The skyline of Zürich is changing – Hotel Waldhaus Dolder

October 27, 2016 — No comments

Hotel Waldhaus Dolder Zurich

Architect’s rendering of the new Waldhaus Dolder, to open its doors in December, 2019

It was several years in the coming, but was inevitable in the end: on September 30, 2016, the ‘old’ Hotel Waldhaus Dolder, built in the seventies, closed its doors. Until she arises for the third time in a spectacular new concept, the “little sister” to the Dolder Grand Hotel has temporarily yielded her elevated position and panoramic views over city, lake and Alps.

Much to the chagrin of guest form near and far who treasured the charm of this insider hotel on top of the hill. The service was impeccable. Guests were remembered by name and personal preferences. Out-of-the-ordinary requests were smilingly received and speedily executed, never an eyebrow raised. “Can’t be done,” was not in the Waldhaus vocabulary. Dining room tables decorated with fresh flowers, impeccably dressed in butter yellow linen at every meal;  the staff following suit in their black-and-white livréd attire.

On warm days the guests were served on the glorious sun terrace overlooking the city, protected by soft red canvas parasols. The meals delectable, the temperature of the swimming pool just perfect, the familiar, long-term staff balancing service with familiarity and discretion. What more could you possibly want? But you could, and the Waldhaus Dolder delivered: every room enjoyed the best view in town, or rather across town. The entire city of Zurich stretched before your feet, firmly planted on the cozy balcony. The Alps in the distance, the blue lake dotted with white sails, giving way far into the Oberland, the city lights twinkling in night time splendour. On warm summer evenings you’d sit in a balmy breeze on your balcony, enchanted by the sounds of the harmonized church bells rising to your ears, while watching the sun-set to the west. The Waldhaus was worth the stay just for the view!

Little wonder did the hotel have repeat clientèle return faithfully or stay long-term, even for years. And so did many staff. Like Alice Gwerder, bar maid of the cozy Bähnli Bar for thirty years. With service-mindedness and creativity she ran her domaine, and locals and hotel guests appreciated the warm, friendly atmosphere. It became a popular meeting place and Alice has as repertoire of stories to tell: from meeting the Rolling Stones to witnessing marriage proposals.

The dining room service was like no other with Hanspeter Graf. Born and raised in Heiden, Appenzell, where the parents ran a small farm and an antique shop, Hanspeter became a chef and eventually switched into meal service. His charming, modest and accommodating ways with a signature smile must have been appreciated by scores of diners since he joined the newly built Waldhaus in 1974. What held him there these forty plus years? “Joy in the profession and the friendliness and appreciation of the guests,” explains Hanspeter. It must have been both ways. He continues: “I had many a guest who came and ate their lunch every day for twenty, even thirty years at one of my tables. I stayed for them, because they told me they wouldn’t come anymore if I wasn’t here to serve their meal.”

During the last month of operation, General Manager Thomas Schmid and staff changed the hotel lobby into an exhibit dedicated to showcasing 100 years of Dolder Waldhaus history. The response from guests was overwhelming. An outpouring of personal mementos, written memories and artefacts was contributed and many guests came personally for a last visit. 

A short history of Zürich-Hottingen and the Hotel Waldhaus Dolder

By 1893, Hottingen had grown from a farming suburb to become part of the city of Zürich with its considerable upscale city oriented population. A private streetcar line from the Bellevue to the Römerhofplatz was established. Two years later, the red Dolder funicular and the restaurant Waldhaus Dolder opened, quickly becoming a popular attraction. In 1906, the restaurant was re-built into a hotel and a golf course added. In 1923, the rooms were fitted with running water and the hotel operated successfully into the ‘70s, when it was replaced with the current building which is now due for replacement.

In the winter of 2019, a spectacular new Hotel Waldhaus Dolder will rise from the ashes for a third time. In an elegantly curved design with fewer floors but the much beloved, stunning views over city, lake and mountains from all 97 guest rooms and suites.

I’m looking forward to booking my room again. The new concept looks phenomenal. The question is – will the service tradition that Mr. Graf and Mrs. Gwerder exemplified with such heart and soul continue?

 Photos courtesy of Hotel Waldhaus Dolder

If you’ve ever stayed at the Waldhaus Dolder, please share your experience! I have to say I really enjoyed staying there. Please let me know and leave a comment below.

About Silvia and Swiss Wanderlust


Switzerland travel enthusiast. Cat lover, bicyclist and classical music fan. I prefer walking over running and enjoy a good Swiss card game of Jass with friends.  More about Silvia and Swiss Wanderlust »

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