The Baur au Lac story
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.
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.
The founding family
Johannes Baur had opened the hotel in 1844, eight years later he handed it over to his son Theodor. Although the name of the owner of the Baur au Lac changed in 1889, the family remained the same: Emmy, Theodor Baur's daughter, married the Cologne hotel owner Karl Kracht. Under his leadership, the Baur au Lac was expanded in 1898 to its current size of 17,000 square metres (plus 1,400 square metres of outdoor space).
In 1914, just after the completion of the new Pavilion, Karl Kracht passes away and his nephew Hans Kern takes over the business in the following difficult period. In 1916, Fritz and Hermann Kracht, Karl Kracht's two sons, aged only 20 and 25, take over the management. In 1949, Charles Kracht takes over and subjects the hotel to an extensive investment programme. He builds and founds the Club Baur au Lac - the first of its kind in Switzerland - as well as the winery in Urdorf, where 700,000 bottles are stored, and initiates the renovation of the century, the planning for which already begins in the late 1980s.
In 2019, the Baur au Lac celebrated its 175th anniversary, making it one of the world's oldest 5-star hotels still owned by the founding family, now in its sixth generation. In 1990, after the death of his father, the Baur au Lac passed into the ownership of Andrea Kracht, his mother Marguita Kracht and sister Gabrielle Feldhahn-Kracht. Andrea Kracht acts, among other things, as delegate of the board of directors, while Marguita Kracht devotes herself to the interior design of the hotel in collaboration with the interior designers; Gabrielle Feldhahn-Kracht is a silent partner. Andrea Kracht's conviction is to always be aware of the commitment that his ancestors entrusted to him. With Michel Rey at his side, who presided over the hotel as director for the second generation in succession from 1983 to 2013, Andrea Kracht always strove to fulfil guests' expectations of one of the most traditional hotels in Europe in every respect and to maintain the Baur au Lac's top position. In mid-January 2013, Wilhelm Luxem took over from Michel Rey as director.