Nestled into the mountains of Tirol, Austria, lies the For Friends Hotel, a relatively new building which despite it’s modern design, fits in beautifully with its surroundings. A two-hour drive from Munich airport, or a 45 minute drive from Innsbruck airport, it’s far enough away to indulge in the peaceful comforts of nature – but up to date enough to offer the most luxurious of stays.
I was invited to stay at the hotel for a weekend in early September and took it as an opportunity to treat my mum – before going back to University. Having spent the summer months organising the #bloggersfestival, it was to be a hard earned rest for me (and my mum – who often bore the brunt of my frustrations and stress in the run up).
Taking off on the Friday afternoon from Heathrow Terminal 5 and a short and relatively bumpy flight later, we landed at Munich airport at around 9pm. Despite it being late on a Friday night, we were greeted at the airport by a very friendly driver from the hotel – who took our bags and ushered us into a very swish looking SUV. Drifting in and out of sleep, we drove past hundreds (it seemed) of castles, lit up in their evening glory, surrounded by traditional German – and then later – Austrian houses.
Driving in the dead of night does have its perks however, as we arrived rather promptly to the hotel – which is situated on a large hill, at the very top of a small village. The reception is vast and like the majority of the hotel – covered with pine wood cladding – which makes the whole building smell fresh and woody. The views in the lift are incredible – shared by the rooms, which change with the clouds, as the mountain is either in view or masked by haze. The whole idea of the hotel is to relax (I guess as though you were creating a hotel – for friends) and they cater for you whether you’re sporty, love hiking, want to indulge in spa treatments or simply read a good book (there’s a dedicated library with a whole floor-ceiling bookshelf of English titles).
After taking in our magnificent surroundings, we were greeted by the concierge who handed us our room key. Having reserved a twin room, we were a little surprised to be taken to a double room – where the bed was then pulled apart in front of our eyes and then left to be made up ourselves – however the friendly management staff assured us that the problem was their’s and that they would ‘upgrade’ us the following day and bring up a selection of breads and cheeses and bottle of wine for a late dinner.
Naturally, issues arise when you stay at hotels – especially when there is a language barrier, but it’s the way in which the staff deal with the problems and leave you feeling which make a lasting impact. I will be honest and say that this stay was littered with several issues (which you’ll discover as you read on) as I think it would be wrong to filter my review however the way in which the staff dealt with these issues spoke very highly of how dedicated this hotel is to their customers.
This mantra was bolstered by the selection of breads, meats and cheeses they brought up to our room, beautifully presented on a wooden platter. There was far too much for two people to consume, but it certainly felt like we were being treated like royals and we headed to bed – excited for the day of treatments which lay ahead.
After a restful night’s sleep, we headed down for our first ‘For Friends’ adventure – breakfast. Following the luxurious lead the hotel takes, the first meal of the day was a friendly affair – with beautiful tables set out for those readying themselves for a day of hiking (not us) and those preparing for a day at the spa (us).
I usually dread hotel buffets, especially in European countries – because they tend to be a huge array of meats and cheeses – which I can’t even bear to stomach in the morning, however this buffet was a very different story. Yoghurts, porridge, fruits, cereals and salted bread was available to pick and choose as you wish, while eggs and nutella pancakes were just a quick (complimentary) order away.
The hotel takes it’s juicing very seriously, offering an array of free fresh juices throughout the day – so we opted for the carrot and orange juice, an amazing blend, which prior to this trip – I would never have thought to have grouped together, however it’s my new favourite go-to drink. Packed with plenty of fibre, vitamin C and nutrients, it gave us the boost we needed for the day ahead (which consisted of tears, giggles and mountains of good food).
It all started so well – heading up to the spa to be pampered. I had booked the grape indulgence massage – which promised to leave my skin hydrated and silky smooth. The adjectives used to describe the treatment sounded heavenly – I just knew I was going to drift off to sleep I’d be so relaxed. My mum on the other hand (my guest accompanying me) booked for the classic massage, which focused more on relaxing and stimulating the blood flow to the muscles for recovery.
I know in Austria, things are a little more liberal (without generalising) so when a man called my name for the treatment, I tried to stay calm. I wasn’t really comfortable stripping off and being massaged by a member of the opposite sex and I made this clear, but I decided to try and forget about this factor and enjoy the massage.
Very soon however, it became evident that I was booked into the wrong treatment as I turned around to find the masseuse welding a long spiky rock which he was digging into my back. It was so painful I was almost in tears. In fact, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry but when the opportunity arose, I grabbed my dressing gown and ran out after just fifteen minutes. I had asked the masseuse to be more gentle, but he started shouting something about ‘getting into the deep muscles’ and so I escaped as soon as I could. Looking back now, it’s almost laughable but at the time – it was horrendous.
Despite the rather strange treatment and the confused spa receptionist (who had mixed up the bookings and the spiky rock one was actually meant for my mum – although she hadn’t booked it either), the problem was immediately rectified and the staff was instantaneous in ensuring the hiccup hadn’t ruined our stay. They went out of their way to say sorry – which I know plenty of hotels in the UK wouldn’t do. From then on, we were in pure luxury.
After a hearty lunch of mozzarella, basil and tomato gnocchi, garlic prawns (for my mum) and rosemary potatoes (mmm), we were shown to our second room of the trip – a penthouse suite! With separate sleeping areas for both my mum and I (a much more civilised way to organise a room rather than squashing two single beds together) and a sauna in one of the en-suites, we spent a good hour or so ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’ at our new surroundings, before heading off for a hike. Yes, you heard me right – a hike. It wasn’t my idea but since we were in the beautiful mountains after all – we decided to walk to a nearby lake.
The hotel itself has several different hiking paths, each signposted (in German) and slightly paved, however they offer sticks/gear if you fancy something a little more advanced. We took a trail of our own and ended up coming across some very pretty looking wooden Austrian cottages and a hill overlooking the valley – meaning only one thing – we had to re-enact the famous ‘hills are alive with the sound of music’ scene! Excuse the very ‘fresh’ faces in the pictures – a ‘spa weekend’ calls for strictly no make-up!
Our good intentions didn’t last that long though – and before we knew it, we were back in the hotel’s spa area – making good use of the outdoor infinity pool. Reading a book and dozing in and out of sleep, THIS was what I had been looking forward to. Pure, heavenly, relaxation.
Several naps later and it was time for dinner – with a reservation in the aptly named ‘Steak a Fish’ restaurant. Perhaps you can guess what we ordered.
My mum declared it was the best steak she’d ever eaten whilst my trout and vegetables were filled with flavour. Never one to turn down dessert, I opted for the chocolate fondant with mint sorbet and my mum chose the apple strudel (which came in two different flavours). We drank traditional Austrian sweet wine and frozen strawberry daiquiri cocktails.
Worth mentioning briefly is the bread in this place, which is out of this world unbelievably good. Salted on the outside like a pretzel and warm on the inside like a fresh loaf, I could eat this ALL day long with the butter they offer. It’s worth a trip just for this.
After a long and rather eventful day, we headed back to bed after several cocktails – and collapsed with the balcony windows open – lapping up the fresh mountain air for the last night.
To make up for the mistakes made on the previous day, the hotel kindly gave my mum and I another treatment each – this time however, I played it safe with a facial and it turned out to be the most relaxing and rejuvenating one I’d ever experienced.
We lounged around for the rest of the day, making the most of the peace and tranquility before heading home, back to the UK where I ventured back to Bournemouth for my second year of University the next day.
Overall, the stay did have a few hiccups but it made it made the trip that little bit more memorable and interesting – and the way in which the hotel staff rectified the problem went so far above our expectations, we soon forgot about the mistakes. Austria is such a beautiful country and if you haven’t had the chance to visit, I implore you to put it on your bucket list. The For Friends hotel is a stunning place to stay and if you’re in the area or keen to relax in style – this is definitely the place for you.
Rooms start from €160, however a flat rate for a 4-day stay runs throughout the summer months. Visit their website HERE for more details.