Ah, Berchtesgaden… it’s always so good to be back. So when the Kempinski Hotel Berchtesgaden offered to make a return visit possible, we couldn’t say no! If these pictures start to look familiar, it’s because we have known and loved this hotel in its previous iteration, ever since our first year in Vienna which I believe was its’ first year of operation. Last year, we found out the hotel would be shifting over to the Kempinski family, and man, not only is it as great as we remember, it’s even better!
Whenever we go it’s usually because we’ve paired it up with a trip to Salzburg or a ski trip, the former being true this time. Some days we just pass through quickly but this time we were particularly lucky since we had the time to do four days. Which is a luxury by all means. But trust me, you won’t run out of things to do (a little more about that later). In fact it’s a wonderful combination since there is actually a lot to see and do in the area, as well as in the hotel itself (especially if you like to relax, ahem). So when we go we’re always torn between wanting to get up and go “do” things, and wanting to enjoy the grounds and pool and mountain views too. So tip #1 – if you’re coming to the Kempinski Berchtesgaden, stay the extra day. I promise, you won’t regret it.
The hotel hasn’t changed much in structure, which makes sense since it’s a new and contemporary building. In fact, it throws you for a loop at first since in the surrounding area, buildings are much more in the traditional style of the Bavarian Alps. But modern architecture here means that first of all, there is no such thing as a bad view from your room, and second, it also means that the hotel has a look and feel all of it’s own which is quite special and worth a visit. It’s a warm welcome to come back at the end of the day out in the mountains and to be able to keep enjoying them out of every single window.
One thing the Kempinski team did was soften up the interiors a bit – again, while the look and feel remain the same, I noticed they mixed in more types of natural woods, added softer flowers, brought in more texture… all in all, it felt a bit more home-like. Also, I particularly appreciated that the brought in many more pieces from local artisans and carvers throughout the hotel, which seems to tie the property much more tightly to the surrounding area.
Modern and well appointed, views for miles of mountains. The interiors didn’t change much at all, but little touches did like toiletries and such. Welcome notes (you know I love them), they do them right. After all, welcome notes are always more welcoming when there is chocolate involved… The regular rooms are great, and the hotel was wonderful about setting up additional bed and crib for the littles. If you have the means and good fortune to spring for a suite, they are spectacular. We did one once when we left Vienna thinking we might never be back, and they are something with their two story views of the Alps.
…are excellent. Try them. But I have a confession. Most nights, you won’t find us stray far from the sunken bar/living room area enjoying the fire, a cocktail and a bar menu dinner. Especially now with two kids in tow. They’ve fallen asleep many a night in that bar, whether it’s this trip or previous ones.
One really nice thing that the Kempinski has added is breakfast with the room, served down in the restaurant (which is all a lot brighter and whiter now). Once you start traveling with children, you appreciate many things that you might have never noticed in the past but two things at the top of that list is a/ not having to figure out breakfast first thing in the morning and b/ not having to pay an arm and a leg for breakfast. Being able to just get dressed and go down for your first meal where everyone is capable of finding something they like is worth its weight in gold in getting the day started on the right foot. Also, a myriad of weck jars of toppings for your pancakes? Sign me up.
Just like the Kempinski brunch in Vienna, this hotel really does it right with breakfast for little ones, with a little area in the corner that doubles as play area/store front and storage area for both healthy snacks that kids can take and eat right there (bananas and granola bars) and maybe a few less healthy ones (genuine haribo gummy bears and Nutella packets). Clearly, Kempinski knows what kids really like. And it means I get to have my morning coffee in peace.
THE KIDDIE STUFF
And speaking of gummy bears for breakfast, perhaps one of the things that changed dramatically, and left a particularly good impression on us, was how the Kempinski treats children. Meaning, they treat them like guests. And not like annoying add-ons. From the little robes in the room, to the safari animal printed welcome chocolates and fruits, to even thinking to put out actual baby-friendly toiletries in room, the stay was full of little touches.
One new addition is that the hotel has added a kids club downstairs by the restaurants. I’m not sure if they plan on staffing it in the future, right now it’s like a big play space, but our daughter enjoyed it and between that and the little breakfast social area, it gave her an opportunity to meet with some of kids at the hotel that she would play again with at the pool. It was fun to see the playground too this time not under multiple feet of snow (though my daughter did miss the sledding this time around!).
Again, as a parent, all these little things go miles. Vacations are a big investment – time, money, you name it. It’s always so nice when a hotel or other property can go the extra mile to make it count.
I will say this though, while the hotel is kiddie friendly to a much higher degree now, if you don’t have kids, don’t be put off from this property. There are plenty of secluded and quiet corners, adults areas, no kids in the pool after 6pm and such where you can still enjoy plenty of peaceful retreats.
THE POOL & SPA
Le sigh… the pool. Hands down one of my favorite pools in the world. There are two to be precise, one entirely indoors and more suitable for small laps and such, and then one indoor/outdoor with a sliding glass door passage. In inclement or cold weather, you place all your things inside but can still enjoy the pool outside (even if it’s snowing!). But in the summer when the sun is out, the have beautiful loungers in the lush green lawns around the outdoor portion. Either way, you won’t miss out on the mountains. As mentioned, kids are allowed in the pools until 6pm.
The revamped Spa is not to be missed. We always loved the spa before (and don’t miss the saunas and hot/cold rotations) but the new massage menus are fantastic. Again, lots of changes for the better here . Another tip, if you are staying in the hotel and know you want to do spa treatments, definitely book them sooner rather than later (upon arrival or even before), most other people in the hotel will have the same idea you will and slots do run out. We have been disappointed more than once. So book something for yourself and don’t wait too long.
In case it’s not immediately apparent, I love this place. I loved it before, but now I do to a whole new level. The reason for that is the phenomenal, consistent service. Whether it’s little touches for the kids, or a much warmer welcome upon arrival, or any of the other myriad interactions, the team works particularly hard to make sure you get the most out of your stay at every, single interaction. I’ll leave it at that, only to add that we left truly impressed.
I’ll address this with a more complete guide separately, but you won’t be lacking for things to do. Whether you like hiking, mountain sports, history, natural wonders…or do nothing more than relax, there are more options than you can possibly fit in during a single stay. Plus, the hotel is in a great jumping off point for more of the same in the broader area. One thing the hotel has added an activity concierge who really is top notch (you’ll see him roving around the property in a full on traditional leiderhosen set up, a Mr. Manuel Huber). He penned the guide to the area which is a great place to start in terms of planning your trip. One of my complaints from the prior hotel is that it was always hard to find guidance on things in the Berchtesgadener Land even there was so much around. The activity concierge virtually eliminates that problem and the hotel really does a wonderful job of making sure you know how much there is to do and see and learn while you’re there if you are so inclined. This guy will walk you right up that mountain if that’s what you’re up for. The hotel also seems to do a lot of organized activities, like weeks at the hotel centered around mountain biking for example, or boot camp type weeks and if you ask me, there is no more gorgeous place to enjoy a little jump start like that. And something tells me that these guys will probably knock it out of the park around Christmas time as well – I guess that means we’ll have to come back and find out!
While we were guests of the Kempinski Hotel Berchtesgaden during a portion of our stay, all thoughts and opinions on the hotel experience are my own.