For a newish, small hotel, the Mandarin Oriental Munich has a good pedigree. The building, originally a ballroom at the heart of fashionable mid-19th century Munich, was converted by legendary hotelier Georg Rafael in the 1990s. When it came to hotel locations and layouts, Rafael never put a foot wrong.
It took on its current form when Rafael and Mandarin Oriental joined forces a decade later, and the latter introduced its Asian-influenced designs and attention to detail to Rafael’s European properties. Mandarin fans will recognise the calm consistency that pervades all the bedrooms but there is also a personality and originality in the public spaces that ensures this is not some corporate clone.
So today, the Mandarin Oriental, Munich offers stylish and luxurious accommodation on seven floors with 25 suites and 45 rooms in Bavaria’s clean and wealthy capital.
On a quiet street just off Maximilianstrasse – Munich’s Fifth Avenue – it has the most prestigious Old Town location. Nearby is the National Theatre Munich, home to Bavarian State Opera and one of Europe’s most famous cultural venues offering more than a hundred performances each year. Also within walking distance is the ancient Hofbrauhaus, the most renowned beer hall in a city of beer halls, and origin of Bavarian ‘gemutlichkeit’ or hospitality. Around the corner are all Munich’s fashionable designer boutiques, and within a few blocks, many of the museums and art galleries that put the city on the global cultural map.
For us, this covered just about everything we might seek in a city hotel and we were looking forward to seeing how it all worked. We can report that it does so very well: smaller than most of its top-end competition, it exudes a comfortable and sophisticated friendliness. It felt like a home away from home.
- Daily breakfast for two
- Buffet breakfast
- Room upgrade upon arrival
- Subject to availability
- Food & Beverage credit
- US$100 or equivalent credit to be used during your stay
- Early check-in / Late check-out
- Subject to availability
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
Exclusive benefits may vary by hotel or hotel group. Exclusive Benefits apply when booking the Best Available Rate and are not combinable with any hotel offers or special packages unless stated.
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With light Sunday-evening traffic, it took no time to travel the 30km from Munich’s international airport to the Mandarin Oriental. Pulling up outside, we were met by two doormen clad in large, black greatcoats and flat black caps, their outfits reminiscent of Forties Italian gangsters. Smiling, they took our baggage and ushered us into the modern and discreetly decorated lobby. A series of branch sculptures, framed in panels and back-lit, told us immediately that this is an expensive hotel, but also a classy one.
It is certainly small by Mandarin Oriental standards but with a highly trained staff, the chances are your arrival will be anticipated. Ours was, and we were welcomed by name before we had introduced ourselves. We were checked in with friendly efficiency at the designer reception desk, pausing only to correct some personal details, and were escorted to our room on the 6th floor. Our bag was already there.
Rooms and suites
Our room was categorised as a Mandarin Room, the biggest type before a suite. At 41sq m (441sq ft), it might be called a junior suite in any other hotel as it contained an ample sofa and sitting area.
We were in the eaves with two large windows cut out of the mansard, giving wonderful rooftop views of the city. At night, electric blinds – operated from lighting consoles located each side of the large, double twin bed – blacked out the city. The Jim Thompson-style silk curtains served a purely aesthetic purpose.
The floor was wooden in a patterned parquet – there are wooden floors in all the bedrooms in the hotel – punctuated with a discreetly coloured rug. All the furniture, including the large, well-equipped writing desk, was neo-Biedermeier, classical and expensive-looking. All the colours were honeyed and subtle.
There was a separate luggage room and walk-in wardrobe off the bedroom containing the sort of ‘essentials’ that only Mandarin Oriental provides: shoe-stretchers, a clothes brush, a long-arm shoe horn and a yoga mat.
A mini-bar tucked into a small cupboard behind a mirror contained a good selection of local beers, quality soft drinks and nibbles, all of which were complimentary – a nice touch. A Nespresso machine with various coffee brews (but no tea) sat on the desk. Another nice touch was real milk in the fridge – so rare in Europe.
In short, the room is near perfect. One detail that we would have changed was the combination of over-large pillows and normal-sized ones – two normal pillows would be more comfortable, but that is a personal preference.
There was excellent free wi-fi throughout the property with an uncomplicated log-on for as many devices as one wanted. At the bedroom desk there were several charging points (with plug adaptors provided).
In-room entertainment was via a large, floor-mounted flat screen, a Bang & Olufsen – so reassuringly expensive. To allow for different viewing angles, the remote control made the TV turn on its rounded legs – at least that was the idea but it didn’t always work, and the TV didn’t necessarily respond to the remote control. Possibly the battery was exhausted, which would be an unusual lapse in the hotel’s attention to detail.
The climate control was as good as it gets: responsive to adjustment and completely silent.
The lighting system provided subtle light where needed and was all easily controlled from bedside panels tucked into the Biedermeier units.
The bathroom echoed the perfection of the room. With one notable exception, it had everything a guest might want, and in the places a guest might want them, surrounded by marble, mirror, chrome and the monogrammed fluffiness of the towelling. It was tasteful and functional with, of course, a walk-in shower with multiple heads, a bath (quite small) and a separate WC and bidet cubicle. There was only a single basin.
The amenities were by Shanghai Tang, in shocking, neon-bright containers. The bath robes notched up a new level of luxury for us as they were silk-faced with a soft towelling inside.
There was even a wall-mounted bathroom TV. Its remote control was the one piece of equipment that served no obvious purpose.
So what was the notable exception to perfection? Astonishingly, the hairdryer was a wall-mounted, power-limited, non-directional unit that one used to find in the Eighties. No female of our acquaintance would find this satisfactory. If you go to the expense of a bathroom TV, why would you not provide a proper hairdryer? To be fair, when we raised this with a member of staff we were told that it was likely to be changed soon.
Sunday night is a quiet night in the restaurants of most city hotels in the world, and in the once staunchly Catholic Munich, it is not noted for its activity. Notwithstanding, the restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental was full, near standing room only (fortunately we had pre-booked before our arrival). The reason for this was in the name of the restaurant: Matsuhisa – often referred to by the celebrated chef’s first name – Nobu. The MO is the site of his first foray into Germany.
It is a stylish restaurant, accessed via a dramatic galleried staircase from the lobby to the first floor. Our table was next to a huge internal picture window overlooking the staircase, so we could see all the comings and goings. An internally lit, faux-marble support pillar added impressive architectural drama.
Evidently, this is a go-to place for the burghers of Munich, who were greeted by staff with the traditional shouts of ‘Irasshaimase!’ (a Japanese welcome term) as they arrived for their special night out.
We ate ‘Omakase’ (from the chef’s heart) as one should on one’s first visit to a particular Nobu restaurant. It was excellent and consisted of seven courses of the chef’s most favoured ingredients and recipes. We began with yellowtail sashimi jalapeno and ended with a subtle mushroom consommé after the intervening delights which included, of course, the chef’s signature black cod miso served with ginger. We drank the specially selected sake varieties included in the menu but, with nowhere else to go that night, needed to order an extra tokkuri (flask of sake) to ensure we had noticed the subtleties.
The same restaurant (without Japanese theming) serves an extensive buffet and full-service breakfast of the highest quality. At luxury hotel buffets each tries to outdo its rivals in a kind of breakfast arms race. In the cheese zone, the Mandarin Oriental displayed a Swiss cheese speciality, a tête de moine, replete with a cutting girolle, which was a first for us and so notched up an extra point.
On the stairs outside the restaurant there was a fine piece of work on the wall by British contemporary artist Richard Long. This was retained from the Rafael Hotel days and illustrates how cleverly the Mandarin Oriental, Munich has navigated the line between corporate consistency and individual personality. Titled Avon Mud, its relevance is no longer clear, but its colours add presence and define the space as at an art gallery.
Food is also served in the hotel’s fashionable Bar 31, off the main lobby and with its own grand entrance to the street for the walk-in custom. Somewhat surprisingly, it was closed during our stay and only operates for five days a week at certain times of the year. Although drinks and other services were available in the smaller lobby lounge, the hotel seemed to be missing an opportunity for the clientele at the crowded Matsuhisa restaurant. No matter – the bar looked great fun and had just been seasonally redecorated as a pop-up in a humorous Tyrolean pastiche with Alpine scenes screen-printed on the windows, fire logs stacked and realistic-looking fake snow piled up on the bookshelves.
Spa and wellness
There is a good-sized gym with Technogym equipment. Adjoining this, a unisex Finnish sauna plus Turkish steam room – essential for a Bavarian hotel, although staff nowadays feel obliged to point out that one might encounter nakedness.
For now, there is no hotel spa, but a high-class hairdressing salon within the building and accessible from the lobby offers various treatments. The hotel has acquired a neighbouring building, and the planned expansion in the near future includes a spa.
Pool and beach
At rooftop level and open from May for the summer season is another of the Mandarin Oriental, Munich’s best features: an outdoor swimming pool with sunbathing cabanas and a bar offering panoramic views over the spires and rooftops. Our visit was in winter, so it was not open, but facilities like this in the centre of the city, even if space is constrained, are always popular.
The hotel offers its younger clients a special welcome gift, cookies and a children’s menu. Small bikes and helmets can be hired, and a babysitting service is available. We didn’t see any children during our stay but are sure that they would receive a friendly welcome.
Staff and service
Smaller hotels by their nature engender closer staff-to-guest contact. The predominantly young Mandarin Oriental staff were friendly, smart and professional, as one expects of a hotel of this class.
Guests were very international. Munich, with its proximity to the Alps, its trade fair exhibition centre, thriving arts, sports and culture scene, large airport and other transport links, is a hub for an international market. It appeals to both leisure and business travellers. The Mandarin Oriental successfully captures the upper echelons – whether from Russia, the USA or the Emirates. In summer it is particularly popular with Middle Eastern clients.
Friendly and efficient. The doormen were happy to pose for a joke farewell picture.
How to get there
40 minutes by road transfer from Munich International Airport
70 rooms and suites
Swimming pool (outdoor)