Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten – Hamburg, Germany

Last of a Grand but Vanishing Breed

This is the stuff of which grand hotels are made. Regularly hailed not only as Germany’s best, but as one of the world’s greats, the Vier Jahreszeiten has been the only place to stay the Haerlin family. There are fresh flower arrangements the size of small forests and valuable Gobelin tapestries in the welcoming marble and rosewood lobby aptly called a “lounging hall.”

Despite the baronial size of the hotel that sits impressively on the Birmenalster, the smaller of Hamburg’s lakes (ask for the higher lake-view rooms that come with a balcony), the hotel is run with the unflaggingly obliging service of a hotel half its size: the staff is known for greeting most guests by name within minutes of arrival.

It has won every conceivable award, even after having unobtrusively passed, in 1989, from the pri­vate hands of the Haerlin family into a new corporate ownership. Hamburg, almost wiped off the map by the 1940-44 bombing raids (the hotel miraculously escaped untouched), is once again a lively hub, with the highest per capita income in Europe.

It is Germany’s second-largest city: livable, lovely, and famous for its lofty standards and luxury hotels. The Vier Jahreszeiten stands proudly at the helm of top-flight accommodations with its stellar restaurant Haerlin, on the formal side and of excellent repute (as is its prodigious wine list), while the Condi cafe or conditorei (from which the name derives), decorated in perfect Biedermeier fashion, has long been one of the city’s most popular institutions for lunch.

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