A sense of place is increasingly important to luxury travellers today, and to this Girlahead would add a sense of time, too. Look at the mural, above, a photo-shopped blown-up photo that occupies the end wall of the sitting area of room #430 at Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski, Munich. You are reminded that you are only a few minutes’ walk from the old-town area of this fascinating city, the capital of Bavaria. Time is included, too. Until a short time ago the hotel would never have paired simple, light and bright bedroom interiors with stylised murals rather than lots of artwork. Colin Finnegan, one half of the Anglo-Dutch design firm FG Stijl, has here shown admirable restraint. Room #430 has parquet floors with soft blue and cream central rugs, pale cream walls and hand-pull drapes and sheers for the three windows, which of course open, and there is marvellously bright lighting throughout.
When what is now a Kempinski-owned 305-room hotel was built in 1858 as guest-house for Maximilian II, it had more electric lights than the whole of the city put together. The hotel has kept itself right up to date ever since. Examples? Its near-unique constant air-flow cigar lounge, its stylish buffet room, its cleverly laid out wellness, next to the indoor pool and the rooftop sunbathing terrace. It is also smack up to date in exhibiting its German-ness. Back to that buffet room: at breakfast supplies included glass jars of yoghurts, plus curd cheeses and quark, with chives, while breads included super-healthy browns, almost in 50 shades. At lunch, my weisswurst came with pretzels – weisswurst is, incidentally, never eaten AFTER lunch (and another local rule, never eat the casings, suck-out the veal and pork innards). At dinner, a steak tartare, complemented by a Pinot Noir, Hand in Hand Spätburgunder 2017, arrived with pumpernickel.
Let us go to the spa, which cleverly themes its offering, and names its four treatment rooms, for the seasons. Main products are Babor, from Aachen, and after a deliberately-firm back massage I was sent away with a dear little fuchsia goody-bag holding a Dr Niedermaier Natural Luxury Regulatpro Hyaluron anti-ageing beauty drink, from Hohenbrunn (I can testify it tasted jolly good but no-one has since remarked whether or not it has made any difference). Another German brand that I fell in love with here at the hotel was Dallmayr coffee, from the Munich-based delicatessen that dates back to 1700. Still family owned, it is today the largest such emporium in Europe: commendably, for every pound of Ethiopian coffee it sells it plants another five seedlings in its aim to re-forest that country. I made a couple of cups in my room’s Krups machine and both resulted in some of the best in-hotel coffee ever, even though the Dallmayr-branded cups were honestly too chunky for my own taste.
Even though there was no time, alas, to take advantage of Kempinski’s Five Star Road Trip – take a Sixt car for a 90-minute drive to sibling property, to Kempinski Hotel Berchtesgaden Bavarian Alps, for even more exposure to sense of place, German-style – I had a really memorable stay back here at Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski Munich. The hotel is a couple of minutes’ walk to the theatre, and under ten to the English Garden and its unique Eisbach surfing. Even less time-demanding is being able to come out of the hotel’s main entrance, cross Maximilanstrasse and there is Chanel. I saved time, and used calories, too, by taking the 72 finely-carpetted stairs from lobby up to my room. It was all, really, most agreeable. I did feel rejuvenated, though I think rather than crediting Dr Niedermaier I will praise the hotel boss, Holger Schroth (even though he was away that night) and his really passionate and friendly team.
Right now all restaurants have to close at 9 p.m. so there is a lot of early dining, and increased use of private dining. For background on luxury world travel news, do sign in to the WORLD TRAVEL ESSENTIAL podcast https://anchor.fm/agwte