Finding somewhere to stay in Zurich can be a headache. There are some superb luxury hotels, but with the Swiss franc so strong against our puny pound, you'll need deep pockets to enjoy them. There are some decent pensions, but they can be a bit spartan unless you just need a place to crash. In the bland corporate hotels, you could be anywhere. But now there's 25hours, a design hotel that bridges the gap between budget and boutique. If you're looking for flair without fuss, this is probably your sort of place.
Currently confined to German-speaking cities (but surely not for too much longer), 25hours is gradually emerging as one of central Europe's hippest hotel chains. The first 25hours opened in Hamburg 10 years ago and the brand has gone on to be a big hit. Today, there are two in Hamburg, two in Frankfurt, one in Vienna and more to come; 25hours Berlin is already under construction, due to open later this year. Future locations include Munich and Cologne. Zurich West is the first location in Switzerland. It opened only in November 2012, but it hasn't taken long to bed in – the lobby bar already has the laid-back buzz of a local rendezvous.
First impressions aren't all that promising – a bland modern building hemmed in by office blocks and flyovers. Thankfully, the interior is a lot more inviting. There's table tennis in the lobby and a comfy library with some good art and travel books. The food is by Haya Molcho, an Austrian chef of Israeli descent, who runs Neni, a prestigious restaurant in the Naschmarkt, Vienna's culinary quarter. Her menu is internationally inspired, paying homage to cuisine from Austria to the Middle East. "I call it nomadic cuisine," says 25hours CEO, Christoph Hoffman.
If you thought all Swiss cities were squeaky clean and a bit boring, Zurich West will make you think again. Formerly an industrial zone, it's now an edgy cultural enclave. The area is still emerging (there are some bleak bits between the hot spots) but if you're willing to snoop around, you'll find plenty of trendy shops and cafés.
An old brewery houses the Migros Museum, Zurich's leading contemporary art gallery. The Schiffbau, a former shipyard, is now a splendid theatre space and lively restaurant. Look out for Freitag, the functionally cool messenger bag company – its flagship store is housed in a high-rise stack of transport containers. (You can also buy its products at the hotel.)
For more conventional sightseeing, board a No 4 tram from Toni-Areal, right outside the hotel. It's only a 10-minute ride to the historic Old Town and the tranquil waterfront of Lake Zurich. Trams stop at the Hauptbahnhof (central station) where you can catch a train to the airport – the transfer takes about 20 minutes on a local train, a little less on an inter‑city express. Bahnhofstrasse, by the station, is Zurich's main shopping street.
The interior is by Alfredo Häberli, who's worked with top fashion firms such as Camper. He lives in Zurich but he's of Argentinian descent, and his house style combines Bauhaus functionality with South American flourish. There are various categories of room. The Gold rooms are a spacious 26sq m. Platinum rooms are about the same size, with individual balconies. Even the smaller Silver rooms feel fairly roomy, at 22sq m. Gold and Platinum rooms overlook the park rather than the busy main road. Some of the rooms have bunk beds – useful for families and great fun for children (or fun-loving grown-ups). There are no baths, but the power showers are an exhilarating treat. The decor is similar in all – groovy Vitra chairs, Alias beds and Iittala crockery (on sale in the lobby kiosk).
There's no gym, but there's a smart modern sauna on the top floor – open plan with fantastic views over the city and the snow-capped Alps on the horizon. Every room has a LAN port and a docking station for your iPhone or iPod. There's free Wi-Fi throughout, but if you're tired of hunching over your laptop, there are Apple computers in the cosy business suite, which you can use at no extra cost.
25hours, Zurich West, Pfingstweidstrasse 102, Zurich, Switzerland (00 41 43 243 6310; 25hours-hotels.com)
Doubles start at Sfr180 (£126), room only