REVIEW: Westin Grand Munich
My stay at the Westin Grand Munich wasn’t intentional. When I was planning this entire trip I was much more focused on securing hotels for my stops in Berlin and Budapest than anything remotely related to Munich. In retrospect I believe it was because I simply wasn’t that interested in Munich as a destination and that quickly translated into general apathy regarding anything on that leg of the trip.
In the end all I wanted was a comfortable hotel for the three days I’d be exploring the city that came at a reasonable price tag, but even that was a stretch. After waiting way to long to book the hotel, I spent twenty minutes casually perusing hotel listings a few weeks prior to departure and I settled on the Westin. It was being offered for $160USD/night which was a bit more than I wanted to pay to be honest, but almost every other hotel in Munich was pricing out at twice the rate or higher. Even local Munich hotels that were unaffiliated with an international brand were asking almost double the price. I ended up biting the bullet, booking with Westin, and calling it a day. I chalked the price up to waiting a bit too long to lock in a good rate, but once I was in Munich I’d realize what the issue was.
I arrived in Munich in the early morning on the overnight train from Budapest. We pulled into the Hauptbahnhof and I hopped off rather spryly with my luggage in tow. My train trip into Munich was lightyears better than the journey I took from Berlin to Budapest as I managed to keep from having any spontaneous bouts of digestive pyrotechnics the entire evening. Not wanting to rest on my laurels too quickly, I was eager to get to the hotel so I could take a hot shower and a short nap to prepare for a day of sightseeing.
Having researched the hotel’s location, I realized I had two choices to get there – take a public train to the Arabellapark stop or a taxi. While the trip from the Hauptbahnhof to Arabellapark would have been relatively easy and had been my original plan, my unease with my health caused me to skip that option and seek out a taxi for the short trip. I followed the signs to the taxi queue and hopped into the first cab I saw as there was absolutely no line.
I must have actually been much more ill than I felt at the time, as I proceeded to tell the taxi driver that I was going to the Le Meridien Munich instead of the Westin. He was none to pleased with this information as apparently the Le Meridien is literally across the street from one of the exits of the Hauptbahnhof. He insisted that I get out of the cab and walk there myself. Dazed and confused, I refused as I knew from my online research that the hotel wasn’t even close to walking distance from the train station. This turned into a bit of a standoff for a few minutes as neither one of us was willing to cave into the other’s demands. I finally had the bright idea to pull out my booking confirmation (I’d remembered to print one out for this trip for some reason) and wave it in his face to show him the exact address of the hotel that he was insisting was across the street. He grabbed the paper in a huff, glanced at it quickly, burst out laughing, and screamed, “You vant da Westin! Not Le Meridien. I take you. Ten minute!”
And sure enough, he took me to the Westin in about ten minutes while I did my best to blend into the black leather seats in the back of the cab and not say a damn thing other than softly mutter “I’m so, so sorry….” over and over again.
The area around the hotel seemed like a mishmash of business and residential buildings. It was a bit far from the city center and many of the tourist sites, but you did gain a bit of peace and quiet by being so far removed from it all. The hotel is located next to the Sheraton Arabellapark (Starwood co-location at its best) and only a three minute walk to the aforementioned Arabellapark U-bahn station. Above that station is a supermarket which made picking up cheap snacks and drinks during my stay quite nice, because as we all know there’s nothing more annoying than paying $8 for a can of Coke.
Overall I was pleased with the hotel’s location as it was quiet at all times of the day yet the access to public transit and shopping meant many of the annoying parts about being a bit removed from the action were easy to address.
My cab driver pulled up toward the hotel’s large drive way but stopped short of entering it. The entire drive to the hotel I noticed what I considered a higher than average number of armed police patrolling the streets and parked on street corners, and there seemed to be a concentration of armed police right outside the Westin Grand blocking the drive into the hotel. I always thought of Germany as a safe country but thought that perhaps crime was an issue here in Munich. The cab driver apologized for not being able to take me all the way up to the hotel, but explained that he couldn’t get around the police. I paid him (handsomely after the fiasco at the train station) and walked the remaining distance into the hotel with my luggage in tow.
The lobby of the hotel was quite nice. A modern construction with wide staircases and tinted glass that played with the multi-colored lights installed into the ceiling. There was no one waiting to check-in at the front desk (why would there be? It was 9 AM) so I was called over by an agent and quickly welcome to the hotel. Despite the early hour they were happy to provide me with a room for my stay. The agent noted that they normally wouldn’t allow such an early arrival, but since I held status with Starwood (a lowly Gold member) they were willing to accommodate me. I was asked which benefit I’d like to utilize during my stay as a Gold member, and as usual I selected the free internet. I wish Starwood offered a way for you to automatically code your selection into your profile. Unless the property already provides free internet, I don’t see any reason to select the extra Starpoints or a free beverage.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take any photos of the public areas of the hotel or even the hotel’s exterior because every time I took my iPhone out to snap a picture I was approached by a member of the staff and informed that this wasn’t allowed. I thought it was a bit odd but complied with the requests, largely because the police officers nearby were glaring at me with obvious disapproval each time. It struck me at the time that there seemed to be staff standing around actively looking to see if anyone was taking pictures, but I brushed it off as a quirky German cultural issue.
I thanked the agent for her flexibility in providing me a room so early in the day and then quickly hopped onto the elevator to my room. I was given a room right by the elevator bank, but given that it was 9AM I can’t complain too much about the room’s position. I can say that the elevator noise was never noticeable in my room the entire stay.
I entered the room and found a clean and relatively spacious room by European standards. Directly to the right when you walk into the room is the entry way to the bathroom. The bathroom is all shiny marble and glass elements, which looks modern and dated all at the same time. I like the idea they were going for but the minimalist black tile usage really rubbed me the wrong way from a design standpoint. The large white space filled with limited black tiles just felt …. old. Drab. Dated.
The bathroom was big enough to provide a bathtub that was separate from the shower stall, which is always something I appreciate in a hotel room. The combined shower/bathtub combo is quite common in many hotels but a standalone shower is preferred for this frequent traveler. If given the choice I’d pick having a stand alone shower stall without any bathtub access over a combo shower/bathtub any day of the week.
I forgot to take a photo of the bath products but they were standard issue Starwood property amenities. The bathroom featured speakers attached to the television, so you could answer the call of nature or shampoo your luscious tresses while listening to Wolf Blitzer bust a gasket over the latest breaking news item. Water pressure was amazing in the shower stall, so much so that I found myself taking several recreational showers over my three nights. I’m a bit of a shower afficianado, just ask my boyfriend.
On the left when you walked into the room was a closet behind mirrored doors.
Further in along the entry way was a cushioned ledge designed to hold luggage as well as the mini-bar fridge and coffee/tea-making products.
The minibar was stocked with your standard issue products – Coke, Diet Coke, cheap booze, chips, and candy bars. The prices attached to each item weren’t exactly consumer friendly or realistic though, even for Germany.
The remainder of the room was nice but also still a bit … drab/dated.
Sticking to their promise, the Westin’s Heavenly Bed was indeed heavenly. Despite my comfortable journey from Budapest it was quite difficult for me not to fling myself into its plushy folds and sleep the remainder of the day away. I’m a fan of Starwood properties as a general rule (though not always their prices), and the Heavenly Bed is one of the reasons that remains true. It’s largely a marketing ploy but it works on me for some reason – I always find the beds to be quite comfy.
The wood paneling on all the furniture wasn’t helping the “in need of refurbishment” feeling you get when you enter the room, and I can tell you that the upholstered backboard behind the television only served to amplify the problem. If there’s one thing that doesn’t scream “premium hotel room” it’s carpeting on things that are not the floor.
The room ends with the standard issue desk and lounge chair. The lounge chair was a nice touch in all black leather, but it clashed a bit with the wood paneling and blue carpet upholstery on the other pieces in the room. I really don’t understand the entire design motif of the room. If I had to describe it, I don’t know if I can call it anything other than “German garage sale chic”. It’s just an odd amalgamation of styles and decor. To carry it a bit further, the rooms clash quite a bit with the modern and sleek lobby you find when you enter the hotel. It’s difficult not to walk into your hotel room and not start wondering if you somehow have taken a wrong turn and ended up in some other hotel property.
The view from the room was nothing special, though it did have a great overview of the architectural structure in the middle of the traffic circle in Arabellapark.
It’s a little difficult to see in the pictures, but there are police vans parked in the circle monitoring activity. It was only at the very end of my hotel stay that I finally figured out why the police were out in full force and the hotel prices were through the roof at almost every other property. As I was checking out, the desk agent asked me if I enjoyed my stay. I mentioned that I did enjoy my time in Munich and added rather tongue-in-cheekily that I felt very secure and safe the whole time since there were always so many police around. She laughed and said, “Oh, well that’s not normally how things are. It’s because your Vice President is here.” I glanced back at her and said, “Oh, VP Biden? He’s here in Munich?” She laughed again and said, “Oh yes, he’s here for a conference. But not just in Munich. He’s here at this hotel. But leaving this afternoon I believe. I probably shouldn’t say more.”
So apparently Munich isn’t a police state ravaged by crime with astronomical hotel room prices. It’s just a popular European city to hold political conferences. Who knew? I never did run into Uncle Joe while wandering around the hotel. But it does explain why the police had formed a blockade of the hotel’s driveway and why hotel staff refused to let me take pictures in the public areas of the hotel.
I’m not one for eating at hotels when traveling, but on occasion you simply find yourself in a situation where you’re too tired, too far from food, or too lazy to venture out to get a more affordable, authentic meal experience.
Still a bit weak from the food poisoning , I found myself in the “too tired/too lazy” category one night after a full day of sightseeing in Munich. I opened the room service menu, took a glance at the prices, and promptly tossed the thing across the room in pure disgust. I stormed off to put on my coat and find a reasonably priced meal, but as I was bending over to put on my shoe and feeling like I was on the verge of fainting I decided that the Westin Munich could charge whatever prices they wanted for their food and tonight I was going to pay it.
Being an international chain hotel with a focus on serving business travelers, the hotel’s menu focuses on provided a few local favorites mixed with a sampling of dishes from across the globe. I browsed the offerings and came away with the following selections – Thai coconut tom kha soup, weiner schnitzel, and hot apple strudel. I placed the order and was told it would take approximately 45 minutes to deliver, but the food was brought to my door in under 30.
The tom kha soup was serviceable. It was neither the worst nor the best rendition of the popular Thai dish and was certainly edible. I really think this was one of those situations where you’re eating a dish and can actually taste that it’s the chef’s best guess interpretation of a foreign dish. It had all the right ingredients but just wasn’t put together quite right. A Picasso-inspired chef.
This was definitely a much better dish than the soup. The potatoes were cooked perfectly to my taste and packed quite a bit of flavor. The schnitzel itself was crisp but juicy. The only issue I had with this dish was that the one lemon provided wasn’t really enough to cover the dish with citrus tang.
The strudel was another hit for the hotel. The pastry was sweet and flaky, the apples stuffed inside it were crisp and tart. The vanilla sauce provided below the pastry was subtle and didn’t overpower the dish. Even the berries were fresh!
Overall I was very happy with the food I ordered that night. I probably should have known better than to order the thai soup in a German hotel, but the European dishes were spot on and I had absolutely no complaints about the quality of those two dishes. The one sore spot? The price. I enjoyed the meal but I didn’t $80USD enjoy it.
The next time I find myself in Munich, I think I’d be open to staying at another hotel property. It isn’t that the Westin Munich was a bad property that I’d go out of my way to avoid in the future. On the contrary, they provided me with great service from arrival to departure. The reason I’d be open to staying elsewhere is that there simply wasn’t anything spectacular about the property. I’m willing to bet somewhere in Munich there’s a better hotel with excellent service and German charm waiting for me to arrive. Westin Munich was definitely your run of the mill international chain property that’s catering toward a business crowd that’s looking for consistency more than anything. As a leisure traveler, something with a bit more character would have been much more up my alley.