Tel: 49 40 855 070
Living Divani daybeds, Brionvega TVs, and special-edition 1960s-influenced lamps by Flos are all here, but room service, minibars, and toiletries are not. The curved walls of the mirrored reception flow between the Day/Night bar and a multifunctional "entertaining space" with an open fire. The 89 bedrooms and three studios have funky string curtains and bespoke white bedroom and bathroom furniture, while the patterned, 1970s-style wallpaper, paired with matching cushions and throws in pale blues and greens, provides a minimal splash of color.
Tel: 49 89 59 99 40
For a hotel located a block from the city's central train station, the Anna offers distinctively clean, modern lines a distinct cut above its neighbors. And for a lower-midpriced place, the facilities are ace: The 73 rooms have cable TV, Wi-Fi, AC, and minibars—free minibars—plus groovy black granite and chrome bathrooms with windows. Also free is a buffet breakfast and use of the nearby posh Hotel Königshof's gym and spa. Rooms are soundproofed, but nevertheless street noise and, worse, bar noise from the Anna Bar—popular with both locals and tourists—can prove a problem. Then again, if a fashionable in-house bar sounds appealing, that could be a plus. There's also a sushi restaurant.
Tel: 49 351 49 220
If the idea of being submerged in a sea of modern art doesn't appeal to you, then don't even set foot inside this hotel. The entire interior is Milanese designer Denis Santachiara's canvas—stairways are lined with wavy banisters, 600 works by Dresden painter and sculptor A.R. Penck embellish the space, and guest rooms seem to have erupted from Pop Art paintings. The 174-room hotel even has a Warhol-inspired bar and restaurant called the Factory, and the Kunsthalle Dresden modern art galleries are right next door.
Tel: 49 30 284 480
Each of the 50 rooms in this 1825 former neoclassical palace near the Reichstag is the creation of a different artist. Many are young Germans who were given carte blanche to decorate their rooms however they felt inspired to. One covered her walls and ceiling in carpet; another furnished his room with a surreally oversized bed; and still another turned his into a full-room tribute to Edward Hopper, with wall-mural reproductions of the famous painter's works. But compared with the similarly themed Propeller Island City Lodge, the Luise is more polished and less gimmicky—a bed (even when hanging from cables) always remains a bed. The hotel is, no surprise, very popular with art-world types, and if you ask nicely, the staff may give you a tour and let you peek into unoccupied rooms. This is a stylish place, yet it has something to offer even the most cost-conscious traveler: The cheapest accommodations are plain rooms on the top floor with a shared bath.
Tel: 49 89 212 00
Okay, so the Vier Jahreszeiten has pulled in some royals in its time, but the even more venerable Bayerischer Hof wins the celeb face-off hands down. Built by architect Friedrich von Gärtner in 1841 so that King Ludwig I (not the mad one) had somewhere nice for his guests to stay, it was bought 56 years later by the Volkhardt family, whose fourth generation still owns and runs it today (after rebuilding it post–World War II and adding the historic Palais Montgelas next door). Now it has 395 rooms, interior-designed to photo-shoot readiness in five distinct styles. Some are the handiwork of architects (subtle textural ones by Siegward Graf Pilati and more opulent South Beach-y ones by Hans Minarik); others are interpretations of African Colonial or romantic country house themes; yet others, by Laura Ashley designs, are rather hysterically Anglophile, with clashing florals, plaids, and saturated color. There are also fabulous suites for the aforementioned celebs (a random sampling: Cher, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Dalai Lama, Alfred Hitchcock, Ingrid Bergman, Muhammad Ali, Luciano Pavarotti, Franz Kafka, Christian Dior, Sigmund Freud, Sophia Loren, and the Beatles). Throw in three restaurants and the rooftop Blue Spa and it is clear this place can't miss.
14 Eislebener Strasse
Tel: 49 30 214 050
The perfect place for those who enjoy both classic and modern elegance. The exterior of this late-19th-century mansion, on a quiet street close to Charlottenburg's boulevards, is old-world stately. Equally grand is the scale of the 58 guest rooms (which have nearly 13-foot ceilings) and the 14 suites (which, at 700 square feet apiece, are bigger than most Manhattan apartments). But the decor, chosen with eclectic flair by owner Daniela Sauter, leans surprisingly toward modern minimalism, with Missoni rugs, Bauhaus furnishings by Le Corbusier and Breuer, and bold primary colors accented with Marimekko-style prints. Common spaces include a Japanese courtyard garden set beyond the lobby's Corinthian columns, a glass-walled bar and lounge that hosts live jazz performances every Thursday night, and a small Michelin-starred restaurant, Die Quadriga, where chef Bobby Bräuer serves up inventive French cuisine. The hotel prides itself on personalized service, but things get really over-the-top at the Thaleia spa, where Thalgo mud packs and Balinese massage are given to only one clientyes, oneat a time.
Tel: 49 7221 9000
On a shaded avenue, this "magnificent hotel" is within walking distance of thermal springs and shops. Even standard rooms have iron balconies overlooking the park or nearby villas. Expansive windows with views of busy Lichtentaler Allee flood Wintergarten in natural light, an ideal setting for the Mediterranean-inflected dishes. The Medical Spa offers preventative health care and aesthetic dermatology.
Tel: 49 30 2000 3410
The 51-room Casa Camper sits just off one of Mitte's busiest café-society corners in a modern block, crowning a neighborhood that's approaching its saturation point in terms of new restaurants and hotels. The design cues here are both bold and subtle: Blood-red walls dominate, but they're set off by matte wood tones. The architecture is mainly open and flowing, allowing the big windows to flood the rooms with light, while furnishings feel like new versions of flea-market finds—wool-upholstered chaise longues and old-fashioned Bakelite telephones on cute little end tables. Perhaps most interesting for its youth-oriented client base is the Tentemplé snack bar on the top floor, with views of Mitte and free food and drinks round the clock. You can rent retro-cool black City Bikes from the front desk—just the way to see Berlin while working off all those free late-night calories.—Ralph Martin
Tel: 49 89 544 555 0
A striking change from the Baroque grandeur of central Munich, the newly built Charles looks like a sculpted white seashell set on the edge of the Old Botanical Gardens. Although it has 160 rooms and a sleek contemporary design, it's a friendly place that channels the cozy inn-keeping style of Central Europe while at the same time offering au courant amenities such as a small but excellent spa and gym. There's also Davvero, a very good Italian restaurant. Large, plush rooms are done up with thick camel-colored carpeting, cream walls, moss-green cut-velvet armchairs and tweed sofas, and sixties-style geometric-motif throw pillows. French doors open onto a balcony with wrought iron railings and superb views of the city, lighting is intelligently controlled by bedside switches, and bathrooms have deep tubs and walk-in showers, as well as heated floors and towel racks. Though it's clearly aiming at an upmarket business clientele, the Charles pulls off the signature Rocco Forte Hotels feat of being equally appealing to leisure travelers.
Tel: 49 882 392 8000
A private toll road, originally built by King Ludwig II to reach his hunting lodge, leads through a pine forest to this 90-room property with a big wellness center outside one of Germany's top ski resorts. Old stone buildings with steep roofs and narrow windows, inspired by the English Arts and Crafts movement, rise above the newly built spa and garden wing, a sleek wood complex with a grass roof. The interior is eccentric and modern, the lobby made vibrant with bright-green painted chairs and funky patterned wallpaper that acts as a fresh backdrop to the traditional wooden reception desks. Another room by the bar features white papier-mâché chandeliers, and a cozy sitting room is lit by a small galaxy of floating lanterns.
Tel: 49 30 203 750
In contrast to the grand lobbies of the other five- and four-star hotels bordering historic Gendarmenmarkt, the reception area of the comparatively small 92-room Dorint has a quiet, monastic feeling. The building used to be an excellent example of what locals like to call "Plattenbau" (that functional but none too charming Communist architectural style). But after a chic makeover in 1999 by Germany's premier hotel interior designers, Klein and Haller of k/h, no one would ever guess. The stylish property now has a calming gray and taupe color scheme with flashes of black-tinted glass and marble; each room benefits from a few individual touches of whimsy, including strings in the bedside tables connected to a music box—pull and listen to a lullaby that matches the church your room faces ("Alouette" for the French Cathedral, "Lili Marlene" for the German one). On the seventh floor, a small wellness area with Finnish and steam saunas is a haven of calm. In keeping with the setting, the designers added a few nods to the past, including a restaurant with mint-condition Art Deco interiors salvaged from the legendary Café Aigner in Vienna.
Beethovenplatz 1-2, behind the Goethehaus
Tel: 49 3643 87 20
This handsome, recently refurbished four-star hotel encompasses two classical mansions and one modern building. Its best asset is its locationall of Weimar is within walking distance, and it's only a three-minute walk to the town's historic center. The staff is friendly, and the 143 rooms are attractive as well as practical. Don't miss the delicious breakfast buffetthe spread is so varied that you could stay for a week and never eat the same morning meal twice.
Tel: 49 40 309 930
Tucked away just behind the Reeperbahn's bawdiness, East sits on a quiet street with bland new hotels as neighbors. Inside, though, it's a fully realized fantasy of Swinging London as seen by Stanley Kubrick: There's nary a straight line in sight, and "organic" forms are everywhere, especially in the dramatic East Bar and Asian-fusion restaurant. East may be trying a mite too hard in the public spaces, but the 125 guestrooms—ranging in size from 215 to 970 square feet—are more low-key, yet still feature bold color contrasts and a smattering of designer-freak furnishings, such as a see-through divider between the bedroom and the shower. Satellite TV and Wi-Fi connections are in all rooms.
914 Neuer Jungfernstieg
Tel: 49 40 349 40
Fax: 49 40 349 44 2600
This impeccably maintained hotel, until recently a Raffles, dates from 1897 and offers stunning public areas full of marble, tapestries, and chandeliers. The individually furnished rooms are traditional without feeling too musty. In total, there are 156 rooms and suites on five floors. The in-house restaurants include the Michelin–starred Restaurant Haerlin, the Art Deco Jahreszeiten Grill, the Euro-Asian Doc Cheng's, and the elegant Café Condi. The spa offers European and Asian treatments, including body scrubs, facials, and hot-stone massage.
Tel: 49 40 2800 300
It's not easy to impress the old monied and well-traveled set of Hamburg, but the city's younger generation is clearly pleased by this energetic new design hotel in the neighborhood of St. George, a ten-minute walk from the city center and the main train station. You'll find this sophisticated set lounging in the hotel's fashionable bar and upscale Italian restaurant or clutching cocktails on the dramatic rooftop terrace. The friendly staff are as attractive as the clientele. The hotel's interiors are more trendy than boho-chic, with shaggy wall-to-wall carpeting and brightly printed wallpaper in the bedrooms and colored crystal chandeliers in the elevator. Although the Size S rooms are too small (just big enough to fit the large bed), the next-step-up Size M rooms are almost 300 square feet, supremely comfortable, and an excellent deal at $235.
Tel: 49 30254 788255
Rooms with featherbeds and Tiergarten views combined with a location on tree-lined Unter den Linden make this 1988 L-shaped hotel "very relaxing and convenient." "The food is just fair," but Eck Restaurant is the place for German standards like schnitzel and potato pancakes; Harry's New York Bar shakes more than 200 classic cocktails. "Great services" includes electric-car charging stations.
Tel: 49 3643 77 48 04
Built in 1805 by Russian aristocrats, this hotel has played host to famous guests such as Leo Tolstoy, Franz Liszt, Robert Schumann, Friedrich Hebbel, Ernst Rietschel, Eleonore Duse and Ivan Turgenev. It boasts a green-and-white neoclassical façade and elegant public areas inside. Small to midsize rooms located in the hotel's backyard annex are equipped with shower units. The in-house eateries include the Anastasia restaurant, serving top-of-the-line Austrian and Thuringian cuisine, a cozy coffeehouse and the bustling Bar Romanow.
Tel: 49 30 255 31234
The Potsdamer Platz neighborhood, where this hotel sits, is judged by some to be soulless and overly commercial, and by others to be a hot spot for architecture. The buildings here, which include the corporate headquarters of Sony, Deutsche Bahn, DaimlerChrysler, and Germany's largest casino, are certainly designed to within an inch of their lives. But if you like that sort of thing, the 342-room Grand Hyatt, designed by Pritzker Prize–winner José Rafael Moneo, has quite a wow factor. The dramatic modern lobby has inverted crystalline pyramids descending from the ceiling that cause light and shadow to constantly change the look of the space. Meanwhile, the calming, clean-lined rooms are fitted with dark wood, suede, and gray-blue marble. Throughout the hotel and in the two restaurants—Vox (with the city's largest open kitchen and a selection of more than 230 whiskeys) and Tizian (with a floating fireplace)—Art Deco furnishings and black-and-white Bauhaus-era photographs warm up what could otherwise be a cold modern interior. The best place to take in all the architectural wonders of Potsdamer Platz—and to decide whether or not you like it—is the Grand Hyatt's top-floor fitness center and spa, with an outdoor terrace, an indoor pool, Finnish and steam saunas, and treatment rooms.
Belvederer Allee 25
Tel: 800 445 8667 (in the U.S. and Canada)
Tel: 49 3643 72 20
Designed by the East German government shortly before reunification, this lavish hotel boasts a dramatic, glass-walled lobby, 294 air-conditioned guest rooms, and 11 meeting rooms for business travelers. Rooms are small but cozy, and bathrooms promise tub-shower combinations, uncommon in this town. Budget travelers bewarethe costs of breakfast, parking and Internet usage are not included in the room rates, but use of the pool and sauna are thankfully free.
Tel: 49 30 284 45577
The original Honigmond (located just down the street and still operating as a hotel) was popular with East German intellectuals and dissidents, who used to gather at its café. As Berlin's Mitte district saw a rather different set of visitors arrive along with the galleries and fashion ateliers, the owners of the Honigmond decided to open another, more upscale—but still affordable—hotel. The Garden Hotel is in a historic building, and the interior's wide-plank wooden floors, built-in window seats, and moldings have been painstakingly restored. Massive wooden wardrobes and iron-frame beds anchor the large, airy rooms with white walls and soaring ceilings. Prussian blue-and-yellow bedding is the singular bold statement. The overall effect is romantic and peaceful, particularly in the courtyard's lovely garden, which has a bubbling fountain, goldfish pond, and writers' retreat–like guest rooms bordering it. Be sure to book a garden-facing room; those overlooking the busy street are marred by the noise of shrieking traffic.
Tel: 49 40 442 905
Located in the Harvestehude section, this refurbished Grunderzeit late-19th-century villa has a grand staircase, smoky mirrors, candelabra, paintings, and grandfather clocks. There are 11 rooms and suites, all with tub/shower combinations, most with terraces, and some with four-poster beds. The locally renowned 22-seat Prinz Frederik restaurant serves nouvelle cuisine, while the breakfast venue is the basement café in the cooler months and the hotel's pretty garden during the summertime.
77 Unter den Linden
Tel: 30 2261 1111
Fax: 30 226 12222
Just steps from the Brandenburg Gate on the historic Pariser Platz is Berlin's original "Grand Hotel"indeed, the movie of that name, starring Greta Garbo, was filmed here. Though Garbo famously uttered the words "I want to be alone," other celebrity guests (including Charlie Chaplin, Albert Einstein, and Thomas Mann) flocked to the Adlon for an entirely different reason: to see and be seen in the grand lobby, a favorite gathering place of intellectuals and art-world glitterati during the hotel's heyday. The original turn-of-the-century building burned down in 1945, but it has since been lovingly rebuilt. The second-generation Adlon, opened in 1997, includes faithful reproductions of the stained-glass dome in the lobby and the coffered 14-karat-goldplated ceilings. The rooms and suites, meanwhile, are a retro-modern hybrid of Art Deco and Asian fusion. The Roman-style Adlon Spa occupies the basement, and a Michelin-starred restaurant dedicated to French haute cuisine, the Lorenz Adlon, is on the Bel Étage (the second floor). There is one recent development that is less welcome, however: With newer luxury properties opening in Berlin, the Adlon has expanded to 303 rooms and 81 suites in an effort to attract more conference business. The large and sometimes noisy crowds in the lobby and other public spaces tend to take away from the old-world glamour.
Tel: 49 3643 54 90
Built as a private villa in 1826, this hotel is a good, inexpensive option near the Goethe National Museum and many other major tourist attractions. The original neoclassical building remains, but renovations in the 1990s established the modern annex across the street. Rooms are spacious, airy and furnished in a neo-Biedermeier style; shower rooms (no baths), however, are drab and stocked with only liquid soap. The establishment is run by the Lutheran Church Association, but don't worry, church attendance is not enforced.
7279 An der Alster
Tel: 49 40 288 80
This Hamburg grande dame is a white-pillared pile overlooking Lake Alster. The high-ceilinged lobby, complete with mammoth fireplace, makes for a classy entrance, but the 252 rooms and suites are uneven. Make sure you book one of the larger deluxe or junior suites renovated in 2003 (the standard and superior rooms are slated for renovation in 2008), as some courtyard-facing bedrooms' decor seems to date from a few decades earlier. That aside, the romance of the place is inescapable—you could drive a truck through the sconce-lit hallways, and the bar is a dark-wood international watering hole with a menu full of obscure Champagne cocktails, such as a Prince of Wales (invented in 1936, it combines Courvoisier, Cointreau, and a dash of Angostura, then is filled up with Champagne, garnished with fresh fruit, and served in a silver cup). Hamburg's rising foodie status is reflected in the kitchen, where chef Sven Büttner, a founding member of the "Young Furioso" movement in Germany, serves up a radical, internationally inspired take on the classics, such as lobster bisque Atlantic: Half lobster with sugar beans, fried mushrooms, and a terrine of bisque on the side.
Tel: 49 30 884 740
A design hotel in a period 19th-century patrician building, the Bleibtreu (which means "stay true") was Berlin's pioneer boutique property when it opened in 1995 just steps from the Kurfürstendamm. The place has a Birkenstock heart; the 60 stylish rooms, as well as the common spaces, are decorated with environmentally friendly untreated woods and all-natural textiles, which infuse the property with a sense of Gemütlichkeit (coziness). Yet the aesthetic manages to feel Manolo Blahnik sleek, with custom-made modern furniture and bold color schemes of blue, red, and yellowcomplemented by the sculptures and paintings of Berlin-based artists. The reception area is unobtrusively tucked away off a tree-shaded courtyarda swell spot for an alfresco drink. There's also a florist shop, a restaurant that's earned accolades for its healthy menu, and a serene one-treatment-room spa.
Tel: 49 351 80 030
This discreet Relais & Châteaux hotel features all the amenities you'd expect of a five-star property, coupled with an intimacy you rarely find in accommodation of such high standards. Tucked away in an atmospheric side street in one of the prettier parts of the Neustadt, Hotel Bülow Residenz is convenient to some of Dresden's most convivial bars and cafés. The on-site Michelin-starred restaurant, Caroussel, serves a mix of French and German cuisine in an elegant little dining room or outside in a covered courtyard when the weather is fine. Built in 1730, this exclusive but homey hideaway was entirely (and tastefully) renovated in 1993. The autumn color scheme may be a bit much—heavy red drapes, crimson-orange bedspreads, mustard-yellow furniture—but all in all, the 30 rooms and suites come off as classically stylish rather than overwrought.
Tel: 49 89 242 249 0
Friendly minimalism: The Cortiina is the choice for the budget-conscious aesthete. Situated on a busy back street a few blocks from Marienplatz, the city's commercial and nightlife center, the hotel features a pared-down design scheme that's heavy on stone and wood. Staff is young and friendly, but don't expect porters to come running for your luggage. The 39 rooms are exercises in selective luxury: rain showers and Kiehl's products in the bathrooms, while bedrooms feature flat-screen TVs and little else. However, the look is both chic and soothing, with parquet floors and taupe fabric-covered walls. A few niggles are built into the design, including a hinged partition between shower and bedroom (a glass shower wall stays in place) that is hard to open or shut. There's also a definite absence of inspiring views. But the breakfast is well selected, with quality bread, yogurt, cold meat, and cheese, helping the hotel live up to the boutique ideal of stylish, comfortable accommodation on a budget.
Tel: 888 667 9477 (toll-free)
Tel: 49 30 460 6090
Like Berlin itself, the Hotel de Rome deftly balances history with the here and now. It occupies the former Dresdner Bank building in Mitte, overlooking stately Bebelplatz, where the Nazis burned books and where Berlin's fashion week is now held each July. The 1889 neoclassical building retains some remarkable architectural features, from the mosaic terrazzo floors in the corridors (covered with linoleum by the Communists) and the shrapnel-pocked wood paneling in the Renaissance Suite (one of four suites carved out of old directors' offices) to the indoor pool housed in the former vault and the splendid glass-ceilinged Opera Court. The interior design—by Tommaso Ziffer, who also did the Hotel de Russie in Rome, a sister hotel in the Rocco Forte Collection—is bold and contemporary, if ultimately less interesting than the historical elements. The 146 rooms come in one of three color schemes (red, blue, and beige) and are large and thoughtfully laid out, with an upholstered headboard, large desk, sofa, and plenty of lighting. Bathrooms are also spacious, with separate tubs and shower stalls, heated floors, and a mosaic tile design. We love the historic rooms on the first, second and third floors because of their high ceilings, although upper floors have balconies, a plus in the summer. Downstairs, you'll find a spa, an Italian restaurant, and the elegant Bebel Bar; upstairs, a roof terrace. It's all crisply stylish—luxurious but not too lush. The service is similarly friendly and efficient (perhaps to a fault; order a glass of Grüner at the bar and you might be corrected: "Grüner veltliner, sir?"). What puts the Hotel de Rome over the top for us, making it one of our favorite hotels in Berlin, is the location: adjacent to Unter den Linden and a few blocks from the Brandenburg Gate, the Museumsinsel, and Gendarmenmarkt (and its U-Bahn stop). It's an ideal location, whether you're here for the shops, the sights, the nightlife, or all three.—Peter J. Frank
Tel: 49 351 86 400
While Dresden might not live up to its prewar nickname, Elbflorenz (Florence on the River Elbe), this Italian-style hotel located beside the World Trade Center certainly does. The Quattro Cani della Citta restaurant does great pizza and pasta, and the hotel's piano bar, La Piazza, is a sophisticated spot to sip a cocktail. All 227 warm-toned red-and-yellow guest rooms are equipped with high-speed Internet and cable TV.
Tel: 49 3643 80 20
Weimar's oldest and most famous hotel was established in the 17th century and renovated extensively in 1993. With a terra-cotta rooftop, art deco furnishings, brass and marble stairways and huge bay windows that overlook either the central market square or the Anna Amalia courtyard and garden, the Hotel Elephant makes guests feel as though they're sleeping in a luxurious museum. Many historical figures have stayed here, from the infamous (Adolf Hitler) to the celebrated (Leo Tolstoy and Johann Sebastian Bach).
Tel: 49 30 882 7193
Two decades before Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich made androgyny famous, Danish silent-film star Asta Nielson paved the way. This pension, in her former apartment on Fasanenstrasse, one of western Berlin's most posh addresses, is good value, especially given the location. For a ridiculously affordable rate, hotel guests can count Gucci and Bulgari shops among their stylish neighbors. What's more, the Literature House, which has a lovely café in the winter garden, is just across the street. The pension is done up in the spirit of the Roaring Twentiesas it might have been during Nielson's timeand many of the original Art Nouveau and Jugendstil fixtures have been maintained. At these prices, though, it's only to be expected that the rooms tend toward shabby chic, and not all have private bathrooms. All the same, the Funk oozes atmosphere and charm.
Tel: 49 30 810 0660
The ultrastylish, ultramod Q! was designed to the nth degree by Berlin-based Graft Architects, a group of three young men who first shot to fame with their designs for Brad Pitt's studio and guesthouse in Los Angeles. For this project, they did away with as many right angles as possible, creating striking, cocoonlike public spaces and guest rooms. The otherwise unremarkable exterior of the hotel has no sign (a common ploy in the world of hip), prompting all who enter to feel like real cognoscenti. The tunnellike entrance and small reception area open into a bold, curvaceous bar and lounge where the red linoleum climbs the walls and ceilings in a single, continuously flowing surface. Saarinen-like womb chairs punctuate the space. In the 77 guest rooms, where the color palette shifts to white and smoky gray, there's an unusual "hybrid space" open-plan design, with the floor curving up into the bed, which curves up into the bathtub, which curves back down into a bath/wet area. A Japanese-inspired spa-sauna in the basement has a relaxation lounge with real sand. At night, the lounge turns into an exclusive, members-only bar, but hotel guests are welcome—provided they like a glam-o-rama scene with a hint of snobbery.
Tel: 49 89 543 350
The Hauzenberger family has been running this hotel since 1955, developing a significant fan club along the way. Don't expect a flash full-service joint; it's more akin to a B&B with exceptionally friendly staff whom you'll get to know—like it or not. The 31 rooms in the handsome Art Nouveau building are varied in size, with some extra-large "family" ones as well as petite singles, but they're all quiet—unless, of course, it's Oktoberfest. Decor is haphazard and rather charming in a tasteless-auntie's-house way, with a mix of midcentury and 1970s-'80s items, floral drapes, and carpets in that shade of blue you only ever see in unrenovated hotels. However, they've embarked on a slow overhaul of their rooms (a few every year), so it's worth asking for one of their recently refurbished ones when booking. To extend the eccentric retro theme, you can upgrade your bed to a waterbed for a small surcharge. All rooms have spotless private bathrooms, cable TV, modem or Wi-Fi, and minibar—from which, if you correctly guess the house's age, you get a free drink! A great big German breakfast buffet is included, as is free coffee and (short) Internet access in the lounge. As for location, it's about a ten-minute walk to the U-Bahn or you can borrow bikes or park a car for free.
Tel: 49 89 212 527 00
From its opening in 1852, this 304-room grand on Maximilianstrasse vied with the Bayerischer Hof for the status of default Munich lodging for visiting heads of state and royalty (the King of Siam once brought 1,320 suitcases here). Such history can't be replicated, and there is a certain gravitas to the gleaming dark wood, black marble, and mirrors of the lobby. Unfortunately, though, the big German Kempinski chain (nothing to do with Four Seasons, despite the hotel's name) has done its best to override this with corporate-looking brocades and carpet. And in the rooms, they've tragically installed a scarlet-orange-gold color scheme, way too much varnished teak furniture, and dorm-room-worthy Picasso reproductions. In short, this really is a business hotel, a centrally located and very well run one. An indoor pool with a swim-against current, limited spa services, a sauna, and bar are on the roof, and there's the Vue Maximilian , the requisite grand-hotel restaurant. But the soul is not quite functioning anymore.
Tel: 49 351 49 120
This five-story former palace was built by Augustus the Strong to house his favorite mistress, the Countess Cosel. Like the Zwinger galleries across the street from the hotel, the building was designed by M.D. Poppelman in eye-popping style: It's a big, grand place with no subtlety about it. Destroyed by the Allied firebombing of 1945, it was left in ruin until the 1990s, when the Kempinski chain reconstructed the building as its Dresden residence. The location is impeccable, with a superb outlook on baroque Dresden from the front; however, with 182 rooms, including the side wings and the back, not everybody gets the million-dollar view. The lobby is a tad corporate-feeling for this exalted place, but furnishings both here and in guest rooms are top-notch, with dark wood veneers, tasteful blue-and-gold-dominated color schemes, and fancy linens. The expensive Intermezzo restaurant is worth a stop, with its mix of modern takes on Saxon dishes and Northern Italian alternatives. It's also got the best wine list in town, including many Saxon favorites.
Tel: 49 30 520 05550
The 170-room Ku'Damm 101, located (as the name suggests) on western Berlin's main shopping drag, the Kurfürstendamm, takes the pure, clean-lined minimalism and cool color palette of Le Corbusier as its inspiration. The lobby's low, backless curved benches and softly glowing illuminated columns suggest a dance club, and DJs do occasionally spin here. The rooms are a sea of harmonious colors (gray, black, and mint green), with a select assortment of mid-century modern design classics, including Saarinen chairs. The black rubber flooring and Paris Métro look-alike tiling in the bathrooms, though, can feel a bit too institutional. The seventh-floor breakfast room has an especially impressive view down the Ku'Damm (particularly in the spring and summer, when the long boulevard is flanked by leafy trees), and the basement has a small spa with an aromatic steam bath and rooms for homeopathic massages and treatments.
Tel: 49 911 23 22 613
Tel: 49 911 23 22 664
"Right across the street from the train station and old quarter," this expanded 1800s farmhouse was extensively renovated in 2009; the 192 guest rooms and suites now include Art Nouveaustyle marble baths, flat-screen TVs, and iPod docks. Atelier Bar is a local hot spot, while Restaurant Brasserie serves both Franconian specialties (dark bock beer soup with meat dumplings) and innovative dishes (gnu medallions with chocolate sauce).
5256 An der Alster
Tel: 49 40 210 00
The glass-and-steel facade sets the tone for this contemporary business hotel, with high-speed Internet access in every room. There are 265 bright, color-coordinated rooms (blue, pink, green, or red) and 19 suites on eight floors. Most of them have panoramic views of the Alsterbut be sure to request one, because some of them don't. The work of 50 local artists that decorates the rooms and public spaces is the biggest private modern-art collection in Hamburg. The restaurant Le Ciel on the ninth floor has a Mediterranean menu and great views but otherwise lacks atmosphere.
Tel: 49 89 411 190 8 0
The Munich-based restaurateur and hotelier Rudi Kull recently pulled off a coup: He opened the first five-star design hotel directly on the Viktualienmarkt, the bustling age-old market in Munich's historic heart. And like Cortiina, Kull's first hotel and an insider favorite, the Louis Hotel is designed with a chic modern alpine appeal: floors and tables of oiled local wood, doors with woven rattan detailing, and a big natural stone fireplace in the lobby. The 72 white-walled, wood-floored rooms feel both fresh and timeless and feature smart little details: The TV and minibar are hidden away in a fabric-covered armoire that resembles an old-fashioned trunk; some of the bathrooms have closable windows that look into the bedroom and beyond to the sky; and a narrow wooden table works as a desk as well as an urban picnic table. Emiko, the hotel's modern Japanese restaurant, is getting as much buzz as the hotel and is a popular local haunt.
913 Rosa Luxemburg Strasse
Tel: 49 30 936 2800
At the latest design hotel to enter Berlin's increasingly competitive market, the interiors were styled by the Italian-born husband and wife team of Claudio Silvestrin and Giuliana Salmaso, a duo many consider to be the high priest and priestess of contemporary minimalism. The result is a balanced, harmonious space that's bold but still playful enough to appeal to a young, hip clientele (many who come for the nightlife around Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz). The 72 nearly identical rooms have an open plan bath/wet area and are finished in concrete; the look is softened by textured beige fabrics and honey-colored woods. The total effect is elegant but not ostentatious. An Aveda Spa and an AsianEuro fusion restaurant pick up on the Zen vibe, while a 2,700-square-foot designer boutique run by Ulf Haines, formerly of the exclusive Berlin department store Quartier 206, is a great place to indulge in retail therapy.
Tel: 49 89 290 980
This snow-white neo-Renaissance town house near Maximilianstrasse and the Hofbräuhaus is straining to be the most luxe thing in Bavaria—and it may be succeeding. Wherever you look there's one more amenity than is necessary: marble bathrooms with Molton Brown goodies; heated floors, and towel racks; a butler to pack and unpack your bags; Wi-Fi and three phone lines; a bedsheet "menu" with silk quilts; and minibars that are free. Everyone gets fruit, newpapers, and shoe shines (a dying tradition), and kids get toys. The smallest of the 72 rooms is around 330 square feet, and many junior suites have terraces. They're all in a subtle neutral palette primarily using light browns, with a Biedermeier-ish vibe. The rooftop pool, with bar, makes up for the lack of a spa, and there's a serious restaurant, Marks.
39 Warschauer Strasse
Tel: 49 30 297 78590
The Michelberger aims to combine two of Berlin's cultural drivers (high design and nightlife on the cheap) into one budget hotel. Architect Werner Aisslinger was commissioned to maximize space efficiency in each of the 119 rooms in order to allow guests to bunk up in groups of two, four, or more (the largest room sleeps eight). Loft beds take advantage of unused headroom, and the flexibly arranged spaces are done in inexpensive but attractive materials: matte woods, rope ladders to connect the rooms' different levels, poured concrete floors. It all feels creative (rather than cheap), and the whole place has a buzzing, interconnected vibe, due largely to the bar and a basement rock and dance club. (The club opened first and became a Saturday-night staple before the hotel was even completed.) Across the street is the Warschauer Strasse subway station and tram stop—the terminus of the M10, a.k.a. the "party train" that connects many of Berlin's night spots.—Ralph Martin
5 Hessische Strasse
Tel: 49 30 847 1090
Formed from an interweaving of glass and steel with an existing prewar structure, the Miniloft brings new glamour to the apartment hotel category. Its location in the western section of Mitte—near the Hauptbahnhof train station and the nightlife and galleries around Torstrasse—is ideal. The 14 loft-style apartments range from 300 square feet up to 450 square feet and cater to different tastes: Some have a glass curtain wall running the length of the room, while other spaces are cozier, with smaller windows and exposed floor beams. Furnishings are uniformly rectilinear and modernist, bordering on cold. But that's just so you don't get confused about where you are—in the middle of Northern Europe.—Ralph Martin
Tel: 49 40 333 212 34
The Park Hyatt, which takes up the top seven floors of an Art Deco warehouse, is a business hotel with a leisurely vibe. There's an excellent cocktail bar (which perhaps explains its loyal following among media types), in-room PlayStations, and Hamburg's biggest swimming pool. Decor throughout relies heavily on cherrywood, there seems to be acres of it no matter where you are. There are 252 rooms and suites, as well as 30 apartments, all with luxurious furnishings, but blandness comes as standard (well, it is primarily a business hotel). On-site eateries include Apples Restaurant & Bar, serving Mediterranean fare, and the Park Lounge, which offers traditional high tea.
58 Albrecht Achilles Strasse
Tel: 49 30 891 9016
Fax: 49 30 892 8721
Since the advent of the design hotel, some have labored to elevate the idea to an art form. This is especially true of German artist Lars Stroschen, the owner and manager of the 30-room Propeller Island City Lodge. He pours all his creative energies into the hotel, and each room is wildly unique, ranging from the surreal Upside-Down Room, where the handmade furnishings hang from the ceiling and guests sleep and sit in comfortable boxes hidden away under the floorboards, to the kaleidoscopelike Mirror Room, with mirrors covering every surface of the diamond-shaped space. Other rooms, like the Clouds Room and the Orange Room, are comparatively calming and minimalist. You have to pick your accommodations carefully: Perhaps life's stresses call only for the Padded Room and not yet the one where the bed's in a coffin. For most, it's a place to gawk at but not to actually stay, with more visual thrills than frills: For instance, a single attendant works reception from 8 a.m. to noon only.
Tel: (49) 69 7104 570
Fax: (49) 69 7104 571
Fans of austere contemporary design will love this 50-room newcomer near Frankfurt's main train station. As at many design hotels, the place is mostly self-service: No one fusses over you when you arrive in the lobby, which evokes A Clockwork Orange, right down to the rounded edges on the furniture and the backlit bar that also serves as the reception desk. The all-white rooms contain leather-upholstered headboards and wall-mounted media centers, and although your desk may block the wall outlet and thin walls can mean undesired intimacy with the neighbors, wireless Internet access, great Thai herbal toiletries, and feather duvets put the Pure a notch above other style contenders. There's no restaurant, but Frankfurt's best pizza place, 7 Bello, is a few doors down and does takeout.
Tel: 49 351 56 330 90
Dresden's newest and most centrally located hotel, the 67-room QF, was built to the town's high zoning standards—it had to look exactly like the building that stood on the site until WWII. Once inside, the modern boutique look takes over, with a small lobby finished in cut gray stone and a central atrium with glass elevator. Rooms are generously sized and finished in earth tones that look a trifle dated already but are nonetheless soothing to the eye. Services are limited, but high-speed Internet, Wi-Fi, and flat-screen TVs keep the feeling modern.
Karl Liebknecht Strasse 3
Tel: 49 30 23 8280
Tel: 800 333 3333 (toll-free)
The Radisson's calling carda spectacular 220,000-gallon cylindrical aquarium containing 2,500 tropical fishis actually the least compelling reason to like it. Superbly located at the end of Unter den Linden, just across the Spree River from Museum Island in the trendy Mitte district, the hotel boasts 427 unusually comfortable rooms done in a cutting-edge Scandinavian style, two excellent restaurants, a swell health club with a big swim-against-the-current pool, and a friendly (even at odd hours) staff. Overall, it's an impressive surprise for an international chainand a good buy to boot.
Hammer Strasse 23
Tel: 49 211 311 1910
Tel: 800 333 3333 (toll-free)
Düsseldorf's fashionable crowd heads straight for the MedienHafen, a tiny river port that in recent years has been transformed into a glittering architectural showcase of media and design offices, and stylish bars and restaurants. Last spring, the MedienHafen finally welcomed a hotel worthy of its main street: the Radisson Blu Media Harbour Hotel, designed by Matteo Thun. Its dramatic cherry-red sliding-door entrance and 135 rooms feature Thun's trademark use of natural woods and rich color combinations (ruby-red bedsheets and fuschia pillows). In the airy glass-walled lobby, young business travelers check e-mail by the glass-front fireplace (there's free Wi-Fi throughout) while others meet over cappuccinos in the bar's low-lying booths. Staff are eager and efficient—this is Germany, after all—and the breakfast buffet starts you off with energy to burn.
Tel: 49 30 2033 6666
Unapologetic and flamboyant opulence is the name of the game at this five-star property, set across from the 18th-century cathedrals of Gendarmenmarkt. In fact, stepping into the lobby, with its gleaming rose-marble floors, gilded mirrors, and dripping crystal chandeliers, may throw the unsuspecting visitor into a sort of luxury stupor. The lobby and bar are cushiony, with plush carpets, tasseled ottomans, and brocade fabrics, and the 156 guest rooms and 39 suites are among the largest in the city. Some have Juliet balconies for enjoying the view, as well as elegant color schemes and antique accents, such as Biedermeier writing desks. The room service includes "mobile boutique" delivery from the nearby Hugo Boss flagship store, where a salesperson brings a selection of clothing to your room for you to browse through. The pomp and ceremony culminates at Fischers Fritz, the much-lauded onsite restaurant, where Homard à la presse (lobster with a mousse from its pressed juice) is prepared tableside with the aid of a Christofle silver press, one of only four in the world.
3 Potsdamer Platz
Tel: 49 30 337 777
This luxe tower on the edge of the modern Potsdamer Platz aspires to being a prewar grand hotel, re-created in modern Disney-style. The 302-room building is reminiscent of the Art Deco skyscrapers of New York City and Chicago, while designer Peter Silling's interiors try hard to evoke old-world Europe, inspired by the Prussian architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel, who designed many of Berlin's most famous structures. A soaring two-story lobby with sparkling chandeliers is clearly aiming for wow factor. A marble staircase sweeps up to a traditional English tea salon and a clubby lounge-bar called the Curtain Club, which has an extensive collection of high-end schnapps and a humidor fitted into a vintage Louis Vuitton trunk. Guest rooms tend toward classic, but with modern accents and the occasional splash of bold color. Art Nouveau fixtures salvaged from an 1875 French brasserie provide the interior for the quite affordable Desbrosses French restaurant (try the marinated lobster with mango and mint), while the city of Venice was the inspiration for the Murano-chandelier-filled gourmet spot Vitrum, which serves pan-European dishes such as cured sturgeon with beetroot, horseradish, and caviar. It's all laid on a little thick for some tastes, feeling like a slightly empty, nouveau-riche idea of prewar glory, but it certainly makes an impression.
15-17 Rothenburger Strasse
Tel: 49 351 81 260
Opened in 1685, when the Neustadt was rebuilt after a fire, the 26-room Rothenburger Hof has the traditional feel of a historical, family-run inn, but its wealth of amenities—including Turkish bath, gym, sauna, and swimming pool, as well as a lovely sunroom and terrace—also draws luxury-seeking travelers. It's a bit off the beaten path from the restored monuments across the river, but Dresden's ultra-convenient tram connects the hotel to a wealth of other options in the Neustadt.
134 Bautzner Strasse
Tel: 49 351 80 990
A gothic-revival castle built by a pupil of Gottfried Semper in the 19th century, this folly has been turned into a wellness-oriented spa and hotel complex. Make sure you stay in the castle and not the less-expensive wellness pavilion called the Cavalier's House, a modern building with none of the castle's charm. The castle itself looks over the Elbe River from a hilltop a few miles upriver from Dresden. Renovations have left much of the original surfaces intact, resulting in a series of huge rooms with parquet floors, high ceilings, and plain walls. The 67 guest rooms are perhaps too plain, but four of the castle rooms have huge river-view terraces. The house restaurant serves excellent French-influenced cuisine.
Tel: 49 30 895 840
Located a few miles from the center of town in the posh Grunewald district, this hotel occupies a stately home built in the late-Baroque-classic style. The common areas and 54 rooms are equally grand, having been completely remodeled in 1994 under the artistic direction of fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld. The total cost topped $20 million, and it shows: Five thousand sheets of gold leaf were used to restore the original ornaments, and the walls were covered with silk damask from Lyon. The basement space, which was used as a bunker during the war years, is now a Roman-style bath with large new windows. As you may have gathered, the Schlosshotel was built for and still caters to old-money aristocrats, so egalitarian types—especially those who don't dress to impress—will likely feel out of place. Make sure to arrange a car rental or driver during your stay.
Tel: 49 40 309 990
This 12-story, glass-fronted hotel was designed by architect Jan Störmer. Inside, its clean-lined framework is perfectly complemented by the minimalist interiors created by Matteo Thun. The 178 bedrooms are pure modern classic, with dark wood floors, crisp, white linen sheets, and high upholstered headboards. The brightly colored spa area comprises a swimming pool, sauna, aromatherapy steam room, gym, solarium, and massage room. SIDE's Fusion bar has established itself as one of Hamburg's cool hangouts and is usually packed on weekends.
Tel: 49 30 40 50 44 0
There's debate as to whether a British-style membership club and 40-room hotel in an iconic Bauhaus-inspired building, complete with the rare luxury of a private cinema and rooftop pool, belongs in this city of squats and artists. Nevertheless, Soho House's first Continental branch (the site of a former Jewish-owned department store, then HQ for Hitler Youth, and later offices of the Communist party) has been catnip to a cool crowdDamien Hirst hosted a party here during which he drew the black-spray paint shark in the loft-like, raw-concrete lobby. By day, fashion designers and expat writers lounge on velvet couches in The Club space, and in the evening, grungy young artists and Chanel-toting Charlottenburg ladies eye one another on flower-patterned chintz chairs at the poolside bar. The mix of German and British staff manages to be both efficient and friendly, while guest rooms are designed to feel like those in a glamorous estate, with old-fashioned gramophones, crystal chandeliers, cozy seating areas with Art Deco-inspired couches, and custom-made brass lamps that give off a golden light. But the centerpiece of each room is easily the decadent seven-foot-wide carved mahogany bed with a dramatic shell-shaped headboard.
Tel: 49 30 405 0440
The April 2010 debut of Soho House was met with a storm of news articles and threatened protests far out of proportion to the property's modest size (40 rooms) and price (from 100 euros). It's not just a hotel, you see: It's also a private club, and the restricted membership list has caused quite a stir in traditionally laid-back Berlin. That hasn't stopped German (and British) celebrities from packing the lobby, where Damien Hirst spray-painted a shark on a raw cement wall on the club's opening night. The rooms are intentionally eccentric, with a mix of dark parquet floors, broad swathes of red and green velvet, and chintz-covered chairs. The pricier suites offer extra touches like antique phonograph players and claw-foot tubs. Hotel guests have access to club facilities that the hoi polloi will never see, including a bar and lounge, a screening room with red velvet seats, and a rooftop pool and terrace that feel more like Ibiza than Berlin. The building itself is late Art Deco and fairly screams German Expressionism, and the protested club has the distinction of being one of the least controversial things that it has housed. The address has previously been a headquarters of the Hitler Youth and the seat of the fledgling East German government after World War II.—Ralph Martin
44 Augsburger Strasse
Tel: 49 30 220 10 0
This curved glass hotel's perfect-scoring location is "in the heart of the bustling city," near the Kurfürstendamm's shops and "only steps away from the poignant ruins of a church bombed in World War II." Public spaces display "some very interesting artwork"; guest rooms have large window seats and espresso machines. Restaurant 44 is "nothing too noteworthy," but the view from the terrace is complemented by the "authentic beer."
Tel: 49 69 717 120
Located in the leafy Sachsenhausen district, the 163-room Villa Kennedy redefines luxury lodgings in the age of the boutique hotel. For starters, it gets service just right—staff are well drilled and well mannered, and rooms have a low-key but fun decor, with acid-green patterned pillows on neutral natural-fiber couches and chairs, along with beds with heavy linen sheets. The bar is one of the coolest avant or après addresses in town, and Gusto, the hotel's restaurant, turns in a top-drawer performance on regional Italian cooking. The centerpiece of the superb spa is a 15-meter green-granite lap pool with a window wall overlooking a garden.
Tel: 49 30 755 6670
The cold, modernist design hotel look is getting a bit long in the tooth, but the Weinmeister reinvigorates the formula. Opened in June 2010, there's a dash of Alice in Wonderland here, from the lobby with its oversize angular furnishings in bold colors to the enveloping space pods perched high above the floor that serve as the restaurant's chairs. The 88 rooms have a more subtle color scheme (grays and blacks predominate), large floor-to-ceiling windows, and felt-covered bed frames. In some rooms, the beds are anchored to modular sofas and set right in the middle of the space to create a sleeping and sitting island. Each bedroom has its own iMac (which also serves as the TV); Wi-Fi is throughout. There's something that feels ultramodern and Tokyo-esque about the whole place, until you see the views: The street side looks out on a charmingly dilapidated elementary school, and the courtyard is done up in yellow and red brick, reminding you that you are, in fact, in good old northeastern Germany.—Ralph Martin