STOP 1: FRANKFURT
Sitting snug on Kennedyallee, a street renamed in honor of former President John F. Kennedy after his visit to Frankfurt in 1963, is Villa Kennedy (suites from $605). Originally known as Villa Speyer, this neo-Gothic masterpiece was formerly home to a wealthy banking family. The hotel seamlessly absorbed the main home, adding three wings and creating an inviting inner courtyard. The interior, as one might suspect, celebrates JFK and all things ’60s: Photographs of the popular president; his wife, Jackie; the Rat Pack; and Marilyn Monroe adorn the walls, transporting you to a more glamorous era. This five-star beauty is a tranquil garden oasis nestled in an urban setting.
The hotel’s JFK Bar is known for its extensive craft cocktail menu, with its signature Visit to Frankfurt drink served in a minibembel (traditional jar). The crowds flow out its doors and into Gusto, an authentic Italian restaurant with a Mediterranean flair. There, Fulvio Pierangelini’s modern italian cuisine shines, and Gusto’s specialty, ravioli grenne sosse (handmade ravioli stuffed with famous Frankfurt herb green sauce), is a delight—enjoyed alfresco, of course.
Much of the fanfare is in the suites, where plush king-size beds you’ll never want to leave are dressed in sumptuous linens. But it’s worth bidding adieu to the plush comfort—if only for a moment—to experience the heated floors in the elegantly designed marble and glass tile mosaic master bath, which includes a decadent soaking tub. The in-room bar is full of the usual suspects, but Rocco Forte Hotels offers a twist: You can request your room be stocked with its signature Nourish program, which offers alternative healthy options.
Off the south bank of the River Main, Villa Kennedy is beautifully situated to explore all Frankfurt has to offer—walk across one of the many bridges to dinner at Mainnizza, a traditional German restaurant on the water. Afterward, hail a quick cab to Bahnhofsviertel, the city’s Red Light District, where the cocktail scene is in full swing. For those a tad more sedate, the Städel Museum on the south side of the River Main is a treasure trove encompassing more than 700 years of art history from Rembrandt and Vermeer to Manet, Picasso and Renoir. The Old Opera House, bombed during World War II, was lovingly restored in 1981 and hosts more than 300 concerts annually.
After taking it all in, relax in the four-level Villa Spa and indulge in one of the many treatments and rituals offered, featuring Forte Organics—an exclusive line made for Rocco Forte Spas that utilizes fresh ingredients handpicked from Verdura Resort, a sister property in Sicily. The spa also has products from Sepai and Vinoble Cosmetics (a vegan brand). After enjoying one of the signature rituals, continue your experience sipping a specialty smoothie in the relaxation room overlooking the indoor pool.
STOP 2: BERLIN
Rising like a phoenix from the ashes, the east side of Berlin—the former East German Cold War capital, is now a thriving community that’s home to a vibrant arts scene, mammoth monuments and museums, and an eclectic collection of restaurants. Right in the middle of it all is Rocco Forte Hotels’ Hotel de Rome (suites from $622) on Bebelplatz square, adjacent to the painstakingly renovated and newly reopened Berlin Opera House. This magnificent historic hotel is housed in the headquarters of the former Dresdner Bank circa 1889. The former bank executive offices have been converted into 37 suites (among the 108 guest rooms).
Typical of the Rocco Forte Hotels brand, the seamless blending of old with new is highlighted in truly unique architectural touches, such as soaring ceilings with elaborate crown molding, intricate mosaic floors and gorgeously detailed wooden doors—all juxtaposed with modern lighting and furnishings.
To get a sense of how centrally located the hotel is, make your way to the rooftop bar and take in the views of the city while sipping the signature cocktail: Violet Royal, a Champagne concoction named for the lavender surrounding the terrace. Don’t miss East Side Gallery along the River Spree, with invitation-only artists painting along the remaining remnants of the Berlin Wall. Pass under the historic Brandenburg Gate and enter the former western zone of Berlin. Immediately to the right is the Reichstag, the German Parliament, topped by a stunning glass dome open to the public and offering panoramic views. Kurfürstendamm is known worldwide for its world-class shopping, and the food court in KaDeWe rivals that of Harrods in London. A trip to the funky Monkey Bar, which overlooks the monkey enclosure in Zoo Berlin, is a must. While there, be sure to try the espresso martini. But it’s Frau Tonis Parfum, affectionately known as “Berlin in a Bottle,” where you can create a signature scent or experience No. 37 Violet, the perfume reportedly made for actress Marlene Dietrich.
Once back at the hotel, treat yourself to a dip in the indoor pool, located in the bank’s former jewelry and gold vault. Refreshed, head down to La Banca restaurant, located off the main lobby. Executive chef Jorg Behrend has created an innovative dinner menu featuring authentic Italian cuisine. Indulge in a sumptuous pasta dish in this airy contemporary space, or feast on an antipasti or an incredible fresh fish delicacy outside in the garden terrace when the nights are balmy.
STOP 3: MUNICH
Oktoberfest, BMW, the infamous 1972 Summer Olympics are only a few of the images that come to mind when thinking of Munich. Add to that mix The Charles Hotel (suites from $685). Located in the heart of historic Munich, this five-star gem opened in 2007 and was the first contemporary-design luxury hotel in the city. Named after Sir Rocco Forte’s father, Lord Charles Forte, the hotel sits across from the Old Botanical Garden. Nearby, you’ll discover the museum quarter, Kunstareal, the Old Town, Königsplatz and shopping on Maximilianstrasse (think Munich’s answer to Worth Avenue or Rodeo Drive).
Boasting the largest standard rooms in Munich, as well as the largest indoor pool, this 136-bedroom, 24-suite beauty features soundproof rooms. The pillow menu offers different levels of firmness to ensure your every sleeping comfort. My room affords a view of the Old Botanical Garden from its French balcony, which is amazingly tranquil.
The lure of Munich itself beckons, so set out to explore the city. Stop for lunch at Ella Restaurant, with its eclectic setting inside the Lenbachhaus Museum. Lunch at Ella, serving a combination of Bavarian and Italian cuisine, and sporting a first-class wine list, is the perfect way to kick off a museum tour. Renovated five years ago, the museum added new wings to the original Florentine-style villa that was home to renowned artist Franz von Lenbach. Additionally, the museum secured a large collection of Munich’s painters and contemporary artists, but it is best known for its extensive collection of Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) art.
Timed correctly, a visit to the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) enchants with a precise 12-minute glockenspiel performance featuring twirling figurines that depict stories of Munich’s history and an appearance by the angel of peace.
The restaurant scene in Munich has myriad opportunities for both traditional Bavarian food and international gastronomic delights. It’s not necessary, however, to leave The Charles Hotel to enjoy exceptional cuisine and superbly innovative craft cocktails. Recently renovated, Sophia’s Restaurant & Bar is an open space that allows expansive views of the adjacent terrace and gardens. Executive chef Michael Hüsken, previously of Michelin-starred restaurants Luce d’Oro and Reisers am Stein, has transformed this restaurant into one of the most popular culinary destinations in Munich, emphasizing the finest and freshest produce and proteins, presenting his delicacies with an international German flair. He does wonderful things with venison—including serving it with an unforgettable Bavarian risotto. The chef’s quince dessert—a delicious cloud of hazelnut and vanilla poppy seed ice cream—was equally remarkable.