Germany: Culture, Design and Entertainment

The Fontenay’s Library has 1,000 books in it, chosen by the local Felix Jud Bookshop.

The Fontenay opened earlier this year in Hamburg as a member of The Leading Hotels of the World. The all-new property sits on the banks of Lake Alster, giving it an urban resort vibe and views to die for from most rooms and suites. In fact, it’s easy to feel part of the thriving Hamburg scene at The Fontenay, particularly from its rooftop bar, which is already getting rave reviews on TripAdvisor.

Note: Hamburg itself also sits on the Elbe River; the hotel is currently promoting pre-and post-cruise packages to accommodate Germany’s very vibrant river cruise industry.

Good to know: The Fontenay’s architecture is designed to look like three interlocking circles; there are no straight walls within the hotel and no wall is parallel to another. All of this led one recent guest to comment: “The architecture and design of The Fontenay are a sight to behold.” Another stated: “A true ‘Wow’ hotel and thanks to the owner that spent all that money to build such a beauty.”

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The Fontenay’s Deluxe Rooms have high ceilings and lots of windows and natural light, with decorative objects by Danish design brand Georg Jensen

Such a high-end design hotel fits right in with Germany’s second-largest city. Architecture aficionados will want to visit the historic Speicherstadt in the city’s port. The enormous, eclectic warehouse district, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage list, was built in the 19th century. It’s frequently seen during harbor tours. The warehouses are still in active use and some of them have been turned into museums, including the Hamburg Dungeon and the Miniatur Wunderland, which is a model railway.

Want an insider to take you around town (and throughout Germany for that matter)? We suggest Virginia Giordano’s Culture Trip tours ([email protected]; 49-30/305-3890).She has a team of historians, architects and guides; she can also introduce you to VIPs in cultural circles, based on your interests.

More News: The magnificent Elbphilharmonie concert hall opened here in 2017, sitting atop a warehouse in Hamburg’s historic port. Also significant for its architecture, the Elbphilharmonie has three concert halls, a hotel, 45 private apartments and the Plaza, which is a public viewing area with a 360-degree view of the city. The centerpiece of the Elbphilharmonie is a world-class concert hall with 2,100 seats, all arranged around a centrally located stage, so no one is further away from the conductor than 98 feet.

Note: In Hamburg, dubbed as “the music capital of the north,” travelers may want to stop in for a tour of the Steinway & Sons, which has a small recital room, dedicated to Vladimir Horowitz, a large showroom and one practice room for rent. Note: This is one of two company-owned-and-operated factories; the other is in Astoria, New York, just minutes from Manhattan.

We say, after a day of exploring Hamburg’s sites, it’s time to head back to The Fontenay, preferably up to its rooftop restaurant, The Lakeside, which is overseen by Michelin-star Chef Cornelius Speinle, who hails from Heston Blumenthal’s three-star Michelin restaurant, The Fat Duck, in Bray, England. Be sure to snag a window table with lake views (with just 40 seats it’s best to reserve three weeks out since this is a popular scene for the locals). The restaurant’s manager, Michel Buder ([email protected]), can assist with special requests. 

Elbphilharmonie Hamburg boasts some of the best acoustics in the world. Classical and contemporary music is performed here.

Those really doing the town right will want to retire to the two-bedroom Fontenay Suite (Room No. 504), which is 2,155 square feet in size. There’s plenty here, including a dressing room, an office, a full kitchen, a dining room for 10 and, oh, those panoramic views of the lake and the city. Note: An adjoining 300-square-foot Classic Room can be added to the suite, making it three bedrooms in all.

The hotel is run by Managing Director Thies Sponholz. We hear that Esther Kittel ([email protected]; 011-00-494-060-5660-5851), director of revenue and reservations, can assist with room selections, which also includes a Deluxe category with lake views and a balcony. (Hint: Because the hotel is in a park-like setting, there really are no bad views.) A family package includes a Deluxe room with connecting Classic twin rooms. Most rooms in the hotel have double sinks; be sure to make a special request for a bathtub as not all rooms have them. 

Nice Touch: The hotel’s minibars serve up its own labeled beer, “No. 10,” from the local Ratsherrn brewery.

Jan Riepen ([email protected]; 011-00-494-060-566-050), the head concierge, can secure top dining reservations and seats at the Elbphilharmonie, as well as luxury transportation from the Hamburg airport, which is 25 minutes away. Private jets and helicopters can land at Hamburg airport, at the General Aviation Terminal (Weg beim Jäger).

It seems as if all the fun is happening on the rooftop of The Fontenay, and that includes at the spa, which has a stunning indoor / outdoor pool and a sun deck. It uses the very posh La Mer products (the only spa in Germany to do so) and has four treatment “cocoons.” A private spa suite can accommodate four guests at once; we hear the Alster Ritual is a top treatment; it’s a Nordic-inspired wellbeing program that includes a salt and precious stone-powder peel and an energy massage.

After the spa, it’s time for shopping, and we say head over to the city center or, better yet, to Neuer Wall (a 10-minute walk away; the hotel also provides transport) for boutiques from design houses Escada, Jil Sander, Joop!, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and St. Emile. At Unger, more than 100 designers present their collections in one huge mall. 

Note: Come late November, Hamburg will be buzzing with multiple Christmas markets in every pocket of the city. The Hamburg Wasser World Triathlon happens every summer (this year it’s July 14-15), as does the Ironman Hamburg, coming up on July 29.


Due south of Hamburg, albeit 382 miles (seven hours by train), Munich is another happening city scene where Rocco Forte’s The Charles Hotel is taking things up a notch. It has a program called “Flying High in Bavaria” that provides a helicopter sightseeing tour that goes over the entire city, as well as the Bavarian Lakes. Nice Touches: A stopover includes a gourmet picnic and a videographer accompanies the guests. Accommodations are in an Executive Suite and transfers are by limousine; the program can be especially geared for children.

If you’re going to Munich, keep in mind that the city fills up for Oktoberfest (September 22 – October 7) and during the Christmas Markets in December. 

At The Charles, the Monforte Royal Suite is the best in the house and fills up quickly, so it’s advisable to book it early. Set on the top floor of the hotel, it has a lovely terrace with great views, a grand piano in the sitting room, and a kitchen and dining room. The two-bedroom corner Presidential Suite also has a private terrace; we love its circular master bedroom a lot. 

The Charles Hotel’s Monforte Suite overlooks Munich. Inside, there’s a grand piano, kitchen and dining room. The hotel is offering a helicopter excursion to see the sites.

The hotel is run by General Manager Frank Heller (he’s also the regional director for Germany), but contact René Schmid ([email protected]; 011-49-89-544-555-1407), regional senior sales manager, to walk you through the best room options. These include the Deluxe Suite; it has a rooftop terrace looking out at the Old Botanical Garden and the Alps in the distance. Families will want to book the Executive Two-Bedroom Suite, which is 1,216 square feet in size; it can hold four adults. It’s a corner suite and can also hold two extra beds for children. Pets are welcome at the hotel.

Good to know: All rooms at The Charles have bathtubs; if double sinks are required for you and your clan, you must book the Deluxe Suite, the Presidential 2-Bedroom Suite or the Monforte Royal Suite.

Head Concierge Tim Friedrich ([email protected]) has organized a wedding proposal on a gondola in front of the Nymphenburg Castle and set up a romantic candle-lit dinner for two in the hotel’s ballroom, which included 200 heart-shaped balloons, 100 candles and three violinists.

​The Charles is close to Kaufingerstrasse, Munich’s busiest shopping area; it’s a pedestrian-only street lined with all the major brand name stores and boutiques.

Want to bring home a truly German outfit? Dirndl Liebe (, which is a 10- minute walk from the hotel, sells traditional Bavarian designer dirndl dresses. 

Munich’s Franz Josef Strauss Airport is a 30-minute drive from the hotel; private helicopters and planes can land there or at Oberpfaffenhofen or Ottobrunn airports, which are both 30 to 45 minutes away.

Nice Touch: The hotel’s five-room spa has an indoor swimming pool and has a menu designed for kids and teens, ages four through 16. One of the spa rooms is designed for couples and guests can reserve the entire spa after 9 p.m. A Bachelorette Package includes a massage, facial and either a manicure or pedicure. Reach out to the spa manager, Johanna Schneider ([email protected]; 011-46-89-544-555-1160) and be sure to reserve a few weeks out.

Guestroom minibars provide healthy foods in the form of kale chips, protein bars, and detox waters and drinks; that’s all part of a Rocco Forte program developed by a nutritional health coach. The hotel’s restaurant is also healthy, serving up regional and seasonal ingredients and high quality meats and fresh fish. Contact Jonas Hanpft ([email protected]), restaurant manager, for a top table. Sophia’s also has a bar that attracts Munich locals. Bar Manager Roman Kern oversees this venue and The Library bar. Roman crafts classic cocktails using fruits, vegetables and herbs for a unique twist.

Regent Berlin has a BMW i8 package; great for picnic getaways to the green belt.

Doing Berlin in Style

All around Germany there are wonderful experiences for the luxury traveler and hotels are all about reinventing themselves to attract the affluent. In Berlin, there’s always something new to try, and we’re impressed in particular with the Regent Berlin’s BMW i8 car package. The sleek hybrid car can be yours for a day, along with two picnic backpacks filled with food for an excursion to the region’s green belt. It’s part of a two-night package that also includes select meals. Nice Touch: Regent Berlin’s entire fleet comprises either hybrids or electric cars and the property’s underground parking is equipped with a charging station, which is offered free of charge to guests.

Contact [email protected] for details.

The hotel is located at Gendarmenmarkt square, with views of the French Cathedral and the Concert Hall. Nearby is the boulevard Unter den Linden, the Brandenburg Gate and Friedrichstrasse, filled with exclusive boutiques.

Berlin’s iconic property, The Adlon, a Kempinski Hotel, has a new Saturday afternoon concert series, the “Kempinski Concertini,” which is held in the Adlon’s newly renovated lobby. Students of the College of Fine Arts in Berlin perform mini-concerts, including violin and piano concertos, as well as flute and cello concertos. 

And sometimes, it’s just time for a drink, and the chic place to go is the rooftop of Rocco Forte’s Hotel de Rome. We say it’s chic because that’s where Berliners go; it’s also won local awards for being so darn hip.

Rocco Forte’s Hotel De Rome has a swell rooftop bar that attracts locals.

Through September, Berlin DJs will play live at the rooftop bar every Thursday to Sunday. We love that the venue is filled with fresh fragrant lavender and that the Perrier-Jouët champagne is flowing all night. Not a fan of the bubbly? The hotel’s mixologists have crafted some new drinks, including the “Berlin Buck” with Berliner Brandstifter Gin and “Touch the Sky” with Belsazar Rosé and Champagne.

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