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If you’re visiting Wiesbaden in Germany, the historic Hotel Nassauer Hof is a luxury hotel with a thermal water spa, Michelin-star restaurant and central location. Here’s my review.
Hotel Nassauer Hof Review
My first glimpse of the Hotel Nassauer Hof in Wiesbaden, Germany, with its ornate stone facade and liveried doorman was one of those wonderful travel moments when you gasp, and think, “I’m staying here?”
This happy feeling, as I walked in past an intimate lobby lounge of plush red and gold, was quickly followed by the thought, “Am I going to bring the tone of the place down? Do I even belong here?”
That’s what happens when you book the best hotel in Wiesbaden.
Dostoevsky in Wiesbaden
After I was shown my deluxe room (an upgrade, yay! The joys of traveling in off season) I immediately checked out the view. Across a landscaped square with fountains and flowers was the historic casino, the Spielbank Wiesbaden.
Idly, I wondered if the Russian writer Fydor Dostoevsky had seen the same view. Did it haunt him?
For me, the Spielbank Wiesbaden – the most high stakes casino in Germany – looked like a fun place to pop in and see on vacation, but for Dostoevsky this glamorous gambling palace was an obsession, a place that could shower him with gold or send him spiralling into despair if the cards went the wrong way.
The cards went the wrong way.
As the tale goes, the ruined Russian writer slunk out of the five-star Nassauer Hof unable to pay his bill. More than a century later, the rumour continues, Russia offered to make good on his debt. Graciously, the Hotel Nassauer Hof declined.
Hm, I thought. Since I’m not a literary genius and it’s doubtful Canada will offer to cover my bill, gambling might not be part of my Wiesbaden itinerary after all. Maybe I’ll just relax at the hotel.
A Historic Hotel in Wiesbaden
Fortunately, this 159-room luxury hotel in Wiesbaden has plenty of nooks to relax in: three restaurants, a cocktail bar, the lobby lounge and a two-floor spa. For all that, it retains the feel of an intimate hotel. It also holds two centuries of secrets behind its storied facade.
And what a facade it is. A stunning example of Wilhelminian architecture – a style known for its luxe frontages and elaborate stucco decoration – the hotel exterior is constructed from white sandstone from the River Main, now settled into a warm beige hue.
A Luxury German Spa Hotel
Originally built as a spa hotel to capitalize on the growing popularity of Wiesbaden’s 26 thermal springs, and to accommodate the well-heeled guests coming here for lengthy leisurely spa cures, the Nassauer Hof first opened its doors in 1813. Since then it has seen kaisers, tsars, aristocrats and celebrities. Not to mention war.
In 1945 it was hit in an air raid and gutted by fire. It looked like the end for the Nassauer Hof, but after 12 years of reconstruction, it made a spectacular comeback in 1958.
By all accounts the rebuild was successful. Even the Dalai Lama, during his third visit here, said that returning to the Nassauer Hof was “like coming home.”
Home for whom though? I couldn’t quite figure the Nassauer Hof out. If luxury hotels have personalities, what was the Hotel Nassauer Hof today?
Unlike in the 19th century, the spa no longer seems to be the hotel’s main draw. It still has a luxury spa and a rooftop pool supplied by its very own thermal springs, but the hotel has evolved with the times. It now also has the only Michelin-star restaurant in the city and plays host to a wide range of clientele.
The Restaurant Orangerie
The next morning at breakfast in the hotel’s Orangerie restaurant – a light-filled rotunda with delicate murals and orange tress – I discreetly checked out the crowd, determined to get a handle on the character of the hotel and its guests.
There were tables of German business types power breakfasting in expensive-looking suits, and, as Wiesbaden is the state capital of Hesse, I guessed a fair number could be politicians and government employees.
Up at the buffet a mix of international guests were speaking everything from Arabic to English, and two tables over from mine, an American couple was trying to hush a toddler who was banging his hands on the white tablecloth and demanding to go out and play.
It was a crowd that was hard to pigeonhole. Good, I thought. That meant there was even a place for me, a solo traveler in dire need of a 5-day spa break.
The Spa at the Nassauer Hof Therme Wiesbaden
Wrapped in a fluffy white robe, I went to find the thermal pool. The main reason I’d chosen the Nassauer Hof for a hot springs spa vacation in Germany was because of a photo I’d seen of its rooftop thermal pool, a glass-enclosed haven slanted in sunlight and ringed by blue deck chairs.
The reality was as attractive as its online presence. It felt peaceful and lofty, the atmosphere as calm as a clear blue sky. The indoor swimming pool was warm but not tingling hot. My one complaint is that I would have liked it hotter.
What I did love was the uniqueness of the setting. The mineral-rich water rises up from its very own tributary under the hotel, making it a one-of-a-kind hot spring. After it surfaces somewhere deep in the recesses of the hotel, it’s cooled down from a blistering 67 C(152 F) to a more temperate 32 C (89 F).
And if you get tired of soaking, you can pad out to the Japanese-garden-style terrace and look over the spires of the city’s Market Church.
Since I’d already blown my budget on the hotel I had to forgo the spa treatments, though there were plenty of tempting options. Spa and wellness services at the Nassauer Hof Therme Wiesbaden include massage, physical therapy and personal training, and the connected Artemis Beauty Spa has a full range of wellness treatments using the high-end Swiss product line Artemis.
Instead of filling up my schedule with treatments, I soaked, occasionally went to the sauna (a 15 Euro extra charge) or lay on a deck chair leafing through a coffee table book about the hotel I’d found in the spa lounge. Inside was a world of aristocratic gossip.
Note: German sauna culture is unique (and clothing free) so you might want to check out my guide on German sauna etiquette before sweating it out.
Notorious Guests at the Hotel
My favourite story was about the English countess who stayed at this 5-star luxury hotel in Wiesbaden each year. She always ordered room service and then tried to ‘appropriate’ the expensive china and silverware by hoarding them in her bathtub.
It wasn’t until she would go down for afternoon tea that the staff could ‘appropriate’ it back. And when she returned and found the china gone her cries that she’d been robbed could be heard up and down the hall. A specially-designated staff member would arrive to soothe her ruffled soul. It was a ritual that went on every day.
What I learned from this – in addition to the fact that some people really covet hotel china – is that the service at the Nassauer Hof was exceptional then and – at least from what I’d experienced so far – hasn’t diminished today.
Ente – the Best of Wiesbaden Restaurants
I thought of the countess later that night when I glanced at the tableware at Ente, the hotel’s signature restaurant, and wondered if she would have been as delighted as I was to see that the butter came in the shape of a duck – a tribute to the restaurant’s name, Ente which means ‘Duck’ in German.
As the only Michelin-starred restaurant in Wiesbaden, Ente, is popular with both locals and tourists, and in the top echelon of restaurants in Germany. It’s a sophisticated place to dine, a circular two-level restaurant with a frescoed cupola overhead.
The host led me up a swirling wrought iron staircase to a loft-like second level, and I’m proud to say I made it up the stairs in my heels without tripping (unlike at Canada’s Hockley Valley Resort).
The Duck Menu at Ente
Diving into the gourmet spirit I opted for the full ‘Head to Toe’ Duck menu. The I-lost-count-of-how-many-courses duck-themed tasting menu was an unforgettable three plus hours of gastronomic explorations into all things canard, accompanied by local wines from the Rheingau Gorge.
My biggest fail happened when jet lag kicked in and I ran out of steam. Worried I was going to fall asleep and do a head plant into the duck butter, I was forced to cancel the final course of the meal, the Cold Duck in Champagne-Sorbet.
It was a crucial mistake, like listening to a Beethoven’s symphony without making it to the final coda. Or running a marathon and stopping 10 feet from the finish line.
So now, whenever I relive this extraordinary culinary journey in my mind (and I do, whenever I’m hungry), the memory of Pink Roasted Challans Duck with blueberry, pak choi and chanterelles; the exquisite Duck Confit with celery foam and summer truffles; and, let me be clear about this – an ENTIRE roasted duck – will always be shadowed by the dish that got away, the Cold Duck in Champagne-Sorbet.
Jet lag, you did me wrong.
A Stay at the Nassauer Hof Hotel
The next morning, feeling rested from the spa and still full of duck (but game for a big buffet breakfast anyway, in order to make up for the abandoned Cold Duck in Champagne-Sorbet), I thought of the long list of stars and celebrities who have passed through the Hotel Nassauer Hof’s weighty glass doors, soaked in its spring water and dined in its restaurants.
I may not have the cachet of VIP guests such as Kaiser Wilhelm II, John F. Kennedy, Gene Hackman, David Bowie and Audrey Hepburn, and I couldn’t even make it to the finish line of an extraordinary meal, but I no longer doubted that there was a place for a spa-goer like me here, especially if I didn’t steal the china and, unlike Dostoevsky, made sure to pay my bill.
Hotels in Wiesbaden – Travel Tips
Ente: Reservations are recommended for dinner at Ente. And give yourself time, this is fine dining at its best and not an experience to be rushed. The Head to Toe Duck Menu was 125 Euros.
Ente Bistro: Luxury on a Budget
If you want to eat well, but don’t have a Michelin-star wallet, the hotel’s street side Ente Bistro, which specializes in casual fine dining, is a find. The best deal? The 2-course daily lunch plat du jour for 15 Euros.
Orangerie: It’s a lovely light-filled restaurant and also popular for lunch, serving classics and seasonal fare.
The Location of the Nassauer Hof
If you’re looking for a centrally-located hotel in Wiesbaden, you won’t go wrong with the Nassauer Hof. Overlooking the Kurhaus (once the spa center of Wiesbaden and now a conference center), this luxury hotel is ideally situated for sightseeing, and at the edge of the city’s labyrinth of pedestrian streets filled with cafes and shops. It’s a 15 minute walk from the train station.
A Luxury Hotel Near Frankfurt
Wiesbaden is a wealthy walkable city just 40-minutes by S-Bahn train from Frankfurt, with a direct line from the Frankfurt airport.
How much does the Nassauer Hof Hotel cost?
I paid 190 Euros per night during low season.
Other Hotels in Wiesbaden
While the Nassauer Hof is undoubtedly the best hotel in Wiesbaden, another option is the Radisson, which also has a spa and is centrally located. It’s cheaper than the Nassauer Hof, and also historic, but not quite as grand.
Other Spa Towns in Germany
The only German spa town more famous than Wiesbaden is Baden-Baden, one of my favourite spa destinations in Europe. If you’re on a vacation in Germany check out my review of how to spa in Baden-Baden, and another famous German spa hotel, Brenners Park Hotel & Spa.