Eavesdropping Media

Month: January, 2012

Hotels in Berlin: The Delightful

Note: check out the Berlin-centric sister-site: Eavesdropping Berlin!

Here is the 3rd installment of 4-part Hotels in Berlin series. This post will focus on a small selection of charming boutique hotels. They may not as daring as The Unusual, or as über-luxurious as The Swanky but these are comfortable and endearing. If you are city-hopping, or if you happen to be one of those people who likes their hotels simple and to the point, then these hotels will likely do it for you.

Here goes.

The Delightful

This first suggestion comes highly recommended. Honig Mond is a small privately-owned hotel consisting of two refurbished classic Berlin residential building’s in the northern part of Mitte. The location south of Nordbahnhof is good for shopping or cafe-hopping; it is adjacent to one of the most bustling parts of town (The triangle between Rosenthalerstr, Chausseestr and Torstr.) and the shopping area on Friedrichstr. Rooms vary in size, from the smallish and cozy to the massive and airy. The hotel has nice old wooden floors, restored antique architectural details, newish bathrooms and friendly, personable staff. Some of the rooms have four poster beds, but nothing is too fancy here – rooms have a relatively simple, antique fused with modern, personalized design.

Ackselhaus is another small hotel that mixes the antique with some modern touches. Here, the antiques and heavy pieces hint at the colonial while the contemporary elements provide an innovative touch. Ackselhaus has decorated each room with a theme – but not to fear, these rooms are nothing like the full-on theme rooms in “The Unusual” post. The decor in this hotel is pretty tame, but tasteful. Pictured is the “Kairo” room. Many rooms look out onto the lovely courtyard garden and breakfast buffets are available on weekends at the attached cafe. Ackselhaus is located next to the Water Tower in Prenzlauer Berg, a great place for first-time visitors to start exploring Berlin. Nearby Myers Hotel is another option for those looking for a good value option in Prenzlauer Berg.

The next hotel has a much more modern approach to design. Camper Casa is a beautiful, new-ish (2009), modern hotel by the same people that brought you Camper shoes. Exactly why Camper has expanded into hotels, I am not exactly sure. But you can see that the company has lavished the same attention to design, comfort and simplicity in the creation of this hotel as it has to its footwear products. All rooms have roughly the same design: solid red walls, natural wood floors and furniture, and a bathroom area which faces the street. The bathroom also has huge windows so you can have a look over the city while you brush your teeth or shower, quite an shift from the usual hotel room set-up. This is Camper Casa’s second location, the first being in Barcelona. But they made a great choice in the location of this second version: its in Mitte, right on Rosenthalerstr, near Hackersher Markt.

But what is truly special about this hotel? Well for one, the roof-top cantina, open 24 hours a day, offers guests free snacks and free drinks! This is a replacement for the lack of a mini-bar in the rooms, but when have you ever seen a free mini-bar! I think every hotel needs one of these! It is a smart idea that works, like much in this hotel. To top it off, the restaurant on the ground floor is a foodie’s paradise: its chef was once the head chef at the (in)famous Spanish elBulli restaurant, the meals are japanese inspired but served in the form of spanish tapas and the seating has almost every guest at a counter looking in on the kitchen. For a more detailed review of the hotel and restaurant see this Sleeper article.

Right next to Camper Casa, is another boutique hotel. Under the same management as the Lux Eleven hotel, the Weinmeister Hotel caters to the young and “trendy”. Honestly this place had a little too much of a “Phillip Stark meets corporate design fair” sensibility for my taste. But the staff is very friendly and the location unbeatable. Each room have nice new iMacs as a TV, open concepts bathrooms and huge beds (+ points) but they unfortunately have covered the walls with bad Mr. Brainwash style art (- points). But to each their own! I can imagine some guests getting a kick out of this place.

Lastly, here is an alternative option that is much less central, but that offers guests a chance to stay in a classic villa for a reasonable price. Villa Ammonit is in Berlin-Lichterfelde, an old residential part of town a little ways outside of the central hustle and bustle. The building is protected as a historic space and has been beautifully maintained and restored. The decor throughout the hotel is Jugendstil (German Art Nouveau) and, as one would expect from a villa from this era, it has a ballroom, which is currently doubling as the hotel lounge. So if you are looking for a calmer time here in Berlin, one where you can pop into the city without being in the center of it, then this might be a good place for you. Plus who doesn’t love a lounge with an antique grand piano.

Next up Hotels in Berlin: the Best In Budget 

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Hotels in Berlin: The Unusual

Note: check out the Berlin-centric sister-site: Eavesdropping Berlin!

Here is part 2 of the 4-part Hotels in Berlin series. In this post, I will present a small selection of hotels that channel the unusual side of Berlin, nostalgia for a time gone by and that highly creative energy that exploded in Berlin in the 90s and still exists (if in a new form) here today.

The hotels are all artful, conceptual and a little odd.

Enjoy.

The Unusual

The most well-known and well-documented of the weirder hotels in Berlin is definitely The Propeller Island City Lodge. It is an art/installation hotel where every room is individual, quirky and themed. It is the creation of artist Lars Stroschen and it is self described as “a habitable work of art in the heart of berlin”. The themed rooms include The Flying Bed room, the Mirror room, the room that looks like a crime scene*, the room that looks like a doctors office*, the room that looks like a prison cell*, the Padded Cell room, Grandma’s room, the coffin room* and more fun like this ( * my own interpretation). But while themed rooms are nothing new, this hotel does do it artfully and with just the right dose of Berlin exuberance. Some of the rooms are full on kitsch but others look right out of a movie set or a dream. So a night spent at Properller Island City is inevitably a night to remember.

But, does this hotel offer an enjoyable stay? Well, while this hotel has the “Wow” factor in spades, the reviews on the actual experience are mixed. It seems that with all the decor, some of the service or amenities seemed to have been overlooked. Also, the location has much to be desired. It is deep in West Berlin, in an area of town which has been fading in importance and relevance in the last 2 decades. There are lots of restaurants and bars around, but not the good kind. The verdict: if you like adventure, want to live the myth of wild Berlin and don’t mind a hotel that may be a little rough around the edges – go for it. But my advice, limit your stay there to 2-3 nights. One can only take so much of the “challenge to your visual senses’, before you just want a comfortable bed and a warm bath.

Next up, I suggest the Hüttenpalast. This hotel taps into the German love affair with camping, trailers and shrebergartens and mixes it up with local artistic and ecological sensibility. The niftiest part of the hotel is the large open warehouse space. There, 3 caravans and 3 small wooden cottages (hütten) have been set up. Every visitor has their own little “camping platz” or deck and an individually designed caravan/hut to sleep in. The set up is inviting, and encourages guests to meet one another, but expect public showers and bathrooms. A light breakfast is included. Other perks: the location is right in a good part of Neukolln close to Kreuzberg. It is close to the canal, to parks, to some great bars. But if you are more into the main Berlin tourist things, this will be a little bit of a schlep. For a more detailed review check out this great Travelettes review.

Another unusual place is Ostel: Das DDR HostelOstalgia is the nostalgia for Eastern German life before the Berlin Wall fell. This themed hotel taps into ostalgia and offers guests a chance to experience first-hand the endearing tackiness of East Berlin living quarters of the 60s and 70s. Flowery wallpaper, pressed wood furniture, moderately futuristic looking shapes, excessive use of the color “mustard”: its got the works. For those that love mid-20th-century modern design, this will get you going (see this review). Its even got the really thin walls, perfect for listening in on neighbors! Just like real life in a Stasi state. The hotel is in a dull part of Friedrichshain, between Ostbahnhof and the sad Plattenbau buildings south of Karl-Marx Allee but this may actually add to the authenticity of the hotel. This is East Berlin in all its dreary glory. But it is close to Ostbahnhof train station on the main S-bahn line, and so it isn’t too hard to get around from here. Its a good option for adventurous budget travelers with a taste for soviet-inspired “modern” design and living history.

This last suggestion is both unusual and very very hip. Michelberger Hotel has beautifully and individually designed rooms, a superbrestaurant and a happening bar. It is a go to location many people in the design/art/media community and with good reason. Its rooms are unique but well designed, using novel materials (books as wallpaper!), specially designed layouts and light to capture a very modern Berlin aesthetic. The room design mixes retro/found-art with minimalist industrial design, but still manage to remaining accessible. Unlike a straight up theme hotel, Michelberger’s rooms have been created with a more general idea or purpose in mind. They have rooms that are ideal to put up a rock band for the night, to provide comfort, for a avid reader, a room with a view, that are fit for a king, or could double as a chalet. Michelberger seems like a good option for all ages and stages, and it will still impress even the more culturally jaded travelers. It is in an old factory building located in an ideal part of town, right next to Warschauer S-bahn and the landmark Oberbaum Bridge, smack in the middle of two great east Berlin neighborhoods: Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg. The cherry on this sunday: its reasonably priced! Definitely recommended. For another review see We Heart’s review or this one by Sleeper Magazine.

Additional unusual hotels ideas include: Künstlerheim Luise, an art hotel with some very beautiful creative rooms; Artist Riverside Hotel, Hotel & spa with extremely loud and weird decor; Pension 11. Himmel, an eccentric b&b in a GDR pre-fab skyscraper.

Next time: Hotels in Berlin: The Delightful

Hotels in Berlin: The Swanky

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:

  1. 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.
  2. The building and decor is amazing. I have heard good things about the restaurant and the bars are cool.
  3. 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 

How to Piss off a German

I cannot take any credit for this title, as it is ripped straight out of this great blog article.

The highlights for me: Recycle Erroneously, Cross at red lights with small children, Tell them you don’t like Asparagus – especially the white variety, Explain to them that no one outside Germany has ever heard of “Dinner for One”!

I have experienced German wrath for all of these things more than once. The author got this so very right!

If you have any additional ideas, feel free to comment!