Hotels in Berlin: The Unusual
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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.
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 Hostel. Ostalgia 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.