Review: The Fontenay Hotel Hamburg (Germany)

Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.

Today (January 23, 2019): Review of The Fontenay Hotel (Hamburg, Germany) 

In 1816, Hamburg-based shipbroker John Fontenay acquired a unique plot of land on the beautiful shores of the Alster lake in the heart of the city. Today, it is the site of the Fontenay Hotel, which offers lakeside luxury at its best. The Fontenay is a reflection of modern Hamburg: open-minded, cosmopolitan and exceptionally welcoming. A homage to the Hanseatic city, the luxury hotel is tailor-made for the many national and international visitors who come to discover and rediscover Hamburg. The hotel’s Hamburg-born star architect Jan Störmer titled his initial drawings ‘timelessly modern, modern classic’ and his fascinating, sculpture-like architecture mirrors the fluid lines of the lake and surrounding parkland, creating the perfect balance between nature and urbanity. Flooded with daylight, all 131 rooms and suites feature parquet flooring, walk-in closets and balconies, primarily with lake views.

The Fontenay Hamburg features in my top 10 list of the best hotels in Germany.

Have you ever stayed at The Fontenay Hamburg? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.

In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):

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PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • The Japanese call Hamburg “The green city in the woods” – and not without reason: 27 per cent of Hamburg comprises natural areas. The Fontenay Hamburg is situated in one such natural area on the southwesterly shore of the Alster Lake. It’s a beautiful place of nature and tranquillity, right in the heart of the city. It can be described as an urban resort. The residential area around the property features expansive parks, numerous foreign consulates, and the University of Hamburg. Alster Lake itself is always a draw with its park-inspired shores and water sports activities, including paddle boarding, sailing and rowing.
  • To capitalise on Hamburg’s abundant urban greenery, local architect Jan Störmer envisioned a ‘Hotel in the Park’ concept when he began his first drawings for the property. The amorphous shape of the nine-story hotel building with its sculpted roofscape rises from three intertwining circles. The facade features wide glazed surfaces, white and gleaming ceramic elements, and fluid lines that evoke the Alster lakeside. The hotels’s unique architecture blends seamlessly with its surroundings, creating a balance between nature and the white urban sphere. The organic shape means the hotel has no backside; it’s surrounded by trees on the lake’s shore and flooded with light.
  • The circular design theme continues inside the hotel, with the three circular wings intertwining and narrowing in the center, hereby revealing two open spaces that are linked by the stylish ground floor lobby: a landscaped patio and – the hotel’s centerpiece – a 27 m (88ft) high, glass-walled atrium. The latter is fitted with satinised, scaled panels of varying shades and LED strips. The highlight of the atrium is the light sculpture by Dutch firm Brand van Egmond featuring dozens of LEDs fitted to curved steel branches. Due to the hotel’s organic, curvaceous architecture, all the furniture has been individually selected and designed, such as the semi-circular 25 m (82 ft) long sofa and the enormous carpet in the atrium.
  • Flooded with daylight, every one of the 130 luxurious rooms, which include 17 suites, faces outwards. Inspired by circles, the sculptural architecture of the building is mirrored in the interior room concept: all rooms feature a trapezoid layout with curved walls and open up to floor-to-ceiling windows with private balconies. During my visit, I stayed in a ‘classic room’, the hotel’s lowest room category. The room was equipped with fine parquet flooring, two lounge chairs, a desk area, and a queen size bed. It featured a soft color palette of light beige, green onyx walls, warm whites, turquoise and royal blue. The ensuite bathroom came with one sink and a rain shower. A touchpad allowed to conveniently open and close the blinds, to choose between different lighting scenarios, or to adjust the air conditioning in the room.
  • The stunning Fontenay Spa is located on the hotel’s 6th floor, high above Hamburg’s rooftops with calm, uninterrupted views of sailing boats on the Alster Lake . The light-filled wellness area features a wide range of facilities, such as a Finnish panoramic sauna, an aroma-quartzite steam room, various multi-sensory showers, and beautiful relaxation lounges with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the city. There are 4 treatment rooms including a private spa suite equipped with its own sauna, steam room, whirlpool, double day bed and TV lounge. The spa’s highlight is a the 20m (66 ft) indoor pool which connects to a rooftop pool on the hotel’s magnificent sun terrace. The wellness area also features a state-of-the-art gym, with modern cardiovascular and weight training equipment.
  • The hotel features two excellent dining venues: one all-day dining restaurant on the groundfloor, complemented with a gourmet restaurant and a bar located on the top floor.
    • Situated on the ground floor of The Fontenay, Parkview is a relaxed restaurant with a smart-casual atmosphere, featuring massive windows and a delightful summer terrace. The classic menu includes specialties like Königsberger Klopse (meatballs in a white sauce), a chateaubriand that’s carved tableside, or half a lobster with grilled vegetables.
    • Lakeside restaurant on the rooftop offers a contemporary fine dining experience with a unique blend of modern architecture and panoramic views across Hamburg. Here, high above Hamburg’s rooftops, chef Cornelius Speinle (ex-The Fat Duck) is in charge. Among the culinary highlights in the restaurant is one of the best meats in the world, the certified Wagyu Meat from Japan’s Miyazaki region.
  • In addition to the two restaurants, the property also boasts two magnificent lounge areas.
    • The Fontenay Bar on the 6th floor blends relaxed mixology with awe-inspiring vistas over the city. The bar features dark herringbone parquet floors made from steamed spruce, walls clad in Makassar ebony, a stunning monolithic bar, and a piano. It’s highlight is the outside terrace: all five of Hamburg’s main churches, the inner and outer Alster Lake, the Elbphilarmonics, the Town Hall and much more can be seen from this prime location.
    • The atrium space houses a lounge area, where you can enjoy seasonally inspired afternoon tea created by Chef Patissier Marco D’Andrea. The lounge leads to three further spaces. The first is a chic bar, which offers exclusive products like pralines, macaroons, wine, olive oil and many more souvenir gifts. The second is a library stocked with more than 1,000 carefully chosen books, selected in cooperation with Hamburg-based book store, Felix Jud. And finally, there a smoker’s room where you can find a small, but premium selection of cigars.
  • Each morning, an excellent breakfast is served at Parkview. A selection of bread, rolls croissants, cheeses from Northfriesian Backensholzer Farm, local charcuterie and smoked fish specialities with a dip are brought to the table on an étagère. Egg-based dishes like omelettes, pancakes with local speciality Rote Grütze (berry compote), or buttermilk waffles with fresh berries can be ordered additionally. The à la carte breakfast is complemented by a small buffet, offering homemade jam, whipped yogurt with fresh fruit and granola, smoothie shots, freshly pressed juice, coffee and tea, cereal, and much, much mor. For those in a celebratory mood, there’s a gourmet breakfast that includes champagne and caviar. And for something even more extraordinary, the Fontenay Hanseatic slice – rye bread with fresh beef tartar and caviar – is a dish that harks back to the days when sturgeon still roamed the River Elbe.
  • The hotel is named after John Fontenay, one of the most successful 19th century merchants in Hamburg. Born in Pennsylvania, USA, Fontenay arrived in Hamburg in 1800, and swiftly made a career in the shipping business. In 1802, he married a wealthy widow, Anna Catharina Kirsten, who brought 4 children into the marriage. Despite the damaging effects of the Napoleonic wars on trade, and the family’s departure from Hamburg between 1810 and 1814, John Fontenay was able to build a substantial fortune. Following his return to the city in 1814, he used his success to purchase a range of plots outside the Wallring area, near Dammtor. At the time of his death, Fontenay owned a massive size of land in the city’s best locations. Today, many street names like ‘Fontenay Allee’, or ‘Klein Fontenay’ as well as his carefully restored home and garden point to the history of these idyllic estates. This inheritance is currently managed by the Fontenay Trust and unites the descendants of John Fontenay’s stepchildren.
  • Almost 200 members of staff look after guests at The Fontenay. They provide impeccable service and a hospitality that is always natural, authentic, heartfelt and sincere. Guests here feel comfortable, acknowledged, understood and respected.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

The Fontenay Hamburg is the best 5-star hotel in Hamburg. There’s little to say against the property, although you may want to know the following ‘issues’ before considering a stay here:

  • The hotel’s lowest room category – the classic room – is rather disappointing since it feels tiny and it comes with a queen size bed. All the other room categories are more spacious and feature king size beds, so I recommend to book at least a deluxe room for optimal comfort.
  • The Fontenay Spa with its pool area is also open to non-hotel guests when they book a cosmetic treatment or massage. Although the clientele and vibe is chic and upscale, some guests may not like the fact that they have to mix with non-guests on the pool deck.

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 9/10
  • Design: 10/10
  • Pool: 9/10
  • Rooms: 8/10
  • Food: 8/10
  • Breakfast: 8/10
  • Spa: 9/10
  • Service: 9/10
  • Value for money: 9/10
  • Overall experience: very good: 8,8/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like The Fontenay Hamburg (and/or receive many free perks).
  • Save money: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and $100 USD food & beverage credit).
  • Save money: you can earn hotel points or spend them for a free night at The Fontenay with LHW’s loyalty program, Leader’s Club.
  • Room tip: book at least a deluxe room category; otherwise you may end up in a disappointingly small classic room with one queen size bed.
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Hamburg is best visited between April and May (spring) or September through November (autumn), right before or directly after the summertime high tourist season. You’ll contend with fewer tourists, enjoy somewhat mild temperatures (the city’s weather is notoriously finicky), and also experience Hamburg as the locals do, at its laid-back best.


HOW TO GET THERE

Hamburg can be easily reached by plane, train or car. For those coming by plane, the hotel is located a 30-minute cab ride from Hamburg Airport (HAM). Check the Wikipedia page of Hamburg Airport for a continuously updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Hamburg.


PHOTOS
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THE FONTENAY HAMBURG: BREAKFAST AT PARKVIEW
THE FONTENAY HAMBURG: BREAKFAST AT PARKVIEW
THE FONTENAY HAMBURG: BREAKFAST AT PARKVIEW
THE FONTENAY HAMBURG: BREAKFAST AT PARKVIEW
THE FONTENAY HAMBURG: ALSTER LAKE
THE FONTENAY HAMBURG: ALSTER LAKE

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1 Comment

  1. Wow what a unique building. I love the aesthetic of this hotel with the giant windows and modern interior design. Its too bad to hear about the classic room feeling small but it sounds like the deluxe rooms are a great option. The Fontenay is definitely the place to stay in Hamburg it seems.

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