If you’ll recall, I had booked my round-the-world trip in January pretty much on the fly: it wasn’t until I was already staying at the W Verbier for the weekend that I decided to book the next leg of my journey on ANA 777 New First Class from London to Tokyo.
Between checking out of the W and flying out from Zurich for London the next afternoon, I’d need an additional one-night hotel stay somewhere in Zurich, and for that purpose I decided to book the Kameha Grand Zurich, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, for 25,000 Marriott Bonvoy points at the standard Category 4 rate.
For a hotel in a major European city (especially one that’s known for being very expensive), I was honestly pretty surprised that the Kameha Grand was only priced as a Category 4, which made it worthwhile to redeem points compared to the nightly cash rates of 180 CHF ($260).
Moreover, I figured the Kameha Grand would make for a useful review for many Prince of Travel readers, given that it’s only a short 15-minute tram ride away from Zurich Kloten Airport.
After all, flying with Swiss via Zurich is a popular way to redeem Aeroplan miles on your trip to Europe or points beyond, but Zurich doesn’t have a reputation as the most exciting place to visit, so I imagine many of you might spend only an overnight layover here and would therefore consider staying at the Kameha Grand nearby.
Kameha Grand Zurich – Location & Arrival
It was around 9pm when I arrived in Zurich Hauptbahnhof, the central train station, by way of a four-hour train ride from Verbier in the south of the country. The Kameha Grand is situated at the northern edge of the city, so from there, it was another 20-minute ride on the #11 tram line to get to the Glattpark station, followed by a short walk to the hotel.
The surrounding area is mainly industrial, and it definitely seemed like a somewhat odd place to open a hotel. The street was eerily dark and quiet at nighttime, with not much more going on in the daytime either, so the Kameha Grand struck me as mainly a lodging option for “passing through”, just like I was doing on this trip.
I returned in the daytime to take some photos of the exterior. The hotel building is shaped like a giant cube, slotting in seamlessly alongside the other unremarkable steel-and-glass buildings in this industrial part of town.
By the way, if you’re wondering what lies behind the name “Kameha”, it’s a reference to King Kamehameha I of Hawaii.
Precisely why did a hotel on the outskirts of Switzerland’s financial hub decide to name itself after a Pacific island monarch? Well, supposedly King Kamehameha was said to be “able to unite opposites”, which is kind of the theme that the Kameha Grand hotel group was going for, as I would soon discover.
Arriving at the hotel, you’re treated to a grandstand entrance in the lobby, thanks to its bright red carpets, powerful lighting, and a variety of attention-grabbing ornaments.
The space is adorned with golden Swiss cow bells and an electronic display showcasing the nation’s proud tradition of watchmaking, and while I wouldn’t say that the decor was tasteful, it was at least snazzy and contempary.
Kameha Grand Zurich – Check-in
Check-in is conducted at a few individual stations, and given the late hour, the front desk associate was immediately ready to help me.
He welcomed me to the Kameha Grand as a Titanium Elite member, confirmed my one-night stay, informed me that I’d receive complimentary breakfast as a replacement benefit since the hotel did not have an executive lounge, and offered me my choice between a $10 food & beverage credit or 1,000 Marriott Bonvoy points as my additional elite amenity. Since I didn’t plan to eat at the hotel beyond having breakfast, I chose the latter.
The associate also confirmed the suite upgrade that I had requested over the chat app prior to my arrival.
As an Autograph Collection property with relatively loose brand standards, the Kameha Grand is one of those hotels where almost every room and suite looks different from one another, so even though I had been confirmed into the “Executive Suite”, I’d still have no idea what the suite really looked like until I stepped inside.
Finally, I was asked if I required late checkout the next day. Since my flight would be departing from nearby Zurich Airport at 5:30pm, I asked if a 4pm late checkout was possible.
“4pm is guaranteed for you as a Titanium member, sir,” replied the front desk host. Now that’s what I love to hear!
I took the elevators up to the second floor. The poster in the elevator, which encourages guests to “be a princess or James Bond for the night”, serves to highlight both the Kameha Grand’s uniquely themed guest rooms and the sense of mystery and showmanship at the centre of the hotel’s identity.
Stepping into the guest room hallways, that identity is further reinforced by the distinctive flowery motifs on the carpets and the signage, as well as the soft and seductive mood lighting throughout the space.
Equal parts entranced and bemused by my surroundings, I somehow found my way to Room 222, the Executive Suite that I had been assigned for the evening.
Kameha Grand Zurich – Executive Suite
This suite would be more accurately described as a junior suite than a full suite, since it’s only a half-wall partition that separates the living room from the bedroom; however, I was more than happy with it for a quick one-night stay.
After a short hallway at the entrance, you arrive at the sitting area and desk.
The flowery decor from the hallway continued into the suite, although while some of the hotel’s other rooms and suites had obvious themes to them (resembling things a princess’s chambers, a James Bond lair, etc.), I couldn’t immediately discern what the theme of this room was supposed to be.
The living room didn’t seem very well-appointed: the sofa and chair felt like they could use a few additional cushions, while the desk was unfortunately a very small one that wasn’t ideal for working.
I was happy that the hotel had left me some chips, crackers, and candy as a small welcome gift, and had also taken note of my pre-arrival request to stock as many bottles of still water in the room as possible (what can I say, I was very thirsty on the four-hour train ride earlier).
While I didn’t really watch the television, I did take note of the home screen, which featured a video of a playful hamster running on its wheels and doing other cute things. The Kameha Grand certainly seeks to defy convention wherever possible, and this was just one of those instances.
This part of the room also came with a coffee maker and sink in the pantry, as well as a closet with sliding doors (but no bathrobes to be found anywhere in the suite, which was mildly disappointing).
The half-wall in the middle of the suite also acts as the headboard for the king-sized bed, which faces out towards the windows.
I didn’t get a picture of it, but during the daytime, this corner room provided some commanding views of… Thurgauerstrasse, the two-lane street outside, as well as a pharmaceutical warehouse on the opposite side.
For its part, the king bed was a comfortable enough spot to rest my head for the night, and was well-positioned for watching the television that mounted on the pillar opposite it.
The bathroom was housed behind a set of heavy sliding doors that resembled a bank vault, which made me think that this Executive Suite’s “theme” was supposed to be that of a daring bank heist or something like that.
And, well, did I dare venture into the vault-like bathroom? Why yes I did – I needed to shower and brush my teeth, after all.
The bathroom was satisfyingly spacious, offering his-and-hers sinks, separate units for the shower and toilet, and an indulgent freestanding bathtub in the corner.
I took a refreshing shower soon after I arrived, which was much-needed after a day of skiing in Verbier, followed by a soak in the bathtub with my coffee the following morning before heading down to breakfast.
Kameha Grand Zurich – Breakfast
Speaking of which, breakfast is served every morning in L’Unico, the hotel’s Italian restaurant on the ground floor.
To get to L’Unico, you must walk past the Puregold Bar, the hotel’s bar and lounge, which is again decorated outlandishly with oversized orb-shaped chandeliers and a high-top table full of large gold coins encased within a glass surface.
L’Unico itself did not let up on the architectural spectacles, either – take a look at this light fixture designed in the shape of a giant plate…
As for breakfast itself, all of the dishes from the buffet were pretty appetizing, although perhaps it didn’t quite live up to the grandeur of the surrounding physical spaces. In addition to the standard breakfast buffet items, there was also a live egg station, as well as the possibility to order fancier items like Eggs Benedict and espresso drinks from the roaming wait staff.
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During breakfast, I observed quite a few airline crews staying at the hotel, including the instantly recognizable Singapore Airlines crew who were presumably working the Singapore–Zurich flight. Given the proximity to the airport, it made sense that this hotel was a popular base for airline crews flying in and out of Zurich.
Kameha Grand Zurich – Other Facilities
Speaking of Zurich, after polishing off breakfast and finishing some work in my room, I decided to take the tram into town so I could see a little bit of Zurich during my short time here. Despite transiting though Zurich Airport half a dozen times in the past, this would be my first time venturing into the city itself.
It’s pretty straightforward to catch the #10 and #11 trams from Glattpark station into the city centre, and I spent an enjoyable few hours strolling along the Limmat, wandering through the Beatenplatz shopping streets, and making the most of this short visit to Continental Europe to sip my cappuccino on an outdoor patio.
In the afternoon, upon returning to the Kameha Grand, I decided to scope out the hotel’s fitness and spa facilities before dipping for the airport.
The Kameha Spa and gym are located on the sixth floor, which is the top floor of the building. Oddly enough, there was no one working at the spa when I dropped by.
Meanwhile, despite being stylized as the “Fitness Powerhouse”, the gym facilities are pretty basic. It was basically one large room with a handful of cardio machines, a rack for free weights, and an exercise bench. At least the TV with the cute hamster wheel made another appearance!
As if to give me a final reminder of the hotel’s quirky character, I noticed that there was an outdoor rooftop patio with what I can only presume are egg-shaped light fixtures, although it was closed for the season.
Shrugging my shoulders (as I had done many times during this stay), I headed back down to the second floor, packed up my belongings, and checked out of the hotel, once again making my way to Glattpark station for the #10 tram in the direction of Flughafen, or “Airport”.
I can’t quite place my finger on what to make of the Kameha Grand Zurich, and there haven’t been many hotels that have left me feeling so curious, inspired, and bewildered all in equal doses.
“Life Is Grand” is the motto of Kameha Grand (a miniature hotel chain whose only other location is in Bonn, Germany), but instead of the usual old-school ostentatiousness you might expect of the St. Regis or the hip and youthful design you might expect of the W, this hotel instead channels its grandiosity through individually themed rooms and suites, visually striking architecture, and a series of artwork that clashed against each other more often than not.
For an Autograph Collection property, a brand that’s often accused of lacking a central identity, the Kameha Grand Zurich certainly leaves quite the impression.
The Executive Suite pulled off its bank robbery theme quite well, and I was left feeling curious as to what the Kameha Grand’s other themed suites might look like. I was also happy with the breakfast offering, although the hotel’s other facilities, like the spa and gym, left a bit more to be desired.
Ultimately, whether or not I’d recommend this hotel depends on the purpose of your visit to Zurich: if you’re here for an overnight layover with the intention to quickly explore the city (perhaps with some measure of risk and intrigue thrown in), then the Kameha Grand would be well-suited to that purpose, positioned roughly equidistantly between the airport and the city centre along the #10 tram line.
However, if you’re in Zurich for a longer stay, then I’d have to recommend choosing a hotel closer to the city instead, since there really isn’t much going on in this neighbourhood to keep you occupied for more than a couple nights’ time.
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