At the opening of the Park Hyatt Vienna on Thursday night, it was hard to believe that the hotel hadn’t always been there. Right on one of the oldest squares, the Am Hof, in the UNESCO-protected heart of the city, the hotel is gracious and imposing, its great classical stone columns rising up to a pretty attic-style copper roof.
Locals refer to the building as “The Bank” for good reason. Until a couple of years ago, the building housed the Bank of Austria – which explains the grandeur of its interiors. Beyond the imposing lobby, original stained glass windows from the early 1900s send light throughout the enormous space. Pillars and floors are of polished marble. Walls are embellished with multi-coloured stone cladding, painted with gold, lit with chandeliers and at the back, watched over by the bank’s original clock. As a guest was overheard to say: “It’s the closest thing Vienna has to the Georges V in Paris: the most glamorous opening the city has seen.”
Although the building’s historical details have been painstakingly preserved – and overseen by the city’s Antiquities and Monuments office – the interiors have been given a fresh, 21st-century look by hip Amsterdam-based designers FG stijl. Lounge chairs are covered in cool silvery velvets and super-soft metallic leather. Massive works of art by contemporary Viennese artists adorn the walls. Flowers arrangements are modern and sculptural (on the newspaper desk a row of orange arum lilies with grasses decorated the desk). Even the crockery and cutlery is clean and unfussy: the very antithesis of the fin de siècle architecture.
In most hotels, while public spaces are knock-out, often the rooms are unimpressive. Not here. Not only are the guest rooms the most spacious in the city (the smallest 35square metres, the largest 120), but characterful (of the 143 rooms, there are 100 different layouts, the warm, friendly young GM Monique Dekker told us).
Of the “standard” rooms, the sixth floor are the most characterful: with sloping “attic”-style ceilings and windows (best are road-facing, rather than courtyard-facing). All are similar colours: with unpolished oak parquet floors and limed oak wood pillars and panelling; latte-shaded walls; spacious lime-oak wardrobes; and bathrooms with unpolished marble finishes, capacious showers and baths, pretty beaten silver basins with clean-lined Grohe taps. Spoiling little extras in the bathroom included generous silver tubes of lime-scented Blaise Mautin products and super-soft white towelling robe that (unlike many hotels) were light and velvety.
Then there are the little luxury finishes: the elegant art-deco-style leather-covered desk; the mother-of-pearl-covered coffee table and (our favourite) a handsome wooden stand-alone drinks cabinet with hand-crafted mother-of-pearl handles and inside not just an Illy espresso machine, and local chocolate, cereal-bars and snacks, but an easy-glide fridge drawer stocked with delicious local drinks.
The hotel’s Presidential Suite has to be one of the most sumptuous and glitzy in the capital: double-height, with a grand oak four-poster, a elaborate Viennese crystal chandelier, a pretty balcony looking over the square, and a bathroom with not just twinkly silver mosaic tiles around the bath but a whole lapis lazuli wall. All I could think of was just how many necklaces you could make out of it…
As one would expect of the Park Hyatt’s first Austrian hotel, the food at the opening party was sensational. One entire room was dedicated only to chocolates: strips, balls, squares and truffles, arranged in beautiful glass bowls set at different heights. There was a caviar bar. A cheese room where they showed off dozens of the different breads the Austrians breads are known for (gruyere cheese sticks were particularly moreish). And in the open-air kitchen of Bank, where chefs prepare local seasonal international food, little platters were being dished up: the rarest roast rump with grilled artichokes; foie gras with cherries; risotto with morelles. And of course, in the glamorous wood-panelled ballroom, there were platters of famous Viennese chocolate cakes, speckled with gold and adorned with cherries. And that was before one got to the library and drawing room, where the cream of silk-clad Viennese society were sipping XO Hennessey cognac and smoking cigars in a scene that could have been from a 100 years ago.
The next morning, things were a little quieter (the last guests left at 4.30am, a slightly weary looking Monique confided!) Perfect, then, for the spa. Called Arany (Hungarian for gold), it is set in the basement in the former bank vault, where the thick steel door is still installed as a reminder of the building’s past. In what must be a first, the 100m-long pool is floored in tiles the shape and size of gold bullion, overlooked by a handsome wood-panelled Technogym gym, and next to a soothing spa, with six treatment rooms. We soothed tired bodies with a full Sodashi massage, sauna and pummelling massage-rain-shower, followed by a huge array of pastries and breads. Then feeling human again, went out into Vienna to explore.
The hotel is right at the heart of the revitalized Golden Quarter, just renovated (to a reported cost of 500 million euros), and now home to upmarket shops from Louis Vuitton to Church’s shoes. Keen to see some of the city’s more historical shops, we headed first to see its most famous cake shop: Demel, where within wooden-panelled rooms, they sell every sort of cake one might imagine, from strudels to rich sache torte (some handily packaged in easy-to-pack wooden boxes). Vienna is known for its gloves, so we visited its tiny Stiassny glovemaker, where Mr Stiassny makes gloves, and his sister sells them in the tiny wood-clad store. We popped into the three-story Knize, gentleman’s outfitters to the aristocracy for centuries (where the men among us bought raincoats with removable woollen lining). We ogled the jewels in Schullin jeweller, its shop designed by famous local architect Hans Hollein. We met the seventh-generation shoemaker at Scheer (where all shoes are made to order, and cost from 5,000 euros).
And when we were exhausted – too much partying and way too much shopping in the glamorous Kohlmarkt, the street on which coal was now sold, and which is now the Madison Avenue or Bond Street of Vienna – we strolled back, taking in the grand domed palace, the churches and spires of this immaculately maintained Austrian city. It was a flying visit but next time, it will be to go to the opera, St Peter’s baroque cathedral, the Spanish Riding School, the museums. And, of course, back to the Park Hyatt Vienna, for yet another slice of rum-and-poppy-seed cake.
Synchronised swimming display to launch the Gold Bullion Swimming Pool.
For more information please visit: http://www.vienna.park.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html
Images source: © Park Hyatt Vienna