Platinum List 2019: Best City Hotels
Bar au Lac, The Line, The Middle House, The Peninsula, Ritz
These establishments consistently provide five-star excellence in the world’s great cities.
According to owner Andrea Kracht, “The Baur au Lac has always been modern.” Kracht represents the sixth generation of the family that opened the opulent landmark in 1844, in a private park on the banks of Lake Zurich. It was one of the first hotels with a telegraph office, as well as running water in each room.
Today, no property in Zurich better embodies the spirit of the city. Historic but modern, palatial but not ostentatious, it’s the epitome of understated luxury.
Beyond the lobby’s antique tapestries and wooden panels lies Le Hall, an all-day lounge that over the generations has hosted luminaries from Alfred Nobel—who had early discussions about his Peace Prize here—to artist Marc Chagall. Complementing an art deco glass dome and Empire-style chandelier are such works as a vibrant painting of watermelons by Colombian master Fernando Botero. This free juxtaposition of styles is also apparent in the 119 rooms and suites, which offer city, canal or lake views. Designer Frédéric d’Haufayt has created a sumptuous ambience by mixing different periods, from art deco and French Louis XVI to English Regency, with contemporary paintings and photography adorning the walls.
Art is a significant presence at the Baur au Lac, so much so that it’s become part of the hotel’s DNA. Andrea’s wife, Gigi, a passionate collector and connoisseur, is credited with bringing modern art to the property through her friendships with such figures as Botero and Jeff Koons. A member of the International Director’s Council for the Guggenheim, she organizes the hotel’s annual outdoor exhibition, Art in the Park, which acts as a prelude
to Art Basel in June. This year’s show—the 17th—featured sculptures by Eduardo Chillida and paintings by Louise Bourgeois and Rita Ackermann.
The parkland in which the Baur au Lac sits adds to its special allure. A lush landscape with spectacular views of the lake and Alps, it is populated by magnificent ginkgo and redwood trees, as well as an 82-foot fir that is festooned with 70,000 lights each November to become the city’s tallest Christmas tree. The hotel also harvests 240 kilograms of honey annually from four colonies of 80,000 bees that reside in a posh aluminum hive shaped like the hotel, surrounded by plane trees. Situated directly on the garden, the outdoor restaurant Terrasse is popular among residents and visitors who enjoy a bistro menu of salads, grilled fish and meat, including the popular Wagyu beef burger.
The hotel’s premier restaurant is the two-Michelin-starred Pavillon, helmed by chef Laurent Eperon. Occupying a glass rotunda designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon, featuring vintage Lalique chandeliers and large floral arrangements, the restaurant offers a nine-course menu that includes exotic and seasonal ingredients such as Austrian venison and sweetbreads with chanterelles. But even a simple dish of Swiss veal and rösti is taken to another level, with tender filet mignon and crunchy Bintje potatoes. In September, the new restaurant Baur’s, a casual but stylish brasserie, is opening, combining classic Swiss fare with lighter dishes.
A sense of family has always been paramount at the Baur au Lac, even among the staff. Chief concierge Jérémie Varry has worked at the hotel for decades. “I moved to Zurich from Paris in 1998 and never looked back,” he says. This feeling is echoed among the property’s clients: Sixty percent are regulars, and some have been visiting for generations. Among the hotel’s amenities are two automotive innovations begun in 1905: a fleet of cars for guests’ use—including a bespoke Rolls-Royce Phantom with additional luggage space—and a garage that provides repairs, tire replacements and an EV charging station.
“Legacy is important but nobody wants to stay in a dusty museum,” says general manager Wilhelm Luxem. “The Baur au Lac is a place of encounter in a modern context. It’s a fine balance.”
Washington, D.C., United States
Line occupies a massive ionic-columned 110-year-old former church in Adams Morgan, one of the city’s only 24-hour neighborhoods. Situated two miles from downtown D.C., the hotel features three restaurants, including A Rake’s Progress, helmed by James Beard winner Spike Gjerde, whose decor includes a chandelier converted from an old pipe organ (below), and the mutliculturally inclined Brothers and Sisters. Art and design surprises are everywhere throughout the 220-room property, which also has a radio station broadcasting live from the lobby.
Designed by architects Lissoni Associati and Wong & Ouyang, with interiors by the renowned Piero Lissoni—think a minimalist Italian aesthetic with Shanghainese touches—The Middle House offers 111 rooms and 102 residences that range from a 538-square-foot studio to a 7,104-square-foot penthouse. Dining options include Café Gray Deluxe, by New York chef Gray Kunz, featuring international dishes, the regional-Italian Frasca and Sui Tang Li, with a menu spanning Cantonese, Szechuan and Shanghainese. Offering myriad treatments and products through its Mi Xun Spa, the hotel is located in Dazhongli, a historic neighborhood in Shanghai.
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Opened in 2001, The Peninsula Chicago is designed in shades of off-white, with French-blue accents, hints of gleaming dark wood, and cream upholstery. Situated on the Magnificent Mile, the property has four dining options, including the Europe-centric Pierrot Gourmet and The Lobby restaurant with soaring ceilings and contemporary American fare. The 19th and 20th floors are dedicated to a spa, pool and fitness center with floor-to-ceiling windows.
Offering a heady array of rooms and prestige suites hung with significant works of art and appointed with period furniture, the Ritz Paris is at once old-world and overtly opulent. Dining possibilities abound, from the airy alfresco alcoves of the Grand Jardin to the Belle Époque glass-canopied Bar Vendôme with its brasserie bites and deftly mixed cocktails. The hotel also houses the storied, clubby, leather-and-wood-bedecked Bar Hemingway, as well as the affiliated École Ritz Escoffier, where aspiring and advanced chefs can hone their skills.