As tourist destinations go, Berlin is cheap. We all know that – that’s why it’s such a mecca for the night-out-hungry yoof. But this also extends to a more moneyed clientiele; you can do pretty well if you splash out on something that’s usually expensive. The average hotel room is only €105 per night, compared with €131 across Europe as a whole, and if you spend just a bit more, you’ll be rewarded for it.
So where should you actually stay? Up there among the very best hotels in Berlin, Dude near Heinrich-Heine Strasse has an all-day deli and a high-end steak restaurant, while Nhow by the river in Friedrichshain attracts music-lovers with two recording studios and Gibson guitars available on room service. On the luxury front, the Adlon Kempinski and the newer Das Stue are truly impressive, with convenient central locations, but Soho House has secured itself an international hipster crowd by applying a studied vintage-chic aesthetic to an old Jewish department store (and adding a rooftop swimming pool).
At the other end of the price spectrum, the city has an abundance of boutique hostels and cheap hotels, offering artsy DIY interiors at affordable prices: check out the Circus Hostel in Rosenthalerplatz and Lekkerurlaub in Graefekiez or sleep in a vintage caravan parked in an old vacuum cleaner factory at the Hüttenpalast in Neukölln.
Best hotels in Berlin
You’ll find a 149-room branch of Design Hotels’ funky 25hours brand located inside the Bikini Berlin ‘concept’ shopping mall that adjoins the Tiergarten. The design is a blend of exposed brick and industrial lighting, softened by plenty of greenery and brightly coloured furnishings. There’s great attention to detail, including window-side hammocks, free Mini rental and a fab Middle Eastern restaurant, Neni.
This 19th-century mansion was originally built to house the headquarters of Dresdner Bank, but was transformed into a sumptuous hotel by Rocco Forte in 2006. Despite all the grandeur, the young staff are approachable and friendly. All 146 rooms push the limits of taste, with plenty of polished wood, marble and velvet. The former basement vault houses a pool, spa and fully equipped gym. The lobby restaurant, La Banca, specialises in upscale Mediterranean cuisine with alfresco dining in the summer; cocktails and smaller plates are available at the Rooftop Terrace or the Opera Court, where high tea is served in the afternoon.
This privately owned addition to the Design Hotels portfolio is an oasis of calm, luxury and taste. The 144 rooms and suites, most of which face on to an inner courtyard, are perfectly designed to maximise light and space, decorated in warm white and beige, with comfortable minimalist furnishings and TVs. A sheltered path through the Japanese garden on the fifth floor leads to Facil, an ultra-modern restaurant with two Michelin stars. The Qiu lounge offers a lighter menu and the rooftop spa, windowed from end to end, has spectacular city views. Reduced rates are available for longer stays.
Not quite the Adlon of yore, which burned down after the Second World War, this new, more generic luxury version was rebuilt by the Kempinski Group in 1997 on the 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, as well as dining at Thai concept restaurant Sra Bua by Tim Raue or the extremely formal Lorenz Adlon Esszimmer, which has two Michelin stars. If you want to rent out one of the three bulletproof presidential suites, it will set you back around €15,000, but you do at least get a 24-hour private butler and limousine for your money.
The trendiest member of Berlin’s luxury hotel family, Das Stue is located in the 1930s Royal Danish Embassy, restored to its former splendour by Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola. There’s a long list of reasons to stay at this Design Hotel, including a pearl white spa, rooms overlooking the Tiergarten, the original three-storey library, and the Michelin-starred Cinco restaurant, with a menu provided by superstar Catalan chef Paco Pérez. The central location means it’s a short walk from most of Berlin’s major sights. Some rooms overlook Berlin Zoo, with binoculars provided for close-up views of your four-legged neighbours.
Designed down to the dust ruffles by Karl Lagerfeld, this restored 1914 villa on the edge of Grunewald is a luxury escape of which mere mortals can only dream. There are 12 suites and 54 rooms, with elegant marble bathrooms, a limousine and butler service, and well-trained staff to scurry after you. R&R is well-covered too, with a swimming pool, a golf course, tennis courts and two restaurants (with summer dining on the lawn, of course). This is a beautiful place in a beautiful setting, but so exclusive that it might as well be on another planet. It’s worth checking the internet for deals, nonetheless.
This is one of the classiest, most sophisticated joints in Berlin. Hidden within the shell of an art deco dance hall, it combines cool contemporary elegance with comfort and warmth. The rooms, mostly white with polished wood accents, are brilliantly simple, with modern free-standing fixtures, half-walls and original double windows lending top-notch design flair. The staff are helpful and remarkably cheerful given the daft flat caps they’re made to wear. An ambitious menu is served in the Duke restaurant, and there are Sunday jazz brunches in the central courtyard. All this and KaDeWe round the corner… the Duke himself would have been proud.
With its purposefully unfinished look, 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 gold from floor to ceiling or in the style of a mountain resort, with sunken bathtubs and film projectors. Michelberger might not be as spick and span as other hotels, but it’s much more fun. The downside of the convenient location (right across from Warschauer Strasse U-Bahn station) is that some rooms are quite noisy; the quieter ones face the courtyard.
This is one of the most charming small hotels in Berlin. The rooms are decorated with flair, in a mix of antique and Conran-esque modern furniture, each with an enormous black and white photo hung by the bed. The en-suite bathrooms are cleverly integrated into the rooms without disrupting the elegant townhouse architecture. Even the TVs are stylish. The breakfast room has a fridge full of goodies, should you feel peckish in the wee hours, and the staff are sweet.
Housed in an elegant 19th-century townhouse, this 27-room boutique hotel was created by an advertising executive to provide a humorous antidote to identikit hotels. There are a number of house rules – including no photography and no large groups – to help foster an atmosphere of anything-goes discretion. The rooms are quite stark, with brass beds offset by block-coloured walls, and there are Molton Brown goodies in the bathroom. Breakfast is served in the all-day deli, and the high-end steak restaurant, The Brooklyn, specialises in rare whiskies and Napa Valley wines.
The average Berliner has a healthy scepticism for anything ‘private’ or ‘exclusive’, so eyebrows were raised when Soho House opened its branch in the German capital in 2010. But even the toughest critic would have to admit that the imposing Bauhaus building and its history deserved a new lease of life; it originally 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; in addition to 65 guest rooms, there are 20 apartments and four lofts, plus the excellent Cowshed spa, a library and a cinema. Two floors are given over to the The Store Berlin, Soho House’s carefully curated shopping experience, where you’ll find Cecconi’s restaurant, serving northern Italian cuisine, and The Store Kitchen, which offers a snackier menu throughout the day. In the rooms, beautiful old wooden floors and 1920s furniture mix with raw concrete walls. There’s a touch of Britishness too, with a kettle and biscuits in each room, all of which combines to create a sense of Gemütlichkeit (homeliness). A swim in the rooftop pool overlooking east Berlin rounds off the experience.
A gold standard against which other hostels should be measured, the Circus is a rarity – simple but stylish, warm and comfortable. And the upper-floor apartments have balconies with outstanding views. The laid-back staff can help you get discounted tickets to almost anything, or give directions to the best bars and clubs, of which there are plenty nearby. The place is deservedly popular and is always full, so be sure to book ahead. The breakfast buffets are bountiful, with an excellent choice of organic granolas, and useful things such as laptops are available to rent, as well as bikes, Segways and even electric motorbikes. There’s a quiet bar downstairs which often hosts evening events, such as poetry readings, and offers home brews fresh from the Circus Hostel Brewing Co. Just across the Platz, the owners also run the moderately priced Circus Hotel (Rosenthaler Strasse 1), whose 63 double rooms, each with private bath, surround a central terraced winter garden and café run by breakfast food maestros Commonground.
Along with its nearby sister Honigmond Boutique Hotel, this 20-room guesthouse is enchanting, and it doesn’t cost as much as you’d expect. Choose between large bedrooms facing the street, smaller ones overlooking the fish pond and Tuscan-style garden, or spacious apartments on the upper floor. As with all great places, the secret is in the finer detail. The rooms are impeccably styled with polished pine floors, paintings in massive gilt frames, antiques and iron bedsteads. There’s also a charming sitting room overlooking the garden.
If you’re allergic to pink, you’d be well advised to check in elsewhere. New York designer Karim Rashid opened his eye-popping music and lifestyle hotel in a huge modern building right by the River Spree. Even the elevators are illuminated by different coloured lights, and some are decorated with photos of Rashid and his wife. As you’d expect from a ‘music hotel’ with its own music manager, all rooms are equipped with iPhone docking stations, and if you’re in the mood for a spontaneous jam, you can order a Gibson guitar or an electric piano up to your room. More dedicated musicians can make use of the rehearsal rooms and two recording studios, or perform at one of the rooftop gigs and parties. Unsurprisingly, the open mic night here is superb. The river views are beautiful, and the breakfast buffet generous.
A real beauty 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. All the décor has been meticulously thought through (the clue’s in the name), from the Philippe Starck bathrooms and Breuer chairs in conference rooms to striking George Baselitz originals hanging in corridors and all 109 rooms. Staff are pleasant, and the views of Mitte from the top suites breathtaking.
This bijou B&B is in one of the prettiest and buzziest bits of Kreuzberg, and it feels a little like staying at a chic but welcoming friend’s place. Katrin, the host, goes out of her way to make you feel at home. Set on the ground floor of a typical Berlin tenement, the rooms are small but clean, and each is unique and tastefully decorated. A generous breakfast is served every morning, and the welcoming café serves meals from 9am to 6pm; there are also dozens of bars and restaurants within a two-minute radius.
Prime location aside (it’s only 50m from Oranienburger Strasse), this member of the Backpacker Germany Network is loosely themed on Douglas Adams’ ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. Rooms are bright and cheerful, with parquet floors. The laundry is cheap, as are the shots in the bar; and with rentable ‘Sens-O-matic’ sunglasses and Squornshellous Zeta mattresses to help you recover, what more could a backpacker (or hitchhiker) need? Towels, of course, which are available for free at reception.
The Hüttenpalast (literally ‘cabin palace’) is a large hall that was once the factory floor of an old vacuum cleaner company. Since 2011, it’s been home to eight vintage caravans and three little cabins, each sleeping two people. It’s laid out like a mini indoor campsite, with separate male and female shower rooms and a tree in the middle. Each morning, guests emerge from their boltholes to discover little bags containing croissants. There’s fresh coffee on hand and the streetfront café does an à la carte menu for the particularly peckish. 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. If you’re at all claustrophobic, the cabins, also unique in design and decoration, are slightly larger – and there are also regular loft-style hotel rooms of varying sizes.
Berlin’s ‘hostel boat’ is moored on the Spree by the East Side Hotel, across the river from Kreuzberg. The rooms – or rather cabins – are clean and fairly spacious (considering it’s a boat), and all have their own shower and toilet. The four-person room can feel a little cramped, but if you need to get up and stretch there are two common rooms, a lounge and three terraces offering tip-top river views. The owners have now done up a second boat, the Western Comfort, which is moored across the river on the Kreuzberg bank.
In the area around the Gedächtniskirche, not a lot is left of the charm and glamour that made the Ku’damm the most legendary street of pre-war Berlin. That makes this wonderful pension, which is hidden away on a quiet side street, a real find. The house, built in 1895, used to be home to the Danish silent movie star Asta Nielsen and has been lovingly restored, with elegant dark wood furniture and art deco detailing. The owner has done his best to make the bathrooms match modern standards without destroying the overall feel – one is hidden inside a replica wardrobe – but some fall slightly short of the quality you would expect from a newer hotel. However, the very reasonable prices and spotless surroundings make up for this. And the breakfast, served in the cosy dining room, is as good as anywhere more expensive.