The Romantik Hotel Florhof, in Zürich, has perhaps engendered more controversy among Gemütlichkeit readers than any other hotel we've ever reviewed. Those who remember the less pretentious good old days under a more "down home" management don't like the new ownership's slick new style. Recent visitors to the hotel, however, thinks it's great. Read our take on this beautifully located small city hotel.
Romantik Hotel Florhof
Zürich's Hotel Florhof can trace its history a long way back. The light blue stuccoed five-story building with white shutters first appeared on Zürich town plans in 1576. The first owner of record was Zürich Town Council Speaker, Hans Heinrich Hofmann. In the early 1700s, Captain Jakob Oeri - one of the city's first millionaires - bought the house and it remained in his family until 1811.
When Gemütlichkeit first reviewed it in 1988, the Florhof was operated by the Schilter family, whose kindly ways had attracted a cadre of devoted followers who returned year after year. We gave it an above average rating, particularly citing the warmth of its welcome.
Six years later, the Schilters retired and new managers, Brigitte and Beat Schiesser, entered the picture. They refurbished the hotel at substantial expense, raised it to four-star status and were able to have it added to the popular "Romantik" hotel group. The Schiessers also raised room rates and somehow ruffled a few feathers among the regular guests. An excerpt from a letter written by a subscriber who had stayed at the Florhof for 13 consecutive years, and was not satisfied with the new regime, is representative of several we received; "the friendliness, charm and warmth of the former managers is sadly lacking and I would no longer recommend the hotel to anyone."
In 1995 we took another look at the Florhof and had this to say: "an intimate, quiet hotel owned by Brigitte and Beat Schiesser, who have a cordial, hands-on management style. No detail of our comfort was overlooked. The Florhof is most appealing."
Perhaps the difference in the two viewpoints is that it was our correspondent's first visit to the hotel. He had never met the beloved Herr Schilter.
Based on yet another visit last May, we have concluded that the difficulty veteran customers may have with the 21st century Florhof is one of style. The old one was a comfortable, three-star hotel with an almost country/cozy atmosphere, presided over by a gentle elderly couple. This new four-star version is chic and modern. Champagne is offered at check-in, a procedure efficiently handled by a phalanx of smartly dressed, attractive young women, each of whom speaks almost flawless English. Luggage is hauled from curbside to guestroom by uniformed porters and the whole arrival process seems more five than four-star. Only the tiny reception area reminds one of the three-star days.
And, except for size, the handsomely furnished and decorated guestrooms are also five-star quality. Number 225, for example, a corner double, had red stripped wallpaper, beige wainscoting in a herringbone pattern, rose carpeting flecked with green, a handsome pair of small but comfortable chairs, superb bed linens, bedside lamps that were both attractive and practical, and a bright, well-equipped bathroom. The hotel's slightly undersized rooms require creative layout, hence the curving wooden shelf under one window that doubles as a desk.
Yes, we miss Herr Schilter but our stay was without a hitch: fine rooms, pleasant and helpful staff, and excellent buffet breakfasts. What's not to like? At 350 Sfr. ($198) maybe the price, but this is Zürich. In New York, the superbly located, exquisite little Florhof would fetch $350 to $400 per night.
Daily Rates: Singles 210 to 260 Sfr. ($119-$147), 320 to 350 Sfr. ($181-$198).
Rating: Quality 16/20, Value 14/2.