If you’re looking for relaxation outside of the city, Atlantis by Giardino should be your choice of hotel. We spent 2 nights at the resort and not once did we want to leave, everything is conveniently located within the hotel’s premises.
On arrival, at 8:30pm, we were warmly welcomed by their refreshing home-made rooibos ice tea. Our check-in was done seated in the open foyer area, surrounding a fireplace. The hotel felt completely different from the previous ones we stayed at – very modern. Touch pads are used to control every aspect of the room: the lights’, air-con and curtains, for instance. Special in-room amenities included: a Samsung tablet for work or pleasure, a writing desk, a free copy of Zurich’s history and a very well stocked complementary minibar. It had about 4 different beverages (non-alcoholic) and 2 of each. They are also very generous with their snacks; mixed nuts, dried fruit, Swiss chocolate and crisps are offered in large sized portions – perfect for a spa/lazy day, exactly the type of day we had. For my sanity there was a Nespresso pixie as well.
After arriving very late, we headed down to the bar to unwind. Soft music, a comprehensive list of cocktails and spirits as well as a cigar lounge was the perfect recipe after traveling for more than 7 hours by train. All the menus are electronic, Samsung have partnered up with the hotel group and the software is very ergonomic, even for someone not as tech-savvy as myself. After a light drink we headed back to our room to get some much needed rest.
The following morning, breakfast was served at one of their two restaurants, Hide and Seek. Clean and simple, yet speaking volumes to the attention to detail by Atlantis. The remote location of Atlantis allows crisp morning light to illuminate the restaurant. Their breakfast buffet provides enough variety for families: everything from prosecco to organic honey served by the comb to French toast (a la carte). If you’re looking for fine dining, head to their other restaurant, Ecco, founded by Rolf Fliegauf and now headed by his former sous-chef Stefan Heilemann, serves dishes as beautiful and unique as their layout. Both Rolf and Stefan have two Michelin stars respectively, earned at restaurant Ecco.
After breakfast, we headed to the spa. We had seen images of the spa area before arriving, we knew what to expect, but the reality was better than our expectation. Walking into the swimming area, you are greeted with an ice blue pool, enclosed by large glass windows. Huge snow covered boulders form your surroundings with natural greenery in between them.
The rest of our day was spent touring around the hotel – yes, there is that much to see! With the re-opening of the establishment in 2015, the history of the hotel is maintained by the spiral staircase, originally erected in 1970. The five-star hotel also encompasses a Hublot Suite (with ‘his and hers’ Hublot timepieces – in glass cabinets, of course) and an exquisite Metropol Suite, where great musicians such as Freddie Mercury and Rihanna have stayed!
Even though Atlantis is an ‘urban retreat’, it is only a 15 minute drive to the Bahnhofstrasse – the hotel provides a complementary shuttle service to and fro. The Bahnhofstrasse is Zurich’s main high-end shopping boulevard, with the likes of: a 3 story Louis Vuitton, Prada, Dior, and countless timepiece stores, Rolex, Hublot, Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe and IWC. We window shopped (the only type of shopping we did in Zurich, Hummy either wanted the illusive blue Fanta or Alligator strap from Louis Vuitton to add to his collection), until we worked up an appetite.
On planning our trip to Switzerland, we asked family friends’, Aunty Denise and Uncle Mino (Swiss locals) for tips for pocket-friendly food stores. The only budget-friendly supermarket was Migros. To our surprise, Migros, was not budget-friendly, with a chicken schnitzel and a few fries costing R270 (gulp). There was no chance we were going to pay that amount for a basic meal, so we decided to find the nearest Burger King. Hummy suggested we should walk 2 km (bearing in mind it was -6˚C) to central station… to Burger King… We’d eaten so much Burger King along our journey we could ask for our meal in 3 different languages so far.
To our disappointment, Burger King did not save our bank accounts. We landed up losing precious Swiss Franc, along with our sanity. We paid R480 for 2 whopper meals (WE DIDN’T EVEN UPSIZE?!), to make matters worse there was no bottomless soft drink machine. Moral of the story: when Aunty Denise and Uncle Mino say that Zurich is expensive, best you believe them! We laughed it off and headed back into the cold to find our tram back home. As you’ve read, our evening was off to a wonderful start – but this was only the beginning. After Burger King, we decided to head back to the hotel.
The concierge had given us tram line numbers, to help direct us back to the hotel. They advised that it was only a “5 minute walk from the tram stop back to Atlantis”. Once we had reached our tram stop, we started the ‘5 minute walk’. We couldn’t quite make out if we were to go left or right when we got off the tram. We walked to the nearest gas station (with very few street lights to help lead the way) to ask for directions to the hotel. An old, grumpy man, who was barely interested in talking to us, pointed in which direction we should walk – his colleague looked at us helplessly (It seemed as if something was up, but he couldn’t say anything for some reason). We thanked him, and started our journey back to the hotel.
After walking a couple of meters, we figured that we were not walking in the correct direction. Already out of breath, we stumbled into what seemed to be a home-run restaurant. Here, a friendly chef whom was out on a break in his short-sleeved apron, opened up his Google maps, and gave us proper directions (the new directions were the complete opposite to the ones given to us by the grumpy man at the gas station). Finally, we were on our path back to the hotel.
We dragged our already exhausted bodies’ uphill (IN SNOW), sucking-in the icy-cold air into our lungs. This carried on for about 10 minutes. The last stretch was even tougher: the path up to the hotel was under construction. Head’s down, we were in deep concentration to avoid slipping on the icy gravel beneath our feet. In the distance we heard laughter and talking, we knew we were close! We could see the hotel. Hummy looked up and saw what seemed to be fire flies in the distance, however after a few moments later the lights got brighter and the laughter more audible. Once we saw what was ahead of us, we froze in disbelief.
Locals were tobogganing toward us, on the construction path! We were petrified of being knocked over! Luckily, the locals were weary of us; they elegantly swerved past and threw greetings our way. Snow soaked boots, red noses, and completely energy depleted, we arrived at the hotel 25 minutes later.
We got our room where we thawed for 30 minutes. The under floor heating in the bathroom, excellent air-conditioning, shower-jets and Nespresso lead us into one of the most comfortable nights we had. The bed was large enough to accommodate both of us, with more than enough room to stretch out (we are both tall at ± 180cm).The reason I mentioned the excellent air-conditioning is because we needn’t extra blankets – we set the thermostat at 25˚C, which was perfectly provided without any humidity or discomfort.
The short: The understated depth of Atlantis is what puts this establishment above most. Each corner of Atlantis is tactfully laid out; you wouldn’t find yourself brushing up against other guests at breakfast or any other time of the day. If isolated glamour is what you seek, be it for your family or special occasion (They have wedding facilities as well), I would highly recommend Atlantis by Giardino!