“A pair of intimate hotels with a mix of exotic, colonial and marine-styled rooms and apartments, plus groovy courtyard gardens”
Between them, Ackselhaus and Blue Home have various accommodation options to suit couples and families alike. The themed rooms in ochre-coloured Ackselhaus are more like suites, with sitting areas and, in some, fireplaces and freestanding bathtubs. Paintings, furniture and knick-knacks evoke the seaside, exotic destinations such as China, Rome and Africa, or even the lives of famous figures like Picasso and early 20th-century globetrotter Burton Holmes; it’s fun yet sophisticated. We loved our Cairo room, set at the front of the building and filled with spring sunshine. We felt a little bit like professors on an archaeological dig - well-picked antiques, intricate carved doors, Arabic tiles and sepia photographs added flair, while the huge flat-screen TV, Denman sound system and Nespresso machine reminded us that we were in the 21st century. We also had a peek inside the fabulous Beach House room, lined with whitewashed wood and dotted with hurricane lamps, model ships and jars of pretty shells. Ackselhaus also has several mini-apartments with an entrance hall, a bathroom, a bedroom, a sitting area and a kitchenette (small but functional, with the basics and no more). Some have an extra room which can be used as a second bedroom - useful for families. There are fun touches here, too - a life belt in Ocean, tented walls in Safari. Blue Home has a sleeker look, with a range of rooms, studios, apartments and suites. Expect plenty of handsome Balinese teak furniture, beautifully fitted bathrooms, and walls in calming shades of blue and cream. Floral fabrics, chandeliers and bright tropical prints are scattered here and there to add colour. The apartments and suites have kitchenettes (the rest have fridges), and the larger suites have a second bedroom. Our favourite options were the sumptuous Summerhouse rooms at the top of the building, which have a breezy beach feel, sitting areas with contemporary fireplaces and vibrant artwork, freestanding in-room tubs, and open-plan showers clad in brickwork or reclaimed tiles. Best of all are their private terraces, complete with loungers, sofas and sweeping city views.
Ackselhaus and Blue Home share Club del Mar as their breakfast venue. It offers a superb selection of cereals, yoghurts, fruits, juices, jams, cold cuts and cheeses, as well as excellent salmon gravlax. We loved the different varieties of German spelt bread and multigrain rolls. In addition, you can order cooked breakfast à la carte for an extra cost. Everything is beautifully presented on a teak buffet table. The room itself is bright and airy, with light filtering through large glass panels in the porch and a series of aquariums with tropical fish on the walls. A gilded mirror, a chandelier, a pair of bright paintings and a fireplace (lit in winter) create an atmosphere which is comfy and exotic at the same time. If the weather is nice, you can take breakfast outdoors on the wide pavements of Belforther Strasse, and come evening the candlelit gardens are beautiful spots for sitting back with a drink from the honesty bar (each building has one). The hotels don’t currently offer other meals, so for lunch and dinner you'll probably find yourself wandering down to nearby Kollwitzplatz, a Notting Hill-like square with a small park in the middle, lots of restaurants around (Gugelhof is recommended), and a great Saturday market. Needless to say, there are some superb dining options in other parts of Berlin, too, representing all the major cuisines of the world - just ask staff for recommendations.
Children of all ages are welcome. Leafy Prenzlauer Berg, with its wide boulevards, playgrounds, kids shops and family friendly cafés, though also populated with young and trendy twenty and thirtysomethings, is a great place to stay with a family. Berlin is a great year-round city with plenty of parks for kids to play in during spring, summer and autumn, and fantastic gingerbread-fuelled Christmas markets and fairs in November and December. Children under 6 go free; extra beds incur a small cost and cots are free.
Kids will enjoy the adventurous quirky decor. Book an apartment in Ackselhaus - they have a basic kitchenette and some have an extra room to use as a second bedroom. Or book a suite in Blue Home - the larger ones have a second bedroom and all have a basic kitchenette.
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
The hotels only offer breakfast; kitchenettes are very basic. Some rooms without a kitchenette still have a fridge. Berlin's restaurants are fairly child-friendly; there are lots of cafés and ice-cream parlours nearby, especially around Kollwitzplatz.
The fish pond isn't fenced, and the interiors aren't designed specifically with families in mind (there's a lot to look at...and touch). The area isn't too busy traffic-wise.