Switzerland: The World Is Watching

Swiss Hospitality You Can Bank On What makes Switzerland tick? Its inner workings include global leadership in world banking, watchmaking, the biomedical industry, and philanthropy. However, its culture and people are instrumental in keeping this wonderful machine running. Geneva is home to the United Nations, the Red Cross and its impressive museum, and numerous global […]

Switzerland: The World Is Watching
September 29, 2014

Swiss Hospitality You Can Bank On

What makes Switzerland tick? Its inner workings include global leadership in world banking, watchmaking, the biomedical industry, and philanthropy. However, its culture and people are instrumental in keeping this wonderful machine running.

Geneva is home to the United Nations, the Red Cross and its impressive museum, and numerous global banking companies. Basel is noted for its reputation as a world arts center, with its reach extending to its eponymous festivals in Miami and Hong Kong. Zurich seamlessly reconciles history and modernity, from its grand cultural institutions to “Zurich West,” an ideal model for urban renewal and gentrification. Montreux and Lausanne offer “Riviera-style” living at its finest, with a sublime blend of architecture, gastronomy, and live entertainment, prompting celebrities and business tycoons to stake a permanent claim on Swiss soil.

A savvy executive can never go wrong with cities on the British Isles or the European continent when planning conferences, meetings, retreats, and vacation. That said, Switzerland packs an awful lot of glamour and inspiration into a tidy package.

Whether you prefer the grand hotel ambiance of “Old Europe” or modern lifestyle-driven chic, you can book a business or vacation stay with confidence knowing the service and attention to detail is as reliable, efficient, and beautiful as your favorite Rolex or Patek Philippe.

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Hotel Zum Storchen, built in the 14th centry, in the heart of Zurich
Photos: Elyse Glickman

Zurich

Beyond its spectacular ”Old Town” location alongside the River Limmat and proximity to elite shopping and restaurants, Zurich’s Hotel Zum Storchen (storchen.ch) has a track record of hospitality dating back 650 years. Concierge Gennaro Archidiacono and associates Ishaq Gardizy and Salvatore Pappalardo maintain the hotel’s stellar reputation for personal service in helping guests organize restaurant and museum visits, among other activities. In contrast, the 25h Hotel (25hours-hotels.com/en/zurich-west) in the hopping cultural corridor of Zurich West near the architecturally impressive Im Viadukt shopping street, boasts innovative food and cocktails at its Neni restaurant, snazzy modern suites, and Freiraum + Kitchenclub, one of the area’s most innovative and flexible meeting spaces.

Although Hiltl, the West’s oldest vegetarian restaurant, dates to 1898, there’s nothing stodgy about the current flagship location. A three-story open concept kitchen staffed by dozens of chefs from around the world proffers an endless buffet of global dishes. Discerning diners, meanwhile, can select from an elegant menu. Either way, everything is so delicious, nobody will notice meat is missing.  While Hiltl is perfect for an afternoon business gathering (owner Rolf Hiltl recommends coming in between 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to avoid rush crowds), it is also known for its outside catering services. For more info, contact [email protected] or visit hiltl.ch.

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The dining room within the Hotel Zum Storchen

Basel

Perched on the Rhine, not far from German and French borders, Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois (lestroisrois.com) redefines “centrally located,” especially with its Gault Millau-acclaimed Brasserie and conversation-starting, amenity-filled conference and meeting spaces steeped in history. While noteworthy guests such as Napoleon, Elizabeth II, Pablo Picasso, Thomas Mann, and Theodore Herzl found their stays at the hotel inspirational, you will too  The modern Hotel Hilton Basel (hilton.ch/basel) is simple, sleek, comfortable, and close to the city’s central train station and main public transportation hub. As with other Hiltons, the concierge and business services are impeccably executed.

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The town of Basel as seen from across the Rhine, lies on the borders of France, Germany, and Switzerland, and is Switzerland’s third most populous city

Lausanne & Montreux

For those who insist on the best, there’s nothing better than the internationally acclaimed Beau-Rivage Palace in Lausanne (brp.ch/en/home.html), enhanced with renowned chef Anne-Sophie Pic’s culinary presence. While frequent European travelers know Mövenpick for its divine ice cream and sorbets, you may be surprised to discover Mövenpick Hotel’s Lausanne location (moevenpick-lausanne.com) offers the business traveler an appetizing option for lodging and conferences as well as a stunning Alps view along the Lake Léman coastline and proximity to its principal Metro train line.

Montreux’s Grand Hôtel Suisse-Majestic (suisse-majestic.com) is not just in the center of the cultural action during festival days, but also boasts the best of the old and new in its private rooms and public areas. The elegant 1870 Belle Epoque structure by Eugène Jost received an extraordinary renovation in 2010 that doesn’t compromise what made it a destination for tastemakers a century ago.

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Built in 1870 and entirely renovated, the Gran Hotel Suisse Majestic sits along the shores of Lake Geneva

Geneva

In Geneva, the streets are not only paved with gold, but numerous luxury properties.  Neighboring five-star hotels Hotel Beau-Rivage and Hotel Le Richemond, however, nicely represent how Geneva has and continues to influence the standards of European hospitality. While Hotel Beau-Rivage maintains a quiet, dignified elegance established in 1865, Michelin Star restaurant Le Chat Botte, Hotel Le Richemond dazzles with its modern décor, expressive use of the space dating to 1875, and a who’s-who guest list that includes Charlie Chaplin, Louis Armstrong, Sophie Loren, Rita Hayworth, and Marc Chagall.

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Lake Geneva, as seen from the Savoy Dinner Cruise

The Art of Fine Living and Thinking

If you’re headed to Basel or Zurich, you owe it to yourself to allocate at least one day to discover some of the world-class art museums housing many examples of the most recognizable paintings and sculptures from the past 1,000 years as well as remarkable installations from contemporary artists.  If you have time for only one museum in Zurich, make it the Kunsthaus Zurich, filled to the rafters with outstanding examples of works from the golden age of Dutch painting, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists, and pieces from 1945 forward.

The Kunstmuseum Basel features paintings and drawings from Upper Rhine artists from the 14th-16th centuries and art of the 19th and 20th centuries. The Beyeler Foundation is worth the trek by bus or car just outside the city limits, not just for its temporary exhibitions and permanent collection but also the grounds and building in which they are showcased. Basel is also awash in impressive avant-garde museum architecture by renowned architects such as Renzo Piano, Zaha Hadid, and Frank O. Gehry.

Although art abounds in Lausanne and Geneva, the most “wow”-inducing museums and attractions put the focus on humanity itself.  In the art category, one gem worth seeking is Fondation de l’Hermitage, a former private home built by banker Charles-Juste Bugnion in 1841 and immortalized by Camille Corot in a painting. It features an excellent restaurant (L’Esquisse), a sprawling garden, and exceptional vistas of Lausanne and Lake Geneva. Though the art exhibits change every few months, what remains constant is that the 19th century house and its grounds are superb in their own right. The Olympic Museum is not only a celebration of all things sports, but of all sports celebrated.  A mix of artfully organized uniforms, gear, and artifacts, combined with high-tech audio-visual magic, puts the visitor ringside to re-witness some of the greatest sports feats achieved during the Games.

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Facade of Fondation de l’Hermitage, a nearly 200 year old museum

The MICR – International Red Cross Red Crescent Museum in Geneva uses an equally innovative approach to chart the history of the world-changing organization founded by Nobel Peace Prize and philanthropist Henry Dunant in 1864. While the museum features a fascinating collection of posters and artifacts documenting its peacetime and war efforts, its interactive “Humanitarian Adventure,” broken down into three categories, relays personal stories from people who benefitted directly from Red Cross aid. If this experience doesn’t change the way you watch the news, it will at least make a mighty tug on your heartstrings.

Five minute’s walk from the Red Cross Museum, with a proper appointment, you can get a sense of how diplomats at the United Nations Headquarter Office (unog.ch) work with each other and world leaders to impact human rights issues.  In Old Town Geneva, Maison Rousseau tells the story about how philosopher/humanist Jean-Jacques Rousseau developed ideas that not only fueled The French Revolution but various human-rights focused leaders from his times through today.

Although the Swiss produce a fair amount of wine, local oenophiles insist it is so good they can’t bear the thought of sharing it. This is all the more reason to take advantage of an opportunity to take a detour to vineyards such as Au Clos de la République (patrick-fonjallaz.ch) en route to Lausanne and Montreux. It is located in the heart of Lavaux, which on the 28th of June, 2007, was officially registered as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. In addition to the wines and charming villages, it offers an exceptional view of Lake Geneva and the Swiss and French Alps.

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The United Nations Headquarters, adorned with flags from every participating nation

Facts and Figures 

Cutting Edge In 2014, Switzerland topped the Global Innovation Index’s rankings for the fourth straight year.
Population 7,785,800
Exchange Rate $1 U.S. =  0.90 CHF (Swiss Francs)
GDP $2.4 billion USD
Primary Industries Microtechnology, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, banking and insurance consultancies, food products, watchmaking
Global Corporations Nestlé, Hoffman-La Roche, Weleda, UBS, Zurich Insurance Group, Adecco, Novartis, Ciba, and Credit Swisse
Watchmakers to Watch Baume et Mercier, Charriol, Chopard, Franck Muller, Patek Philippe, Gallet, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Rolex, DuBois et fils, Universal Genève, Raymond Weil, Omega, Vacheron Constantin, and Swatch.

 

Getting There and Getting Around

Swiss Airlines (swiss.com/us/en) has nightly Zurich-bound flights from Los Angeles. The recently launched Edelweiss Airlines (edelweissair.ch/en) offers flights between Las Vegas and Zurich twice a week. Once in Switzerland, investment in a “Swiss Pass” from Swiss Travel Systems (swisstravelsystem.com/en; a part of the Rail Europe network), makes travel across Switzerland efficient and effortless. The “all-in-one-ticket” enables the user to traverse the country by intercity trains as well as scenic routes such as the Glacier Express and GoldenPass Line. Other golden perks include public transportation and admission to 470 museums within 75 Swiss cities.

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