Berlin in Style: My five-star stay at the iconic Hotel Adlon Kempinski


Alone at the Brandenburg Gate

It's 5:30 a.m. when I pull the curtains, and step out onto the balcony at the Hotel Adlon Kempinski in Berlin. If I could jump five floors, I would land on the doorstep of the Brandenburg Gate.

The American flag flies over the U.S. embassy on Pariser Platz, the elegant square leading to the Unter den Linden, gateway to the former Soviet-occupied East. Crowded with tour groups, political protestors and police during the day, the plaza is empty at this hour, save for a lone bicyclist in a yellow slicker. I look out, and mentally rerun the TV footage of thousands climbing atop the gate's stone arches when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. Here I am alone with so much history. I take a few pictures, and linger a while before climbing back into bed.


A facade replicating the Adlon's look in 1907

Details on hotel stays normally rate only a few sentences in my blog posts, but then I don't normally stay in hotels where former guests include Albert Einstein, Greta Garbo, Michael Jackson, and most recently, the Queen of England who occupied the five-room "Imperial Suite" ($21,700 per night on the website) that comes with its own butler.

The Adlon hosted us for two nights while I was on assignment for Virtuoso Life Magazine.  Rates for a standard room (377 square feet) start at around $330, but of course can go much higher for many of the 304 rooms and 78 suites. Our 860-square-foot Pariser Platz suite - priced at around $3,600 with breakfast on an  "early booker'' special - was the same one occupied by Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, during the Queen's visit. Inside are two bathrooms, two television sets (one that pops up from an upholstered seat at the bottom of the bed), two mini-bars, an office, several closets and a living room. On the coffee table was a bottle of Monet Imperial Brut and a miniature chocolate replica of the Brandenberg Gate.


Pariser Platz suite

Breakfast is a favorite meal for Berliners. Many cafes serve it all day. Here, it's possible to order the "Fruhstuck wie um 1920," or in English, "Breakfast like it was in 1920," a $775 eye-opener. It's named for founder Lorenz Adlon, a Berlin restaurant manager with a vision of creating the world's most opulent hotel when he opened it in 1907. Staffers say one or two guests per month order the feast for two which includes caviar, an omelette with black truffles, Angus beefsteak and a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne. Even the humble currywurst,  available at street corner kiosks for $1.50, has been elevated to gourmet fare. The Adlon's $20 version (with fries) comes from pigs raised in natural surroundings, and fed a diet of organic apple pomace. 


Caviar for breakfast
When the Adlon opened, hot and cold running water and 110-volt light bulbs were considered luxuries. Today it's spa suites, private yoga classes and five types of massages.



A spa "suite"

The hotel's first and most loyal guest was German Emperor (Kaiser) Wilhelm II. He agreed to plans to build a hotel next to the Brandenburg Gate, and treated the Adlon like one of his palaces, paying an annual retainer to guarantee rooms. 




Albert Einstein enjoyed the same view we had out our window. Greta Garbo whispered her famous words "I want to be alone,'' at the Adlon during the filming of the "Grand Hotel." Singer Michael Jackson generated the type of publicity no hotel would want when he was photographed dangling his 9-month-old son from a fourth-floor balcony in 2002. 

The Adlon survived World War II, but burned shortly after when Russian soldiers plundered the wine cellar, and accidentally set a fire. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and Germany's reunification, investors acquired the site and rebuilt the Adlon, incorporating much of the original design.

A facelift will be underway this summer in preparation for the Adlon's 20th anniversary in 2017. 


Lobby with replica of the original hotel's Elephant Fountain 



With a bottle of champagne, a basket of fresh fruit and chocolates to share, we invited some friends in for a drink. He works in the French embassy across the street, but neither ever had been in one of the Adlon's rooms.

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