MELIÁ FRANKFURT CITY, FRANKFURT, GERMANY
Karen Bamford heads to the economic heart of Germany where it’s possible to mix business with pleasure in a new sky-high tower.
Few corporate travellers can have returned from a stay in an uninspiring business hotel without a banging headache caused by poor lighting among other design discomforts. Which is why Meliá Frankfurt City, set in the city’s first hybrid skyscraper, is a breath of fresh air – in more ways than one.
The architecture and interior design combine to harness nature’s best assets for those likely to be indoors all day, by actively welcoming in fresh air and daylight. Breezy terraces, enormous balconies, floor-to-ceiling windows that actually open, wide open spaces, high ceilings, exemplary service and pared back style ensure a comfortable stay.
A colour palette of black and dark anthracite contrasts with the daylight and natural colours and materials, creating a cosy atmosphere in spaces that might otherwise have felt cavernous. Álvaro Sans of ASAH Studio and Jonasplan have created a design that they hope will become everybody’s “darling” in this cosmopolitan, financial city, by balancing Melia’s corporate specs with the character of the building, and a bit of Spanish soul to reflect Meliá’s DNA.
“The idea from the beginning was to catch the natural light through those really big windows in all areas of the building,” said Dirk Jonas, designer, Jonasplan.
The 431-key hotel occupies the first 23 floors of One Forty West Tower, which rises 140 metres above the new, central Senckenberg Quartier. It stands in the space previously occupied by the brutalist Afe Tower, which was demolished in 2014. Balconies wrap around the new glass tower in a three-kilometre upward band. Although not brutalist, it is still a tough building, and appears top heavy, rather like an angular tornado.
Entering the hotel for the first time, the sense of space and light is impressive, reflected by swathes of large tiles in natural colours by Roca and Porcelaingres, which makes porcelain stoneware tiles in Germany. The wide lobby flows past the front desk, the grand main staircase and a flexible co-working area, to the Neu Frankfurt restaurant, which seats 120. Softening this strong look are an oversized floor-standing terracotta pot containing a small tree, teardrop pendant lamps by Moser Assoziierte Architekten, and open shelved room dividers holding an assortment of houseplants.
I stayed on the 20th floor, which put me in The Level category of rooms – The Level being Meliá Frankfurt City’s superior service with access to private hotel spaces such as The Level Lounge. There are seven categories of guestroom, growing in spec and space the higher up the building you go. The pinnacle is The Level Grand Suite, which gains a glass-topped desk, a larger sofa, and the option of an adjoining junior suite.
Whatever the category, all rooms are generously sized, with the same European King-sized bed, which is slightly larger than a UK equivalent. Most have private balconies, and all have floor-to-ceiling windows for views over the city skyline and the Taunus Mountains on the horizon.
The minimalist design (white linen, pale wood, sliding door to bathroom, neutral furnishings) lets the view do the talking and it’s got a lot to say. In my room, the wide, glass-fronted balcony wrapped itself around the corner of the building, affording fantastic vistas of the city and mountains by day and night, with comfortable furniture to enjoy it from. OK, so the weather wasn’t balmy, but wrapping up to breathe in the air and soak up the atmosphere was a treat. Imagine that after a day of meetings, travel or attending a trade show!
A few design highlights add interest to the guestrooms, without becoming a distraction. A wave-like textured wall panel in off-white behind the bed in premium and Level rooms brings a sense of calm. And a jaunty tripod standard lamp with asymmetric shade adds a touch of fun. Both pieces are from Muebles Riera Pascual (MRP).
Adorning one wall, a montage of pictures from local photographer Melanie John highlights further details of the city.
Other helpful touches that make a trip all the more pleasant include: in-room laptop safes with built-in chargers, so you don’t have the dilemma of being unable to charge your device while keeping it secure; and bedding so desirable that Meliá has an online shop selling everything from sheets to entire beds – I recommend the pillows.
The Level guests check in at an exclusive lounge on the 15th floor where complimentary drinks and tapas are served as you take in the view for the first time. Soothing natural shades of sand and grey-blue cover the sink-into sofas and upright chairs, while two styles of pendant lamps by Moser Assoziierte Architekten hang low to create a more intimate setting.
The hotel’s wow destination, the Oben Restaurant & Sky Bar, also on the 15th floor, is a triumph of understated design. Sleek and comfortable, with a warming palette of clay, anthracite and soft blue, the interior is a simple backdrop to the outstanding Mediterranean cuisine and that breath-taking view. There are charming touches, particularly the accent dinnerware of aqua-glazed plates and bowls by Motel A Miio, and strange mushroom-like rechargeable LED table lamps from Flos Bellhop.
A twist to this elegant scene – and don’t ask me how it works but believe me it does – is the addition of a DJ booth and a whole wall of commissioned pop art by Natali von Kretschmann, featuring a mash up of James Bonds plural, David Bowie, Mickey Mouse, Brigitte Bardot and Darth Vader. The criteria were to focus on sustainability and local connection, and while this installation is permanent, more of the artist’s work is on temporary display around the hotel’s MICE spaces. The hotel plans to change exhibitions annually, always focusing on local artists to support the region and community.
The hotel offers multi-functional MICE spaces across 23 rooms. Just before my visit, it hosted the German national football team, which set up its own fitness equipment in the largest of these. All are bright, with access to fresh air thanks to the ubiquitous floor-to-ceiling windows. The first-floor conference lobby has a lift to an underground car park, with 110 spaces dedicated to hotel and electric charging spots.
One Forty West Tower was created with sustainability in mind, with innovations such as: wastewater cleaned onsite; elevators that generate power; and air con that shuts off the moment a window is opened.
What the vinyl flooring lacks in style and luxury, it makes up for in eco cred. The Chillewich yarns are 100 percent phthalate-free and contain 25 percent renewable vegetable content. Every square metre saves 41 pounds of CO2 compared with a conventional woven vinyl.
Frankfurt is a relatively small city but the only one in Germany with a skyline of towers, recognising its importance as a leading commercial, financial and high-technology centre. International trade fairs have been held in Frankfurt since 1240 and the city’s stock exchange was first established in 1585. It is also a chief traffic hub for western Germany, with the country’s biggest airport only 10 miles away and Frankfurt Main Train Station, which I could see from my balcony, is one of the biggest in Europe with 25 mainline platforms.
My two-night stay at Meliá Frankfurt City, including dining in both restaurants and use of two meeting rooms, felt luxurious and healthy, a bonus for anyone contemplating travel for business or any reason. There is also a well-equipped gym and sauna, both taking full advantage of city views.
However, as Bowie, former Berlin resident, sang: “I know when to go out, and when to stay in, get things done”.
The city’s thriving business scene may overshadow its cultural, but it’s worth venturing outside. Senckenberg Natural History Museum is next door to the hotel and the New Old Town is within walking distance. Until World War II, the old town was the largest medieval city still intact in Germany. It was mostly destroyed by Allied bombing campaigns in 1944 and was rebuilt with multi-storey office buildings and other modern structures. However, the anti-brutalist movement lead a public campaign to restore it to its pre-war appearance. Eventually they succeeded, unpopular buildings were flattened, and the reconstructed medieval-looking town was completed in 2018.
A final quirky fact about this special city is that apfelwein (apple wine) is the quintessential drink of the region. Surrounded by fruit orchards, Frankfurt is known for its cider taverns rather than beer cellars. Cheers to that!