Celebrating Christmas in Cologne

Facade Excelsior Hotel ErnstThere is no way to better way to get into the festive spirit than by paying a visit to one of Europe’s many Christmas Markets; and boasting seven markets, each with a different theme, Cologne is easily the premiere winter destination.  The city’s imposing gothic cathedral neighbours the most delightful Excelsior Hotel Ernst, the most desirable place to lay one’s head after a long day of festive merriment.

Carl Ernst, the royal restorer of the central station, was also the builder and owner of the Hotel Ernst.  In 1871 the hotel was sold to the Kracht family who quickly integrated into the city’s high society and whose descendants remain its owners.  During the hotel’s rich history it has hosted guests including the German Emperor William I, who, from his hotel window, observed the completion of Cologne Cathedral.  Subsequent to World Wars I and II the hotel was renovated in 1926 and 1946 respectively, and continues to be maintained to a sublime, yet traditional standard.  The lobby and spiral staircase is impressive, while the floors, covered with luxurious carpet, also have occasional ornate tiled features which mirror the style and design of the decorative stained glass windows.

This year the hotel has arguably achieved a pinnacle point in its history and success, receiving four notable awards in just three months: ‘Leaders Club Guest Recognition Award of Excellence’ as part of the ‘Leading Hotels of the World’ annual recognition awards; in addition to a treble win at the Busche Gala Awards where the hotel was named Hotel of the Year for Germany, as well as awarded Foreign restaurant of the Year for their Asian cuisine restaurant Taku and Hotelier of the Year for the hotel Managing Director, Mr. Wilhelm Luxem.

Double Room Excelsior Hotel Ernst
Double Room Excelsior Hotel Ernst

The hotel boasts 108 individually furnished single and double rooms, in addition to 34 luxurious suites, each with its own particular atmosphere, something which is sadly lacking in large chain hotels.  Rooms are spacious, with dark wood contrasting with sumptuous fabrics.

Many rooms boast a walk-in-wardrobe which a girl could only dream of.  While bathrooms, featuring Hans-Grohe fittings and marble in abundance, not to mention the most extraordinary mirrors, are reminiscent of a mythical heaven.

Although many hotels neglect guests’ gastronomic desires, Excelsior Hotel Ernst could not be accused of this.  The hotel’s traditional European Hanse Stube restaurant is a cosy yet refined dining space with a menu to match.  The menu changes with the seasons and at present the specialty of the cold season is Alsatian goose served with glazed chestnuts, red cabbage, braised raisin apples and Thuringia dumplings.  The attentive and knowledgeable staff expertly carve the goose at diners’ tables.  Guests are served a plate packed full of festive flavour and then another!  The main course is preceded by a traditional amuse bouche with unusual twists.  It is a struggle to get past the main course but if one succeeds there is a trolley adorned with rich cheeses, a number of exciting experimental desserts, coffee and truffles of unimaginable flavours to be enjoyed.  The latter must not be missed, particularly the truffle with lebkuchen which has a pleasing flavour and spicy aroma.

Walk-in-wardrobe & Bathroom
Walk-in-wardrobe & Bathroom

The hotel’s other award-winning restaurant, Taku, is a world apart.  A total contrast to Hanse Stube the décor is light, airy and almost futuristic.  Diners walk across a glass river, under which coy carp swim.  The kitchen and chefs are on show for guests to observe the delicate techniques required for constructing sushi.  However, the Asian inspired menu has been given traditional European twists and even features foie gras.  Nevertheless, delectable Beijing Duck, a staple of Chinese culture first recorded in the 12th Century, can also be sampled in an exquisite six courses.

Hanse Stube Excelsior Hotel Ernst
Hanse Stube Excelsior Hotel Ernst

The hotel also boasts a winter garden where food and drinks can be enjoyed, a piano bar and a wine bar; for those who seek a little activity, a fully-equipped health and sauna area located on the sixth floor.  If one can somehow work up the inclination to leave this lavish haven of luxury (perhaps to work off one of the restaurants’ feasts) then there are many sights to be seen: the cathedral, the Lindt chocolate museum and factory, and from the end of November to the beginning of January a number of Christmas Markets which encapsulate everything good about winter.

Cologne Christmas Markets:

1.  The Christmas Market at Cologne Cathedral is a trademark for the town of Cologne.  Chosen by the specialist press as the most beautiful Christmas Market in Europe, millions of visitors descend each year specifically to visit this market.  This market includes a Käthe Wohlfahrt which specialises in traditional festive decorations.

2.  Angel’s Market at Nemarkt in the heart of the city is well worth a visit.  It is one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Germany and immediately carries visitors into a kingdom of angels.

3.  In the middle of the historic and idyllic old town stands the rustic Cologne Old Town “Home of Gnomes”.  According to famous Cologne legend, this was also the home of the gnomes who were said to be particularly good craftspeople.  Therefore, at this Christmas market one can find a particularly large number of handcraft stalls, where goods are still produced in the traditional way.

4.  Just ten minutes walk from Neumarkt, the Fairytale Christmas Market is situated at Rudolfplatz.  The inspiration of the sixty huts at the Hahnentorburg is the brother’s Grimm tales, making this market ideal for younger visitors.

5.  From Europe’s largest floating Christmas market, Cologne Christmas Market Afloat, with over forty stalls, visitors get a truly dream-like view of the Cologne Old Town and the Cathedral.

6.  The Medieval Christmas Market at the Chocolate Museum is a lovingly designed, cosy, medieval spectacle located on the Rhine.  A totally unique experience, there is an exhibition of traditional handicrafts and a non-stop programme of concerts, theatres, jugglery and live nativity scene.

7. Finally, the Christmas Market at Stadtgarten has an idyllic village atmosphere with 60 exhibitors featuring modern creations, traditional handicraft and nostalgic paraphernalia as well as offering visitors culinary specialties.

Prepare yourself for Christmas with a quick trip to Cologne’s Christmas Markets and pre-empt holiday stresses and strains with a luxurious stay at the Excelsior Hotel Ernst!

Excelsior Hotel Ernst
Trankgasse 1-5 / Domplatz
D-50667 Köln

Tel. +49(0) 221 270 1

www.excelsiorhotelernst.com

Standard bedrooms start from €270 Bed and Breakfast

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Excelsior Hotel Ernst, Cologne, Germany

Taku
Taku

The Excelsior Hotel Ernst is located in the city centre of Cologne, directly opposite the spectacular cathedral and only two minutes walk from the railway station, local attractions and the Rhine River.  The 142 bedroom hotel is a 5* hotel and a member of ‘The Leading Hotels of the World’.  The hotel boasts two excellent restaurants Hanse Stube and Taku, and tourists interested in sampling some traditional beer and other beverages will find the location ideal for the famous breweries and bars of Cologne.

In 1863, Carl Ernst, “Royal Restorer of the central station”, built the Hotel Ernst.  In 1871, after as few as eight years, he sold the Hotel Ernst to Friedrich Kracht.  Kracht moved from Belgium to Cologne to manage the hotel but he died four years later, at this point his wife and his son, Carl, took over the management of the house.

Wine Cellar
Wine Cellar

It did not take long for the Krachts to successfully integrate into the society of Cologne.  In 1884, the people of Cologne crowned Carl Kracht Prince Carnival.  During this time, the Grand Hotel was already the first choice of prominent guests including the German Emperor William I who observed the completion of Cologne Cathedral from his room in the Hotel Ernst.

In 1889, Carl Kracht went to Zurich where he married Emma Pauline Baur. The Swiss hotelier family Baur possessed both the well-known Baur au Lac and Savoy Baur en Ville in Zurich.  Then, in 1890, one year after his wedding, his mother handed the Hotel Ernst over to him and his sister Hermine Brinkhaus. The siblings founded a limited company but one year later Hermine Brinkhaus withdrew from her position.  Being the only proprietor of Cologne’s Grand Hotel, Carl Kracht and his family lived in Zurich where he managed the Baur au Lac.  In 1905, he appointed Friedrich Reime director of the Hotel Ernst who continued to manage the hotel.

Between 1908 and 1910 the hotel was rapidly pulled down and reopened as five-star Grand Hotel Excelsior Hotel Ernst.  In an era in which running water was the exception, 100 out of 250 rooms were equipped with a bathroom.  In 1918, after the end of the war, the hotel became a headquarter for the British Forces.  During this time the hotel was closed.  After the troops had left in 1926, the Excelsior Hotel Ernst was renovated for a second time.

Bedroom
Bedroom

During World War II, the hotel was closed.  After the war, the Krachts tried to reconstruct the building as soon as possible and never stopped to try to preserve the hotel and its luxurious nature.  In 1986 the hotel was extended by the circular building, Marzellenstrasse/Domprobst Ketzer Strasse. The famous interior designer Count Pilati designed the new rooms, bathrooms and public areas.

In 2000, an exclusive health and spa area for guests was established and the following year, Taku, an Asian restaurant was opened, as was the modern Business Centre.  In 2007, the last renovation took place with 23 new deluxe double rooms, 5 junior suites and 7 executive suites created in the Hanse wing, costing an incredible 7 million Euros.

Bathroom
Bathroom

The hotel currently offers kitchen parties and interactive food demonstrations at Taku.  For those interested in the antiquities in the treasure vaults at the cathedral, the hotel offers exclusive private tours, an opportunity which those staying at other hotels are unable to partake in.  For those visiting Cologne and wishing to indulge a little, the hotel also organises trips by speedboat to the local vineyards on the Rhine, and offsite dinners at local breweries and beer kellers.

The Facts:

142 rooms & suites partially with view of the Cathedral


13 conference rooms with day light
Health and sauna area, Business Center, exclusive antique shop
Rooms: satellite TV, pay TV, price per room includes minibar, safe, wireless-LAN, broadband access, fax connector, air conditioning, bath robes, hair dryer, shaving mirror
Restaurant Hanse Stube: Innovative French cuisine
Restaurant taku: The house of Asian delights
Piano Bar: Premium bar offering a large variety of cigars and live piano music
Service: 24 hour room service, 24 hour reception and concierge, Valet service, luggage service, shoe-cleaning service, conference butler, limousine service, wedding planning

Excelsior Hotel Ernst
Trankgasse 1-5 / Domplatz
D-50667 Köln
Tel +49 (0) 221 270 1
Fax+49 (0) 221 270 3333

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