Gradually my eyes adjust and through the thick wafting steam, I can see hazy forms…head shapes come into focus, then bodies intertwined; couples embracing, and friends and families lazily floating amidst the dusk sky. The sound of the bubbles rising up all around me deadens any discernible conversations. Plus, the fact that most of the hushed whispers are all in the Swiss German dialect, means I wouldn’t understand it anyway, so I can float in, almost invisible in my own silent bubble.
Hotel in Zurich
I am spending four nights in Zurich staying at the one-year-old B2 Boutique Hotel + Spa. The hotel is new, but the building is 150 years old. What was once the Hürlimann Beer Brewery is now a complex that includes Google’s Swiss headquarters, shops, offices, and this urban, modern hotel. Hürlimann Beer was founded in 1836 and remained in the same family for five generations.
This industrial-chic space would feel right at home in New York’s meatpacking district. But it’s here in Zurich, somewhat fitting-in in all its utilitarian splendor.
Most of the interior was gutted and the 60 rooms and suites have a sparse yet tasteful decor — an Eames-like leather lounge chair, mismatched mod-brass Dixon pendant lamps, a leather banquette at the foot of the bed, a nearly floor to ceiling photograph taken of the brewery just before the renovation, and mini-glass mosaic tiled shower with glass walls completely see-through to the rest of the room. Pretty cool.
The downstairs lounge/library features a collection of more than 30,000 books lining its 36-foot high walls, others are stacked and used as coffee tables, and overhead hang huge chandeliers made from, yes, recycled green-glass Hürlimann beer bottles.
But the draw here is the spa. The Thermal Bath & Spa’s crown jewel is this unique open-air, heated rooftop pool that allows you to enter on the warm and cozy inside and wade outside without getting cold. Soaking here at sunset is pretty magical with views overlooking all of Zurich, the old town, and the Alps in the distance.
After drifting around the roof trying different jets, I take the spa-only elevator straight down to a few levels underground (bathrobes and swimsuits only is the rule in all spa areas to keep the intimate and private feel and keep out random gawking hotel guests in jeans) where the former beer barrel filling rooms have been turned into a dimly-lit dungeon/thermal bath area with several large soaking tubs — each one ringed by wood planks to resemble a large barrel. The water comes from a nearby mineral spring and each bath has massage nozzles, seats, and lounger benches with jets and whirlpools. There’s also a meditation pool with underwater music, a steam room, and a relaxation area with a shallow water zone. This area allows families with kids and at times feels a bit more like an indoor (yet dark) waterpark. Just through a glass door is the adults-only Roman-Irish spa area with a special ‘circuit’ ritual to follow. Since the signs are all in German, I have no idea how to follow, so I just dip into each one like Goldilocks until I am “just right.” I find heated slabs of stone on which to lie about, and several more heated pools all separated by old archways and under vaulted stone ceilings. I feel like I’m in the decadent underground grotto of a medieval castle with groping half naked bodies all around me. And yet it’s more of an intimate relaxed feel, not a naughty one.
Tel. +41 44 567 67 67
Rooms start at 300 CHF ($322) and hotel guests gain access to the spa for 25 CHF (about $27). If you arrive on the #13 tram (which trundles down Bahnhofstrasse, Zurich’s “5th Avenue,” it is a bit of a hike uphill to the hotel’s entrance…some nice exercise, but quite a slog with luggage. For an easier way, take the S4 commuter train from the main train station. It drops you off on the other side of the hotel where they’ve installed a handy outdoor elevator to whisk you right up to the entrance. Too bad I found this out after I heaved my suitcase up the hill and steps. But, nothing another soak in the thermal pools won’t fix.
Disclosure: During my stay in Zurich, I was a guest of Zurich and Switzerland Tourism. As always, all writing and opinions are my own.