My Trip to Zurich by Danielle Boutcher
In December I had the pleasure of visiting Zurich (and nearby Lucerne) on an agency business development trip staying at the Kameha Grand Hotel (part of Autograph Collection and represented by BVS London). Flights were kindly provided by Swiss via Chris Klinker at Eton Travel; and our represented DMC Ovation Switzerland organised the fabulous ground programme. Upon arrival in Zurich we kicked off the trip with an airport tour, courtesy of Ingrid Jäger-Shavarian at Swiss. The Swiss First Class areas are second to none! We also toured the operations centre and visited Zurich airport’s own air-side hotel for use by customers who are either in transit or are experiencing a delayed or cancelled flight.
Next we proceeded to our hosted hotel (Kameha Grand Zurich, which is about 20 minutes from the centre of Zurich. This amazingly quirky, luxurious hotel had us stopping in our tracks at every point! The architects ensured some great, typically Swiss elements have been included, such as a giant cow bell in the lobby and Swiss chocolate wallpaper throughout some of the meeting rooms! The hotel’s 245 bedrooms (in a u-shape layout) feature a mini-bar inside an old-style safe and humongous bed with an opulent chaise longue; but the whole bathroom bi-folding back so you can watch the TV from the roll-top bath makes it out of this world! Kameha Grand also has 11 suites that are ideal for a small incentive group; and we had pre-dinner cocktails and canapés in one of them. For larger groups / events, the hotel has 12 meeting spaces, each with access to the hotel’s garden, plus a huge ballroom with separate entrance for non-residential delegates. This can seat up to 550 or have 900 standing; and the room features a huge upper terrace where presentations, announcements, or even a DJ set could take place. The shisha lounge is a perfect ice-breaker space for groups and it can house up 25 pax. It would also be ideal for a pre-dinner drink, as it is adjacent to the hotel’s bar and restaurant. That night we had a lovely dinner in the hotel’s Italian restaurant (L’Unico).
The next day we travelled to Lucerne. Our first stop was Mount Pilatus. Unfortunately due to high winds we were only able to go half-way up the mountain (via cable car), but still (even on a dreary day) the views were pretty impressive and we stopped off at a cheerful mountain lodge-style café for hot chocolates in Father Christmas mugs, which was lovely! We’d just missed out on being able to ride the famous cogwheel train, which is open from May to November! This train departs from the other side of the Mountain at a town called Alpnachstad, which can also be reached by boat. Ovation Switzerland suggest ways in which to maximise the usage of different types of transport for your day visit; for example you could boat it from Lucerne to Alpnachstad, get the train up the mountain (they can even privatize the train for your group) and then you could come down by cable car back to Kriens. Certainly food for thought…
Our next stop was central Lucerne; where If you want the best views, be sure to visit Mount Rigi! We had a quick walk beside the lake and then proceeded to a lovely restaurant called Rebstock, where we had lunch. It was quite an ‘olde-worlde’ restaurant with beautiful character and hearty food. The restaurant was actually part of a hotel and upon exploring this unusual building we discovered a rabbit-warren of quirky rooms, plus a private meeting / dining room for up to 20 people.
After lunch, Ovation Switzerland provided us with a fantastic guide called Heidi. She took us to Hofkirche (Church of St. Leodegar) which is well known for its organ and one of the largest in Switzerland, with 5945 pipes! She explained how the organ can reproduce the sounds of rain, hail and thunder! This really impressed the clients, who all agreed how special this would be for a group to experience as part of their incentive programme. Heidi went on to explain some other fantastic attractions in Lucerne; for example the Beer Hall / restaurant called Stadtkeller. They host folklore shows in the summer and interestingly their beer arrives at the restaurant via pipeline! This quirky and fun establishment can be used exclusively (if you so wish) and can fit 320 guests, making it ideal for a large event, requiring the fun factor.
The KKL Luzern is a huge congress centre that is ideal for really large events. All the hotels nearby have large bedroom capacities, which is ideal in terms of Logistics and proximity. This Congress Centre (complete with a variety of large rooms, including the Concert Hall) can accommodate over a 1000 guests. Although accessible by most means of transport, as the venue is located across the water, Ovation Switzerland can organise champagne boats to take delegates to and from the hotels / Congress Hall, which makes for a far more impressive arrival! In addition, there are some really intriguing tower venues that can be used for events - namely Nölli Tower, the Town Hall Tower and the Water Tower. The Water Tower can fit up to 100 guests and apparently is a really high-quality choice, especially for VIPs. For those groups needing something quite special, Max Chocolatier is a chocolate shop; the chocolates are hand-made on-site and you can hand-pick selections for your clients and have their logos put onto them; all while hearing about the heart-warming story of Max, the owner’s exceptional son and whom the shop is named after. What a lovely family business!
Hotel Astoria was our next stop and is the largest hotel in Lucerne. This glass-fronted property has 252 bedrooms and a selection of meeting rooms, all with natural daylight. The Mekong Asian Fusion Restaurant even has a resident DJ at weekends and there’s also the Thai Garden Restaurant, considered the best Thai in Switzerland. There is also a Mexican restaurant, plus an Italian restaurant / open kitchen that fits 110 pax. Its Penthouse bar is open to the public, but is still a fantastic choice for coffee breaks or pre-dinner drinks.
Although we didn’t see the art deco Hotel Montana, I’ve been informed that this hotel is amazing, especially when seeing its fabulous open kitchen (great for groups) plus rooftop bar and balcony, with breathtaking views over Lake Lucerne! In summer apparently the huge balcony turns into a beach-style bar; making it the place to people-watch and be seen; and the perfect property for really special events. With a mixture of lake facing and hillside rooms, (plus new penthouse rooms with Jacuzzi on the balcony), there’s something for everyone!
Our final stop was the 5-star deluxe Schweizerhof Lucerne. The conference room (dating back to 1865) is finished in a wood design and has hosted many gala events, balls, parties and concerts. 300 people can be seated in this room for dinner, or 370 with an extra part of the room added in, whereas the adjacent room fits 180, banquet style. Salon 11 is a beautiful, small private dining room that seats 32 with fantastic views of the river, plus access to its own terrace. The hotel has 101 bedrooms (half are lake-facing) and 65 of these are deluxe double rooms; many that give a nod to famous musicians and celebrities. )
Back in Zurich (with the snow settling fast) we enjoyed a visit to the Christmas Market. Afterwards we walked around Zurich to see the sights at night, while completing a ‘Dinner Safari, visiting the following restaurants:
- The View Bar at the Ambassador Hotel - we had delicious canapés in the lobby/ bar area of this intriguing hotel. It is part of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, so groups would be well accommodated for.
- Zunfthaus zur Waag – This opulent building has many floors of restaurant space, plus a special top floor room (where we had a delicious soup) which is a private room for the guild only; and is not open to the general public. The charismatic owner was a delight to meet!
- Hotel Widder Restaurant This open kitchen-style restaurant was where we had our main course. It was modern and interesting and definitely a great space for a lively group.
- Aura club is an event location not to be missed. In its funky bar area we had coffee and dessert. There is also a fabulous grilla and stunning event hall.
On departure day, we had the chance to spend time at the Milchmanufaktur cheese factory, to make our own cheese! We felt that the DMC had picked a winning activity here! Combine this with the beautiful; snowy location of Einsiedeln, plus the fact we were all able to take our own cheese home was by far the highlight of our trip and a great way to bid farewell to the group!
Ovation Switzerland showcased a good variety of what Zurich and Lucerne had to offer for the MICE market and explained how easy it is to access both destinations; making it a great destination for clients that require a twin-centre programme. We were very impressed with the Kameha Grand and I would not hesitate to place a group there! Ground programme-wise, if it’s something different you need; i.e. VIP limo transfers to the airport, a fondue tour by tram in Zurich, exclusive helicopter transfers, cheese making etc, let Ovation Switzerland be your partner of choice. They can issue you with tickets for boats, trains, horse & cart and Tuk Tuks; they can do events on farms, where you can go and get your own fresh eggs in the morning, they can run Swiss Olympics activities for you, provide a party on a ship, arrange for Street Artists to be at your event, co-ordinate activities at the Fifa museum; to name but a few intriguing ideas for your next event.
Did you know, every April Zurich has its own festival, which involves burning a huge snowman?! Apparently a sight not to be missed! Another fun fact is that in Switzerland the water comes straight from the mountain and is free of charge! My conclusion is any destination that is always described with superlatives such as: magnificent, awe-inspiring, outstanding, breathtaking and overwhelming must be a little special…
This visit was brought to you by our DMC, Ovation