A Country Manor with Historical Charm
The name Kempinski is the very definition of true, 5-star hotel elegance. It is the oldest luxury hotel brand, having been established in 1897, always staying true to its core values. Although owned by a private, sovereign fund in Thailand, Kempinski’s roots are German and it presents itself as a company with European focus but worldwide appeal. Ten of its more than 80 luxury hotels are located in Germany, although 19 have been built in China with another 6 on the way there. In all, in order to maintain its focus on excellence in every area, from innovation to service to world-class dining, Kempinski’s goal is grow no larger than 120 properties globally.
The Hotel Gravenbruch, just outside the Frankfurt metro area, has a nearly 400-year-old country manor history paired with incredible ambiance. A top Kempinski executive confidently explained why most of the company’s hotels are not called Kempinski: “We fundamentally believe that iconic hotels should keep their name. What we have done is to give each hotel a touch of European flair.” This former hunting lodge, now a stunning five-star hotel, is a unique Kempinski attraction, unlike so many of its metropolitan hotels.
As one enters the foyer of this historic-themed structure with its heavy, centuries-old ceiling paneling ornately carved in dark root wood, there is a feeling of warm, country hospitality amidst an elegant simplicity. In 1586 a knight from the Heusenstamm family built a four-winged complex known as the Gravenbrucher Hof within the “grauer Bruch” or “grey marsh” forest, which also happened to be a popular hunting ground for the local Prince Isenburg. For the next 300 years, many aristocrats visited the property, including members of several royal houses. In 1885 the Forsthaus Gravenbruch was established, serving fine food and wine, drawing many horse-drawn carriages replete with dignitaries from Frankfurt’s elite class. World War II, however, brought complete destruction to the estate in 1943. By 1953, Rudolf Count of Schoenborn, heir to the nearly four-hundred-year-old estate, began rebuilding the Forsthaus Gravenbruch, but the first guests weren’t welcomed until 1967. The hotel, built in the style of a hunting lodge, also housed around 200,000 bottles of wine, stored in a medieval dungeon-turned-wine cellar.
In 1977 the Kempinski Hotel group acquired the Hotel Gravenbruch. At the time, there were 95 hotel rooms including six suites and conference rooms for up to 250 people. In the autumn of 1978 Kempinski embarked on an extensive plan of renovation, beginning with a tree assessment of the 150,000-square meter (37 acre) park grounds. Special measures were taken to protect as many trees as possible during the planned reconstruction. A substantial lake was installed, stocked with carp, perch and whitefish. Today it functions as a bird sanctuary. Now the hotel boasts 283 rooms with 29 suites. It features two ballrooms and 16 function rooms, accommodating up to 600 people. Outdoors, the hotel can handle capacities up to 2,000 people.
The Hotel Gravenbruch features both an indoor and an outdoor pool, tennis courts, jogging course, and 24-hour fitness center. It also has a sauna, solarium, and spa with massages by appointment in the hotel’s “Beauty Farm,” featuring high-class cosmetic products of Monteil-Paris. Three restaurants, two of which are still in the construction and renovation phase, offer singular culinary expertise: The Forsthaus Restaurant will offer sophisticated international cuisine, A fine dining restaurant, “Sra Bua” by acclaimed chef Juan Amador, will feature pan-Asian cuisine by the end of 2013, and the regional “Torschanke,” featuring local Hessian specialties. (See our accompanying review of the Torschanke.) The Peacock Lounge with its great fireplace, seats 50 indoors, while just outdoors, overlooking the lake is the Wintergarden, offering seating for 15 persons.
Over the years celebrities from all over the world have enjoyed lodging at the Kempinsky Gravenbruch. American readers will recognize names such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Neil Diamond, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Chuck Norris, Julio Iglesias, George Hamilton and Warren Beatty. Many other celebrities and statesmen from around the world, too numerous to mention, have paid a visit this historic location. In May 1999, U.S. President Bill Clinton came to Germany to visit soldiers on U.S. bases nearby. Clinton and his entourage, including then Secretary of State Madeline Albright, chose the Kempinski Hotel Gravenbruch as their domicile for one night. The secret service temporarily took over the entire building for 24 hours and apartments were rented in the neighborhood where the hotel grounds could be kept under surveillance. After a meal of asparagus and steak, washed down with German beer, Mr. Clinton enjoyed a pleasure forbidden in the U.S., even for a president: a Cuban Havana cigar, offered to him by the hotel director. “I had in my inventory two extremely valuable ‘Anniversarios’ from Davidoff—a kind of stash for very special occasions for smoking pleasure,” said the director. One cigar was given to Pierce Brosnan when he was appointed an honorary member. The other was smoked by Clinton. In all, the American delegation booked 100 of the 283 rooms of the hotel. Today the hotel still features its Smoker’s Lounge, decorated with memorabilia and photographs of famous cigar smokers, including Clinton, John F. Kennedy and the infamous Al Capone. The Lounge offers a wide range of cigars from Cuba and the Dominican Republic as well as a special bar menu.
We were impressed with the hotel staff from the moment we arrived. There to greet us at the front entrance, a staff member helped us with our luggage and showed us to the reception desk. Immediately, after being welcomed, we were offered a glass of the region’s famous “Pomp Rose,” a sparkling wine which leisurely sipped as we strolled down the hall to find our room. An amply-piled fruit plate was waiting for us in a large, well-appointed room. Our 355 square-foot room featured wireless internet access, laptop-size safe (with electrical plug!), a minibar, flat-screen TV, a working desk, welcoming bottles of mineral water, bathrobes and slippers, and a choice of comfortable pillows. What I particularly love about German bedding is their fondness for luxurious down comforters, and we both melted into the luxuriously fresh and inviting bed later that evening. The bathroom was well-stocked with amenities and featured a shower/bath combination. The Hotel Gravenbruch offers four types of rooms (Economy, Comfort, Deluxe and Grand Deluxe), as well as four types of suites (Junior Suite, Park Suite, Executive Suite, and Presidential Suite).
In the morning we enjoyed the sumptuous breakfast buffet. Interestingly, there were no hot egg dishes at the buffet tables, but when I asked if it was possible to order an omelet, it was prepared and delivered within a few minutes. Kempinski is known for its wide variety of ample selections, from Asian specialty items to traditional Western fare. Fresh juices, a variety of pastries, yogurt, cereals, sausages, bacon, a wide selection of bread, and a whole host of locally produced jams were artfully placed on several buffet tables.
Kempinski’s Hotel Gravenbruch is a historical treasure, worth visiting and taking time to enjoy. Stroll around the premises, enjoying the serenity and natural beauty of the lake, the singing birds and the trees. Lose yourself in imagining the scores of royal visitors, hunters, dignitaries, and celebrities who also walked these peaceful grounds. Relish the warm ambiance of the lobby and Wintergarden areas where you can sit in a cozy corner and gaze at the décor and beauty of this historic hotel masterpiece. And be sure to dine in comfort and elegance at one of the hotel’s fine restaurants. There’s a world of wonder and beauty awaiting you at the Hotel Gravenbruch.
Kempinski Hotel Gravenbruch Frankfurt
Graf zu Ysenburg und Buedingen Platz 1
63263 Frankfurt/Neu Isenberg, Germany
Phone: +49 69 389 88 0
Fax: +49 69 398 88 900