Hotel Insider: Dubai's famed party hotel has a new home at Five Zurich

The Swiss arm of the hedonistic Palm Jumeirah hot-spot embraces playful luxury from a hillside location overlooking the mountains

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Dubai’s best-known party hotel has found a new home in Switzerland.

Five Zurich opened at the end of June and is the first European property from Five Hotels and Resorts. The forward-thinking abode has already made headlines as it marked the group's foray into accepting payment by crypto — with guests checking in able to pay using Bitcoin and Ethereum.

With 87 suites, seven restaurants and one of Zurich's only rooftop nightclubs, the third Five hotel is located in the foothills of Uetliberg mountain, in the same building that previously housed the city's Atlantis Hotel. Retaining its distinct 1960s exterior, inside Five Zurich has been entirely redesigned with upgraded rooms, several new food and beverage concepts and bespoke art created for the hotel by local artists.

Much like its predecessor during its 1970 heyday, Five Zurich pitches itself as 'the place to be” for a hedonistic hillside retreat. The National checked in to find out what's in store for travellers.

The welcome

Landing at Zurich airport we meet Yusuf, our knowledgeable private driver, and are soon speeding through the streets of Switzerland's largest city in the back of a black Mercedes where a full-length sunroof view affords us our first glimpse of the city lights.

Less than 20 minutes later, we round a corner into the hotel driveway, which is dominated by a 43-square-metre street art mural filled with famous faces of people who stayed here in the property's Atlantis Hotel days. There's everyone from Elton John to Muhammad Ali. An adjacent Alphorn Structure by local blacksmith Franz Koster is an obvious nod to Switzerland’s traditions.

Check-in is efficient, as we’d expect in the land of timekeepers, and we are in our room on the second floor within 10 minutes.

The neighbourhood

Perhaps surprisingly for a hotel brand that built its reputation as an all-action party spot, Five Zurich is nowhere near the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Instead, it’s in the suburban area of Doltschiweg, on the slopes of Uetliberg mountain.

The idea behind this, according to Marcus Rapatz, general manager at Five Zurich, is that the hotel is in itself a destination. “It's a place where people can come for the weekend to escape and unwind, dine, drink or dance.”

Visitors who do want to explore Zurich's centre can reach it in about 20 minutes, but if the main focus of your trip is sightseeing then this out-of-town location could be slightly inconvenient.

The room

There are 45 suites and 42 rooms in the hotel, making it distinctly boutique-sized. If you're travelling in a group, four of the suites can be connected to create a mammoth four-bedroom apartment. We are not in a suite, but the room is so spacious that we may as well be. There's a long entry hall leading to a massive bedroom on one side, and a huge bathroom on the other. The bed is beyond king-size, and draped with a faux-fur bedspread and there’s oodles of storage space, a well-stocked mini bar and a coffee machine.

We can’t locate the remote control at all during our stay, so the television stays off — all the more time to explore what the hotel has to offer.

Every room has a balcony, with some facing the city skyline and other overlooking the mountain or outdoor pool. Customised artwork in each room is the work of students from the Zurich Centre for Creative Economics, and each is inspired by some of Zurich's greatest moments. Bathroom amenities are from Rituals, one of Europe's most popular body and beauty brands.

A new extension is being built adjacent to the property to house more rooms. These will be slightly smaller but very high tech and with a slightly lower price point. That wing is scheduled to open next year, so expect some construction visuals until then.

The service

Staff are friendly, but perhaps not quite as efficient as expected. At dinner, where I’m dining solo, the hostess first tells me I have no reservation, although she does offer to accommodate me. She then helpfully sits me away from the crux of the party in the lively restaurant, but the waiting staff unfortunately seem to forget about me and I have to constantly call for their attention. Breakfast has similar hiccups, with staff asking me for my room number on three separate occasions.

It’s a different story in the spa where the team are entirely attentive and go out of their way to make me feel the centre of attention, while front-desk staff are on-point.

The scene

Given the reputation of its sister hotels in Dubai, we’re pleasantly surprised by the scene at Five Zurich. While it certainly feels as if it is geared towards a certain type of traveller — young, fashionable, night-loving — it's also entirely unpretentious and the party is certainly less in your face than you'll find in the UAE properties. It's also family friendly, with children and pets welcome and, in keeping with Swiss law, there is officially no loud noises or music allowed after 10pm.

The outdoor pool is temperature-controlled and surrounded by sunbeds making it the place-to-be spot in the summer, but it closes from late September. Inside, a large pool offers a year-round place to swim, with views over a natural waterfall and an adjacent sauna and steam room.

Up on the rooftop, The Penthouse doubles as a slick Japanese restaurant, sundowner terrace and bar and also leads to the Bathroom Bar, where neon-outlined black mannequins line the hallway. The lobby also has its own personality, championing the building's musical history with a piano, saxophone and music-inspired memorabilia.

In the 560-square-metre Refive Spa, there's a distinct soothing ambience and a wide range of facials, massages and special treatments on offer, making it the ideal place to recover or re-energize.

The food

Dining options are excellent. There are seven outlets to choose from, including Maiden Shanghai, an MSG-free and organic Chinese restaurant, insta-friendly Soul Street, serving elevated street food from across the continents, and the stylish Vault Wine Bar.

Breakfast is at either Tune In, the international all-day cafe and bar, or at the funky Maiden Shanghai under red drapes and golden geometric designs. The selection is small, but perfectly formed and additional dishes are available on request. For dinner, we head to The Penthouse, where chef Frederick Fauxcheux presents a contemporary Japanese menu fused with French cooking methods and all served up with music put together by a resident DJ.

I start with a tofu salad (23 Swiss Francs; $23) which is served perfectly crispy, coated in ginger, garlic, and miso flavours with a kimchi dressing. The chef’s selection of sushi (45 Swiss Francs) is an impressive platter of 12 pieces served in a giant bowl of ice. The sushi is fresh and well rolled, although it's harder to see exactly what I'm eating thanks to the increasingly dimming lights. As the party vibe ramps up — even on a Tuesday night — I decide to skip desert and retreat to the respite of my room.

Highs and lows

The beautiful glass-blown chandelier in the central staircase is mesmerising. Stretching from the ground floor to the penthouse, it's designed as a visual illustration of how the human brain reacts to music and its colour-changing light display is captivating. The rooms, and for that matter the beds, are some of the biggest we've come across and the staff in the spa really know their stuff.

Service could be a bit more attentive at times, but it's nothing to grumble over.

It's not the right choice for travellers who want to experience a stay right in the heart of Zurich.

The Insider Tip

If you want to dance in Zurich’s only restaurant, lounge and rooftop nightclub in one — a place that exists only after a lot of work, including double soundproofing the room to comply with the city's strict noise pollution laws — be sure to visit on a Saturday when The Club at The Penthouse opens at midnight with international guest DJs playing until the small hours.

The verdict

While it shares music-inspired DNA with party hot spots Five Dubai Palm Jumeirah and Five Jumeirah Village Hotel, this is the Swiss sophisticated outpost of the hotel group. Guests checking in are welcome to get as involved in the hedonistic vibes as they like, or to simply check in for a weekend of great food and relaxation, or even bring the family along.

The bottom line

Rooms from Swiss Francs 270 ($268) excluding taxes. Check in from 3pm and check out at noon;

This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel and reflects standards during this time, services may change in the future.

Updated: October 21, 2022, 6:02 PM