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Prior to train-hopping through the Swiss Alps, TPG Contributor Joel Ward spent some time in Zurich, Switzerland, with a stay at the Renaissance Zurich Tower Hotel. In one of the most expensive cities in the world, this excellent business hotel is a bit out of the standard tourist zone, but that gives it several advantages. Read on to see whether it’s a good choice for your visit to the land of clocks and chocolate. (All photos by the author.)
In the midst of traveling through Europe by bike, plane, train and ship, I paused for a few days in Zurich to catch my breath and see some of the sights shared in Destination of the Week: Zurich. Ideally, I wanted a place with plenty of room, a fitness center to get a bit of much-needed exercise and some decent Wi-Fi. When traveling for business, I’ve always enjoyed Marriott’s Renaissance brand, so the Renaissance Zurich Tower Hotel seemed to fit the bill.
Built in 2011, the Renaissance Zurich Tower is in trendy Zurich West and caters largely to business travelers, with close proximity to industrial parks and various corporate headquarters. During my three-night stay, there were a handful of business gatherings in the hotel, but it never felt overrun by any particular group.
The Renaissance Zurich is a Category 7 property, which requires 35,000 Marriott Rewards points per night. Weekend rates start as low as $154 per night in the off season and about $200 during high season. For a high-end hotel like this in the sky-high market of Zurich, that’s quite a bargain.
I booked my three-night stay through the Marriott Rewards site using 105,000 Marriott Rewards points. A few days were blacked out on the hotel’s award calendar, but none of them affected my particular dates.
Arrival and Check-in
I was fooled by maps that made it look like the hotel was near the Zurich HB central train station, but the unexpectedly long walk was actually a bonus, as it gave me a great feel for the funky Zurich West neighborhood. Though it’s not in the thick of the old city tourist zone, Zurich West is a great location in its own right, boasting a multicultural assortment of restaurants, art galleries and clubs — all mixed in with the industrial park neighborhood.
Tucked behind Prime Tower, Zurich’s largest building, was the much more beige and nondescript Renaissance Zurich Tower Hotel. A small but attractively decorated lobby lay hidden within its bland wrapper.
The check-in process was quick and simple. As a handful of guests arrived behind me, the desk staff instantly signaled for assistance to keep the wait time short. That level of attentiveness was a common theme with the staff and the management team; throughout the visit, they were exceptionally accommodating and eager to help.
The “Renaissance Navigator,” (a.k.a. concierge) offered a selection of arrival beverages, including sparkling wine and a glass of ice water flavored with hints of mint and orange. The staff then took time to share information about the city, including the convenient tram system that put the key attractions less than 15 minutes away, and up-to-the minute details about a Latin music festival that was underway (which turned out to be a fantastic tip).
Immediately upon entering the room, two things stood out:
First, there was some chocolate waiting for me. This may be a common practice in Switzerland, but for me, it certainly made for a sweet welcome.
Second, the room was huge. It honestly felt like the largest single hotel room I’ve ever been in — especially in Europe. For a hotel catering largely to business travelers, the size of the room was a bit unusual. With faux-wood floors and sparsely decorated walls, it was a bit disconcertingly empty.
While the location doesn’t specifically cater to families, there’s plenty of room to position a cot or two so you won’t have to climb over each other in the middle of the night to use the toilet.
The desk was moderately spacious and, more importantly, clear of a lot of the paraphernalia that tends to plague hotel room desks. It provided more than enough outlets and connections for the electronics store that travels with me.
Standard inclusions — room safe, ironing board and iron — were in the large closets. The mini-bar was stocked with a few key items, leaving plenty of space for my own stash of refreshments.
Complimentary bottled water comes in still and sparkling varieties, both in glass bottles. Considering how the average jet-lagged traveler flails about at 4am looking for water, offering only glass bottles was a very trusting gesture.
The bed was large, soft and comfortable with enough extraneous pillows for the kids to build a decent-sized fort. This was a welcome relief from the “bricks with pillows” that often pass for beds in European hotels.
Another feature that could appeal to traveling couples and families is the very large bathroom, with dual sinks and mirrors, and a separate shower and toilet. Morning prep for two would be no problem, and technically, four people could be getting ready at one time.
The city view rooms do indeed overlook the city through large panoramic windows, although the views aren’t going to be Instagram classics; this part of Zurich is better known for modern office buildings than historic architecture.
Hotel Dining and Amenities
The hotel has only one restaurant, Equinox, which is fairly small. They do a lot of great work in the space they have, though, because the food offered here (and in the Executive Lounge) was very good. Equinox offers primarily grilled steaks, meats and burgers with a selection of several different cuts and a long list of sauces and sides to partner with the meat.
The only meal I ate here was the morning buffet, which was well above average for this level of hotel. I’ve seen larger breakfast buffets, but not many with as much selection. Along with the standard variety of cereals, yogurt, beverages and hot food, there was a glorious array of 27 different breads and pastries, along with meats, cheeses and fresh fruit. Although the buffet doesn’t have personal touches like an omelet bar, there’s an option to order an American breakfast.
The gym has more than enough equipment for the few people who were using it during my stay. All of it was exceptionally clean and well maintained, with a full stock of towels and water. There’s no spa, though a sauna and steam bath are part of the fitness center.
The Executive Lounge was large, with attractive and comfortable decor. During my stay, the breakfast offerings were nearly as extensive as those in the main restaurant; however, only a few other guests took advantage of it. More popular was the evening selection of beverages and appetizers, which had some exceptional sweet and savory options.
The lounge includes a small business center with desktop computers and an adjacent conference room. Also for the business crowd, the hotel provides ten event and meeting spaces that seemed to be used regularly.
Lucid, the lobby bar, was small, attractive and expensive, but no pricier than the rest of Zurich. An outdoor patio for evening cocktails is a nice inclusion … or would have been if not for the extreme heatwave during my stay.
With top-notch staff, impeccably maintained rooms and some beautiful interior design, this is a comfortable, spacious and affordable location in Zurich for business or leisure travelers looking to get away from the tourist hub.
Fitting the rest of the theme here, the amenities of the hotel are minimal, but well executed. This hotel does not offer much to keep children entertained, unless they’re satisfied with the aforementioned pillow forts.
While the location and feel won’t give you a deeply European cultural experience, it’s a great option I would gladly choose on a return visit. The Zurich West neighborhood provides a nice counter to the historic city districts; however, if you’re looking for romance or a family getaway, set your sights on the Altstadt area of the city instead.
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