The Baur au Lac Story

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Opened in 1844 by Johannes Baur, who came from the Vorarlberg area in Austria, it was built right beside the lake with a view of the Alps, using part of the old war harbour which had been filled in a short time before. The Baur au Lac, still more of a large villa, served at first as an elegant residence for guests travelling incognito. After constant enlargements, it had reached its present size by 1898.

In 1854, only 10 years after the Baur au Lac had opened, the Leipzig Illustrated Newspaper already devoted a whole page to the famous hotel on Lake Zurich, with the headline "Zurich is made more beautiful". This article states: "Art must vie with nature, which displays, even lavishes, all of its charms here. The exterior of the hotel promises a great deal. But when one goes inside and walks through the luxurious salons and bedrooms, all of one's expecta-tions are exceeded."

The hotel immediately exercised a special magic and power of attraction over large numbers of the European aristocracy. Sisi, Austria's Empress Elisabeth spent a whole summer here with two princes and an entourage of 60 people. The Russian Tsarina, too, stayed at the Baur au Lac, the German Emperor Wilhelm II and countless princes, counts and barons followed. Then came the artists, invited by Zurich's young moneyed "nobility" - first and foremost the wife of Alfred Escher, the railway king. Richard Wagner gave the world première of the first act of his "Die Walküre" in the Baur au Lac singing himself and accompanied on the piano by his father-in-law, Franz Liszt.

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The most famous musicians in the world have gone in and out ever since. The list extends from Arthur Rubinstein to Zubin Mehta, Placido Domingo, Anne-Sophie Mutter and Elton John. The visual arts have been represented by personalities such as Marc Chagall, Joan Miró, Henry Moore, Fernando Botero, etc.

Countless stories could be told - if it were not for the hotel's discretion which also became part of its reputation. But the hotel was making its own history: In 1853 in its Petit Palais, the "Peace of Zurich" was made. And in 1892 Baroness Bertha von Suttner convinced, here in the Baur au Lac, the Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel of the necessity for an international peace prize.

For more than 175 years, there was no end to the "circulus virtuosus" of con-stant renovations. In the 1990s, Johannes Baur's descendants had to face the greatest challenge in the history of the hotel. A com-plete renovation of the building was impending and, with it, probably the largest innovatory project that Swiss hotel history had ever seen.

Today the Baur au Lac presents itself to its many regular guests and new friends with renewed brilliance and in the finest of traditions, including the one that our Anglo-Saxon friends refer to as the spirit of the Baur au Lac.