Ackselhaus & Blue Home

Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin, Germany Book from Eur125

Reviewed by Franz Etz
A pair of intimate hotels with a mix of exotic, colonial and marine-styled rooms and apartments, plus groovy courtyard gardens
These twin hotels, one ochre, the other sky-blue, are just doors apart on a leafy road in the middle of upmarket Prenzlauer Berg. At first glance they look like typical Gründerzeit tenement blocks, but step inside and you enter the eclectic, exotic world of Ulf Acksel - entrepreneur, globetrotter and self-confessed Freigeist ('freethinker').

Many of the rooms and mini-apartments in Ackselhaus look like film sets, packed with photos, paintings and furniture to evoke China, Rome or Egypt - mesmerising stuff. Others take you to the seaside with wood-clad walls, model boats and hurricane lanterns, while out back is a decked courtyard where you can snooze under a curtained pergola. The maritime theme continues in Blue Home, which has airy accommodation, a grand entrance lobby filled with teak furniture and colourful paintings of fish, an orangery, and another beautiful garden. Land-locked Berlin disappears as you enter an elaborate wooden portal, take in the pink-walled patio with its palm trees, ponds and flower-filled urns, and peek through tropical fish tanks, as if underwater, into the neighbouring breakfast café, Club del Mar. You could be on a vintage yacht or in a colonial abode. It feels far away and wonderfully homely at the same time.

Highs

  • A revamp has kept the rooms in tip-top shape; we last visited in 2013 and loved their highly individual, personal style - no two are the same
  • An excellent location in Prenzlauer Berg, a short walk from Kollwitzplatz's restaurants and within easy reach of the city's main sights
  • Club del Mar serves a fantastic breakfast selection in a lovely setting - and there are honesty bars where you can help yourself to drinks
  • Some rooms and apartments have kitchenettes and second bedrooms - ideal for families or those who want to cater for themselves
  • Others are set up for romance, with in-room tubs, fireplaces and four-poster beds; Blue Home's Summerhouse rooms even have private roof terraces

Lows

  • Breakfast isn't included in the rates
  • No other meals are served so you'll have to head out - hardly a problem in Berlin
  • Both hotels share one reception desk (in Ackselhaus), and service is discreet
  • Charging for late check-ins seems a bit cheeky

Best time to go

Berlin is a year-round destination. Summers are similar to the UK, perhaps a little warmer and more humid. Winters can be bitingly cold, but as long as you're wrapped up well, a crisp, clear January day would be perfect for exploring the city without the crowds. It can get busy during fairs (such as ITB in March) and the Christmas markets (late November and December).

Our top tips

Visit Mauerpark on a sunny Sunday and browse its popular flea market. There's a mindboggling array of goodies to rummage through - old bric-a-brac, clothes, antiques, art and crafts - with food stalls and beer gardens thrown in for good measure.

Great for...

City Style
Family
Honeymoon
  • = Makes the grade
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 35
  • Breakfast only (restaurants nearby)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
Room: Blue Home - Summerhouse room

Rooms

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.

Features include:

  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Honesty bar
  • Internet access
  • Minibar
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Tv
  • Wifi internet

Eating

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.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Children meals
  • Food and wine
  • Minibar
  • Walk to restaurants
Eating: Club del Mar
Activity:

Activities

  • Explore leafy Prenzlauer Berg, one of the city’s most vibrant districts. It abuts the Berlin Wall, with pavement cafés, independent boutiques and galleries aplenty
  • Head to the Kulturbrauerei, a former brewery still recognizable in its red-brick buildings and chimneys, which houses a cinema, bars, restaurants and a furniture shop
  • Visit the Jewish cemetery on Schönhauser Allee. Enclosed by graffiti-sprayed walls, it’s an atmospheric place to recall the tragic events of WW2
  • Hop on the U-bahn to Alexanderplatz, the centre of government of the former GDR, whose tall TV tower (nicknamed Alex) dominates this undeveloped yet fascinating area
  • Stroll down Unter den Linden, the wide boulevard which connects Alexanderplatz and the iconic Brandenburg Gate. It’s the heart of historic Berlin and lined with famous buildings, including the Berliner Dom (cathedral), the Zeughaus Berlin (an old armoury, now the History Museum), the Cathedral of St. Hedwig at Bebelplatz, the Berlin State Opera, Humboldt University and the Russian Embassy
  • Museum Island, just north of Unter den Linden, brings together a wealth of historical art collections: the Pergamon (Near and Middle Eastern art and architecture), the Bode (sculptures, Byzantine art, coins), the Alte Nationalgalerie (Classical-Romantic paintings) and the Altes and Neues Museums (antiques and pre-history)
  • Marvel at the Reichstag Dome, a stunning glass-and-mirror construction by Norman Foster, with a double helix walkway up to one of the best viewpoints in the city (free to enter but you must reserve a time in advance)
  • Take the U-bahn to the Gendarmenmarkt, an open square dominated by the twin domes of the French and German churches. It’s a great place to stop for a light lunch or coffee, and in winter it hosts one of Berlin’s many Christmas markets
  • Visit Potsdamer Platz, destroyed in WW2, forgotten for 50 years in the no-man’s-land of the Berlin Wall, then radically redeveloped in the 1990s. Landmarks include the Debis tower, the Sony Centre and the 93m-high observation deck of the brown-brick Kohlhof building

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Food and wine
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Music
  • Nightlife
  • Shopping / markets
  • Theatre

Kids

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.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

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.

Baby equipment:

  • Cots

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

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.

Kids Activities on site:

  • iPad to hire, with pre-loaded films, music and books
  • Gardens with a fish pond (Blue Home) and exotic terrace (Ackselhaus)

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Kollwitzplatz, a short walk away, has a great children's playground for big and little kids
  • The Sony Centre has a light-up roof, an IMAX and an English-speaking big-screen cinema
  • The TV tower in Alexanderplatz offers a bird's eye view of Berlin
  • Berlin Zoo and the Tiergarten park around it are both great for families

Families Should Know:

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.

Distances:

  • Airport: 30 minutes
  • Hospital: 20 minutes
  • Shops: 2 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
9/
Food
9/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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