For decades, glossy travel magazine polls consistently placed the Four Seasons, located on the western shore of the inner Alster, in the heart of Hamburg's prime retail and commercial district at or near the top of the world's finest hotels. But in 1989, after 90 years of family management, during which the hotel survived the economic turmoil of two world wars, the founding Haerlin family was finally forced to sell. Under new, foreign ownership, however, the hotel slipped badly. Now it has been sold again, this time to the Raffles International chain and a return to past glory seems possible.

Over the past six months, management has installed new lighting, air-conditioning, sound systems, and renovated all 158 rooms. The result is a historic hotel that offers a remarkably efficient use of space in even the smallest rooms; walk-in closets are a standard feature, as are Internet access via speedy ISDN lines, pay TV, and in-room fax capabilities. The baths have all been remodeled, and for extra charm, each room has its own bath tub thermometer for finely adjusting the water temperature.

Many luxury hotels spend fortunes to create the sense of history and elegance that are authentic at this establishment. Three generations of antique furnishings have been collected and displayed together over the years. A collection of 16th and 17th century Flemish-Gobelin tapestries adorn the walls of the main foyer, and Baroque wardrobes and Renaissance chests furnish the public areas. Most importantly, the first-rate, personalized service is back.

House-made truffles and homegrown flowers welcome guests when they arrive. And the 100-year-old guest card file remains. Personal preferences and aversions are duly noted for each guest. Every comment, criticism, and special request from bedtime literature to shapes of pillows is recorded and honored on every repeat visit. If an overnight stay at the new Four Seasons won't fit in the budget, you might consider a lunch or dinner at its main restaurant, The Haerlin, to take in the view of the Alster and the fine cuisine prepared by its new chef.

Street Address: Neuer Jungfernstieg 9
City: Hamburg
Country: Germany
Phone: 011 49 40 3 49 40
Fax: 011 49 40 34 94 26 00
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Quality: Rating: 5 stars
Value: Rating: 3 stars
Price Level: $$$$
Type: Hotel