A cool hotel is a key ingredient in a successful city break in more ways than one, especially at the moment when the temperature is hitting 30° in Berlin. I am always being asked if I can recommend places to stay – so if you don’t want to do your own trawling through the internet, here are ten personal recommendations to check out. They are all tried and tested 3 or 4 star hotels with excellent service and you can find good deals depending on the season and what international exhibitions and conferences are on in Berlin. Click on the hotel name to be directed to the website. I have only listed hotels near the city centre and you can get the flavour of the immediate area by reading the relevant section of ‘Small Worlds’ in Berlin Unwrapped. Think twice before booking an inclusive breakfast – Berlin is the city for fabulous brunches in interesting cafés.
This hotel prides itself on its ‘English style’ but for me it has all the hallmarks of German Imperial solidity. Originally built in 1891, it looks as if it is the only building in the street that survived the war. It was used as insurance offices and has now been restored as a hotel with grand proportions. There are high stuccoed ceilings, chandeliers, large mirrors and a lot of woodwork. It is in a really convenient location, only a stone’s throw from Checkpoint Charlie and not much further to the beautiful Gendarmenmarkt. In fact, a great place to start a walking tour of Central Berlin. Kochstrasse U-Bahn station is practically outside the door and breakfast is good too.
Arte Luise Arthotel (Mitte)
Selling itself as ‘a place of refuge for art-oriented urban nomads’ Arte Luise opened in 1995 as an authentic Berlin artists’ project and none of the 50 bedrooms and suites are alike. With names like ‘Cabaret’, ‘A tribute to Edward Hopper’ and ‘The Poor Poet’ you can begin to imagine the individual décor on offer. This is definitely a whacky choice, with lots of sculptures and installations dotted around. But it’s not pseud’s corner, just enjoyment of art. The listed building (1825) stands in the heart of Berlin with dramatic views across the railway and the River Spree to the Reichstag and beyond. Good food plus plenty of choices for a Berlin breakfast nearby.
Elegant mansion-style building just off the Kurfürstendamm in the bourgeois refinement of Fasanenstrasse. Only a couple of minutes from buses and U-Bahn to whisk you to city centre sights in less than 20 minutes. Large comfortable rooms with high ceilings. Good buffet breakfast. Next to the Literaturhaus café and restaurant with its beautiful gardens and the Käthe Kollwitz Gallery. Great for West Berlin shopping, restaurants and bars.
Perfect location in the historic Jewish quarter of Old Berlin with fascinating streets, museums, galleries, cafés and bars all on the doorstep. This building has an interesting history itself as well. It was originally bought by the Protestant church to offer a safe haven to immigrant workers who flocked to Berlin in the 1870s and 1880s. It then became a simple hotel and was used as a dormitory for students after the Second World War. In GDR times it was a Christian Hospice and is now owned by the Association of Christian hoteliers. After reunification it was totally renovated and reopened as a hotel in 2001. The rooms are simple, but good-sized and reasonably-priced. Many of them look on to one of the large cool courtyards and there is a small sauna in the basement. Breakfast can be taken in the Italian Café next door, although there are masses of other choices nearby. The Augustinenhof has two sister hotels – the Albrechtshof and the Allegra, both equally serene and central.
Charleston House (Prenzlauer Berg)
This is an apartment-style hotel in the heart of Prenzlauer Berg, my favourite Berlin neighbourhood and a good choice for escaping from city centre crowds. You are only five tram stops from Alexanderplatz but in another world around Kollwitzplatz. . This is the territory of upwardly-mobile young families and the birth-rate in Prenzlauer Berg is apparently higher than anywhere else in Germany. The cobbled streets are lined with wide pavements, huge trees and interesting shops and cafés on the ground floor of the rows of beautiful late nineteenth century four-storey tenement blocks. Charleston House is basically the ‘Gartenhaus’ (garden building) across the courtyard behind the ‘Vorderhaus’ (front building} which faces the street. The rooms (single, double or family) are light and attractive and each has its own kitchen/diner so that you can opt for basic self-catering if you wish. Breakfast can also be delivered from the local café. Some rooms have direct access to the pretty courtyard gardens.
Grand Esplanade (Schöneberg/Tiergarten)
The name says it all and recalls the Hotel Esplanade of pre-war Berlin, one of the German capital’s most luxurious and celebrated hotels. It ended life as a bombed-out ruin lost in the wastelands of the Berlin Wall and a section of it was preserved and incorporated into the Sony Center at Potsdamer Platz. The modern-day Grand Esplanade is a large, expansive hotel by the pretty Landwehr Canal, only a ten minute walk from glitzy Potsdamer Platz. It is also walkable to the Tiergarten and West Berlin stores. Bus 100 or M29 will take you to all the sights and the buzz, then return you to your spacious, comfortable hotel room or a relaxing swim in the indoor pool. Later on, Harry’s Bar has great cocktails and live music every evening. If you haven’t booked the buffet breakfast, walk round to the original Café Einstein in Kurfürstenstrasse for one of the best brunches in town (book ahead at weekends).
The name literally translates as ‘honey moon’ but is used humorously and this hotel certainly isn’t just for newly-weds. It is situated only a few minutes off the main track in an interesting area of old East Berlin with great restaurants nearby, including the friendly Honigmond corner café which is popular with locals. There are two separate hotel buildings. The main one dates back to 1845 and has beautiful parquet flooring, ceiling frescoes and nostalgic individually-styled rooms. The Honigmond Garden hotel is only 300 metres away with more a modern feel and an enchanting garden ‘with birds, frogs and goldfish, old trees, ivy and a gurgling fountain’. This hotel is definitely an insider tip. The website doesn’t do it justice so it’s worth getting a brochure.
Mercure Checkpoint Charlie (Mitte)
Here you will find good value and a central location similar to Hotel Angleterre, but on the other side of Checkpoint Charlie a bit closer to Gendarmenplatz and Unter den Linden. The hotel building has a classic Wilhelmine (late nineteenth century) exterior but is modern and functional inside. The rooms are a really spacious with balconies and are incredibly quiet. I loved the coffee machine and the large desk. There is a friendly little bar behind reception and it’s easy to make this Mercure your home for a couple of days. Skip the breakfast buffet, down a coffee or two and then set off for Friedrichstraase.
This boutique-style hotel is relatively new and definitely chic. It is right on top of all the action in Mitte, two minutes from Hackescher Markt S-Bahn station and all the trams serving East Berlin. The lounge, bar and restaurant on the ground floor are particularly welcoming and furnished in perfect taste. In winter there is a log fire and in summer a gorgeous courtyard. Food is excellent too. The standard rooms are not large, but very well-equipped and quiet. A great choice for hipsters.
Myer’s (Prenzlauer Berg)
Like Charleston House, Hotel Myers has all the cachet of Prenzlauer Berg but is in a more residential street and slightly closer to Alexanderplatz. This is a classy, established hotel with large well–furnished rooms, an arty breakfast area, a good bar and pretty gardens. Don’t miss the Metzger Eck pub only a few yards from the hotel for authentic Old Berlin atmosphere.