“Well-priced, well-placed and wonderfully weird: a budget hotel whose artist-created rooms are a gallery of quirky design”
The art rooms are what makes this place special: each is totally unique. Hats off to the artists - most young, local and upcoming - who each spent months turning fairly nondescript cubes into weird and wonderful worlds-of-their-own, all in return for free lodging and a (small) percentage of the revenue. Every 3-5 years or so they get to reimagine the room to accord with their own artistic journey. We stayed 3 nights, moving room after each one, taking the opportunity to tour vacant rooms every morning. A free gallery tour, if you will.
Among our favourites were zebra-striped #101 (Three Women in Red) by Elvira Bach, with its 4-metre ceilings and a trio of salacious nudes in various states of undress; suites #105 (Dangerous Books) and #212 (INNOCENCE) for their separate sitting rooms; #211 (Berlin Society) with its caricatured portraits; French-bedded #202 with its vibrant collage of Samarkand-inspired patterns; #206 (Cabaret) as a tribute to 1920s Berlin; and #522, an installation about Marilyn Monroe. But it's all a matter of taste. Trainspotters might like #305 (Next Station), transformed into an 'S-bahn lounge' complete with original '60s furniture. Even the smallest rooms are interesting: #313 is an invitation to A Collective Story - you are free to add your own history to the walls. So scroll through our photos to see what grabs you, or ask what is free using the message box on our enquiry form (ask for one overlooking the inner court or Luisenstrasse).
Though they may lack the ceiling height of the lower floors in the historical building, newer rooms in the rear wing are well equipped and carefully styled, with top-notch shower rooms and excellent triple glazing between you and the S-bahn railway just outside. Room #413 (Stellwerk Thiel) makes the most of this, with an in-your-face observation seat and other-worldly locomotive portraits echoing Hauptmann's novel about "Stationmaster Thiel". Room #421 is notable for a new incarnation of the "wall jumper", an iconic symbol of those who tried to jump onto the train below to escape from East to West; here the "wall jumper" jumps from West to East, to bring freedom. The artist was one of those who painted murals on the Wall in 1990, the first joint art project of the two Germanys.
Note that some of the cheaper double and single rooms share a shower and toilet in the hallway; and that rooms in the historical building are accessed by the philosopher's staircase only, while the new wing has an elevator.
Breakfast is not included in the room rate, but it's worth paying for the excellent spread on offer at the neighbouring restaurant, Habel Weinkultur. You sit in a lovely, tall room with a generous buffet including the usual delicious German breads and rolls (there's a toaster), yoghurts with fruit salad and fresh fruit, and plenty of salamis, hams, cheeses, smoked fish, tomatos and cucumber should the local penchant for savoury breakfasts have rubbed off on you. And there's lots of teas, coffee, hot chocolate and juices too.
Habel re-opens for lunch and dinner, a popular venue for businessmen and politicians who nip over from the Reichstag. The Habel family - founder Johann was cellar-meister for Frederick the Great - has even served kings in its time. Sit in the main hall, book a vaulted cellar for a private group, or spill out onto the lawns in summer. Choose from a set menu (anything from classic Berlin to French); or a help-yourself buffet ranging from Italian minestrones to Scandinavian seafood, plus good German fare such as smoked pork in caraway reduction, smoked fish or a sausage platter with Spreewalder Gurken (the gherkins made famous in 'Goodbye Lenin') and beetroot purée.
As an alternative, book breakfast at the rooftop Kaefer restaurant perched alongside Norman Foster's Reichstag dome. Not only does it offer bird's eye views and beautifully presented fare, but eating breakfast here allows you to sidestep the often lengthy morning queues into the dome. It's not cheap, but it's a fantastic start to the day and only 5 minutes' walk away; or you can really splash out and book a Feinschmecker dinner here (that's haute cuisine to you and moi), high above the city lights. Other options within a 5-minute walk include Die Berliner Republic and Brechts.
You couldn't be better placed for Berlin’s main attractions, almost all of which are within a 10-15 minute walk – or you can catch a boat to Museum Island and walk back. Alternatively hire a "call-a-bike" (there's usually one parked nearby; ask reception staff to explain how it works), hail a cycle rickshaw, or jump on a passing octocycle (which it exactly what it sounds). Highlights include:
Children of all ages are welcome but this is not a great place for families as only 1 room can take extra beds. That said, the hotel is very usefully sited for an older child or teen with an interest in history. Cots are available for free for kids under 3.
Only Room 212 (Innocence), a Double Superior, which is on the second floor of the original building, can take two extra beds, and also has a bathtub as well as shower.