Destinations are finally opening up and are ready to be explored after months of lockdown; people are coming out of their homes with wide eyes, ready to dive back in. Hamburg, the sophisticated water city which is just a short plane ride from the UK, is the perfect place to start. At Hamburg’s heart lies Lake Alster and the lush oasis of parkland that hugs it. The Fontenay, is located on the shimmering shoreline and encapsulates lakeside luxury. The five-star hotel opened in March 2018 and represents the perfect balance of nature and urban living which is exquisitely found throughout the whole of Hamburg.
Hamburg is known for being a green city, and not without reason, 27% of the city comprises of natural areas that surround the lake at the heart. Designed to be a reflection of modern Hamburg and the natural urban shoreline, The Fontenay has a free-flowing, sculptural architecture, stylish and spacious interiors and luxury living spaces. The ‘Heaven Mirror’ fountain in front of the hotel, which weighs one hundred tonnes, greeted us and we were welcomed in the lobby by the gracious staff and accompanied to our room which had freshly made pink macarons on arrival and sweeping views of Lake Alster.
The lake provides a great way to get a different view of Hamburg. Locals set sail on picturesque wooden boats, canoes, pedal boats, rowing boats or even venetian gondolas. We jumped aboard for an Alster Boat Tour which circumnavigates the lake in just under an hour and gives a glimpse of the centre of the city. We meandered from the south of Lake Alster to the older parts of the city, taking in the imposing Rathaus and Gothic Revival church, Mahnmal St. Nikoli. The jewel in the crown is the Elbphilharmonie concert hall in the HafenCity quarter of Hamburg which showcases the maritime history of the city as well as its elegant present. The building resembles a hoisted sail and has a free viewing platform to see the working port on the Elbe River from above. The city’s port, known as the ‘Port of Dreams’, was the last stop for millions of migrants from Europe before traveling to America. Fascinating tales of discovering the New World can be heard at the Ballinstadt Emigration Museum. Rich historical tales of when Hamburg was the ‘Gateway to the World’ should not be missed.
After a full day of exploring, we were welcomed back to the hotel and enjoyed a drink at The Fontenay’s 500m² outdoor bar terrace with a 320° view of the Hamburg skyline. All five of Hamburg’s main churches, the inner and outer Lake Alster dotted with sailings boats, the Elbphilarmonie and the Town Hall can all be seen from the bar. Lakeside al fresco living continued with dinner in the grounds at Parkview restaurant. Foodie highlights included the chef’s sashimi, beef tartar, crustacean ravioli, all paired with the house white, named after the hotel itself. Not forgetting the sorbet we had with champagne in between courses. We learnt a new word after our feast – ‘fertig’ which in German means ‘full up’ or ‘completely finished’. We definitely were, and it was fantastic. As we indulged our full feeling, we enjoyed the restaurant views of the lake and watched locals trickle out to the water for an after dinner walk with loved ones, after months apart.
From The Fontenay, it is a fifteen-minute walk along the banks of Lake Alster into the city centre, making the destination a perfect weekend break. Although close to the centre, the hotel remains incredibly peaceful and tranquil. The entire lake can be conquered on foot in just over two hours, or longer if visitors linger over cafes, museums and piers en route. The Fontenay also has bicycles to borrow to explore further afield for more active tourists. Our guide Tomas took us via bike to the fresh and green boulevards surrounding the hotel, to St. Pauli, the ‘shoulder blade district’ and we ended at the Ratsherrn Brewery for some refreshing beverages. We knew the St. Pauli region was more than meets the eye and headed back to chow down on delicious Levantine food at Salt and Silver, overlooking majestic and gigantic ships on the water, as the sun went down.
The day at The Fontenay starts in relaxed luxury with breakfast at Parkview. Tiered stands full of delicious regional delicacies are placed on the table for each guest including a range of cheeses from Northfriesian Backensholzer Farm, a selection of local charcuterie and smoked fish specialties. Egg-based dishes like omelettes, pancakes with local speciality Rote Grütze (berry compote), or buttermilk waffles with fresh berries can be ordered additionally. The weekend stay ended with time reflecting at the rooftop spa pool at the hotel, looking over the city. Hamburg is chic yet down to earth, which is also the same as The Fontenay; sophisticated and welcoming, never stuffy. The city has a high-end foodie scene but fantastic local cheap eats, is a working, industrious city yet laid back with huge open spaces. The balance was just right and the hotel refreshed and revitalised, just like fresh water.
A Deluxe Room at The Fontenay, Hamburg is priced from €350 (from £309) per room per night including breakfast. Rate includes full breakfast, Wi-Fi, a selection of drinks from the minibar, in-room coffee machine, VAT, city tax and service. To book, visit www.thefontenay.com. For more information about Hamburg, visit www.hamburg-travel.com.