Luxury Evolved: The Mandarin Oriental, Geneva

“The Presidential Suite is located on the very top floor of the hotel with a 360 degree view and its own elevator. This suite combines Art Deco elegance and comfort, and direct elevator access means that discretion and tranquility is guaranteed,” explained Lars Wagner, General Manager of Mandarin Oriental, Geneva. In an in-depth interview, we discussed the unique history and evolution of the hotel, signature suites and amenities, spa treatments, Michelin-star dining and more.

Lars Wagner is the General Manager of Mandarin Oriental, Geneva since January 2013. A veteran hotelier with over 27 years of hospitality industry experience, Mr Wagner joined Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group in 2007 as General Manager of the award- winning Mandarin Oriental, Munich. 

Tell me a little bit about the founding, history and location of Mandarin Oriental Geneva.
Mandarin Oriental, Geneva opened its doors in 1950 as “Hotel du Rhône” and was the very first hotel to be built in Europe after World War II. From the very beginning, it was considered the most luxurious hotel in the city and was unique in offering the ultimate luxury at the time; en-suite bathrooms in every room.

The hotel’s opening coincided with the arrival of the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva and it soon became clear that the hotel would set the trend for luxury and service in the city. Since its opening, the hotel has welcomed prominent guests from royalty to musicians to international politicians and to this day, Mandarin Oriental, Geneva continues to exude all the refinement and elegance of a world-class luxury hotel, as well as being the embodiment of legendary Swiss hospitality.

In 1989, the Rafael Hotels Ltd. bought the hotel from its original owners, the Lendi Group and undertook major renovations to ensure the hotel continued to set itself apart from its competitors both in service and style. The renovations introduced modern facilities, but did so with great sensitivity to remain true to the building’s original framework of sleek, early modernist Art Deco style and the distinctive feel of the 1950s was left undisturbed. The work was completed in 1999 under the supervision of the Swiss Architect Jean-Louis Christen and interior designers Chhada, Siembieda & Partners.






In 2000, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group purchased the hotel and in July 2008 Mandarin Oriental, Geneva completed another major refurbishment. New York based internationally acclaimed designer Adam D. Tihany was responsible for the new design of the hotel’s public areas which gave the hotel and sleek, modern look and saw the launch of the hotel’s new restaurants and bar; Rasoi by Vineet, Café Calla and MO Bar. This was followed by a full renovation of the hotel’s 162 guestrooms and 27 suites which was completed in 2013 with interiors by Buz Design, Hong Kong and Sybille De Margerie of SM Design, Paris.

Our hotel stands at the heart of the city and its cultural, shopping and banking districts. The historic Old Town and its many theatres are all a short stroll away.



How do some of the most luxurious, signature suites differ from one another in terms of space, decor and style?
All our suites have luxurious, spacious bathrooms and a glass wall that allows natural light from the living room to filter in.

The Junior Terrace Suites offer beautifully spacious rooms with high ceilings and are decorated in warm earth-colored tones creating a calming effect. The furnishings are contemporary with a touch of modern art which links back to the original design of the hotel. These suites have been designed by Buz Design of Hong Kong who has created a contemporary urban retreat concept. All of the suites have private terraces which allow guests to enjoy panoramic views of the Rhône River, Geneva’s historic Old Town and the surrounding snow-capped mountains. Perfect for families, most are inter-connecting and can be converted into one oversized luxury apartment.




Our Signature Oriental Suite is ultra-luxurious; it covers 150 sqm and has a large living room, dining room with a butler’s pantry, bedroom with walk-in closet, spacious bathroom and its own spa facilities, including a hammam. It also has a 62 sqm terrace with panoramic vistas over the river and the Salève mountain. The design complements the new Junior Terrace Suites with stylish furniture and modern art design elements.





Another one of our Signature suites is the Presidential Suite, located on the very top floor with a 360 degree view and its own elevator. The Presidential Suite combines Art Deco elegance and comfort; direct elevator access means that discretion and tranquility is guaranteed. There is also a private staircase that links to the Royale Mandarin Suite below. The Presidential’s terrace looks out over the city, the lake, harbor, the Salève mountain and ultimately – weather permitting – the famous Mont-Blanc peak.



With regard to the spa, fitness and health facilities, what kinds of offerings are available to guests, and what specific treatments might you recommend?
We offer a state-of-the-art fitness center, which is open 24 hours and offers the latest TechnoGym® equipment, a bodybuilding area, as well as separate sauna and hammam for ladies and gents (open from 9.30am to 10pm). Various fitness membership options are available for guests and local clientele who wish to stay in shape and balance both body and mind.

Since August 2014, we also offer a luxurious Beauty Studio in partnership with renowned Swiss luxury spa brand, L.RAPHAEL. This bespoke Studio offers a range of carefully chosen body and beauty treatments available exclusively for guests of the hotel. It offers an intimate and relaxing environment with stunning views over the tranquil River Rhône. Guests can enjoy a variety of select relaxing or invigorating treatments including Swedish, Deep Tissue, Anti-Jetlag or Signature massages, firming or anti-aging facials as well as a selection of manicures and pedicures. A recommendation would be to try the Anti-JetLag Oxy-Jet Energy treatment. It is L.RAPHAEL’s Signature booster massage, which combines their master oxygen treatment as well as the Anti-JetLag massage, allowing a faster recovery and total well-being after long hours of travel.

In terms of dining, how would you describe the atmosphere and cuisine of Michelin-starred Rasoi?
Our hotel’s Signature restaurant Rasoi is one of the main attractions on the Geneva dining scene. It specializes in deliciously spectacular “evolved” Indian food and has been awarded one Michelin star since 2010. The restaurant is decorated with vibrant colors of Indian reds and purples with silver leaf set into rich woods and stone surfaces. It oozes luxury and warmth with a touch of Indian charm. The addition of a beautifully modern-designed traditional open tandoori oven located at the entrance of the restaurant and visible from the Lobby provides a striking centerpiece for guests. The daily bread making entices guests in to sample the delicate Indian flavors, masterfully put together to create unique and mouth-watering dishes. In the summer months, the restaurant spills out onto a beautiful terrace with spectacular views over the River Rhône.





Finally, for guests looking to experience the best of Geneva while staying at the Mandarin Oriental, what would be your top 5 list for enjoying the city?
Geneva has it all for both leisure and business visitors. The city is ideally situated in the very heart of Europe, on the shores of Lake Geneva (Lac Léman), one of the largest lakes on the continent with its star attraction being a 140 meters ‘Jet D’eau’ rising into the sky. Exclusive fashion and jewelry brands, as well as master chocolatiers and prestigious watch manufacturers, are all trademarks of the city’s luxury shopping universe.

A not-to-be-missed trademark in town is the Patek Philippe Museum which is home to the prestigious creations of Geneva-based family of master watchmakers founded in 1839, and it displays watches, musical automata and portrait miniatures from the 16th to the 19th century.

For a uniquely Swiss experience, why not try a private chocolate atelier with one of the many master chocolatiers in town.

Geneva is also renowned for its cultural, entertainment, sports and gastronomic activities, with the world-famous Geneva Festival taking place during two weeks in the summer and ending with its spectacular one-hour lakeside musical firework.

Another top-notch summery experience is an evening at Les Voiles lounge-bar, which is located by the lake side and provides a “Nikki beach-like” delightful atmosphere, especially at sunset.

Finally, Geneva has the highest number of award-winning restaurants in Switzerland and is the third largest wine-producing canton. A culinary discovery of our treasures at Rasoi by Vineet is then a must for any food lover.

Rahim Kanani is the author of critically-acclaimed hotel management book and hospitality management book A Wealth of Insight: The World’s Best Luxury Hoteliers on Leadership, Management and the Future of 5-Star Hospitality.