Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna Schottenring 24, Vienna; 43-1-236-1000; kempinski.com/vienna; 152 rooms from $520 (€370) a night
Originally built as a luxury hotel for distinguished international guests of the 1873 World Exhibition in Vienna, this distinguished property never even opened when a cholera epidemic raged through the city killing thousands. Over the years, the hotel languished as an office complex until the German brand Kempinski purchased and restored the building to its original purpose. Open since March, the Palais Hansen Kempinski combines historical architecture with a contemporary interior design offering high-tech touches in all 152-rooms. It's well worth the wait.
The address can't be beat. It's the latest five-star property to crown the Ringstrasse, the circular boulevard constructed along Vienna's old city walls, and within easy walking distance of the tree-lined Rathauspark, the museum district, the Imperial palaces and the mile-long Mariahilfer Strasse pedestrian shopping street. The D tram stops just outside the hotel's door and the metro is less than a five minute walk away.
The hotel is named for Danish-born architect Theophil Hansen, Vienna's star architect when the city's Imperial ambitions were at their apogee. In addition to this hotel, Hansen built the nearby Bourse, the world-famous Musikverein and the 1846 Parliament Buildings, among others. This year marks the 200th anniversary of his birth, and a recent architecture exhibit in the city looked at how Hansen combined classical Greek, Palladian and Art Nouveau influences to create buildings both eclectically and richly historical. This hotel is no exception. Even with the addition of a new glass box elevator shaft to the marble-lined lobby, it remains a bastion of Old World elegance and grandeur.
A glassed-in cigar lounge off the main lobby is a walk-in humidor with a library stocked with such masculine titles as The James Bond Archives and Marilyn Fotografien. On offer are 15-year-old Dalwhinnie scotch and double cask matured Aberlour Single Malt Whisky plus stogies from the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Nicaragua and Guatemala. The lights are dimmed and the furniture is chocolate leather – this is one opulent man den.
EAT IN OR EAT OUT?
Definitely eat in. Palais Hansen Kempinski has two restaurants: the more formal Edvard, and the gazebo-style Die Kuche, which doubles as a bright and beautiful breakfast room. In both, the emphasis is on traditional Austro-Hungarian recipes made from fresh and local ingredients. The varied breakfast buffet offers fresh baked breads, cured meats and cheeses, muesli, omelettes on demand and bottles of Pol Roger on ice. Try the Gugelhupf, a traditional Austrian cake, which the locals have at breakfast and in the afternoon with ink black coffee.
IF I COULD CHANGE ONE THING
On offer at the hotel spa is a 90-minute massage that relaxes, but doesn't knead away the muscle fatigue accumulated from hours of sightseeing. Even if asked to apply pressure, the friendly and laid-back staff seem incapable of it. Well-mannered to a fault.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.