Friedrich Haerlin bought a small building with just 11 rooms and 3 bathrooms on the west side of the Inner Alster in Hamburg at an auction in 1897. Haerlin transformed the building into a luxury hotel, naming it the Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten. In 1905, he opened an extension to the hotel, increasing it to 57 rooms. In 1911, the hotel was expanded again, to a total of 140 bedrooms and 50 bathrooms.
In 1915, soon after the outbreak of World War I, the hotel was commandeered by the High Command of Coastal Defence. Haerlin’s three sons were drafted. Two, Otto and Wilhelm, died at the front in Flanders while his third son, Fritz, survived the war. During the German Revolution of 1918–1919, mutinous sailors shelled the hotel from the nearby Alsterpavillon. The revolutionary Supreme Marine Council took over the hotel from November 1918-March 1919. The looted and damaged hotel had to be completely renovated. In 1919 the hotel opened the Haerlin Restaurant, followed by the Art Deco styled Jahreszeiten Grill in 1925.
In 1928, all of the guest rooms were upgraded and a 5th floor balcony was constructed. In addition to this, the multiple structures were unified with the addition of the hotel’s trademark green copper roof. In 1932, Fritz Haerlin took over the hotel from his father. During the 1930s, Fritz invested in distinctive restaurants and bars and opened the Biedermeier-style Café Condi and the Jahreszeiten Keller.
During World War II, the hotel was only slightly damaged by Allied air raids. After the end of the war, the hotel served as headquarters of the British 7th Armoured Division until 1952. On April 4, 1952, the hotel’s reopening took place. In 1966, the hotel became a member of The Leading Hotels of the World alliance.
In 1989, the Haerlin heirs sold the hotel for 215 million Deutsche Mark to the Japanese Aoki Corporation, which placed the property in their Westin Hotels division in 1991. Aoki resold the hotel to Raffles International Limited on July 31, 1997 and it was renamed Raffles Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten.
On October 1, 1997, visionary luxury hotelier Ingo C. Peters was appointed the new director of the hotel. In 2006, Raffles Hotels and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts were merged into FRHI Fairmont Raffles Hotels International, and the hotel was renamed Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten on April 30, 2007. During the period 2007-2010, the hotel was renovated for around 25 million euros.
Accor purchased in 2016 the Fairmont Hotels and Raffles Hotels brands, with Raffles being higher positioned as more luxurious. With an ideal location in the heart of the city right on the Alster Lake allowing for spectacular panoramic views, flawless service, superb rooms and suites, Michelin star dining and a state-of-the-art Spa, the hotel not only meets but even exceeds the standards of Fairmont Hotels, while it could effortlessly join the ranks of Raffles Hotels. However, for many guests and especially locals, beyond any brands, the property is known as Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Hamburg.
A continuous strive for perfection reflected in ongoing maintenance and an incessant investment in talent were among the essential elements which contributed to the uninterrupted success of the hotels. You will be surprised to see the staff cafeteria which is of the standards of a hotel restaurant. There are staff who have been with the hotel for decades. While each year, it is one of the most coveted properties for young student hoteliers to do their apprenticeship.
Restaurant Haerlin is one of Germany’s leading gourmet restaurants. It is the proud bearer of 2 Michelin Stars, 19 Gault Millau Points. Head chef Christoph Rüffers (45 year old) delivers exquisite original creations of Mediterranean and Francophile cuisine which are prepared exclusively with fresh and seasonal products of the highest quality. According to him, “taste counts more than the optic” – what doesn’t prevent him from arranging his creations with an affectionate passion for discipline.
My personal favourite is NIKKEI NINE which features a unique blend of Japanese cuisine with a Peruvian influence originated from the kitchens of Japanese immigrants in South America. Using surprising combinations and intense flavors, NIKKEI cuisine cultivated a style that complements the Japanese fine sense of classically elegant dishes by adding Peruvian elements. Since the opening in late 2016, NIKKEI NINE is the favourite centre-point for internationals and locals as well. The atmosphere is chic and sleek, with a sense of glamour, making for an exceptional outing occasion.
The hotel also boasts a superb terrace right in its front, on the lake – Jahreszeiten Terrace, perfect for a casual lunch or simply just enjoy a glass of wine or champagne champagne to round off the day in idyllic surroundings by the Inner Alster. The terrace is heated even when the weather is colder. The complex food and beverage offering is complemented by The Jahreszeiten Grill – in a stunning Art Deco ambiance – a classic since 1926. For a unique experience you must also try the Jahreszeiten Rooftop Terrace, the most exclusive rooftop terrace in Hamburg. Condi Lounge is the perfect venue for sweet lovers, with a cozy outdoor terrace.
The Vier Jahreszeiten Spa & Fitness covers an impressive 1,000 square metres on the top floor of the hotel (Bel Etage), offering unique therapies and applications which combine the best of eastern and western wellness philosophies. With more than 100 different treatments such as massages, cosmetic and beauty treatments, personal training and physiotherapy, we offer you an extraordinarily broad range of services for your well-being. There are dedicated treatments for ladies, gentlemen and children as well, most performed with the finest products BIOEFFECT, bynacht or La Biostheque
Rooms and suites are contemporary with an exceptional classic twist. Like any hotel of such calibre, rooms and suites are meticulously maintained, with ongoing maintenance works – furnishings are of the highest quality, pleasing the eye but also providing the ultimate comfort. No detail is overlooked when it comes to ensuring a serene AC, finest bedding (heavenly comfortable mattresses and linen of the highest quality, lighting, state-of-the-art SmartTvs, high water pressure in the shower and amenities by Le Labo. Most of the accommodations also feature a generous working desk and some suites provide large balconies overlooking the lake.
Beyond an exceptional product and offerings, Ingo C. Peter’s achievement is his incessant pursuit for perfection and how the entire team truly feels like one big family – over time continuously surpassing service standards, consistency being at the core of the success of this ‘grand-dame’. My recent stay was a month after the hotel reopened post-pandemic and unlike all the other 39 top luxury hotels I reviewed in 15 countries, I would not even sense it. On each occasion I have previously had the privilege to stay at the Fairmont Vier-Jahreszeiten Hamburg, only one things come to my mind – PERFECTION !
Ingo shared how strict they have been in implementing all group and local restrictions while splashing out on the rest – ”we have more flowers”, ”I instructed by Chef to buy even better produce” and ”no compromises on service”; ”People want to get out, travel again and enjoy” and we need to make sure ”we are better than ever” !
Oliver Petcu in Hamburg
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