a European influence. Aside from being flavorful, this integration keeps with the overall Widder message of combining eras and tastes. Chef Staub also encourages ordering plates to be shared by the table, organized by eight different flavor experiences. You will also find Tino’s favorites, a nightly tasting menu selected by the chef.
Find fantastical and unexpected dining surprises at the Widder, including a changing pop-up restaurant offered during the cold winter months. This winter’s pop-up is the Japanese Shabu Shabu, which held a star-studded grand opening event. The Widder also operates a bar and nightclub called Widder Garage, which is just short walk from the hotel.
The Storchen and the Widder in Zurich, as well as Castello del Sole on Lake Maggiore, are managed by The Living Circle Group. In an effort to provide the “total concept” experience, the group owns and operates farms in order to provide provisions for their restaurants with items including milk, eggs and rice – they are the northernmost arborio rice producer. In addition, their vineyard, which offers tours for guests, also supplies their own estate wines. They even added a small farm which supplies some of their beef.
By staying at either the Storchen or the Widder, you are sure to become immersed in the history of a great European city within walking distance to all the attractions of Zurich.