Zurich is an expensive city, where lavish hotels that normally charge an arm and a leg cost at least one extra limb. But who needs plush when you don’t have body parts to spare and, like me, you’re just passing through?
I opted for a budget “capsule” hotel, a short walk from the Swiss town’s glorious Grossmunster church and its famous Chagall stained glass windows.
The Green Marmot capsule hotel has won awards for its cozy closets. Crafted from light birch wood, each pod contains a fold-out wooden table, circular mirror, and power outlet. There is also an organic Egyptian cotton duvet and sheets on top of a thick mattress. It is a bed with a low roof. You can sit in the space, bent over, but not upright. It’s not for the claustrophobic or the shy – your privacy is simply protected by a small open curtain at the top.
The capsules are stacked in pairs and fill one of the many rooms. A framed architectural drawing on a wall shows a room that can accommodate 36 people. The packaging of sardines comes to mind. But it only cost me £43.72 for one night. This works out to £41 if you book far enough in advance.
The hotel’s website shows happy families sharing a number of capsules, but this is clearly not practical because, by paying per person, it would be much cheaper – and safer – for a family to stay in one. standard two bed hotel room.
There are a few double beds available, but capsules are more suitable for singles.
Toilets and showers are shared. This shared aspect of the hotel actually means it is a hostel, but in most hostels you see your fellow travelers as they sleep and the in-room amenities such as power outlets, also tend to be common. In the Green Marmot capsule hotel, you are in your own burrow, like a marmot and only catch sight of others when they choose to show themselves, also like a marmot.
Although the hotel says it has single-sex rooms, the room I slept in was mixed, with men and women in the cubbies. It wasn’t a problem for me, but there were no locks or blocks: the skimpy curtain is the only guarantee of privacy, and anyone could remove it if they wanted to, or as me, he confused space with a luggage compartment.
I should have known that this was not where the extra bags would be stored as I had already placed my valuables in the hotel’s excellent lockers. I was traveling with a Tern folding bike and was delighted to find it neatly stored in the locker. However, by then I had no more space for my other bags, so – after my failed attempt to find them a home – I hung them on two of the capsule’s three wooden pegs.
The lockers open and lock with the number key on a card and it worked perfectly, including at 4.30am when I slipped out of the hotel for my first train. An expensive hotel room would have been a waste when I spent so little time in bed and wouldn’t be there for breakfast. The Green Marmot capsule hotel has vending machines for snacks and hot drinks, but there’s no other food and no food service to make your own. Instead, there are cafes and restaurants on the hotel’s doorstep. Wi-Fi is strong and free and I’ve stayed in ultra-fancy hotels where neither has been. Each individual pod is air-conditioned — you can feel the cold air pumped through the gaps — and there were none of the blackberry smells common to common living areas.
How was the night ? Cramped, but still comfortable, and my other guests didn’t treat the ‘hotel’ like a backpacker hostel. They were calm, respectful and I didn’t need the free earplugs offered by the receptionist on arrival. Each capsule is isolated from each other with sound-absorbing foam. I was toasty warm and with electricity and Wi-Fi, perfectly happy with my small space. I folded the table flat, worked on my laptop, charged my electrical devices and caught up with home
The Green Marmot’s location, meanwhile – in the center of the Old Town – is better than most high-end hotels in the city and it only takes a few seconds to reach the Limmat River Promenade and its medieval buildings. , or the tram along the river. Lake Zurich is just steps away. Launched in Japan in the late 1970s, capsule hotels are now found in many cities – and airports – around the world. I’ve slept in an airport, much of which was swanky plastic but still as cramped as the wooden one downtown.
The Green Marmot capsule hotel opened in 2020 and advertises itself as green due to its use of eco-materials and the urban repurposing of some previously dilapidated spaces – the building looked like an office in a past life. It is therefore an option for the eco-conscious as well as the budget-conscious.