We spoke with representatives from the hospitality industry in Switzerland, Germany, Greece and Denmark to learn what’s new for meetings/events in Europe heading into the end of 2013.
It’s not everyday you come across a boutique Sheraton. The 55-room Sheraton Zurich Neues Schloss Hotel is a newly renovated jewel box located in a landmark building in downtown Zurich. This is just the cutest thing in the world. It has a 30-pax, bright and flexible Le Pavillion seminar room for small meetings. The 56-seat Le Jardin Suisse restaurant serves authentic Swiss cuisine like geschnetzeltes (meat ragout). And the guest rooms have extra large windows and lovely photos of calla lilies.
“As a small boutique Sheraton, the hotel is unique,” says Simon Koehler, sales specialist. “And we’re perfectly located, less than a minute’s walk to beautiful Lake Zurich and near the shopping on glamorous Banhofstrasse.” Koehler’s favorite group outing is a night at the opera on the lake’s border—which you can stroll to in seven minutes.
Even the world’s global financial capital has to let its hair down sometimes. The city has of late morphed into a cool art center with culture-hungry groups flocking to the reclaimed industrial neighborhood, Zurich West. At the new 125-room 25Hours Zurich West, count on funky art like free-form red fish floating on the walls throughout. There’s a ping-pong table in the lobby, and the design of the four meeting rooms—up to 1,300 sf—was inspired by Zurich’s ancient guild halls.
“Rest assured, you won’t find any boring white walls or sterile rooms here,” says sales manager Urs Michel. “Our beautiful city is playfully reflected wherever you look. Seminar visitors like our unusual ambience, especially in the 120-pax meeting room designed to activate creativity.”
We like the top floor sauna overlooking the city.
Nearby, the Renaissance Zurich Tower Hotel is a group mecca for design-o-philes. Opened in 2011, the 300-room hotel features 10 modular meeting rooms totaling almost 11,000 sf. Stylish, custom oak furnishings complement the broad dark oak floors. You’ll love the aluminum sculptures imprinted with abstract outlines of industrial designs that once dominated the neighborhood. And the city’s popular Equinox locavore restaurant is on the ground floor.
“We are where the lifeblood flows,” says GM Peter Schickling, citing nearby nightclubs, shops and galleries. His fave neighbor? IM VIADUKT is Zurich’s first indoor mall for local, organic produce set in a renovated railway viaduct.
For groups and attendees looking to save on expenses in Copenhagen, the “Bistronomy” movement is making a big splash, fitting in somewhere between gastropub and haute gastronomie. The concept brings young top chefs into more mid-market diners serving stylish food with smart presentation. The scene, often in ex-industrial neighborhoods, is even earning Michelin stars.
Jaegersborggade is one of those districts. Over 40 small shops and wine bars line the streets, dishing out charcuterie to both hipster kids and business professionals. One of the standout restaurants, Relae is a creative kitchen with a non-pretentious vibe and fancy fare. The healthy dishes consist of local/seasonal ingredients highlighting two or three flavors. There’s a vegetarian menu and “non-veg” menu, including Lumpfish roe with radish and almonds, and a potato puree with olives and buttermilk.
Nordic seafood cuisine is served at Fiskebaren in the meat-packing district inside a cool mixed-use art space with all kinds of creative professionals. The modern bar gives off a chic and fashionable vibe, but it’s still affordable, relaxed and very local. This is one of our favorite group restaurants in Europe because it’s as authentic an experience as you’ll find.
The focus is on sustainable shellfish and seafood, with celebrated dishes like North Sea flounder baked with brussel sprouts, kale, bone marrow, oats and hazelnuts. For a sweet afterthought, try the Mutzo apple sorbet with goat’s milk, white chocolate and aquavit merengue.
“Copenhagen has become a global food mecca; the city is packed with downtown gourmet restaurants making it possible to do Michelin dine-arounds,” says Christina Andersen, sales/marketing manager, meeting industry for VisitDenmark. “The high number of Michelin Bib (budget) Gourmand restaurants in the city also makes it possible.”
The 85-year-old tour operator Spillmann GmBH has one for your bucket list. Their “Premium Cars of Southern Germany” tours send groups whipping along the Autobahn in Mercedes, BMWs, Audis and Porsches over 5-8 days. Along the way, stay in posh hotels and tour Bavarian castles high in the Black Forest’s alpine foothills.
“We create programs based on our clients’ wishes,” says spokesperson Nadine Wildemuth. “Routes are adjustable so you can rent only a Mercedes if you want. We can also change hotels among 3- to 5-star.”
Trips start in Munich in the heart of Bavaria. Pick up, say, a BMW, see the BMW Museum and explore the city. The next morning, drive up Germany’s highest mountain past the 19th century Neuschwanstein Castle. In Stuttgart, visit the Mercedes museum and trade your Bimmer for a Benz. Then tour ancient Baden-Baden in style. Car junkies like to explore charming Schorndorf, birthplace of Gottleib Daimler.
Or planners can also contact BMW directly for driving experiences at places like Grob Dölln in Berlin.
“We get to help people succeed, and this stays with them,” says Chief Instructor Claudia Hurtgen. She helps run the BMW Driving Experience, a road academy for improving maneuvering. “With us, groups can drive on Europe’s best tracks including Nürburgring Nordschleife,” considered the world’s toughest racing track in Nürburg.
Just saying the word “Santorini” fills your heart with romance and your mind with dreams of mythically blue water and sunbaked beaches. Two resorts operated by The Starwood Luxury Collection make it happen. In the medieval village of Megalohori, the upscale yet laid back Vedema Resort has 45 spacious, crisp white suites peering out over the Aegean. Kick back at the superb spa or the private beach.
Sample a rare vintage at Vedema’s wine bar, a 400-year old restored catacomb, and savor the island’s famed fava and other local specialties at Vinsanto, Santorini’s choice dining destination. Or take a cooking class with Vedema’s award-winning executive chef Melina Homata. For small events, the Thira Conference Center is 1,200 sf.
Vedema’s sister property, the 22-suite Mystique Resort is designed for only the top strata of corporate executives. It is nothing short of a fantasy with its free-form whitewashed walls and balconies undulating around the steep cliffs of the Aegean Caldera. The sunsets are, without embellishment, legendary.
All of the stone-crafted, minimal Cycladic-style suites have secluded sea-facing terraces and driftwood accents throughout. Order in from the poolside Charisma restaurant. For a touch of adventure, organize a mountain bike ride through the narrow pathways in the nearby arty village of Oia. And make sure you book everyone in your group some spa treatments on their private balconies, because that’s how you roll in Santorini. Go ahead, say it with us: “Santorini….”