Ensconced within the heart of Munich’s old town, the award winning Mandarin Oriental hotel echoes its past life as a Ball House with a graceful Neo-Renaissance charm, flawlessly amalgamating a tailor-made luxury we have come to associate with the group the world over.
Perfectly situated, the MO (a familiarity affectionately reserved for its regular patrons) in Munich is walking distance from Marienplatz, the main square in one direction and Maximilianstrasse with its chichi boutiques in the other. Surrounded by theatres and museums, a visit to the birthplace of Oktoberfest would be incomplete without a drink at Hofbräuhaus beer garden, which is also around the corner from the hotel.
From 1875-1880, the Mandarin Oriental was Johann Kilian Stützel’s Ballhaus or Ball House, where glamorous debutante balls and even grand concerts by the Kaimorchester (the predecessor to the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra) were conducted. Although World War I brought with it unexpected changes and the spacious ballrooms had to be fragmented to accommodate the offices of a thread manufacturer, the building’s original Neo-Renaissance façade still speaks of its glorious bygone era.
Discoveries unearthed during a restoration project reveal that the hotel’s foundations included part of the medieval city wall – a portion of which can still be seen in the hotel’s cellar. The property unsuccessfully changed several hands, until over a hundred years later it became a hotel – once again establishing itself as one of Munich’s distinguished places to be.
After a 7.5 million euro overhaul, the 48 guest rooms and 25 suites have become a staple with the jet-set crowd, where services include a personal butler and suites open out onto an enchanting winter garden.
All rooms have an Asian flair dotted with tropical foliage, Oriental patinas and works of art from the Far East – a homage to the heritage of the luxury hotel group, a common thread that runs through all their properties.
The highlights of this refurbishment though are the uber luxe Presidential Suite and the charming Oriental Suite, both of which are steeped in a contemporary Asian style. Desks, coffee tables, cupboards, wall panelling and doors are all made of Santos rosewood, while floors are covered in genuine oiled teak.
The interiors are bathed in gold and brown, dressed with high-quality fabrics by JAB with lavish patterns of silk, papyrus fiber and Alcantara wrapping the walls – all juxtaposed beautifully to radiate a timeless interplay between east and west.
Another stunning element is the rotunda ceiling at the entrance which is covered meticulously by hand in gold leaf, reflecting images of the oriental carpet and Calixo stone border below. In addition, guests can cook in a fully-equipped Bulthaup kitchen including an induction cooker, steam oven and microwave et al, while the bathing areas are fitted out with a cooling salmon-coloured Estramoz marble from Portugal, a perfect foil to the private steam baths and whirlpools.
Other rooms have been peppered with cherry wood furniture from the Neo-Biedermeier period, while CM Design has further enhanced that MO sumptuousness with only the best quality bed linens. Wong Kee Chee, a celebrated artist from Hong Kong, exclusively created all the photographs, digital prints and oil paintings that hang in the rooms and suites at the MO.
Architect Ralf Claussen of CM Design articulately sums up the brief when he explains; “Our aim was to combine a contemporary and high-quality design, borrowing art-deco forms to create a sense of well-being amid genuine works of art.”
Wining and dining at the MO is also a design in opulence. You can unwind at the Mandarin Bar, drinking in its old-world charm as Munich’s well-heeled get together to sip on gold speckled cocktails and chitchat to the strains of the live piano music. Or, you can dine at Marks, the hotel’s Michelin star restaurant. But just for its sheer majesty, head to the China Moon Roof Terrace for an uninterrupted 360° view of Munich and the surrounding Alps, or literally hang over the city in the eternity pool.
From November to January a specially designed cosy pop-up wooden chalet restaurant called The Alm is erected, giving its guests an authentic Alpine experience.
For those who swear by Eastern hospitality, have not been pampered by the staff at the Mandarin Oriental in Munich. Whether you are being served a quiet champagne at the bar or a fancy dinner at Mark’s; being spoiled at the Turkish spa or asking the concierge for directions, the team at the MO feel like long lost friends – it’s that flawless balance of German perfection and Eastern geniality that makes you feel that you have arrived… home!
Text By Natalie Pedder-Bajaj Photographs Courtesy The Architects