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Where to Stay in Berlin
Though Berlin has been unified for more than two decades, the differences between its west and east zones are immediately apparent. Western Berlin is significantly more popular among tourists from outside of Germany, owing largely to its dense concentration of hotels, restaurants, shops and nightlife districts in comparison to the former East Berlin. Kurfurstendamm, the major thoroughfare on the western side, and its minor arteries are where you’ll find the largest selection of accommodations and some remarkably cheap hotel deals in Berlin. This is also the liveliest area for clubbing and late-night dining, and is within easy walking distance of the Berlin Zoological Garden and the western end of the sprawling parks of the Tiergarten. Just slightly farther west, the wealthy Charlottenburg area is home to a handful of Berlin’s most exclusive boutique hotels.
In the eastern half of the city, most hotels are concentrated in the area called Mitte, or the city center. Geographically, this is Berlin’s centermost point, but as it spent the Cold War era on the east side of the Berlin Wall, it hasn’t enjoyed the prosperous run of its western counterpart. However, this dichotomy is gradually changing, and is helped along by the addition of some of the city’s newest upscale hotels.
Berlin Hotel Tips
Because Berlin was devastated by war in relatively recent history, many of its hotels on either side are no older than the Cold War. These more modern properties range from simple budget hotels to exorbitant five-star towers, but all of them tend to feature more spacious accommodations than is typical in Europe. It is also more common for Berlin hotels to be managed by major lodging chains than in other parts of Germany or Europe. Where older hotels do exist, their rooms are typically smaller and their infrastructure more shoddy, but they often make up for these shortcomings in character. Across the board, hotel rates in Berlin are lower than in London, Paris and other top European cities.
Berlin Hotel Recommendations
Since room rates in Berlin are so reasonable for the region, you may want to take advantage of the opportunity to splurge on a magnificent room without blowing your budget. If that’s the case, The Regent Berlin should make your shortlist. Built in 1996, this luxury hotel is packed with modern comforts and amenities, but its elegant classic styling and comparatively historic surroundings create the illusion that you’re staying in a landmark. Fischers Fritz, its gourmet seafood restaurant, is one of the city’s best.
For an equally luxurious experience with a more futuristic aesthetic, try the Grand Hyatt Berlin. Its stark and streamlined rooms are regularly updated with the latest trends in European design, and the swanky styling is consistent throughout its three restaurants, plush cocktail lounge, soothing spa and the top-floor pool area that overlooks the city below.
Similarly minimalist and modern accommodations can be found farther to the west in Charlottenburg’s Bleibtreu Hotel. One of Berlin’s first true boutique properties, guests of this hotel often mingle and enjoy cocktails in its secluded and whimsically landscaped courtyard. Just a block off of Kurfurstendamm and closer to the heart of Berlin’s action, Art Nouveau is an affordable hidden gem concealed within a larger apartment building. The individually appointed rooms, hearty daily breakfast and communal honor bar make this centrally located hotel feel like an intimate B&B.
Driving in Berlin can be a fun, if harrying adventure, but it’s not an efficient way to explore and sightsee. All-day traffic and too-few parking areas make having a car more of a liability than an asset, so you may want to pass up the rental car kiosks after your flight to Berlin. The city’s public transportation system is reliable and will take you virtually anywhere you’d want to go, including from the airport to your hotel.
Maintained by an agency called BVG, Berlin’s public transit system is slightly more expensive than in most major U.S. cities. Composed of a subway called the U-Bahn, an above-ground railway called the S-Bahn and a fleet of streetcars and buses, the system’s web of service lines is well-coordinated and easy to understand. Berliners tend to know the system well, so don’t hesitate to ask a local if you’re unsure which line or stop to take. The system doesn’t operate 24-hours, but it does start early and end late.
Taxis are also slightly pricier than in the U.S., but they’re easy to find and respond quickly to calls. Take a cab when traveling late at night after the public transportation shuts down, but avoid them during peak driving times. When traffic seizes up, walking is often a faster means of travel, and trains provide the only speedy way to cover longer distances.