Johann Wolfgang von Goethe used to sip Madeira wine in the cellar, Adolf Hitler stayed at least 35 times and there’s a secret tunnel dating from World War II and leading from the cellar under the adjacent market place: the Hotel Elephant, in Weimar, has a fascinating and long history.
Luxury Rooms and a Michelin Star
The Elephant was founded as an inn back in 1696 and became a hotel in 1741. This luxury, city centre hotel has 93 rooms, six suites, and hosts the only Michelin-starred restaurant in the German state of Thuringia.
Also an Enlightenment era post station, the Elephant quickly became attractive to discerning guests at a time when Weimar played host to one of the brightest courts in Europe. Even then it helped a place to have celebrity patrons and this was reputedly one of Goethe’s favourite haunts. He celebrated his 80th birthday in the Elephantenkeller, which was redesigned, along with the rest of the hotel, in the 1930s.
Visits by Adolf Hitler
In 1937 the building, which had become popular with Nazi party members after the organisation was banned in Bavaria, was pulled down and rebuilt to a design by Hermann Giesler, re-opening a year later. It included a flat for Hitler, who had signed the hotel guestbook as a writer from Munich on 3 July 1926, shortly after the publication of Mein Kampf. Now the Udo Lindenberg Suite, it has elegant wood panelling, a balcony and a meeting room. As a barb to the tastes of the dictator – who detested modern artworks as entarte Kunst, meaning ‘degenerate art’ – original paintings by Wassily Kandinsky and Otto Dix hang in the suite.
Throughout the hotel you’ll see artworks by renowned artists, such as Max Beckmann and Lyonel Feininger, and contemporary pieces by the likes of Elvira Bach and Markus Lüpertz. Feininger, Henry van de Velde and Walter Gropius have suites named after them and are among a number of figures associated with the early years of the Bauhaus movement who stayed at the hotel.
Bauhaus and Art Deco Influences
A major refurbishment was undertaken throughout the Hotel Elephant in 1993, introducing Bauhaus and Art Deco style influences to rooms. You can see this in public areas, including the Richard Wagner Ballroom and hotel bar. The brass elephant figure on the bar originally adorned the radiator of a Bugatti Royale. Only six of the vehicles were produced, between 1927 and 1933, and the estimated value of the radiator cap is a cool €230,000. Thankfully, a glass of cold pilsner is far more reasonably priced.
Vladimir Putin, the Russian Federation’s president, was the first guest to stay in the parquet-floored Thomas Mann Suite. The bathroom features marble from Botticino and Saalburg and has an integrated Jacuzzi. Fashion designer Wolfgang Joop and actor Maximilian Schell are among the guests who have also stayed in this suite named after the author of Lotte in Weimar. “It is an honour and a pleasure for me to be the first guest to sign this book after the reopening,” wrote Mann in the hotel guestbook on 14 May 1955.
Gourmet German and Italian Cuisine
The hotel’s Restaurant Anna Amalia serves gourmet German and Italian cuisine prepared by chef Marcello Fabbri and his team. In November 2013 it received a Michelin star for the eleventh year in succession and has terraced seats by the hotel garden. Regional dishes are served in the vaulted cellar dining space of the Elephantenkeller, including Klösse, the dumplings which are a speciality of Thuringen.
You can learn more about the history of the Hotel Elephant from displays on the first floor and in the hotel lobby.
The Hotel Elephant is at Markt 19, 99423 Weimar, tel. +49 (0) 3643 802 631. hotelelephantweimar.com. The hotel has a wood panelled library with a fireplace plus a terrace and garden. It is owned by Starwood Hotels & Resorts and part of the group’s Luxury Collection. At 2014 rates, a room in the hotel costs from €115 while suites are priced from €205 to €599 per night.