Palais Hansen Kempinski: A Hidden Gem in The Heart of Vienna

Travel is undeniably a multifaceted wonder. When it comes to hospitality, there are hotels, and then there are great hotels with unforgettable experiences that leave you wanting more. After all, a hotel experience can define an entire holiday. When it comes to visiting Vienna, its abundance of architectural beauty, luxurious impressive buildings, the Viennese waltz and sweet taste of Sacher cake is what comes to mind.

There are many ways to take in the towering majesty of Vienna but none such as staying at the Palais Hansen Kempinski. It is an experience so extraordinary that it makes us sit back in stunned amazement at how wonderful life can be. Located at Schottenring, right at the famously glamourous Ringstrasse Boulevard, the Palais Hansen Kempinski, offers a world class unforgettable experience and is the symbol of the ultimate luxury stay in Vienna. Prominently positioned in the historic city center of Vienna, the hotel is a stone throw away from grand boulevards, and charming cafes. Sights like St. Stephen's Cathedral, the Parliament building, or the Rathausplatz Square are only a few minutes' walk away.

The Palais Hansen Kempinski is synonymous with history and is one of Europe's oldest luxury hotel group with a history of more than 119 years. Built between 1869 and 1873, as an exhibition hall, for the World Exposition, due to war it did not actually open as such. The neo-renaissance building was originally designed by acclaimed Danish architect Theophil von Hansen, who also made designs for the Parliament Building, Vienna Stock Exchange and Palais Todesco. Hansen's legacy, is still visible in the striking facade, the lobby's monumental columns, the ballroom's foyer, the 19th century window frames and the staircases with their delicately wrought cast-iron banisters. The hotel's logo is homage to the celebrated architect himself.

The name 'Kempinski' was inherited from Berthold Kempinski, a German Jewish wine merchant and restaurateur from Breslau. The Kempinski family was already successfully active in the wine trade since 1862. In 1872, Kempinski arrived in Berlin and opened a wine store with his wife Helena in the Friedrichstrasse 178 which later became a wine tavern. Their success soon became apparent and the name 'Kempinski' was well known far beyond the city's borders so much so that the place soon proved to be too small. In 1889, Kempinski opened a restaurant with several rooms in the Leipziger Strasse which at the time was the biggest in the whole of Berlin.

Because the Kempinskis had no male descendants, their daughter Frieda's husband, Richard Unger joined the company and soon took over the business. Unger proved to be professionally business minded and made a considerable contribution to the success and development of the firm. Berthold Kempinski retired and transferred the firm to his son-in-law on condition that he kept the Kempinski name.

After Kempinski's death in 1910, Unger who now owned the company, constructed an immense property business which he turned into a large gastronomical business. In 1918, Unger bought and managed a restaurant at 27 Kurfurstendamm, where the Kempinski Hotel Bristol now stands. Ten years later, the Kempinski Enterprise took over the management of the legendary 'Haus Vaterland' on the Potsdamer Platz.

However, with World War II the Kempinski's did not enjoy good times with the business of the company plummeting as several properties fell victim to bombing raids. Richard Unger and his wife emigrated to the United States and the Kempinski Enterprise was leased to the Aschinger Company for 30 years but kept the name Kempinski. After the war, Friedrich Unger (grandson of Kempinski) returned to Germany and succeeded with the opening of a restaurant at 27 Kurfurstendamm which enjoyed the undisputed status of the sole luxury hotel in Berlin for 20 years.

Up and till 1945 the building served as home to the police headquarters and various administrative offices. 1952 marked the official date of the foundation of the Kempinski Hotel Group when Kempinski's grandson merged his share of the business with a Hotel Corporation who already ran hotels called Bristol and Kaiserhof. Years later, in 2010 the Kempinski group decided to renovate and restore the Vienna building to its former glory and pride. Vienna-based architect Boris Podrecca and the Austrian architecture firm Atelier Hayde Architekten carried out the work while Interior designer Jean-Claude Laville was tasked with creating the Palais Hansen's interior design. It finally opened as the Palais Hansen Kempinski on 1 March 2013, being put to its originally intended use.

Today, the Palais Hansen Kempinski continues to be a name synonymous with individual luxury. The Renaissance Revival-style architecture provides an artistic view into the early 19th century, paying homage to the grand beginnings while also incorporating modern-day amenities. The hotel features 152 rooms and suites, two restaurants, a bar, a cigar lounge, six conference rooms, one private event location, a ball room, a flower-and lifestyle-shop, a gym and spa area, that is also open to day spa guests and 17 private penthouse residences.

Looking closer, all the hotel rooms preserves an old time's feel, with top-quality furniture and decors that provide a well-balanced combination. Radiating Viennese elements, subtle colors and fine fabrics, make the rooms have a timelessly elegant design that offer the perfect atmosphere for every kind of stay. All rooms are equipped with an iPad entertainment system, which not only manages every function in the room but also allows one to order room service, book spa treatments and to read daily newspapers. On top of that, it also offers suggestions for places to see and things to do in Vienna. All rooms and suites come with Wi-Fi, an in-room safe, a working desk and a mini-bar with a Nespresso coffee machine. The hotel also offers meeting and event space, with six conference rooms, one private event location and a 3,025-square-foot ballroom.

The best part of staying at the Palais Hansen Kempinski is the dining options. With two restaurants, 'Die Kuche' (The Kitchen) and 'Edvard', a Michelin-awarded gourmet restaurant, guests can anticipate being treated to culinary experience par excellence. 'Die Kuche' has a laid-back atmosphere and is the perfect venue for every time of the day. One can enjoy breakfast until 2 pm in the weekends. Offering a diverse, straight forward timeless menu of Austrian, German and Bohemian cuisine, with seasonal specialties, it invites diners to prepare their own meals at several strategically placed cooking stations.

'Edvard' on the other hand offers a somewhat more formal dining environment with a menu that includes Seasonal dishes with Mediterranean influences. As a tribute to the famous architect of Palais Hansen - Theophil Edvard Hansen, the restaurant provides 40 seats, tasteful stucco decorations, dark wooden floors and fresh shades of lime green and white. One can enjoy their breakfast while sunshine beams in from the skylight and the walls are covered in vertical gardens.

Other than its two restaurants, the Palais Hansen Kempinski has a Lobby Lounge and Bar that features a decadent array of traditional Viennese coffees such as a Verlangerter and Melange, typical Austrian pastries and desserts from the in-house patisserie, and a variety of drinks. For the record, Afternoon tea with Viennese influences is also served, although scones with marmalade and clotted creams and meringue with currant is served instead of the more traditional scones. The 'Lobby Lounge & Bar' is indeed the heart and soul of the hotel.

One fantastic offering of the hotel is its Cigar Lounge & Bar which is a true architectural gem. Not only is it Vienna's largest hotel cigar lounge but offers a wide selection of fine cigars from Bolivar to Partargas. Connoisseurs and aficionados can also rent their own humidor. Additionally, the lounge also offers aromatic cognacs and choice whiskeys and rums.

If there's one spot in the hotel that's really hopping, it's 'The Spa'. Situated on the mezzanine level, the Palais Hansen's historical intermediate floor, this 8,600 square-foot, Ottoman-inspired location is open to hotel guests and day spa visitors alike. Decorated in warm shades of brown and red, it sports Viennese 1920s-style glass art as well as Ottoman-style lamps, mosaics and wooden folding screens that reflect Vienna's location on the border between Western and Eastern Europe. Guests can access a gym with technogym equipment, six treatment rooms, a hydropool, steam room and a bio-sauna with mixed and ladies-only areas.

The Palais Hansen Kempinski describes itself as an 'International Hotel with the Heart of a Viennese'. Timelessly Classic, the hotel carries on the heritage of being Europe's oldest luxury hotel group with perfection. Offering luxurious hospitality in the grand European style, it prides itself on its ability to provide its guests with memorable journeys inspired by exquisite European flair and meaningful experiences. It is one distinctive destination in Vienna, whether you're from outside Austria or live right here, you don't want to miss.

This article first appeared in the Spring/Summer 2017 issue of LOVEFMD magazine. Head over to to see more stunning images of the Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna.

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