Imagine a castle, tucked away at the foot of the Bavarian Alps in south-east Germany, completely surrounded by majestic snow-capped mountains and verdant alpine forests and the reality will be Schloss Elmau Luxury Spa Retreat & Cultural Hideaway. This multiple facility private retreat offers two luxury hotels with a total of 162 guest rooms – The Hideaway with 115 rooms and suites and the more modern Retreat with 47 rooms and suites.
The Retreat offers three restaurants, a Library Lounge, and Adult Spa & Onsen, a Family Spa, a Yoga Pavilion, Fitness Centre and a Board Room. The Hideaway has five restaurants plus a Tea Lounge and Jazz Bar. Schloss Elmau boasts a 2-Michelin starred restaurant – Luce D’Oro – where masterchef Christoph Rainer conjures up a sumptuous menu of French and Japanese dishes.
Facilities-wise, the hotel boasts the Badehaus Adult Spa & Oriental Hammam – the largest this side of Istanbul, a Family Spa & Nature Spa, a Yoga Studio, a library, a bookstore and a Concert Hall for classical music and jazz.
A refuge for great artists and authors since its founding in 1916, Schloss Elmau hosts more than 220 concerts and literary events annually plus the odd G7 Summit. On the sporting side, during the winter months, there are cross country skiing tracks from right outside the resort and a 25-minute shuttle will see you in Seefeld in Austria or Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a former Olympic venue. There are ski schools; ski tours; curling; hockey; ice skating; archer; winter e-mountain biking and dogsledding. During the summer, there is hiking; rock climbing; mountain biking; race biking; archery; tennis; jogging; fly fishing and golf. Kiddies are welcomed with a comprehensive Kids’ Club and a wide range of children’s programmes.
Surrounded by the all-encompassing Bavarian Alps, forests and lush greenery, Schloss Elmau is a pristine sanctuary just over 100 kilometres south of Munich, 18 kilometres west of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and 40 kilometres north of Innsbruck. The fairy tale castles of King Ludwig II are close by.
By train from Munich, the journey takes around 90 minutes with at least one train per hour. Klais is the first stop after Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the direction of Mittenwald. From Innsbruck to Klais takes around an hour and is the first stop after Mittenwald. The resort will collect you with a complimentary transfer from the railway station.
By air, the journey from Innsbruck Airport to Schloss Elmau is around 45 kilometres and an additional seven kilometres from Klais Railway Station. From Munich’s Franz-Josef Strauss International Airport, the transfer is around 90 minutes.
By car, from Munich, it is around an hour’s scenic drive whilst from Innsbruck, around 45 minutes. The resort provides garage parking.
There are two hotels in the resort – the rebuilt Hideaway and the newer Retreat.
The Hideaway features 75 deluxe rooms and suites with breathtaking views and casual luxury in elegant, intimate interiors blending subtle oriental touches with natural materials from around the world. All the rooms feature oiled oak parquet floors, natural stone in spacious bathrooms, furniture from India and Indonesia, extra-long and luxurious mattresses from Schramm, warm reading lights, Samsung HD televisions, minibars and multi-jewel-coloured bathrobes.
The Wetterstein Wing was built in 2003 and features 32 Junior Suites, Suites & Family apartments, all with large picture windows which open onto those breathtaking views of the mountains. All have oiled oak parquet floors, flatscreen televisions and colonial style furnishings.
The Retreat opened its doors in March 2015 and is located on a sunny hilltop 150 metres west of Schloss Elmau. This more contemporary hotel which accommodated the G7 conference attendees, has 47 rooms and suites with large floor to ceiling picture windows offering wonderful views out over the Wetterstein Mountains and Ferchenbach Creek.
Ranging from 60 – 200 square metres of space, the warm interiors feature an oriental touch and timeless elegance with all rooms offering noiseless & sustainable cooling systems, Samsung TVs and Nespresso machines.
The premium suites include the Ferchenbach Suite at 85 square metres of space and featuring a master bedroom and living room with balconies, loggias or terraces with fabulous views. It can be connected to a Junior Suite to form a 145 square metre Family Suite.
The Valley Suite offers 80 square metres of space and features a master bedroom, a 16 square metre bathroom and a living room offering breathtaking views out over the valley. This suite can be linked with the Summit Suite to form a Presidential Suite of around 200 square metres of living space.
The Summit Suite is the largest individual suite at 120 square metres and features a master bedroom with balcony, a living room, a twin room for children and a bathroom.
On the spa, wellbeing, fitness and activity front, this resort offers some of the most numerous and best facilities to be found anywhere in the world.
For pampering, there are two adult spas with an authentic Oriental Hammam and two 25 metre heated to 32 degrees centigrade and two 20 metre outdoor saltwater pools heated to 35 degrees centigrade. There are also eight saunas and sole steam baths; two lady spas with saunas and steam; several spacious relaxation rooms with open fireplaces; two spa restaurants; four tea lounges and a team of experienced therapists for treatments in 25 well-appointed treatment rooms. There is also a TCM Medical Spa; Jivamukti Yoga Centre; a Yoga Pavilion for retreats with a series of some of the best yoga masters; studios for Pilates and Taijiquan & Qigong; a Spa boutique and two ultra-modern fitness gyms with fresh air and mountain views.
For families and kids, there are three family spas: The Shantigiri Family Spa housed in The Retreat which features a 25-metre outdoor lap pool heated to 32 degrees centigrade; a spacious relaxation room with open fireplace; seven treatment rooms; an ultra-modern fitness gym; a spa lounge and a spa restaurant. The second Family Spa is located in The Hideaway and features a 25-metre lap pool heated to 32 degrees centigrade; five saunas and sole steam baths; a relaxation room and a tea lounge. The Nature Spa is open during the summer and features a 25-metre outdoor pool heated to 32 degrees centigrade; a sauna at the creek; a massage pavilion; a huge playground; three tennis courts and a spa restaurant.
For golfers, just 17 kilometres from the hotel is the Garmisch Golfclub Werdenfels, considered one of the oldest courses in Germany with plentiful trees, small fairways and challenging greens. The nine-hole, par 72 course offers amazing views of the surrounding mountains and the high rising Wettersteinmountain wall with the Alpspitze and Zugspitze.
From summer hiking to winter skiing 20 minutes away by car, there are copious activities to enjoy during your stay.
During the winter months, there is skiing of course with a cross country track starting in front of the resort while a 25-minute shuttle will take you to Seefeld in Austria or Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a former Olympic host. There is alpine skiing & snowboarding; mindful skiing; a ski school & ski tours; ski safaris; archery; dogsledding; e-mountainbiking; an ice rink for skating; snowshoe hiking and alpine wildlife a-plenty to spot.
In the summer months, there is hiking; jogging; running; rock climbing; e-mountainbikes; road bikes; race bikes; trekking bikes; flyfishing; tennis on three clay courts; archery on site; swimming in crystal clear lakes; kite or windsurfing on Walchensee Lake; stand up paddle boarding on Eibsee and Lautersee Lakes; whitewater kayaking on the River Loisach and horse riding nearby.
One of the local highlights is a visit to Schachen, the spectacular mountain retreat of King Ludwig II, built in the Wetterstein Mountains at 1,800 metres above sea level and reachable from Schloss Elmau in just an hour by e-mountainbike or via an easy, scenic three-hour hike.
Cultural wise, the resort offers another action-packed programme of treats. Schloss Elmau has celebrated a globally unique musical tradition for over a century now. The Concert Hall has a calendar of as many as 200 classical music and jazz concerts taking place each year as well as several festivals and many CD recordings all featuring the greatest artists of our generation. The artists not only perform at Schloss Elmau but relax there with their families and friends alongside the audience.
For children, there is the Kids’ Club, creative club, debating club or inspiring edutainment and literature workshops as well as yoga, chess or professional soccer camps with coaches from the top clubs of the 1. Bundesliga. Children can enjoy the dedicated family spas, restaurants and lounges whilst there is a phenomenal kid’s bookshop and sports or alpine wildlife excursions with experienced guides.
Dr Ingeborg Prager’s bookstore is probably the largest in any hotel and has become an internationally renowned literary institution. The bookstore not only provides quality food for thought for adults as well as kids and teens, but it also regularly features book presentations and talks with great authors of our generation.
For shopaholics, there are two boutiques offering accessories, furniture, lights from Enzo Catellani, Schloss Elmau coloured bathrobes and signature fabrics from Andrew Martin as well as fashion from young designers.
If you look to the mountains to restore your equilibrium and to give you inner peace, then Schloss Elmau is definitely for you. A tale of two hotels – the rebuilt original and a newer, more contemporary styled property – the range of facilities is unbelievable offering everything you could possibly dream about and more.
Add to that, a cultural element with classical music and jazz concerts in a custom-built concert hall and philosophical discussions about the world we live in, and its like nothing else you can find anywhere in the world.
Finally, you have those stunning all-encompassing mountain and valley views which show off the beauty of nature magnificently.
With time for reflection in beautiful surroundings, you may well feel that you have changed a little for the better after a stay here. I can certainly hear my soul asking to return.
With so many dining venues on site, the cuisine covers everything from gourmet tasting menus and Thai cuisine to traditional Swiss fondue feast.
The two Michelin starred Luce d’Oro is located in The Hideaway, also scoring 18 points in the Gault Millau guide. A contemporary and streamlined interior with clean lines accented by natural wooden highlight provides the perfect setting for the Japanese French inspired cuisine created by Christoph Rainer and his brigade. When compiling a dish, the team focus on the essentials – the produce and the taste. Their creations often use only three main ingredients and “aroma bridges” showcased by surprising preparation techniques and flavour combinations, interplaying sour, sweet and spicy alongside textures and consistencies.
There are three Italian restaurants – Summit for à la carte for adults only, Tutto Mondo à la carte for families and Ganesha à la carte for everyone. This contemporary interpretation of Italian favourites allows diners to discover the typical Mediterranean range and flavours of the country. Executive Chef Sergio Merolla prepares classic ingredients with a surprisingly vivid aromatic touch, allowing guests to re-discover typical dishes such as Vitello Tonnato, Antipasta or Lasagna.
The international dishes served at La Salle in The Hideaway features great buffets for salads, antipasti, desserts and freshly prepared main courses prepared in an open kitchen and served à la carte at the table. Fidelio on the other hand, also in The Hideaway, serves sushi and Asian dishes in a dramatic vaulted room, with privacy lent by dramatic floor to ceiling drapery dissecting the space. Culinary Director & Executive Chef Anton Pozeg and Sushi Master Rex Corpuz create an unforgettable authentic Asian experience. A daily changing selection of Sushi, Sashimi, fish and meat dishes is offered with one of the highlights: the Sushi Chef Selection Royal, served for at least two guests – a set of the finest Sushi and Sashimi.
As one might expect, The Kaminstüberl is a cosy and wood-panelled space with comfortable alcoves and open fireplaces – the perfect place to enjoy fondue. During the summer months, it offers terraced seating facing the inner courtyard.
Ananda, the beautifully bright and airy restaurant situated in the tranquil surroundings of the Badehouse Spa, offers a tranquil space reserved exclusively for adults for all day dining. Breakfast is available throughout the morning so can be eaten as early or late as desired and in bathrobes with tables available on a terrace if preferred.
The Elmauer Alm is a mountain restaurant with rustic interiors belonging to Schloss Elmau but sitting on a mountain ridge at an altitude of 1,203 metres, offering breath-taking panoramas of the Karwendel and Wetterstein mountain ranges as well as Schloss Elmau in the valley. There are three walking trails up to the restaurant – a 40-minute steep walk, a 60-minute easy walk from Kranzbach and an hour and a half walk from the Eckbauer. In winter, a beautiful cross-country ski run with a slight uphill gradient leads from Schloss Elmau to Elmauer Alm.
The Tea Lounge in The Hideaway offers a living room, wintergarden and a terrace, the latter particularly beautiful in candlelight during the summer months. In the lounge, comfortable seating surrounds open fireplaces with crackling fires, with murals on the walls and a mix of fabric and wicker furnishings. Banks of floor to ceiling windows open onto the mountain vista with tables, chairs and parasols, highlighted in the resort’s signature burnt orange hue. The Library Lounge in The Retreat is a long elegant contemporary space with central signature fireplaces, deep vibrant colours, bookcases filled with tomes and low comfortable seating with an open plan layout. This space serves as living room; restaurant; bar; lounge; library and terrace with spectacular views of the Wetterstein Mountain and the Ferchenbach Creek.
Al Camino is the sophisticated Piano Bar & Lounge based at The Hideaway with classic and contemporary cocktails from Keven McFarland and his team as well as jazz pianists and occasional speakers in front of the open fireplace. There is also a Smokers’ Lounge.
Schloss Elmau strives to embrace an ethos that is mindful of the planet whilst being dedicated to the care of its guests. Protecting the untouched nature of their sanctuary is their top priority, aiming to be 100% climate neutral within the next ten years.
80% of their heating is generated by burning wood waste from the surrounding forests and as a backup and to cover peak demand, they use their own combined heat and power cogeneration plant which is fired by gas and generates 50% of their electricity. Their own hydroelectric power station which has been in operation for over 100 years, contributes another 15%. The remaining demand for electricity is covered by green power provided by external utility companies. They have reduced their energy consumption by using LED lighting whilst halogen spots, still necessary for aesthetic reasons, are dimmed to just 2% of their possible output. All biological waste is converted into electric energy in their own biogas plant. Glass and paper are recycled.
Schloss Elmau uses state of the art inductive and noiseless cooling and ventilation using 100% fresh air heated by heat recovery from used air. They do not use energy intensive air conditioning and fan coil systems.
The castle only uses and offers drinking water from their own high quality and mineral rich mountain source. All their trout, meat and dairy products are produced by bio-farmers in the region.
Amenities are made with natural ingredients and come in reusable packaging. Plastic straws have long been replaced with bamboo straws and plastic bottles with glass bottles. Their laundry is processed with green power and state of the art technology minimising the use of chemicals.