“Swiss hospitality” is a phrase that you hear every now and then, but rarely in the country where it was born. Possibly because in Switzerland, making guests and visitors feel as comfortable as they would at home is second nature. Even in a city like Zürich, best known for colder elements (steely watches, gold & silver and, of course, the weather), hotels like Marktgasse effortlessly demonstrate why the Swiss have earned such a stellar reputation.
Sandwiched between Europe’s most prominent countries (Germany, France, Italy, Austria and let’s not forget Liechtenstein), Switzerland’s cultural identity is an amalgamation of different languages, foods, customs, and environs. Zürich’s relative proximity to Germany means it benefits from the crisp alpine air and a greater sense of industriousness than the laissez-faire attitude to the west. There’s a high quality of life in the city, but financiers do greatly outnumber creatives.
Case in point, you’d receive quizzical looks for favoring a denim jacket over a blazer on a weekday morning while walking the streets surrounding the Marktgasse Hotel. The 39-room property is situated on the corner of a busy pedestrian intersection, priming it for people watching while noshing on a salmon sandwich from the hotel’s casual café, Delish.
That intersection used to be part of the Silk Road, and the building that houses the hotel has served as some sort of lodging since the fifteenth century. Your local Marriott Courtyard’s got nothing on history that deep.
You’ll notice holdovers from the structure’s former life and it’s the combination of little design quirks and Swiss minimalistic furniture (Le Corbusier was Swiss, so go figure) that give the hotel its personality. Aesop amenities inhabit every room and the complimentary coffee and tea in the lobby are top-notch. One hotel staffer went so far as to suggest it was the best chai tea she’d had west of the Ganges: she was actually from India, so we’re taking her word for it. Like the rest of the staff, she’ll only need one interaction before retaining your name and greeting you with a genuine smile for the rest of your stay.
While the lobby has breakfast beverages covered and the aforementioned Delish is the ultimate snack or lunch spot, the hotel’s main culinary offering is the refined Baltho.
There’s several truly exceptional cocktails on the menu and don’t overlook the classic entrées like the Bang-Bang Chicken. The restaurant space is ideally illumed and there’s a cozy bar up the stairs with perch-perfect stools for striking up conversation with one of the gregarious bartenders.
You’ll probably find yourself in Zürich next on business, but aim to mix in a bit of pleasure. While the buttoned-up inhabitants can initially give off a stuffy impression, the atmosphere is refreshing and the people couldn’t be more pleased to receive you. You’ll find this, along with great food, immaculate rooms and an ideal location, in spades at the Marktgasse Hotel.
Report by Ian MacDonald for Airows