When I think about a girls’ getaway weekend, Zürich in the middle of February doesn’t immediately come to mind. I live in central Berlin, where midwinter is a chilly monotony of grey skies and overcoats. My energy for work and self care starts to flag. What usually re-energizes me is novelty, or a touch of heat on my skin. To my delight, a weekend stay at the waterfront Alex Lake Hotel Zürich offered me just the reset I had been craving.
The Urban Getaway That’s Still a Secret
What immediately struck me as I entered lobby was the stunning view of Lake Zürich, shimmering in the background. To the right, its crystal blue expanse stretches out the snowy Alps in the distance. To the left, you’ll get a glimpse of downtown Zürich. Directly across, you might catch a boat slicing in front of the frosted hills rising up from Küsnacht. In German this little town means ‘kiss night’. It’s also where analytical psychology giant Carl Jung spent most of his life (in the third yellow house from the right as the hotel concierge helpfully pointed out) I can only imagine the grand awakenings that have taken place along these calm waters for more than a century.
Just 10 minutes by train from downtown Zürich and I felt like I had entered a hushed winter world that invited deep thoughts. The design hotel feels like a secret, nestled in a quiet neighborhood that slopes down to the lake edge. Its low-key street entrance belies the soothing décor and stunning views just inside the front door.
The staff greeted us warmly, whisked away our luggage, and gave us an overview of all the relaxation on offer at the 5-star Alex ‘Winter Edition.’ The afternoon sun was still shining, so my friend and I took our complementary glasses of wine, (a welcome gift) out on the sun deck to enjoy. The hotel has its own vineyard, and it’s worth boasting about. Our pour of white was dry and tangy, and coupled nicely with the little bowl of salted nuts that came with.
Just below us at the hotel dock, we caught view of another hearty guest, fresh from the sauna. He slipped off his robe down to his swimming trunks, took a few deep breaths, and jumped in for a brief dip. We couldn’t help but laugh in delight. He yelled out ‘Now I’m awake! That’s better than five espressos!’
From one view to the next
We had other plans for the evening (a birthday dinner and drinks on the town) so first off to our rooms to get dressed up. Another calming view awaited me. Despite the chilly air, I slid open the glass door to my balcony of my lakefront room for one last long glimpse at the sunset. Then back inside for a few more minutes, where I laid on the chaise lounge to sit and watch the world pass by. Then I put on my ‘getting ready music’ and started to discover the little luxuries that awaited.
For me, luxury is in the details of design that lead to ultimate comfort. When it comes to hotel rooms that means beauty and function. The sheets and pillows were smooth and soft – for what I knew would be an amazing sleep in the hours ahead. The balcony window had automatic floor to ceiling shades that could be lowered for complete darkness and privacy.
The bathroom featured a rainforest shower, terrycloth robes that wicked away moisture, and marble containers with a variety of toiletries for the forgetful traveler. The closet offered storage and hangers galore, along with an ironing station – already there, without request, as I prepared for a night out.
Delicious and Dramatic — Dinner at Restaurant Alex
It started just an elevator ride and a few steps down to the hotel’s own culinary treasure – Restaurant Alex. The host sat us at the corner table of the dining room where we were once again mesmerized by the wraparound view. By now, we looked out onto a night-time panorama of twinkling lights. It’s the perfect setting for an elegant night out, or rekindling some romance (on the weekends around Valentine’s Day the restaurant offers special candelight dinners).
Our waiter proved both knowledgeable and attentive, and after offering us an opening glass of Prosecco, helped us with our choices from the four-course menu described as ‘combining local products with tastes from around the world.’ Everything was delicious. Among us we shared another bottle of wine, the Kingfish starter, spätzle with truffles and bacon, liver ravioli, a Chateaubriand for two carved tableside, and finished with basil ice cream and a white chocolate wafer with espresso.
The Action Around
The next act of our girls’ night out awaited us in downtown Zürich, this time just a 10 min. Über ride away. Should you want to hit the town in a ride with a bit more adventure, inquire with the concierge about taking the Alex Hotel’s own boat. Your driver will whisk you across the lake for a romantic ride, which can include a stop for an aperitif along the way.
After sourcing some tips on Instagram, we decided for cocktails at Kronenhalle. This century-old restaurant features a wood-paneled lounge, barkeeps in white jackets ready to mix up something you’ve never tasted before or old-fashioned favorites. The crowd was also mixed – the single man you know comes here every evening just to the read the newspaper, lovers, friends – people coming to shed off the cold and put some warmth back in their cheeks. We laughed and gossiped, then headed back to the Alex. I’m a Cinderella after all, and the luxury of my king-sized bed awaited.
Waking Up to Life
I chose to keep the balcony shades up as I fell asleep, so that I could wake as the sun rose. This time I enjoyed the changing light from the comfort of bed, only breaking the silence as I made myself a coffee in my room’s kitchen nook, then tucked myself back under the covers to linger awhile longer.
I met my friend for breakfast. It’s my favorite meal, which I hate to leave disappointed but there was no reason to worry with the hearty Swiss spread that greeted us. We chose from a banquet of breads, pastries, fresh cut fruit and veggies, charcuterie, cheeses, juices, jams, eggs made to order, along with more coffee. We bundled into our coats and stepped outside for another sun session. But I wanted, no I needed more heat.
Time for the sauna!
We had booked our time slot with the staff (due to COVID measures they need to track usage) and the concierge helpfully walked us downstairs and unlocked the door. The changing area was appointed with everything we’d need: more robes, slippers, and towels. The wellness area had four different sections – a sauna, a steam room, a saltwater pool with picture window looking out onto the lake, and a relaxation room with lounge chairs.
I headed for the sauna while my friend chose the steam room. The heat seeped into my skin and my mind – melting away my stress. I woke up with a cold shower, then lounged again in the saltwater pool – feeling the newness of my skin. Hours of restoration, a weekend of friendship and wellness — well worth the wait.
Our stay was hard to end. Just the sight of our concierge Michael perked me up. I wish I’d had another day inside this cocoon of relaxation, and one more to explore his tips on how to make the most of our time in Zürich. But my friend had more plans in store to fill up this birthday weekend. The mountains beyond Lake Zürich beckoned. I fully expect that I’ll be back someday to the Alex Hotel Lake Zurich to go deep – alone, or together with someone for a weekend that I’ll cherish.
Michelle Stockman is an American multimedia journalist and creator based in Berlin. Her travels have taken her to Pakistan, India, Vietnam, China and several countries in Europe. If she could cast herself in the film of her life, she’d be played by herself — the silver fox version.