The Kempinski Hotels Map of the World* now shows 76 establishments in 30 countries on three continents. New ones are always on the way, and these are numbers that only increase. In Budapest we have the splendid Kempinski Corvinus. Outside the country within a few hours drive are Kempinskis at Portoroz in Slovenia, Savudrija in Croatia, Bratislava and the High Tatras in Slovakia and Prague in the Czech Republic. In Austria there’s one right over in the Tyrol past Saltzburg. All of which has pointed to one significant gap: Vienna.
It’s an omission that was finally and resoundingly filled on 1 March by the Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna. Considering that it was a “soft” opening (staff were the main guests at first in a settling-in period until the real opening with a whizz-bang party for hundreds of Vienna’s finest on 20 March), we were rather surprised, but certainly impressed, to discover only days later at Easter that the newcomer has hit the ground running. This hotel wants to be a home away from home for travellers and a second home, or living room, for the Viennese, and we found it to be already well-patronised, by both.
As readers of these columns know, the Kempinskis – five-stars all – are the hotel chain that isn’t a chain, in that the company, hoteliers since 1897, shares a commitment to full luxury but each establishment is independently owned or leased and has its own individuality, without the conformity of other multinationals.
Built between 1869 and 1873 on Vienna’s Ringstrasse, or inner ring road, as a hotel for the 1873 World Exhibition, this latest palatial addition in fact housed instead the police and municipal offices, thus only now has it at last been put to its intended use. Its designers of yore also have such landmarks as the Austrian Parliament Building, the Vienna Stock Exchange (nearly next-door) and the Epstein Palace to their credit.
Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna is therefore heritage-protected, and its contemporary redesigners have worked within the classical courtyards, pillars, walls, stairways and other period elements to add light and airy modern spaces that blend in as much as possible. These include the inner courtyard-atrium, or Lobby Lounge (pictured, right), where fiakers once turned in and guests and Viennese now take leisurely afternoon tea (the Highland Toffee and macaroons are recommended), and other indispensable high-end elements of truly ritzy lodgings such as two restaurants, a ballroom, six function rooms, a cigar lounge and extensive spa.
There are Gustav Klimt motifs on carpets and huge vases that reflect his Golden Period. The spa (pictured right) is a womb where city life washes away. Edvard restaurant proves food really can “melt in the mouth”, with executive chef Philipp Vogel showing Austrian cuisine is more than schnitzel. Plant-covered walls adorn the Winter Garden restaurant (below, right). A small business centre just might be where oligarchs and politicians can divide up whole countries among themselves. Henri Lou night bar (pictured, top) is the place for inventive cocktails.
Guests have 98 double rooms, 53 suites and a presidential suite from which to choose, homes away from home indeed and with different layouts, giving each its own character. Further Klimt symbols adorn glass bathroom doors, housing a marble-effect interior.
Overall result: one of the swishiest hotels in one of Europe’s swishiest cities.
(*A little, innocent invention of ours; there isn’t one.)
Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna
Schottenring 24, 1010 Vienna, Austria
Telephone: (+43-1) 236-1000
See www.kempinski.com/wien for rates and opening specials