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10 Things Not to Do in Berlin

by Ralph Martin

Check in where Michael Jackson and Madonna stayed

Berlin's luxury hotels have come a long way since the days when the smoky Kempinski Bristol on the Kurfürstendamm was the city's fanciest digs, but going upscale these days often means trading up to anonymity as well. The major international high-end hotel groups—the Ritz-Carlton, Regent, Hilton—are well represented on the streets around Unter den Linden and Friedrichstrasse with marble-clad, retro-styled hotels built throughout the 1990s and 2000s. But did you really come to quirky, anything-goes Berlin to stay in a could-be-anywhere palace built for people with high-security needs?

Check in where Helmut Newton and David Bowie stayed

West Berlin during the Cold War had a spooky glamour all its own, inspiring Newton and Bowie to do much of their best work. Not much has changed out West: The Kurfürstendamm and its side streets in the old neighborhoods of Charlottenburg and Wilmersdorf are chockablock with pensiones run by discreet old ladies who've seen it all. The 16-room Askanischer Hof, on the Kurfürstendamm, has intricately carved wooden furnishings and oversize bay windows; Newton used its rooms as a favorite setting for his provocative photos. Further west in the leafy Grunewald neighborhood, the 53-room Schlosshotel Grunewald (pictured), a former royal hunting lodge, has soaring ceilings and rooms redecorated by Karl Lagerfeld. It's been an open-secret hideaway for the low-key rich and famous for decades. Bowie holed up there while apartment-hunting, and Romy Schneider was married there…twice.

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