A sense of place is increasingly important to luxury travellers today, and in the Bavarian capital, Munich, you have it all around you. It’s everywhere you look, day-in, day out, and night-time too. Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski Munich is under ten minutes’ walk north to the city’s famous English Garden. How many know about the unique Eisbach surfing there? A stretch of river about 30 metres across has continuous low water, but rushing rapids. Anyone can surf there, day or night, free. You and your board plunge in from one bank and undoubtedly fall off in about a minute, at which point someone has already plunged in from the opposite bank, and so on and so forth, 24/7. It is fabulous, apparently, to be taking part but it is absolutely riveting to watch.
This is an iconic hotel, right on Maximilianstrasse, that oozes a sense of place and a sense of time. Designer Colin Finnegan, one half of the Anglo-Dutch design firm FG Stijl, has included many murals of the old city. He has combined old with new. Suite 430 has an all-wall mural, plus 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 marvellously bright lighting throughout.
This Kempinski-owned 305-room hotel was built 1858 as guest-house for Maximilian II, when it had more electric lights than the whole of the city put together. Always up to date, today it has a near-unique constant air-flow cigar lounge, and wellness is rooftop, next to the indoor pool and the sunbathing terrace.
The spa 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 left 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 remarked whether or not it has made any difference.)
Another German brand that I fell in love with here 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 air to re-forest that country. It is seven minutes’ walk from the hotel to Dallmayr’s store and I was transfixed. Think David Jones with the addition of a coffee room with beans in metre-high exquisitely painted ceramic urns and elsewhere, of course, hundreds of types of German sausage, including the local specialty, weisswurst, that must traditionally be eaten before noon, ideally with a nice cold beer.