Versailles and Winchester Castle served as architectural models when Prince-Elector Johann Wilhelm II of Duesseldorf – shortened to Jan Wellem in the Rhineland dialect – ordered the construction of his “Maison de Rétraite” at a prominent site on the Bensberg mountain terrace with a breathtaking view of the cathedral city of Cologne.
While he had at first conceived of the imposing structure as a hunting lodge for his second wife, Maria-Luisa of the Medici family, Johann Wilhelm changed his plans following a visit to Versailles and ordered his architects to build a castle whose dimensions already impressed visitors in his own time – including Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
When the Prince-Elector died in 1716 without ever having used his “Rhenish Versailles”, his widow soon returned to Italy. She took the numerous artists, plasterers and painters with her. Thus the building remained unfinished and was used over the centuries as a military hospital, cadet school, boarding school and refugee centre. Then in 1997 the Aachener & Münchener life insurance company bought the seriously dilapidated building and, with an investment of 75 million Euros, remodelled it as a grand hotel of the international luxury class.
In August of 2000, the Cologne Althoff Hotel Collection under the direction of Thomas H. Althoff, opened the modern-day Grandhotel Schloss Bensberg, which is unparalleled in the splendour of its baroque design. The 84 rooms and 36 suites are furnished in five different architectural styles and provide luxurious residential comfort combined with modern communications technology.
The impressive castle hotel provides guests with many refuges where they can spend their time without interruption. For example, the castle’s own library offers a vast selection of old and new works. Guests can explore painting and sculpture exhibits in the bright corridors and salons and take part in readings by renowned authors.
Frescoes in the staircases, sculptured entryways at the gates, supraport paintings in the side wings, coats of arms-bearing puttos in the stairwells – all of this provides the hotel facilities with an imposing framework which can be used for groups of up to 300 persons. Thus the atmospheric “Zanetti Salon” is in great demand for civil wedding ceremonies, and the lobby bar has become a popular meeting place far from the hectic atmosphere of the city.
In the approximately 1,000 m² beauty and leading spa centre, a competent seven-member team provides relaxing facial and body treatments using the finest in luxury products – including La Pairie, Ligne St. Barth and Clarins – in eight generous cabins. Fitness programmes, a small and elegant sauna landscape and a pool with a “starry firmament” await relaxation-seeking guests.
Grandhotel Schloss Bensberg offers membership in the exclusive “Leading Spa Club” to a limited number of outside visitors from the immediate and wider vicinity, providing them with pure relaxation at the highest level within a small, hand-selected circle.
The hotel’s ultimate dual gastronomy offers the finest culinary pleasures in its two restaurants: in the gourmet restaurant “Vendôme”, star cook Joachim Wissler pampers his guests with his interpretation of grand German cooking. Due to his excellent work Wissler received his first Michelin star in 2001, followed by the second and third one in 2002 respectively 2005. Since 2005 Joachim Wissler belongs to Germany’s elitist circle of chefs. Besides the top Michelin ranking in 2010, the gourmet restaurant „Vendôme“ additionally was decorated with 19,5 Gault Millaut points and is thus one of Germany’s top-tier gourmet addresses. Furthermore the gourmet restaurant “Vendôme” is on rank 10 in the San Pellegrino Ranking of the World’s 50 Best restaurants.
The Trattoria “Enoteca”, a Mediterranean-style ‘cucina casalinga’ concept with an irresistible selection of wines, whisks its guests off to the finest in Italian cuisine and, in the attached wine and speciality shop, gives them the opportunity to take newly discovered wines, olive oils and Mediterranean products home with them.