The coronavirus lockdown was a bit of a novelty in the beginning. It was a chance to slow down, read more, enjoy lie-ins rather than commutes and relish personal space rather than having it invaded on public transport. In the UK, we are in the middle of our fourth week of lockdown. The grave economic impact of this pandemic is becoming clearer, the death toll startles every day and cities feel eerie and lonely without their usual hubbub. The enormity of the situation is beginning to sink in, like we’re living on the cusp of something terrible, something which will stain history books for decades to come, yet we’re utterly powerless.
Whilst these are terrifying times, it’s sobering, empowering and comforting to look at a city that has endured hardship and embraced it in order to become one of the hippest, culturally rich, cool cities that Europe has to offer. Until 1989, Berlin endured the 20th century divided by a wall. Industry and development were seriously lagging behind the other European capitals and there were unnerving political and cultural divides. Now, over 30 years since the wall was brought down and Berlin was reunified, Berlin has evolved into a true metropolis that not just survives but thrives on being dynamic, diverse and trendy.
Berlin pulses with strength, resilience and modernity. It serves as a perfect example of how we can and will bounce back after this turmoil. It is a perfect city to set your sights on for a post-coronavirus trip, not just for its endurance of history but also its famously fun and frenetic nightlife and vibrant culture. As you can imagine in a city so in tune with trends and hypes, the hotel scene is always evolving, and growing. Finding a hotel in such a city is an overwhelming labyrinth of hidden gems that I’ve disentangled in order to find the top 5.
The Modern Houseboat
Berlin’s touristic blueprint is about finding new, exciting ways to live without the steep price tag often attached to being ‘cool’. What better way to do this than branching out in to Berlin’s network of Waterways? Consisting of an open plan kitchen, a large minimalist living area (which doubles up as a second bedroom if necessary), a main bedroom, shower room and separate toilet, the property is surprisingly spacious. Floor to ceiling windows envelope this property, with dazzling views across the River Spree toward Berlin’s cityscape. Industry collides with nature as long grasses and reeds frame the iconic TV tower.
The serenity of the views is unparalleled. For an oasis so idyllic, The Modern Houseboat is naturally a little far out from the centre of the city. However, bikes are supplied by the hosts and the hustle and bustle of the centre is only 30 minutes away via train. Staying at The Modern Houseboat does not mean leaving the vibrant city behind, it simply provides weary tourists with a sanctuary of calm to retire to.
Ideally located in the vibrant, central neighbourhood of Mitte, Hilton Berlin is a big and classic hotel owned by an international chain you can rely on. Whilst the vibrancy of Berlin skips the interior of this hotel, rooms are still neutral, warm, fuss-free and full of natural light. Whilst this feels a little plain in a city as exciting as Berlin, a hotel is merely a place to rest at night… or just for the early hours of the morning if you’re the partying type.
The neighbourhood of Mitte is where you’ll find a wealth of museums, parliamentary buildings, the iconic TV tower and plenty of world war II sites. Trendy and foodie types will love Street Art Alley and Gendarmenmarkt, a coveted culinary market where you can sample Germany’s finest beers.
You only need to browse the Michelberger hotel website to understand that this hotel has welcomed Berlin’s vibrant personality and emulated it throughout the former factory building. Michelberger oozes energy and youth, balancing colour with design to create a hotel that has a sophisticated air without losing character or quirk. Look out for lampshades fashioned out of books and double-sized bunkbeds propped up by large wooden beams.
Michelberger doesn’t scrimp on location either. Situated in Friedrichshain, this hip hotel is conveniently within crawling distance of Berlin’s top clubs, bars and eateries, including the iconic Berghain. For those who are not inclined to party, Friedrichshain is a treasure trove of art shops, galleries and collectives. It is also home to the longest surviving stretch of the Berlin Wall.
Whilst Berlin has sprung from its chequered past and evolved a bold, brand new personality, Ostel transports guests back to its Soviet days. Stepping in to one of Ostel’s floral wallpaper-clad bedrooms is like stepping back to the seventies. Ostel opened in 2014, with the objective of offering guests an interesting, unique twist on their Berlin experience, ensuring that the rich history of Berlin is not totally swallowed by the throbbing beat of techno.
Beyond multifunctional tables and excessive amounts of gloss mahogany, Ostel boasts a prime location between Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg. Once one of the poorest districts, Kreuzberg has flourished in recent years, quickly growing in to one of Berlin’s most exuberant, multicultural neighbourhoods. Bejewelled with food markets, restaurants, cafes and its famed Turkish cuisine, the picturesque area surrounding Landwehrkanal is the perfect destination for wanderers and people watchers.
Soho House Berlin
The ultimate Berlin property for those looking for a stay with a more exclusive feel, Soho House Berlin comes complete with a rooftop pool, three restaurants, a library, a cinema, a shop stocked with vinyl, clothes and homewares and, unsurprisingly, a central location. The Soho House name is internationally renowned as one of the world’s most exclusive clubs. Soho House Berlin is stamped with that same air of elitism, as most of the facilities require a membership for access. The hotel has the same rustic charm as other properties in the collection, but it has a berlin twist that embellishes exposed wood with garish neon signs and graffiti art.
Whilst one of the big draws of the city of Berlin is that it is not pretentious and overpriced, this hotel unfortunately is. However, what intrigues me and impresses me about this property is its complex history. The building was originally owned by a Jewish department store before becoming the headquarters for the Hitler youths during the Second World War. The building then housed archives of the communist party before being renovated in to a hotel. This building is symbolic of how this city has mutated its past in to a promising and exciting future.