Note: check out the Berlin-centric sister-site: Eavesdropping Berlin!
When a visitor first comes to Berlin they can easily be thrown off by the empty spaces, the large run down areas, the weird cold new architecture in the government quarters or around Potsdamer Platz. Truth is one’s location in Berlin can be the difference between loving or hating this city. But with the right guide, you can see the city the way you should. And so I am compiling a couple of mini-guides with some ideas and tips for the visitors to my fair city.
First off: a 4-part blog series on hotels in Berlin.
Berlin has the full range of hotels: from the swanky, to the weird, to the delightful, to the painfully hip, to the boring standard and the dirt cheap. I will pick out the ones that I think might be worth checking out.
First the Swanky:
For those who need not watch their wallets and like to live life large, here are a few options for you.
The most obvious and well-known swanky hotel in the city is the Adlon facing the Brandenburg Gate. Hotel Adlon is an older establishment; the original building was built in 1907. After surviving World War II, a fire accidentally set by occupying russians and careless renovation by the GDR, the building was finally simply demolished in 1984. Why? I can’t figure it out but the GDR was known for tearing down beloved monuments to erase the architecture of the old imperial guard. Maybe this was part of this movement. Whatever the reason, the hotel was eventually rebuilt in 1997 with a structure loosely based on the original plan. The Adlon’s most recent claim to fame came a few years ago when one Michael Jackson held his baby out the window of this hotel for the photographers to see. It was weird and it happened there. Other than that, I can say they have a solid restaurant, and the rich and famous often stay there. Although the location is prized, I actually find this hotel pretty far from the action myself. But if you want to explore the major sites, this is a good base. For another review see here
Next up The Ritz Carleton on Potsdamer Platz. I have it on sound authority that the Ritz in Berlin is great. Nice big rooms with great views and a solid restaurant and bar. But the one drawback with the Ritz is definitely the location. While Potzdamer platz is all architectural and new, it is a dead zone in the city. In the day, it is mostly suits and tourists. At night, there is very little going on there. But to its credit there are some great restaurants tucked in and around Potsdamer Platz. So if “cutting edge” glass and steel architecture floats your boat, or you are there for the Berlinale Film Festival (which holds its events all around the Potsdamer Platz), then I say give it a go. Another Potsdamer Platz Hotel is the Mandala Hotel - which has one of the best restaurants in the city: Facil.
Another option for swank could be Hotel de Rome on Unter den Linden. The restaurant at the Hotel de Rome is definitely impressive and the rooms look completely beautiful. If you want to check out the major tourist stuff, this would also be a great starting location. You can walk to almost all the major Berlin sites (Opera House and Palace on Unter den Linden, Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Museum Island, Jewish Memorial) easily from this point, and you are close to Friedrichstr. which is a major shopping street.
Lastly, I offer up the Soho House Hotel. For those who don’t know, Soho House is an international private club with additional locations in the major cities in the UK and the US. It is kinda snobby, and my experience with the staff was that they were a little übercool. But this hotel is perfectly situated for a first time visitor to Berlin and looks absolutely stunning inside and out. It is in a truly grand building on the corner of Prenzlauer Allee and Torstraße, up the hill from Alexanderplatz. I saw this building lay dormant for years and I worried that some foreign developer would come along and make a mess of this beautiful thing. I was pleasantly surprised to find it restored the way it was. It was an expensive job and it shows. I would recommend this hotel for 3 reasons:
- It is perfectly situated to explore Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg (2 very neat central neighborhoods worth checking out), as well as being close to Alexanderplatz – a central point for all public transportation. It is also not at all far from the tourist areas.
- The building and decor is amazing. I have heard good things about the restaurant and the bars are cool.
- It is probably the cheapest of the Soho Houses in the world, so it would be a chance to see behind the curtain of this comically exclusive private “club” without breaking the bank.
The one downside I can think of: When I was last there, the staff seemed a bit young, a little inexperienced and had a fair dose of that legendary Berlin bad attitude. But hey, whats a jerky 22 year old clerk when you get to stay in rooms like these!
Next up: Hotels in Berlin: The Unusual