Carl Ernst, "Royal Restorer of the central station", was builder and owner of the Hotel Ernst in the city center. The opening ceremony took place on May 16th 1863.
In 1871, after as little as eight years, he sold the Hotel Ernst to Friedrich Kracht.
Friedrich Kracht moved from Belgium to Cologne to manage the hotel but he died four years later. His wife and his son Carl took over the management of the house.
It did not take long to integrate the Krachts into the society of Cologne. In 1884, the people of Cologne crowned Carl Kracht Prince Carnival, one of the most popular posts in Cologne.
In those days, the Grand Hotel was already the first choice of prominent guests like the German Emperor William I who observed the completion of Cologne Cathedral from his room in the Hotel Ernst. Maybe it was also the hotel where Andy Warhol got the inspiration for his famous image of the towers of Cologne Cathedral.
In 1889, Carl Kracht went to Zurich where he married Emma Pauline Baur. The Swiss hotelier family Baur possessed both the well-known Baur au Lac and Savoy Baur en Ville in Zurich.
In 1890, one year after his wedding, his mother handed the Hotel Ernst over to him and his sister Hermine Brinkhaus. His siblings founded a limited company but one year later Hermine Brinkhaus withdrew from her position. Carl Kracht was now the only proprietor of Cologne's Grand Hotel next to the Cathedral.
He and his family lived in Zurich where he managed the Baur au Lac. In 1905, he appointed Friedrich Reime director of the Hotel Ernst who continued to manage the hotel.
In order to offer the utmost comfort to guests from politics, industry and nobility, between 1908 and 1910 the hotel was rapidly pulled down and reopened as five-star Grand Hotel EXCELSIOR HOTEL ERNST. The suffix excelsior comes from Latin and means "the very sublime / excellent". It highlights the main idea always to offer its guests every possible luxury. The astonished guests were offered something completely new - 100 out of 250 rooms were equipped with a bathroom and this in an era in which running water was an exception.
In 1918, after the end of the war, the hotel became the headquarters of the British. During this time the hotel was closed. After the troops had left in 1926, the Excelsior Hotel Ernst was renovated for the second time.
On December the 31st 1926, the five-star Excelsior Hotel Ernst, with its unique location opposite the famous gothic cathedral, celebrated again its reopening - still led by Frederick Reime, who conducted until 1938.
During World War II, the hotel was mainly closed. After the war, the Krachts tried to reconstruct the building under the leadership of Charles Kracht, the grandson of Carl Kracht, as soon as possible. In 1946 the hotel was reopened again.
In this difficult time, the hotel was led by Max Mattheus. In March 1958 Mr Erico Geweyer, who accompanied the house for 13 years as Managing Director, followed. In a short time during the German "economic miracle" Erico Geweyer succeeded in building a growing reputation of the house and brought back the tradition of hospitality to new prosperity.
1972, after Erico Geweyers death in March 1971, Mr Siegfried Breuning became successor. Under his leadership numerous renovation and modernization projects were executed in close collaboration with Charles Kracht. Public spaces in the reception area, the conservatory and the Piano Bar were renovated and good, modern conference rooms were created.
The restaurant Hanse Stube was extensively renovated in 1976 and received its current popular timeless style.
In 1986, the hotel was extended by the circular building with its 29 exclusive suites, double rooms and an impressive staircase, which is crowned by a glass dome. The famous interior designer Count Pilati from Munich designed the new rooms, bathrooms and all public areas.
1991, Charles Roulet, who had returned to Germany after a successful career in the U.S. hoteliers, assume Charles Kracht position in the administrative board at the hotel. Thus became a great-grandson of Carl Kracht the lead on the administrative board of the traditional house.
After the sudden death of Siegfried Breuning in November 1994, Charles Roulet took over the acting head of the hotel till Manfred Brennfleck was appointed as the new director in June 1995.
In September 2000, on the sixth floor an exclusive health and spa area with modern fitness equipment, a dry and steam sauna, experience showers and a relaxation room for hotel guests was established.
In October 2001 the hotel East Asian restaurant "taku" - the house of Asian delights opened. Since then, exquisite dishes have been offered here from the kitchens of various Eastern cultures: beginning with purist Japanese cuisine, lusty Chinese, up to the spicier variations of Thai and Vietnamese culinary delights.
In early 2002, an ultra-modern business center with all the communication capabilities of our global world was established to respond to the needs of today's business traveler. A free internet access, comfortable workplaces and amenities of a modern office are available to guests.
Following the resignation of Manfred Brennfleck, Robert A. Schaller led interim from June 2003 to May 2004 the fortunes of the house, before Wilhelm Luxem took over the leadership of the traditional hotel.
Following the motto "Tradition & Innovation" once again the rejuvenation of the Grand Hotel was pushed. In 2005 the cathedral side facade has been extensively restored. In 2006 the renovation of the facade of the Hanseflügel, the wing facing Domprobst-Ketzer-Straße followed.
In 2007, the last renovation took place. 23 new deluxe double rooms, 7 junior suites and 5 executive suites were created in the Hanseflügel, costing seven million Euros. Modern technical equipment and traditional ambience found here a perfect symbiosis. Simultaneously, the public rooms were equipped with modern air-conditioning.
The philosophy of the house "Your individuality is our strength" is lived daily by all 180 employees of the Excelsior Hotel Ernst. The continuous effort to unite the individuality of the guests, tradition and modern comfort, is honored with numerous awards from independent trade publications in a special way. In the fall of 2009, the renowned publisher "Busche" elected the Asian restaurant taku as "the foreign restaurant of the year" and the Excelsior Hotel Ernst as "Hotel of the Year 2010".