Germany’s Schloss Bensberg – an indulgent weekend
This month’s travel recommendation is located in Germany, where I live part of the year. My partner’s traditional birthday present to me is usually a trip to somewhere beautiful, inspiring or exotic. This year, we went to Schloss Bensberg for some much needed relaxation. Schloss is the German word for palace, and Bensberg is a small town just outside of Cologne. The palace, a former hunting lodge for the Count Palatine of the Rhine, was converted into a 5 star luxury hotel in the 1990s. The palace is a stunning relic of royal Europe; it was commissioned in the 1700s by Johann Wilhelm, then current Count Palatine, for his wife Anna Maria. Due to his wife’s taste for grandeur, Johann Wilhelm used Versailles and Winchester Castle as architectural models for the schloss. He used the site’s elevated scenery and views onto the Rhine Valley and river to entice his wife. The hotel is situated such that it allows for a breathtaking view of the cathedral city of Cologne without being in the city proper.
Johann Wilhelm died before the Schloss was completed, however; instead of finishing the project herself, Anna Maria left Germany, grief stricken, and returned to Italy, her land of origin. When she left, she took the numerous artists, plasterers and painters who were originally commissioned to work on Schloss Bensberg with her. As a result the building remained unfinished. Over the centuries, the building was used as a military hospital, cadet school, boarding school and refugee centre.
In the 1990s, however, the building was purchased and renovated at a cost of 75 million euros and nearly a decade of work, transforming it into a luxury hotel. My partner chose this hotel for me because, like Stonehurst, it combines my love of old buildings which have been repurposed and made new.
The Schloss has a 10,000 sq ft beauty and spa centre, which I can say was total pamperology. A claim to fame of the hotel is the Michelin-star cuisine of Joachim Wissler in their Restaurant Vendôme, the tenth best restaurant in the world. After a few dinners there, I can understand why!
Sublime. Indulgent. Just like Stonehurst Place (ok, a little bigger) :)