Just Back: Hotel Fontenay in Hamburg

Richard Beck cycled around Lake Alster and was impressed by the architecture of Hamburg’s private homes.

Hotel Fontenay is Hamburg’s new, much-awaited luxury urban resort hotel. It’s beautiful but, just as importantly, it brings a new, sophisticated venue for the leisure traveler to experience a city that was once thought of as primarily a business destination. Hamburg is Germany’s largest waterfront city and Fontenay sits on Lake Alster in a mature, park-like setting. Its terraces, private balconies and a rooftop pool offer views not just of the park and lake but the city center, which is 10 minutes away. Bicycles are available for guests to explore the very green area on paths that surround the lake and offer views of notable private homes — all different in their architecture but equally impressive. The well-known wealth of Hamburg is reflected here.

The Fontenay was designed by German architect Jan Stormer. The curved façade exemplifies the new Hamburg but reminded me of Scandinavia (Copenhagen is just 200 miles away). There’s no doubt his design assures that it will become one of Germany’s iconic hotels. There are no straight walls and no walls are parallel to another. Every piece of furniture had to be custom-made to reflect the architecture. Even the carpets had to be woven especially to follow the exact geometry of the hotel. 

The Fontenay Bar on the sixth floor has a menu that combines international flavors with local favorites. 

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The attention to detail is everywhere. For instance, all the rooms’ walls are plastered in the Italian Marmorino style, which requires plastering, scraping, continuous sanding and then, only when perfect, the waxing and polishing. The floors are light-colored Parquet. Add to that the subtle use of color in shades of beige, warm whites and splashes of light blue. All the ceilings are over nine feet and walls of windows bring the outside in. Very soothing! 

I’m fairly tech savvy, as many are today, but I feel I often need an extended orientation on the basics when arriving in a new hotel room. No extensive room orientation is necessary here: Fontenay has it down. The wall panels clearly show specific room ambiance lighting. Just touch one of the preset buttons and all the room’s lighting dims to “cocktail” mode. The large-screen TV is mounted on a pole that can be turned so you can watch from any angle. No wires are seen. Like your own music? The TV is also Bluetooth enabled. Even the shower has this option. More importantly, you can preset the temperature of water and then just touch that button each time you take a shower. Naturally, there are USB ports on both sides of the bed as well as on the desk. I kept thinking, “I could live here.” 

The 10,000-square-foot complete spa isn’t hidden in the basement or even on a low floor. The Fontenay spa is high up with park and city views and a 200-foot swimming pool that is half inside and half out. During the summer months, there are comfortable chaise lounges bordering the pool. The gym is open 24/7 and is equipped with the latest in exercise equipment and weights. 

A Fontenay Deluxe Room has 463 square feet of space and comes with a walk-in wardrobe and a private balcony.  

Breakfast can be served in your room or the main-floor Parkview restaurant, which is on the park with an outdoor dining area. Lunch and dinner are also served here. The Atrium Lounge, which is close by and off the main reception area offers snacks and cocktails, and a classic tea service in the afternoon. The Fontenay Bar on the sixth floor is the epitome of European chic. Their mixologist has created a unique menu that combines the new with local favorites. However, the pièce de résistance is the gourmet restaurant manned by Michelin-starred Swiss Chef Cornelius Speinle. The restaurant, Lakeside, on the top floor is super-dramatic and, there, the “Wow” factor has been created with several shades of white and, of course, more spectacular views. 

Hamburg is a city on the move and many cranes attest to the new construction, which is seemingly everywhere. Because of its precision in planning, the city still retains its character while at the same time moving into the future seamlessly. The Fontenay is now its best option for those that want to experience a true urban resort in this unique city. I can’t wait to go back!  

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