As part of my rolling programme of property visits, last week I visited Lille, Bonn, Cologne, Frankfurt and Düsseldorf to meet new and existing operators.
On Monday I took the Eurostar from London to Lille where I visited a rapidly growing chain of apartment hotels which we will soon be signing up. I then travelled to Bonn (via Brussels and Cologne), where I saw another two apart-hotels, both of which we’re also hoping to sign up. That night I stayed at the second of the apart-hotels I visited that day – a studio apartment provider with locations around Germany.
The next day, it was back to Cologne and its massive cathedral. There, I saw a few new providers including an excellent apart-hotel right in the centre of town and two minutes’ walk from the railway station. We have sold 300 room nights there this year but haven’t yet listed it on the website (watch this space). I then saw another half a dozen providers and finished in Monheim, 25km north of Cologne, to check out a new chain of hotels offering studio apartments near industrial locations. Then it was back down to Cologne to catch the evening ICE train to Frankfurt, where I spent the night at the very pleasant Johann Wolfgang Apartments, which are in a quiet area just a 10 minute walk from Südbahnhof.
On Wednesday, the weather took a turn for the worse: gale force winds, very heavy rain and thunder and lightning covered the city pretty much all day. Nice shopping areas though, if you don’t mind getting soaked while walking around them. I headed back into town and visited Xenios Apartments, Voltastrasse Apartments and a couple of potential new providers.
The day ended at a new property from an existing operator, a tastefully designed tower block in the middle of a pedestrian square next to the Main river with studio and one bedroom units, many of which enjoy panoramic views over the river towards the central Frankfurt cityscape. Across the road is a luxurious spa, sauna, swimming pool and gym complex which guests can access using a subterranean corridor, thus avoiding the unpleasant winter elements. Saunas are commonplace among German apartment hotels but this facility has three heated rooms, set at 30 degrees, 60 degrees and a searing 90 degrees respectively. Guests who achieve their (presumed) goal of nearly melting can cool down using the pile of freshly dispensed ice next to the showers.
This hotel’s manager runs an extremely tight ship and the entire property is nothing short of immaculate. You can’t do that without an equally dedicated team behind you. Attached to the hotel is a Californian restaurant with a show kitchen: once the diners are seated a long blind is slowly raised to reveal the kitchen and its chefs hard at work. The manager treated me to a drink in the adjacent cigar bar, which was very plush and a popular setting for cocktails, accompanied by a pianist playing jazzy tunes in the corner. Back to reality (and the harsh weather), I headed to the station for another near-silent, mega-fast evening train to Düsseldorf.
On Thursday I started the day in a brand new apartment hotel in central Düsseldorf. In the final stages of construction before its planned opening in January 2012 (I arrived at the same time as a delivery of 250 beds), this property is a welcome newcomer in a city centre which is otherwise lacking anything similar. Serviced apartments are not too common here so this place should enjoy considerable success once it opens.
After heading to the north-east part of town to see some potential new locations, I went to Messe Apartments in north-west Düsseldorf, a few tram stops from the Aldstadt. There are trams everywhere in Germany; cheap, frequent, modern, bright, quiet and efficient, they are a pleasant alternative to the crowded, noisy and stifling underground trains in other countries. Their only noticeable downside is the passengers’ exposure to the weather while waiting for them, as was the case on this cold, wet day. The final stop was Airport Apartments in the northernmost part of town, split into two wings with hotel rooms in one and apartments in the other, and located around five minutes’ drive from Düsseldorf’s very modern airport from where I flew back to London the same evening.