Four Seasons Munich – a different interpretation of ‘Luxury Spa’
When you live in a little rural town in the middle of the Austrian Alps, a Sunday at the Luxury Spa of Munich’s Four Season Hotel sounds an awesome and welcome change to the usual weekend routine of hiking and getting muddy.
Just planning for the trip and packing a few things for my one night stay at the Kempinski in Munich made me totally feel cosmopolitan and sophisticated.
Before I take off for my about 90 minute car ride, I double check the hotels website to ensure I have all my spa gadgets for the trip, and appropriate bar and restaurant outfits.
unfortunately the website does not give away much about the spa. In fact, it merely lists treatment options. I did find a picture of a pool, so I assumed that there is a pool. Only in the spa membership section I found another hint, something like: ‘…enjoy our sauna…’.
what I did not find on the website was a warning, that the spa was actually closed the very day of my arrival…
Location and Arrival
The hotel is located in the bustling city centre on Maximilian Street, THE high shopping street in Munich with all the brands the luxury shopper is looking for: Gucci, Armani, Dior, you name it. The old town centre with Marien Place, Viktualien Market, the (in)famous Hofbräuhaus, and a pedestrian shopping area are only a few minutes walk away from the hotel. But beware, parking is tricky and expensive, however public transport with Metro, Subway and Streetcars is excellent in and around Munich.
As expected from a Kempinski property, hotel check-in was pleasant and efficient. All members of staff were very polite and accommodating.
This was the moment I learned that the spa was closed for annual maintenance. I know, important, I get that. But really annoying not to know, as I had pre-booked my stay, and would have expected an email to inform me about this.
Well, what to do, I had to change my weekend plans and ended up at Patrick Broome’s Yoga City Studio instead, only a 10 minute walk from the hotel.
Our room on the second floor faced a kind of courtyard, not the most pleasant view, but what can you expect in a city centre, so I didn’t mind much. Free Wifi, comfortable bed, turndown service, the usual 5* luxury standard.
The bathroom, though fairly new, was more of a disappointment. Pretty small for two people and almost entirely in a ‘modern’ black colour scheme, it was tight and dark. I had a very hard time operating the super modern shower handles (silver touch buttons), I could just not see what the symbols were, so I engaged the overhead rain shower when I did not want to get my hair wet, and I always ended up with the wrong water temperature. It made we wonder: do interior designers not take showers themselves? And do they all have eagles eyes?
I really want to mention their awesome breakfast option! Breakfast was a very pleasant experience in all aspects: excellent service, international food selection and great quality. I would go back just for the breakfast alone!
I visited two of the bars, one located off the hotel lobby, which is old fashioned, strangely laid out, and I did not enjoy much. Though drinks and service were acceptable.
The second bar option is the Schwarzreiter bar located on a street side corner of the hotel. Loved it! Equally for a quick dinner, drinks and as breakfast venue!
I also did like the fact that the hotel lobby serves as a kind of bar all day long. Thus the lobby is always busy with people chatting over teas and pastries, or gathering for small meals.
ok, time to talk about the spa. Well, on the one side, I consider Kempinski not a strong Spa Hotel Brand. Fair enough. They have a couple of nice spas at some of their properties, like their Mountain Spa in Jochberg LINK. But in general, their spa concept is not highly developed and although I do not know the strategy in detail, I believe that their spas are mere must-haves meeting basic requirements than born out of passion.
Anyway, finally Monday morning the spa reopens and I am looking forward of having a cup of coffee whilst bathing in the sun on their roof top terrace.
I ring for a spa attendant to enter the spa located on a top floor of the hotel. I walk past a few treatment rooms and enter the pool area, that also holds the spa reception. Friendly check in, but bummer! The roof top terrace is a) occupied by a photographer, and b) in the shade until 2 pm at this time of the year… Another disappointment.
I retreat to the nude area, a very small area with two heat experiences: a Sauna, holding 4 to 8 people comfortably, (a plus: a panoramic window overlooking the roofs of Munich city), and a small steam room (nice and hot!) of the same size. A shower and two loungers complete the inside, there is access to an outside terrace section with good views.
After I have spent a while enjoying the heat experiences, I jump in my bathing suit to try the indoor pool. The square shape pool is adequate for lap swimming, and the water temperature agreeable. I did find an underwater jet that can be operated on a push button, but wasn’t sure if it was meant to be a massage jet or being used for counter current swimming.
At the far end of the pool (opposite side of the entrance/reception) is the entrance to the middle size gym. cardio machines, a few weights, kinesiology station. Not your gymkhana club, but sufficient for a quick hotel workout. What I did not like is the fact that guests have to walk closely along the pool to get tot he gym (on wet tiles) in their trainers, which most people of course also wear outdoors…
The term ‘luxury’ spa is rather overpromising and misleading.
My overall evaluation
Afraid to say that my (possibly set too high?) expectations were not fully met. The hotel is stuck somewhere in between the grandness of a past era and a new modern approach to hospitality.
I am between indifferent to satisfied with some of the offers. Unfortunately far from being delighted with the overall performance of this 5* luxury property.