Berlin is a city of massive contrasts with some of the most luxurious hotels in the world coexisting alongside some of the best and most affordable hostels in Europe – many of which are within spitting distance of some of the city's finest shops, restaurants and bars.
On the luxury front, the Adlon, Sofitel and the newer Das Stue steal the show, with extremely convenient central locations, though the very fashionable Casa Camper hotel in Hackescher Markt is snapping at their heels. So too is Soho House, which has opened a Berlin outpost in an old Jewish department store, installing a swimming pool on the roof. For a taste of more refined elegance head out to the Schlosshotel Grünewald which is located just outside the city near a large forest nature reserve. At the other end of the scale, there appears to be a new hostel opening up every month, and standards are generally high. There's now a trend for boutique versions, with arty DIY interiors, private rooms and affordable prices, the Michelberger Hotel in Friedrichschain extremely popular with visiting creatives or Generator Mitte, a great base for sightseeing. The tourist boom in Berlin has led to hundreds of new beds opening up but there's also been a huge rise in people renting out rooms over sites like Airbnb, something that's got local residents up in arms about rising prices and rowdy tenants.
Budget hotels in Berlin
The four clocks on the wall read: Berlin, Moscow, Peking and Havana. There’s a poster of Erick Honecker on the wall. But there’s no political message at this budget East German-themed hostel: just a cheap bed for the night. For an additional €3.50, guests are given a Lebensmittelmarke (food-ration coupon) for breakfast at the Ossi Hof pub out front. And for those who just can’t get enough of Ostalgie (nostalgia for the East), there’s a hotel Konsum (state-run market), which sells everything from plaster eggcups to chocolate DDR coins. There’s even a rare roll of original toilet paper – but it’s not for sale. Just a few streets away at Andreasstrasse 20, is the Ostel’s DDR-Ferienwohnung (holiday apartment), 75sqm of classified two-star lodging that sleeps up to six in DDR style with everything from TV to washing machine, great views and a Trabant-driven tour of the city.
The Generator hostel empire spread across Europe, with two locations in Berlin, a large, if blander, site in Prenzlauer Berg, and the funkier flagship on Oranienburger Strasse. It’s trying to position itself somewhere between a traditional backpacker’s hostel and a boutique hotel, with a neat design aesthetic across the bedroom furniture and bar area. There’s plenty of useful services, like a 24-hour laundry, luggage storage and an affordable daily menu dished out in the evenings. It’s definitely geared towards a younger crowd, with urban art on the walls and a late-night bar with DJs on weekends. As well as the usual bunk dorms, they have a number of private rooms which sleep up to four, as well as female-only dormitories. Free WiFi.
This fantastic hostel is situated in an aptly grand 19th century building with high ceilings and plenty of period character. The rooms are spacious and spotless, and there are no bunks, even in the dorms, just comfy real beds with good-quality linen. Some of the doubles even have four-poster beds to match the original hardwood flooring. There are bikes to hire and the cheerful, well informed staff know everything from the best kebab shops in Berlin to where to do karaoke on a Wednesday night. The only possible downer is that it’s situated in one of the less happening parts of town, but hotspot Kreuzkölln is just down the canal and there are great transport links nearby. Free WiFi. Tempelhofer Ufer 14, 10963 Berlin (, ). U1, U7 Möckernbrücke.
Almost the standard by which other hostels should be measured, the Circus is a rarity – simple but stylish, warm and comfortable. And the upper-floor apartments have balconies and lovely views. The laid-back staff can help get discount tickets to almost anything, or give directions to the best bars and clubs, of which there are plenty nearby. Deservedly popular, this place is always full, so be sure to book ahead. Just across the Platz, the owners also run the moderately priced Circus Hotel, whose 63 double rooms, each with private bath, surround a central terraced winter garden and café. Their breakfast buffets are bountiful, with an excellent choice of organic granolas. Useful things like laptops are available to rent, as well as bikes, segways and even electric motorbikes.
In the area around Gedächtniskirche, not a lot is left of the charm and glamour that made the Ku’damm the most legendary street of pre-war Berlin. This makes this wonderful pension, which is hidden away on a quiet sidestreet, a real gem. The house, built in 1895, used to be home to the Danish silent movie star Asta Nielsen and has been lovingly restored. The 14 rooms are decorated with elegant dark wood furniture and art deco detailing. Even if it sounds a little dusty, everything is spotless. The owner has done his best to make the bathrooms match modern standards without destroying the overall feel – in one room the bathroom is hidden inside a replica of an antique wardrobe − but some fall slightly short of the standards you would expect from a newer hotel. However, very reasonable prices make up for this. And the breakfast served in the cosy dining room is as good as anywhere more expensive.
Mid-range hotels in Berlin
With its purposefully boutique industrial look and buzzing creative feel, Michelberger might seem like Berlin in a nutshell to some. While the cheaper rooms are characterised by a stylish simplicity reminiscent of a school gym, the pricier rooms have an air of tongue-in-cheek decadence – decked out in floor to ceiling gold or in the style of a mountain resort – complete with sunken bathtubs and movie projectors. The downside of the convenient location (right across from U-Bahnhof Warschauer Strasse) is that some of the rooms are quite noisy, so you might want to request a room facing the courtyard. There is an excellent restaurant and relaxed foyer with free WiFi.
The nice thing about Amano is that it doesn’t try too hard – and it doesn’t need to, given its perfect location right in the centre of Berlin. Its rooms and apartments are modern and unpretentious, the prices affordable. For €3 guests can rent an iPod complete with Berlin-inspired pop music and an audio guide. Other perks are the backyard garden and a roof-terrace lounge where older hotel guests mingle with young, preppy professionals. Bikes are also available to rent. Free WiFi.
Housed in a former neoclassical residential palace just a short walk from the Reichstag and Brandenburger Tor, this ‘artist home’ is one of the city’s more imaginative small hotels, with each of its 50 rooms decorated by a different renowned artist. There’s graffiti artist Thomas Baumgärtel’s ‘Royal Suite’, a golden room spray-painted with bananas; and Angela Dwyer’s ‘Room Like Any Other’, whose surfaces are covered in stream-of-consciousness scrawlings. Some rooms get a little noise from the S-Bahn trains, but that shouldn’t deter you: this is a great place to stay.
Named after the Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi, the world’s oldest women-only hotel has 12 bedrooms, tucked away on the top two floors of a residential apartment building off the Ku’damm. From tiny to palatial, they’re all cheerful, clean and functional and each features the work of a different Berlin-based female artist. There’s a roof terrace off the breakfast room, communal fridges in the hallways, and a warm, relaxing atmosphere created by its founders, Manuela Polidori and Renate Bühler. There are no mints on the pillows, perhaps, but the diverse clientele has service, respect and comfort down.
A real treasure on the Spree. This delightful hotel is a creative fusion of old and new, combining restored rococo reception rooms with ultra-modern bedrooms designed by Nalbach + Nalbach. As well as highlighting the artwork of George Baselitz – originals hang in the corridors and all 109 rooms – the hotel’s decor has been thoughtfully designed down to the smallest detail, from the Philippe Starck bathrooms to the Breuer chairs in the conference rooms. The staff are very welcoming, and the views from the top suites across Mitte are suitably stunning.
Luxury hotels in Berlin
The newest (and hippest) member of Berlin’s luxury hotel family, Das Stue has restored the 1930s Royal Danish Embassy to its former splendour with the help of Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola. There’s a long list of reasons to stay at this Design Hotel, a pearl-white spa, rooms overlooking the Tiergarten, the original three-storey library and its Michelin-starred cinco concept restaurant, with a menu provided by superstar Catalan chef Paco Pérez. Its central location makes it a short walk to most of Berlin’s major sights as well as having rooms overlooking the Berlin Zoo with binoculars provided for close ups of your beastie neighbours.
The extremely plush and spacious ‘Interconti’ exudes luxury. The airy lobby, with its soft leather chairs, is ideal for browsing the papers, and the rooms, overlooking the Zoo and western edges of the new diplomatic quarter, are large and tastefully decorated, right down to the elegant bathrooms. Thomas Kammeier, Berlin’s 2013 masterchef, whips things up in the Michelin-starred restaurant, Hugo’s, a combination of local ingredients, French techniques and a 14th floor view over Berlin making it well worth its while. There’s also a huge gym that should have everything necessary to put the body through its paces, as well as a luxury spa for pampering.
Not quite the Adlon of yore, which burned down after World War II, this new, more generic luxury version was rebuilt by the Kempinski Group in 1997 on its original site next to the Brandenburg Gate. Apart from a few original features, you’re really paying for the prime location and the superlative service: bellboys who pass you a chilled bottle of water when you return from a jog in nearby Tiergarten; a silver- tongued concierge who can wangle you a table at the best restaurants or tickets to a sold-out opera. There’s a load of bars and restaurants within the hotel, including Tim Raue’s Thai concept Sra Bua and the extremely formal Lorenz Adlon Esszimmer, that received a second Michelin star in 2013. You’re most likely to get the €240 rate outside of high season so book ahead. If you want to rent out one of the three bulletproof presidential suites from which Michael Jackson once dangled his child, it will set you back around €15,000, but you do at least get a 24-hour private butler and limousine for your money!
‘Design for the senses’ is the motto here. This is a truly lovely hotel, and rooms are often difficult to come by, but it’s well worth the fight. So much attention has been paid to detail: from the moment you enter the lobby, with its soothing colour scheme and wonderful lighting, creating an atmosphere of subdued elegance with its modernist aesthetic. This carries into the rooms, each beautifully styled, with perhaps the best bathrooms in the city. Even the conference rooms are spectacular, and the hotel’s ‘wellness’ area is complete with plunge pools, gym and meditation room. In summer you can wind down on the sun deck high above the surrounding rooftops overlooking the splendid domed cathedrals of Gendarmenmarkt.
Boutique hotels in Berlin
In 2011, the Spanish shoe company opened this luxury boutique hotel right in the heart of the Scheunenviertel. Knackered out shoppers and partygoers alike can take a break and grab some refreshments any time at the hotel’s free 24-hour snack bar, which is included in the price of the room in lieu of room service. Full meals are served at the restaurant, ‘Dos Paillos’, which specialises in fusion Asian-style cuisine served in a tapas-sized tasting menu with delicacies like toro sushi, the fatty neck of tuna on offer. One of the chief attractions of this stylishly minimalistic joint are the light-flooded showers with their stunning views over the city.
The average Berliner has a healthy scepticism towards anything ‘private’ or ‘exclusive’, so eyebrows were raised when Soho House opened its branch in the German capital in summer 2010. But even the toughest critic would have to admit that the building and its history are too unique to be dismissed out of hand. The imposing Bauhaus structure has an incredible back story: it initially housed a Jewish-owned department store before it was taken over first by the Nazis, then by the communist regime. These days, Soho House occupies eight floors, and has installed one of their excellent Cowshed spas, a library and its own cinema. In the rooms, beautiful old wooden floors and 1920s furniture play off the raw concrete walls. There’s a touch of Britishness too, with a kettle and biscuits in each room (unusual in Germany), which together with the artfully selected furniture and warm atmosphere gives Soho House Berlin a much greater sense of Gemütlichkeit (cosy homeliness) than its rivals. A swim in the rooftop pool overlooking east Berlin rounds off the experience.
This hotel is one of the classiest, most sophisticated joints in Berlin. Hidden within the shell of a landmark art deco dance hall, it combines cool contemporary elegance with warmth and ease. The rooms, mostly white with polished wood accents, are brilliantly simple, with modern free-standing fixtures and half-walls, and absolute calm behind the original double windows. The staff are helpful and remarkably cheery given the daft flat caps they are made to wear as part of their uniform. An ambitious menu is served in the Duke restaurant, and there are Sunday jazz brunches in the central courtyard. All the sights of Charlottenburg are on your doorstep and for those wishing to engage in some retail therapy, the luxury department store KaDeWe is around the corner.
In a turn of the century building with one of Berlin’s prettiest courtyards, this is a wonderful hotel. The 22 airily modern rooms convey a real feeling of familiarity (the furniture was custom designed), the staff are charming, and Thomas Kurt, chef at the restaurant, e.t.a. hoffmann, is widely praised. Although the location is somewhat off the beaten track, the neighbourhood has many charms of its own, with Victoria Park and Bergmanstrasse’s shops and cafés nearby. If you need to venture further afield, two subway lines stop at the corner. Very reasonably priced for what you get, and recommended.
Housed in an elegant 19th-century townhouse, this 30-room boutique hotel was created by an advertising executive to provide an antidote to identikit design and a sense of good humour befitting to Berlin. They have a number of house rules, including no photography, ringing a doorbell to access and no large groups in order to foster an atmosphere of anything-goes discretion. The rooms are quite stark, brass-knobbed beds offset by block-coloured walls, with complimentary Moleskin and Molton Brown goodies in the bathroom. They serve breakfasts at their all-day deli and have the high-end Brooklyn Beef Club steak restaurant in the basement, with a rare whisky bar and wines from Napa Valley.
Hostels and B&Bs in Berlin
More than just a hotel, Propeller Island City Lodge is a work of art. Artist-owner Lars Stroschen has created 32 incredible rooms, each themed, and decorated like jaw-dropping theatre sets. The Flying Room, for example, has tilted walls and floors, and a large bed seemingly suspended in air. The Therapy Room, all in white with soft, furry walls, has adjustable coloured lights to change with your mood. While each room has six channels of piped in music, they also have more functional mod cons such as room service and phones. Reservations can be made via the website, where you can view each room and choose your favourite three.
Berlin is full of surprises, and what’s hidden in an old vacuum cleaner factory in a northern Neukölln is one of the most unexpected. The Hüttenpalast (literally, Cabin Palace) is a 150 square metre hall that was once the factory floor. Since summer 2011 it’s been home to three vintage caravans and three little cabins, each sleeping two people. Set out like a mini indoor campsite, there are separate male and female shower rooms and a tree in the middle. Each morning guests emerge from their boltholes to discover the tree has borne fruit – well, little bags containing croissants. There’s fresh coffee on hand and the streetfront café does an à la carte menu for those with particularly grumbling stomachs. Each caravan is different – Kleine Schwester (Little Sister) is decked out with white wood panelling and matching linen; the Herzensbrecher (Heartbreaker) has a domed metal ceiling; the Schwalbennest (Swallow’s nest) is big enough to squeeze in a table. The huts, each unique in design and decoration, are perhaps slightly better for anyone prone to claustrophobia but they also have regular rooms available in various sizes. Free WiFi.
Smack bang in the middle of a newly invigorated Schlesische Strasse, this former telephone factory – hence the name – with plenty of period charm, has 50 clean and comfortable no-frills rooms. No kitchen, no TV and no billiards. Just a bed and a locker. But with the café next door for breakfast, and plenty of restaurants, bars and galleries nearby, you don’t need much more. It also produces its own solar-powered heating and hot water, and the bed linen is free. Discounts for children.