If you're looking for local character, you'll find heaps of it at this charming B&B in western Berlin. The one-time home of Danish silent-movie siren Asta Nielsen timewarps you back to the glamour and delicious decadence of the 1920s. Floral wallpaper, lacy curtains, stucco ceilings, oriental carpets, glittering chandeliers and oodles of antiques fill the rambling hallways and 14 rooms with a homey yet romantic mood. Each room evokes a different style: one is an art nouveau beauty with a mahogany armoire inlaid with mother of pearl, while another has an angular dark-wood Bauhaus look. No TV mars the retro mood, although wi-fi is available. Note that the cheapest rooms don't have a private bathroom.
A mere hop, skip and jump from storied Checkpoint Charlie, this 4-star hotel is a handy base for travelers keen on connecting with Berlin's history. The building itself is a handsome design by Italian architect Aldo Rossi and located in a quiet side street. If you've got the kids in tow, opt for a Family Room, which has two separate bedrooms. Those in need of plenty of elbow room, should secure a suite which has the added benefit of a balcony. Prevent a belly bulge from too much German sausage in the well-equipped fitness center, then relax in the sauna as a reward. If you happen to visit on a Tuesday, you can even get a free massage between 5pm and 8pm.
Take a top location, mix with a generous dose of style, stir in a touch of trendiness and you'll get one killer cocktail of a hotel. Swissotel Berlin occupies a beautifully curving building by the same architectural firm that designed Berlin's shiny central train station (Gerkan, Marg & Partners) and sits right on Kuerfuerstendamm, the city's premier shopping boulevard in the heart of the western city center. The Berlin Zoo, the Museum of Photography with the Helmut Newtown collection and Charlottenburg Palace are all within easy reach. A hotel highlight is the Restaurant 44, where you can enjoy modern interpretations of classic Alpine flavors. Waist-watchers can later work off the carbs on the treadmill, although the stress-melting sauna might beckon more after a day of urban turf-pounding.
It may look very 21st century, but Berlin's tallest hotel (soaring to an impressive 150m) was actually built under the East German regime back in 1970 as a domicile for foreign guests. Fast-forward to 2014 and you get to hang your hat in a stylish full-service hotel with 1001 air-conditioned rooms decked out in natural tones and featuring marble baths, floor heating and rain showers. The nicest ones face the TV Tower and offer great sunset views. Three restaurants provide sustenance, among them the Zille Stube which specializes in hearty Old Berlin-style fare. On sunny days, there are few better places to be than the rooftop Panorama Terrace with the entire city at your feet. In summer, a 'base-flying' station sets up here, giving you close-ups of the daredevils jumping off the building in a controlled fall.
Exuding contemporary verve, the Radisson Blu not only competes for skyline space with the adjacent Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral) but is also within walking distance of just about any other major Berlin sight and landmark. Best of all, its lobby harbors its own touristic show-stopper: the AquaDom, a 25m-high cylindrical aquarium where thousands of tropical fish flit around the colorful coral. The slow elevator ride right through the giant tank is the highlight of a visit to SeaLife Berlin, a family-friendly aquatic museum housed] next door. Back at the Radisson Blu, the streamlined color scheme of the 427 rooms - clean reds, white and black - radiates urban poshness rarely found in big chain hotels. Many have small balconies overlooking either the AquaDom or the Berliner Dom.
One of Berlin's most luxurious and illustrious hotels, the Adlon has bedded headline-makers of all stripes - from presidents and royals to captains of industry and A-list celebrities. And yes, this is the site of Michael Jackson's bizarre 2002 baby-dangling episode. The venerable hotel beautifully combines class with substance in both public areas as well as its luxuriously appointed rooms, the nicest of which face the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin's most famous - and photogenic - landmark. Five-star luxury here translates into several swank restaurants (including one boasting a Michelin star), a world-class spa where jet lag is massaged away in minutes and the high-octane Felix night club with its sexy dancers and state-of-the-art sound and lighting system.
Golden Twenties' glamour still radiates from the listed walls of the Ellington Hotel, where the 'Duke' did indeed perform back in the day, as did Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. In the 80s, Iggy Pop, David Bowie and the late Lou Reed were among the many illustrious guests who partied here at the Dschungel (Jungle), Berlin's equivalent of NYC's Studio 54. In other words, at the Ellington you'll be bedding down in a historic jewel! Bonus: the fabulous location in the western city center (City West), within strolling distance of the famous KaDeWe department store and the just-opened Bikini Haus designer mall. The free late check-out on Sundays is great for party animals who might wake up just in time for the famous Sunday jazz brunch.
One of Berlin's most unusual hospitality sites is not an art hotel but a gallery with rooms. Instead of canvases decorating walls, rooms themselves are works of art. Each one is original and unique, created by artists who invite you to fill their vision with life, to reflect upon, experience and become part of it - albeit it only for a short time. Picking your favorite room might well be a challenge. Some have a surreal bent, like 'Mammel's' where you can sleep in a bed built for giants; others are inspired by science fiction like 'Future Comforts' with its rocket-shaped shower. Minimalists might like the black and white 'Innocence'. Check the website for more pictures. All artists receive royalties each time their room is rented. Perks: free wifi and a communal kitchen. Downside: the railway tracks running right past the hotel.
With its Berlin branch, the mod Barcelona-based designer footwear chain has fielded yet another stylish contender to appeal to urban sophisticates. Casa Camper sits smack dab in the atmospheric old Jewish quarter, surrounded by fashion-forward boutiques and cool indie stores that capture the city's laid-back vibe. The hotel too exudes an infectious irreverence, albeit paired with all the Zeitgeist essentials global nomads have come to expect: room service, free wifi, flatscreen TVs and a state-of-the-art fitness center that never closes. Neither does the top-floor lounge where guests can help themselves to free drinks and snacks while enjoying the views. Added bonus: the Dos Palillos restaurant with its inspired Asian tapas.
Checking into 44-room Sir Savigny feels a bit like visiting the urban retreat of your rich uncle. An uncle with great charm, personality and impeccable taste, that is. A tip-to-toe overhaul has turned a 19th-century townhouse in western Berlin into a prime address for global nomads seeking an antidote to the glut of cookie-cutter 'design' hotels. Under the baton of award-winning designers Baranowitz + Kronenberg, the public areas have been recast with mid-century style fused with modern flourishes. In fact, it all feels rather private. Instead of a lobby, there's just a barely-there check-in desk in the central library anchored by a communal table. This segues smoothly both to the locally adored burger bar The Butcher and the wintergarden where you can unwind on plump lounge sofas around a 360-degree open fireplace and ponder the wallsize mural in the adjacent courtyard garden. The room design by Saar Zafrir feels just as warm and fuzzy. Dressed in hues from charcoal to chocolate alongside tactile velvets and leathers, they exude updated vintage elegance and brim with feel-good features like sumptuous beds, sensuous lighting and dial-a-burger buttons. Suite dwellers can look forward to a freestanding in-room tub for two, a well-stocked minibar with cut-crystal glasses and a goodie box featuring such thoughtful items as - ladies! - spare panty hose.