"It's considered the best property in the country," gushed my taxi driver. We were in route to the Kempinski Hotel River Park, just a ten-minute jaunt from the non-descript train station of Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia. The best in the country? This piqued my interest. Was this hotel truly remarkable? This was my first visit to a Kempinski hotel, one of the group's 61 international sites, so I had to admit I was both curious and excited.
Before my anticipation could mount any more, my driver pulled up along a sleek steel-blue glass structure. I could see towering green trees shimmer in the background, and the lazy, wide Danube stretching beneath them. A gleaming Phantom Rolls Royce, one of 25 in the world and the hotel's car for guest use, pulled up right behind us. Two dapper hotel bellhops cheerfully greeted my travel companion and me. "See? I told you," said my driver.
One of my favorite details was the breakfast at the Restaurant River Park. A custom juice bar, a local honey and jam section, a bread bar of warm pastries and loaves and a spread of rich cheeses and meats were a few of the many morning offerings at the elaborate buffet. This daily delight was one of the finest breakfast arrangements of quality I've ever experienced. Guests were encouraged to sit outside and my guest and I loved to watch the locals stroll and bike along the dark blue river under the morning rays.
It's difficult to ignore the refinement of the décor throughout this property, another hallmark of exceptional luxury. Comforts such as sound-proof rooms and pillow menus were well thought out, and the selection of materials by local interior designer Zuzana Cambelova, is unmatched. Granite table-tops from Brazil, onyx tiles, lush tapestries and marble from Italy are a few of the outstanding touches.
As the first five-star property of Slovakia, the hotel had the opportunity to set the standard for luxury within the country; and it did. International dignitaries, American celebrities, and European royalty are consistent guests. It's evident that such a beautiful oasis was desired by Bratislava's well-heeled, too. I often spotted stylish businesswomen at lunch on the outside patio of the Restaurant River Park, a group of stunning couples at the Arte Lounge & Bar at happy hour and a duo of men savoring cigars in the Churchill Cigars Club.
Nearby was the glass wine cellar, which held the largest and most varied collection of wine within the city. In the Executive Club lounge, a cozy library and dining area reserved just for business class guests, I noted the relaxed comfort of the guests who'd sip wine and nibble snacks while attending to e-mails on laptops. General Manager, Gerald Haberhauer, hopes the hospitality and standards of the Kempinski will transcend the borders of the city. I have no doubt it will.
One of the hotel's best assets is its rooftop spa, a 4,900-square-foot facility with speculator floor-to-ceiling views of the Danube. Sunset became my favorite part of the day to spend at the spa, which is available to all hotel guests. I'd slip into a robe, sprawl out on a chaise lounge, and watch the sun dip into the river's horizon. I'd follow sunset with a session in one of two whirlpools complete with hydrotherapy body jets, and rinse in the ice shower — quite the refresher after a long day outside in the 90-degree summer heat.
In the mornings, I pulled myself out of bed and to headed to the spa's state-of-the-art gym, feeling guilty if I didn't. The spa provides guests with at least 50 Technogym exercise stations barely a month old. Treatments ranging from massages to facials are available daily. I was fortunate to receive a Swedish massage by the property's Spa Director Radoslav Hupka; a soft-spoken man with hands that could melt muscles with a pinch. Radoslavis is another well-selected member of the Kempinski group who epitomizes the understanding of luxurious hospitality.
Opened in 2010, The Kempinski Hotel River Park is the center of a prodigious mixed use development, the River Park, which made headlines throughout Slovakia for its modern design and unprecedented position along the Danube River. The charming historical town is just a one-mile stroll from the property. Boats can pull right up to the landing of the River Park, and the hotel boasts its own helipad. The hotel's accessibility is one strong attribute, but its understated luxury triumphs all other considerations. After my short stay at the Kempinski, I gathered enough reasons to believe it actually IS the best hotel in Slovakia.