Friedrich Haerlin, born into a family of restaurateurs in 1857 in the German city of Stuttgart, ends up in Geneva at the age of 17 where he pursued an outstanding career in hospitality, from an office boy in a restaurant to managing the Bellevue Hotel in Bern in less than 14 years later.
In 1897, Haerlin buys the “Zu den Vier Jahreszeiten” Hotel in Hamburg, in a compulsory auction. At the time, the hotel had only 11 rooms, but had the major advantage of its location, right on the Inner Alster Lake and to date, offering stunning views. Gradually, four adjacent neighbouring buildings are acquired and by 1911, the Vier Jahreszeiten Hotel had 140 living rooms and bedrooms, 50 bathrooms as well as a light signal system, vacuum cleaners and a public telephone system were offered in all rooms. Regular guests of the Vier Jahreszeiten Hotel included Royal families as well as discerning business travellers and tourists from around the world.
The hotel has been blessed with the most passionate hoteliers, from its founders, the Haerlin family to Canadian based Fairmont Hotels & Resorts which grasped on the opportunity of not only managing the property but also owning it (since 1997). As part of its remarkable history, Ingo C. Peters started his career in hospitality in 1981 at the Vier Jahreszeiten Hotel, to return after 17 years as the General Manager of the hotel which, in the meantime, had become part of the Fairmont chain, today, known as the Fairmont Vier Jahreszeiten Hotel. The hotel became a member of The Leading Hotels of The World as early as 1966.
From its early days, the hotel’s impeccable reputation has been enhanced by its exceptional restaurants and bars: the Haerlin Restaurant (opened 1919) has been one of Germany’s leading fine dining restaurants, today, run by Head Chef Christoph Rüffer (two Michelin stars and 17 Gault Millau points); the Jahreszeiten Grill (opend in 1920 as a casino) designed in a pure Art Deco style, is known for its traditional Hanseatic dining; Doc Cheng’s -under Fairmont management, a former conference space on the lower groundfloor, was turned into a most cozy European – Asian restaurant with a 20′ feel; Café Condi – the hotel’s unique authentic Biedermeier cafe, serving breakfast and lunch; Jahreszeiten Terrace, situated across the street, right on the Alster Lake; Condi Lounge – coffee and snack, in the afternoons cakes and fresh fruit tartes, evenings with tapas and wine in a contemporary decor.
Staying at the Fairmont Vier Jahrszeiten could not feel more at home, the truly residential feel being instilled by the warm, extremely attentive and very friendly service, the splendid furnishings and decor as well as the clientele of the hotel, many locals being long time patrons of the hotel. From business meetings to ladies having tea after shopping (Hamburg’s shopping hub is steps from the hotel) the hotel has the most generous offering in terms of Food & Beverage.
Upon taking an exploratory tour of the ”behind the scenes” of the hotel, I understood source of the exceptional team spirit and motivation for achieving perfection in service among the staff of the hotel: the deep respect and care for the hotel’s staff, which make up the true soul of the hotel. This was so evident when walking through the cantine of the hotel which resembled the restaurant of a five star alpine chalet as well as when discovering the kitchen new lighting fixtures replicate the design of the restaurants. It was such a fulfilling sentiment to be so warmly welcomed by the same staff that a few hours before served breakfast…
During my recent stay, I was pampered to the most prestigious suite of the hotel, a favourite of famous actor and writer Peter Ustinov, a long time patron of the hotel. The spectacular views of the Alster Lake (a most relaxing feast for the eyes, day time and night time), the lavish terrace with sunbeds, the fresh flowers bouquet by the in-house florist (so rare these days), beautiful hand-made silk upholstery, fine furniture pieces with details such as ostrich leather – complement basics such as: a lavish marble bathroom (natural amenities by Le Labo) with a perfect shower (ideal water pressure), high speed wi-fi (complimentary), large Flat Tv sets by high-end German brand Loewe. During a shirt tour of the hotel, I could explore the other room categories and to entry level, they are of the same standard as the suite I was staying in. (short video preview of the Sir Peter Ustinov Suite)
Other beautiful details at the hotel: the classic elevators have glass manual doors and a chair, painted ceiling glass with natural light, the unique windows of the Cafe Condi which give way to the most enjoyable views of the Alster Lake, the collection of exquisite 16th and 17th century Flemish Gobelin tapestries in the public spaces etc
I promissed myself I would return to the hotel as I have felt there was so much I missed out – the Jahrszeiten Grill, the roof top SPA, not to mention the Condi Cafe.
Oliver Petcu in Hamburg
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