Before we dive into the in-depth review, I just want to say that the Swiss First Class Lounge absolutely blew me away.
This was Part 1 in a three-part "day of decadence" at the airport and in the air: I had booked my return flight from London such that after spending time here at the Swiss First Class Lounge in Zurich, I would fly on to Frankfurt and experience the Lufthansa First Class Terminal, before flying back to North America on Lufthansa First Class.
These three experiences truly represent some of the highest echelons of luxury travel one can possibly attain, outside of flying private. And to think it can all be had for just 70,000 Aeroplan miles? Pure insanity.
Do note that access to the Swiss First Class Lounge Zurich is restricted to passengers flying same-day Swiss First Class or Lufthansa First Class, as well as HON Circle members. Since Swiss First Class can't be booked with partner miles, and HON Circle is so notoriously difficult to achieve that hardly anyone ever talks about it (you need something like 600,000 elite qualifying miles over two years), booking a Lufthansa First Class ticket out of Zurich is by far the easiest way to experience this lounge for yourself.
Since you need to be flying Lufthansa First Class on the same day, ideally you'd aim for a late evening departure out of Frankfurt or Munich, and get to the Swiss First Class Lounge first thing in the morning. That's exactly what I did – hence why this review begins with a groggy trek through Zurich Airport at 5:45am...
The Swiss First Class Lounge is located in Pier E of Zurich Airport, which primarily handles international flights. This makes sense, since the lounge is mainly intended to serve passengers flying Swiss First Class internationally, but it does mean that if you're planning on accessing the lounge as a Lufthansa First Class passenger, you'll have to exit Schengen Area immigration and explain to the officers that you're just going to visit the lounge and you'll be back later for your flight to Frankfurt or Munich.
Pier E is connected to the rest of the terminal by a people mover, which makes wonderful "Swiss" noises and sound effects during the journey. It can be a bit jarring to hear cows mooing when you're in an airport terminal train though, I've got to say.
The international terminal is pretty quiet this early in the morning. I was here just a few months ago visiting the Senator and Business Lounges ahead of my Swiss business class flight, so this was familiar territory for me. This time around, however, I made the long walk straight to the end of the terminal, where the coveted First Class Lounge was located up a level, accessible via elevator or a set of stairs.
Upon arrival at the check-in desk, the lounge attendants processed my boarding passes and welcomed me to the lounge.
(Just in case anyone's curious which language gave us "Bainvegni" in the below picture, turns out it's Romansh, Switzerland's fourth national language after German, French, and Italian. You learn something new every day!)
Since it was so early, the check-in attendant had to go into the lounge and deliver a few rousing shouts of Guten morgen! to get the attention of the wait staff, who came out and asked me if I wanted to have some breakfast.
I replied that I wanted to freshen up in one of the day rooms first, and the lounge attendant was more than happy to grab a key and show me to my room. I had read amazing things about the day rooms in this lounge, and boy did it live up to my expectation!
The lounge has two day rooms available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis and can't be booked in advance. I was assigned the St. Moritz room, while the Montreux room was just around the corner from me.
The room is simply incredible. It's comparable to an upscale hotel room in terms of decor and amenities, although it's of course a lot smaller than your average hotel room. Still, I had a room all to myself, in an airport lounge – just the thought alone left me pinching myself to make sure this was real.
The queen-sized bed is extremely comfortable, and the bedding in particular was divine.
They also provide you with free still and sparkling water, as well as a comprehensive charging station with USB ports and several international power ports.
On the opposite wall, there's a small rack for your luggage, as well as a TV complete with all sorts of channels from around the world.
Then we come to the ensuite bathroom. Once again, the fact that this even exists is simply mind-blowing to me. I've been in lounges with private shower rooms before, but this was simply on a whole other level.
The bathroom comes fully-stocked with all the amenities you need, like shampoo, shower gel, conditioner, a hairdryer, a dental kit, a shaving kit, and a set of slippers.
The shower is just so spacious, and as I took a shower to freshen up before heading back to the lounge, I really did feel like a king (or a prince, for that matter). I don't mean that in a boastful manner, but rather I'm trying to describe the feeling of tremendous satisfaction when your carefully laid plans come to fruition. Keep in mind that even though I write about travelling on points a lot, I hadn't been enjoying the fruits of my labour for all that long – my first business class trip was only earlier this year.
The best part of the day room? No doubt, it's the views of the tarmac. Anyone who has a trace of an aviation geek inside them will appreciate the feeling of waking up from your nap in an in-lounge hotel room to incredible views of planes taking off, landing, rotating, taxiing, you name it.
I don't know if anyone else feels this way, but it's always a warm feeling to see an Air Canada plane parked in foreign lands. On this particular day, the Air Canada A330 that makes the daily trip between Toronto and Zurich was parked right outside my room's window between 7am and 9am. A nice little reminder of home.
After napping for a short while, it was time to head back into the lounge. I'll describe the Swiss First Class Lounge in its entirety first before talking about the food and drinks. Keep in mind that some of these photos were taken around daybreak and some were taken a bit later on, so please forgive the inconsistent lighting.
One thing to note is that you're under no obligation to return the keys to your day room at any point during your stay – in fact, you can keep your belongings in there and go back and hang out in your room whenever you'd like.
The first thing you notice when you enter the First Class Lounge is the gigantic wine humidor to your left. It's absolutely gorgeous and houses over 1,000 bottles of wine and champagne from all over the world.
Then there's the champagne bar, a stylish counter in the middle of the lounge with a few premium bottles of champagne on ice. You can either help yourself, or ask the wait staff to serve your drinks at the bar – but we'll get to that later.
The main bar itself is the centrepiece of the lounge, a rectangular setup with plenty of barstool seating on either side.
Then to your left you'll find the dining area. There's a partition separating the seating booths from the dining tables, and you're free to take your pick for wherever you'd like to sit. There's no buffet selection in this lounge; all the dining options are à la carte and prepared readily for you in the kitchen.
Along a wall in the dining area you'll also find a gigantic bottle of champagne. I asked a staff member if it was purely decorative, and she said that no, people do in fact ask for it to be opened.
The decor throughout the lounge is superb, with stunning attention to detail. It carries a motif of calm, understated perfection that is so genuinely Swiss.
Meanwhile, on the side to the right of the lounge entrance is the main seating area. The First Class Lounge isn't particularly large, since it's supposed to cater to an exclusive group of passengers. However, what the lounge lacks in size, it makes up for in sheer style and sophistication.
The seating area is quite varied, featuring couches, loveseats, ottomans, and chairs. Some of the seats were clustered around a TV for catching up on the news, while others have a coffee table as their centrepiece.
In this area you'll also find the signature Swiss magazine rack that they have in all their lounges, as well as perhaps the saddest-looking buffet selection I've ever seen in any lounge. I suppose when you have an à la carte menu as impressive as it is here, you can get away with putting out a measly self-serve pastry cart.
By the door to the outdoor terrace, there's a telescope you can use for planespotting, which is an awesome touch. The outdoor terrace itself was closed at the moment, since it had rained quite heavily the night before.
The lounge wraps around the bank of elevators that bring you up from the airport concourse, and near the back of the lounge there's an area with a long meeting table. It's my understanding that this part can be walled off from the rest of the lounge and turned into a conference room, when the need arises. Indeed, much like the day rooms are named St. Moritz and Montreux, the conference room has a name as well: Lucerne.
Also in the back of the lounge is the bathrooms and shower rooms, which is where you'd go for a shower if you didn't particularly care for booking a whole day room to yourself. I checked out the bathrooms, which were kept very clean and had great tarmac views as well.
When I came back into the lounge I was again offered some breakfast, and this time I gladly accepted. The staff member let me know that I could sit wherever I want. She also passed me the gorgeous First Class Lounge menu and beamed, "You can order anything you want!" Now that's what I like to hear.
The breakfast menu read as follows. I ordered the Rustic breakfast – with fried eggs and Swiss rösti – as well as the Eggs Benedict, along with a black coffee. Between this lounge and the luxuries still to come, I was fully prepared to put on a few pounds today.
My coffee was presented beautifully – I loved the Swiss napkin that came with each small plate. I was also offered my choice of bread from a breadbasket, and I picked a croissant to start. Butter and jam were brought out afterwards.
After a while my rösti was ready, and believe me, it tasted as good as it looks.
After I devoured the rösti, the Eggs Benedict came right on cue. It was extremely tasty, though I'd say the rösti was still the more memorable dish since it's a Swiss specialty after all.
It was right around sunrise as I ate my breakfast, and watching the day break over the mountains around Zurich Kloten Airport while I enjoyed a five-star breakfast was pretty damn cool.
After breakfast, I spent some time chilling in my room, half-heartedly writing the East London Highlights post while watching the planes arrive at their gates outside. After about half an hour, I decided to head back into the lounge to check out the alcohol selection.
Indeed, the day rooms in this lounge were so mind-blowing to me that I just had to keep going back to my room every now and then, in order to feel like I was fully "experiencing" it.
In terms of the liquor in this lounge, it's worth noting that the First Class Lounge keeps on hand only a fraction of the whiskey that's available in the Whiskey Club 28/10 over at the Senator Lounge. Anyone who can access the First Class Lounge also has access to the Senator Lounge, so if you're a whiskey lover you might consider heading over to the Whiskey Club. (Alternatively, if you're about to fly Lufthansa First Class out of Frankfurt, just wait for the First Class Terminal 😉)
On the other hand, what the First Class Lounge does have is an impressive wine humidor, so you're quite spoilt for choice here. I asked the staff member – who whether by coincidence or design, seemed to be "assigned" to looking after me at this point – to pick out a champagne for me, and she poured me some Piper-Heidsieck Rose Sauvage, which I greatly enjoyed.
I was then treated to a glass of Riesling from Villa Huesgen. For a moment here, the clouds outside parted just enough for a blast of sunlight to come streaming through the windows, illuminating the entire lounge. And I just sat there at the bar, sipping on my wine and appreciating how lucky I felt to be experiencing this.
One more glass of Piper Rose did the trick for me, and after that I got my laptop from my room and got some work done in the lounge. A couple of times, someone who gave me the impression of being the service director (or equivalent) of the lounge came by to ask me if I needed anything, so I ordered an Earl Grey tea, which was (surprise, surprise) presented beautifully.
Before I knew it, I realized that it was 10:45, and I had better hurry up if I wanted to have lunch in the lounge prior to my 12:10 flight onwards to Frankfurt. I took up a spot in the booths, and perused the lunch & dinner menu.
The menu is incredibly comprehensive, almost to the point of absurdity. In addition to the standard à la carte menu (featuring an assortment of salivating dishes), the First Class Lounge also has a rotating menu that's inspired by the destinations that Swiss flies to (on this day ot was Vienna), and a "Pure Swiss" menu that features traditional Swiss delicacies that are just so immaculately Swiss – things like goat cheese mousse, baked calf sweetbreads, and stuffed chicken breast.
As if that weren't enough, there's also a "Special Menu" with fancier-than-the-rest items such as beef tartare, Swiss fondue with bread and potatoes, and entrecôte steak. Naturally, I couldn't resist the opportunity to sample the fondue, so I started with that.
My word, this was delicious. Putting to one side the fact that I'm literally eating a cheese fondue in an airport lounge (how amazing is that?), the cheese tasted like the epitome of decadence and the potatoes were delightfully tender.
I also ordered a few items off the other menus. While I wanted to try as many items on the menu as possible, I also didn't want food to go to waste, so I limited myself to a portion of the flash-fried tuna from the standard menu, and a cream of horseradish soup from the Pure Swiss menu. Both were extremely appetizing, and overall I can confidently say that the food in the First Class Lounge matched up in quality to that of a high-end restaurant.
Lunch took me a while to finish (and yes, that's another glass of the Piper Rose I'm enjoying). I had about ten minutes before I should've gotten going for my flight...
...but at this point the staff let me know the terrace was open! Of course I just had to go have a look. The terrace was as stunning as I remember it from the Senator Lounge, with binoculars on hand for all your planespotting needs. Lots of different aircraft had parked themselves at the Pier E gates by this time of day, so it was quite a sight to behold.
There's some more furniture in the First Class Lounge's section of the terrace, including an open area with lots of seating. I imagine it must be quite nice to enjoy a fondue out here, especially in the winter months.
On the other side of the terrace, you can enjoy some picturesque scenes of the mountains around the airport. The views of a handful of Swiss aircraft lined up along this side of the terminal was quite satisfying as well.
By now it was 11:30, so I went back to my room and packed up my things. I returned the St. Moritz room key to the front desk, where there was one last surprise waiting for me!
You see, while Swiss's first class ground services don't include driving you to the plane (unlike Lufthansa), they will drive you if you're flying out of a different terminal – but only to the central terminal area, not the gate. That was exactly my situation, since I was departing on an intra-Schengen flight to Frankfurt from Pier A. So a Swiss employee wearing a "HON Circle / VIP" vest escorted me down the elevator to the ground floor, where this beauty was waiting for me:
Look at that license plate!
I wasn't expecting this at all, so I was beyond thrilled to be escorted by my very own private van – if only to the terminal itself. I was dropped off at a special immigration booth on the ground level, where I giddily handed over my passport for re-entry into the Schengen Area, before heading to the gate for the next part of the adventure.
Wow, wow, wow, wow, WOW.
There's not many airport lounges in the world that could count as "experiences" in themselves, and are worth setting aside time to visit. Prior to visiting this lounge, the only lounge in the world I had been to that might make it into that category was the Turkish CIP Lounge in Istanbul. But the Swiss First Class Lounge comfortably and comprehensively blew every lounge I'd ever visited out of the water.
There's the impeccable food and drink, outstanding in both quality and variety. There's the spacious terrace and the stunning tarmac views. Then there's of course the sheer craziness of having an in-lounge hotel room all to yourself. And underlying it all is the ornate decor and attention to detail that makes the lounge just plain satisfying to spend time in.
Make no mistake about it, I'm aiming to make my way back here sooner rather than later, if only to share the experience with Jessica and other firends (eligible passengers are allowed to bring in one guest). But for now, stay tuned for what's coming up next: the famous Lufthansa First Class Terminal, Frankfurt.