Being from Slovakia and having visited Strbske Pleso in the Tatra Mountains a number of times, I was always intrigued by Grand Hotel Kempinski High Tatras, arguably one of the country’s best hotels. As such, I was excited when I got a chance to stay there with my wife earlier this year during our month-long trip to Europe.
As I had some issues processing the reservation through Kempinski’s website, I ended up calling the hotel and making the reservation directly. The prepaid member rate was 1,078 EUR for three nights. While certainly on the higher end for Slovakia, the stay was well worth the price.
Continue reading this review to see what the hotel was like.
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Location and History
Grand Hotel Kempinski High Tatras is located on the shore of Strbske Pleso, an alpine lake in Slovakia’s Tatra Mountains. While in our case, we drove there, the hotel is also a short minute walk away from (the extremely retro) Strbske Pleso station with connections to Poprad and Tatranska Strba.
Outdoor parking was included in the room rate while parking at the hotel’s garage cost 40 EUR per day. We decided to park at the resort’s central parking which – unlike the free parking in front of the hotel – offered covered spots for just 5.5 EUR per day.
The hotel is also just a short drive away from multiple ski resorts (in addition to the Strbske Pleso ski resort) and tourist spots in the Tatra Mountains. For us, the highlight was taking a cable car to Lomnicky Stit, Slovakia’s second highest peak.
The hotel is spread across three historic buildings built between 1893 and 1923 which are now interconnected. While the oldest of those, “Janosik,” was originally built as a villa, the other two buildings – “Krivan” (1906) and “Hviezdoslav” (1923) were built as hotels. After a couple of decades as a hotel, the complex was used as a sanatorium for a while.
In the early- to mid-2000s, the complex went through reconstruction and was finally opened as the Grand Hotel Kempinski High Tatras on May 7, 2009. The goal of the reconstruction was to maintain as much of the buildings’ historic charm as possible while making sure the hotel is worthy of five stars. Having stayed there, I can say that the goal has been successfully accomplished.
Check-in and Lobby
Arriving at the hotel’s reception, we were greeted by one of the front desk staff and our luggage was taken care of right away. After having our COVID-19-related documents checked and handing over our passports, we were asked whether we wanted anything to drink and invited to sit down in the lobby while waiting to get checked in.
There was plenty of seating in the lobby including some sofas just across from the reception/concierge desk.
We decided to sit in an area further away from the reception, on the other side of the entrance, though. It consisted of a few pairs of sofa chairs separated by a small coffee table. Those were along the walls. There were also two larger coffee tables with four sofa chairs each in the middle of the area.
In one of the corners, there was a fireplace too, making the whole area feel very cozy.
As for the welcome drink, my wife decided to have hot wine and I went with orange juice. Sparkling wine was offered too.
Here, I have to point out one (and the only) negative experience during the stay. While the reception staff was extremely nice and the welcome drinks were enjoyable after a long drive, it took over 30 minutes until the check-in process was finished. I could understand 10 or 15 minutes but I found 30 minutes to just be unacceptably long.
Anyways, at that point, we were approached by Simon, the hotel’s concierge, who took us to our room. He also gave us a brief overview of the hotel’s facilities as well as some tips on what to do around the area.
Other noteworthy things that could be found in the lobby area included the Lobby Lounge & Bar, a staircase leading to the Grand Restaurant (more about the two establishments later) which was decorated by a large colorful painting, restrooms, and some more seating.
Deluxe Room Lake View
The hotel offers rooms facing the lake on one side and a valley on the other. We decided to book a Deluxe Room with lake view since, in addition to the lake itself, it would also offer an excellent view of the Tatra Mountains. Rooms were accessible through hallways on either side of the lobby area, the one on the left leading to the “Krivan” building and the one on the right to the “Hviezdoslav” building.
I loved the hallways as they were lined with historic airline posters. What more can an aviation enthusiast ask for?!
We were assigned room 205 in the “Krivan” building. With most of the hotel’s facilities including its spa and game room being on that side of the hotel, it was very conveniently located. There was also a door that provided a shortcut to getting outside – alas it was only one-way.
Just past the entrance, on the left side, was a large closet with a few additional cabinets providing enough space to unpack as well as store a suitcase or two. There were also a safe and a few amenities including sewing and shoe cleaning kits.
The minibar could be found in this area too. There were some spirits and snacks on a counter together with glasses and under the counter was a refrigerator with a fairly wide variety of drinks and some more snacks. Unsurprisingly, the minibar items were fairly expensive – the small bottle of Coke Zero I had was 5 EUR.
On the right side of the entryway was a wooden partition that separated the entrance area from the main part of the room.
Past the entryway, under one of the room’s windows was a seating area with a sofa, a chair, and a coffee table. Above the sofa was a large photograph of the Tatra Mountains and next to it was a door allowing access to the adjacent room for those who book connecting rooms.
On the table was a welcome amenity in the form of a bottle of sparkling wine (Kempinski Sekt) and some strawberries. There was a letter explaining the hotel’s facilities and some magazines too.
I’ve seen a review of the hotel where the welcome amenity was fruits – as such, I assume that we got the wine due to me typing “honeymoon” into the reservation. Considering that I do not drink and my wife doesn’t drink much either, I would have personally preferred the fruits. Still, the welcome amenity was a nice touch.
On a wall next to the seating area, toward the main part of the room was a TV. Under the TV was a counter with an electric kettle and a pair of cups, two bottles of still water, and tea and coffee (both caffeinated and decaf). There was also a “room comfort” booklet describing some of the additional services available to guests.
As someone that doesn’t drink coffee and enjoys tea, I appreciated that there were a few different types of tea.
Behind the counter and TV was the room’s balcony. While very small, it offered amazing views of the lake and the mountains behind the lake. The view from the balcony (and the rest of the room for that matter) was worth staying at the hotel in itself.
Across from the TV was a comfortable king-size bed with a bench at its foot. When we arrived, the bed was decorated in a “honeymoon” fashion too – in addition to rose petals, there were towel swans.
Above the bed was a photo of Strbske Pleso. On either side of the headboard was a reading light. There was a nightstand on both sides of the bed too. The one on the left was home to a phone and a memo pad and the one on the right was home to a power cube (a couple of power outlets and USB charging ports) and an alarm clock. There was a lamp on both of the nightstands too.
Finally, at the very back of the room were a work desk and the bathroom door.
In addition to a lamp, a memo pad, some materials explaining the hotel’s services, and a phone, there was also a folder with a proper letter kit and some postcards. There was also a power outlet above the desk. It was a nice touch that it came with an adapter allowing international travelers from anywhere in the world to charge their devices easily.
The bathroom had a heated floor. Across from the door, there was a counter with a single sink above which was a large mirror. On the counter were (mostly) Salvatore Ferragamo amenities including shampoo and conditioner, shower gel, body lotion, and hand cream.
On the right side of the bathroom was a shower with both rainforest and handheld heads, and the toilet. The shower and the toilet room were equipped with transparent glass doors.
On the left side of the bathroom, under a window overlooking the lake and mountains, was a bathtub. There was also a pair of bathrobes (each with a pair of slippers in its pocket) which came in handy for spa visits.
Along the way from the lobby to our room was a business center. It was a small room with a wall-to-wall desk on its right side. On the desk were a phone, two computers, and a printer.
Game Room and Library
Further down, in the hallway connecting the lobby area with the “Krivan” building was a small TV with four chairs around it. While I didn’t try to do so, it appeared as though some video games could be borrowed at the front desk.
Past the above was the actual game room and library. There were three tables with four chairs each as well as a corner with a sofa and sofa chairs around a coffee table and TV. Two of the tables had a chess set on them while the third one had a domino set.
Along the walls were bookshelves with a wide selection of both Slovak and English books.
Additionally, there were also a fairly small pool table and a foosball table. Pool balls, cues, etc. could be borrowed at the front desk.
While we didn’t spend too much time in the game room, it was nice to be able to play a few rounds of foosball each time we were heading back to our room. On our last day, I also played pool for an hour or so while my wife read a book.
Zion Spa and Gym
Where we spent quite some time was the hotel’s spa.
It was located down a set of stairs at the end of the “Krivan” building. Along the way to the spa was the hotel’s gym. While not too large, it offered what looked like a good selection of both cardio and strength training equipment. I only saw someone in the gym once during our stay.
Guests were required to sign in at the spa’s reception. Around the reception, there were also some sofas. Spa products, swimsuits, etc. were sold there too.
Just past the reception was the spa’s bar. In addition to a variety of drinks and snacks, proper meals could be ordered there from the hotel’s restaurant menu. We particularly liked their selection of lemonades – some still, others sparkling – which came in large pitchers. We tried a different one on each day of our stay. They cost 14 EUR each and were a great way to refresh oneself.
In terms of seating, while there were no chairs along the bar counter, there were a few coffee tables with large leather sofas.
Across from the bar was a set of stairs leading to the spa’s main area. On those stairs were a couple of daybeds.
The main area included a 16x8m swimming pool and a large whirlpool. With the water in the swimming pool being quite cold, very few of the visitors appeared to be using it with most opting for the whirlpool. Around the pools were a couple of dozen daybeds arranged in pairs.
The entire area was lined with large, floor-to-ceiling windows which offered amazing views of the mountains. Above the pool were large chandeliers which added to the overall luxury feeling the spa had.
At the far end of the main area were two doors – one on each side of the whirlpool. The one on the left led into a long and narrow relaxation area with a dozen daybeds, each facing the windows. The other one led to an area with a few different types of saunas, a Kneipp pool, showers, etc.
Of course, a wide variety of treatments was offered at the spa too. We didn’t try any, though.
Lobby Lounge & Bar and Grand Restaurant
There were two main F&B establishments at the hotel – Lobby Lounge & Bar and Grand Restaurant.
The Lobby Lounge & Bar was located just past the reception area and was open from 9AM until midnight. It offered comfortable seating in the form of sofas and sofa chairs and, with a large fireplace, was very cozy. In the evenings, live piano music made the atmosphere even better.
In addition to drinks and snacks, there was also a decent selection of meals in the Lobby Lounge & Bar. My wife and I had dinner there one of the nights we stayed at the hotel – she had tomato and I had chicken soup followed by an afternoon tea set. That came with three sandwiches, two cakes, some lighter items, and a tea for each of us. At just 29 EUR, it presented quite a good value compared to the other items on the menu.
You can find the full menu here.
The Grand Restaurant was located up the stairs in the lobby, above the Lobby Lounge & Bar. It was in a beautifully restored hall with a large fireplace. The restaurant was not open for lunch – instead, it was where breakfast and dinner were served.
In the morning it was open from 7AM until 11AM and in the evening from 6PM to 10PM. Dinner reservations could be made through the concierge.
In addition to having breakfast there every morning (more about that later), we also had dinner in the Grand Restaurant one evening. While the prices were on the higher side (at least compared to other restaurants in Slovakia) which is to be expected at this type of hotel, both the food and the service were great.
Upon sitting down, we were offered still or sparkling water – asking for still, the waiter opened a bottle for us which he used to refill our glasses throughout the dinner. After placing an order, we were first brought a bread basket and an amuse-bouche.
Then, the actual items we ordered were brought. We both had garlic cream soup followed by two mains that we shared – chef’s special of the day (anglerfish with quinoa and green peas paste) and homemade potato balls with chopped duck meat.
The soup was rich in flavor and excellent. The mains, with one being lighter and non-traditional and the other being heavier and more resembling traditional Slovak food, made for a great combination.
For drink, I had Vinea (grape-flavored soda) and my wife had Habibi – a mocktail made of dates, Asian spice mix, verjus, and soda. After the meal, we were brought a small plate with five pralines.
During breakfast time, wellness shots were available at the restaurant’s entrance.
The breakfast itself came mainly in the form of an extensive buffet. That said, there were some a la carte items – both included in the rate and charged separately – too.
Free a la carte items included poached eggs, crepes, Chinese congee soup, and porridge. The only item we tried from the menu was the crepes which were excellent – in fact, my wife and I shared a portion each morning (other than the last morning when we were mistakenly brought two separate portions).
Items coming at an additional charge included freshly squeezed juice, egg benedict, Belgian waffles, and whole-grain toast. Each of those cost around 10 EUR.
The buffet offering was spread across a number of tables and counters.
One of the tables was home to cold drinks. Those included a variety of juices and still and sparkling water. There were even Kempinski sekt and kids’ sparkling “wine.” I found it simultaneously hilarious and terrifying to see children drink “wine” in the morning from proper champagne glasses.
Hot drinks including a variety of coffee and tea were available too. Those had to be ordered from the waiters, though.
In terms of food, there was a table with a good selection of cereals just past the entrance.
Then there was a counter along the wall where all of the hot items could be found. There were scrambled and boiled eggs, potato rosti, beans, bacon, some grilled vegetables, and three types of sausages among other things. There was also a staffed omelet station.
The omelet station only seemed to work from a certain time, though – it wasn’t available on the days had an early breakfast.
Separated from the above counter by the kitchen door was another counter. That one was where bread, pastries, and even cakes could be found. While the selection differed slightly depending on the day, it remained largely the same.
A corner of the counter was also dedicated to gluten- and lactose-free items.
Lastly, there was an island counter with salad, cold cuts, some spreads, a cheese board, yogurts, Bircher muesli, and cut and whole fruits.
As mentioned earlier, the hotel’s staff was very kind, professional, and attentive.
While we didn’t try any of them other than the live music at the Lobby Bar, there were some activities run by the hotel. These included stargazing, a historic tour of the hotel, and a program for kids.
Every evening, turndown service was offered. While we politely declined it the two nights that we were in the room at that time, the one time we were out of our room, the duvets were folded, curtains closed, and mats were placed next to the bed. Complimentary bottled water was restocked and a weather forecast was put on one of the nightstands.
It’s worth noting that on the days we declined the turndown service, we were still handed the water and weather forecast.
Our last evening, we also received a small jar of bath salt.
Speaking of bedtime, while we were fine with the ones provided by default, there was a considerable selection of different pillows too. Those were listed in the “room comfort” menu alongside other amenities.
When checking out, we were handed a pack of Kempinski’s herbal tea as a parting gift. A variety of other Kempinski-branded items was sold at the reception too, including a nice small milk pitcher that my wife decided to buy.
During checkout, I mentioned that we had our car parked at the resort’s central parking and that I would bring it over to the hotel. A minute or two later, one of the staff reconfirmed the plan and suggested he would drive us to the parking lot instead – as it would save us time and effort, we really appreciated that offer.
Grand Hotel Kempinski High Tatras Summary
Other than the slow check-in experience, there is nothing I can complain about when it comes to our stay at the Grand Hotel Kempinski High Tatras. The staff was kind and attentive, the room was comfortable and well-equipped, and the food – both the free breakfast and separately paid dinners – was excellent. The spa was a nice place to relax in too – especially when the weather was good and the Tatra Mountains could be seen.
Combined with being on the shore of Strbske Pleso (a walk around the lake is a great way to start a day) and just a short drive away from many other beautiful places in the Tatra Mountains, we had a very memorable experience.
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