It’s a common disappointment of travel that a hyper-central hotel, one where you can pull back a window curtain to reveal an iconic landmark, doesn’t always meet expectations. Too often, the interior of a hotel in a bustling tourist area doesn’t reflect the high price you’re paying for location: a cramped room overlooking Madrid’s Plaza Mayor and a seedy rental adjacent to Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia come to mind for me, personally.
But every now and then a historic gem of a hotel in the beating heart of a city shatters all those shaky memories by matching the prime location with equally exceptional rooms, amenities, and service. The Brandenburg Gate-adjacent Hotel Adlon Kempinski recently accomplished that for me.
The Hotel Adlon Kempinski
The famed Hotel Adlon is to Berlin what the Plaza Hotel is to New York City: A landmark that’s retained charms of the Golden Age while modernizing with the times. From the marble lobby and ornate water fountain gifted to the hotel by an Indian maharaja, to the sprawling spa that’s been named one of Europe’s best, here’s what makes it worth a splurge.
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The Location and History
Situated in front of Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate, the Hotel Adlon Kempinksi is a historic site in itself. The luxury property opened in 1907 and has hosted some of the world’s most famous names, from Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, and Albert Einstein to U.S. presidents Hoover, Roosevelt, and Obama. Heads of State including Queen Elizabeth II have long stayed in the property’s Presidential Suite for their official visits.
Hotel Adlon was mostly destroyed during the final days of World War II, but one remaining wing of the hotel stayed open until the 1970s. The Cold War relegated the property to the city’s east side, and it was eventually shut down by the East German government. The property was rebuilt to its original style in 1997 by the same family that created the original property, the Adlons. Today it’s once again a bustling luxury hotel, steps from the double-brick path that snakes across the city marking where the Berlin Wall once stood. Unter den Linden, the tree-lined avenue that leads to Brandenburg Gate from Berlin Palace, is a main thoroughfare of the city that’s home to central historic sites like churches, museums, squares, and opera houses.
A standard room at the Hotel Adlon Kempinski is an Executive Room, which typically has a view of the street or courtyard (as opposed to Brandenburg Gate). Junior Suites are larger (and much pricer), with a large living area and bathroom, plus double closets and work space—and are available with both Unter den Linden and Brandenburg Gate views. Then there are even larger and more luxurious specialized suites: the Executive, Berlin, Linden, Deluxe, Imperial, and Presidential Suites are about as high-end as you can get, with the Imperial Suite measuring over 2,300 square feet and the Presidential Suite having hosted numerous heads of state.
You can helpfully check the specifications and add-ons for each room online with Kempinksi before you book; most suites include a luxurious double bathroom complete with a large tub and steaming shower, plus the extra living area space, soft king bed, thoughtful touches like bedside light and do-not-disturb controls, and your chosen view. The Junior Suite Brandenburg Gate offers 660 square feet of space, plus the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to wake up to the uninterrupted view of Brandenburg Gate about 100 yards away each morning, for a splurge (more on pricing below).
The Hotel Adlon Kempinski has three opulent restaurant options to please its high-profile guests. Lorenz Adlon Esszimmer is a two-Michelin-star restaurant on the hotel’s second floor Brandenburg Gate side. Quarre is a German-style brasserie on the first floor that includes a patio (also overlooking the Brandenburg Gate, of course). And fusion restaurant Sra Bua is a more modern option for Thai-Japanese creations with flair.
These options are outside of the Hotel Adlon Kempinski’s breakfast, which is included in most upgraded stays. The morning spread includes options as varied as kimchi and congee and as classic as smoothies, made-to-order omelets, and a bagel bar complete with various types of spreads and smoked salmons. The buffet is accompanied by table service and situated over the lobby’s marble atrium, marked by an elephant-statue-adorned fountain and grand staircases that make the space feel like a Hollywood movie set. The unmissable fountain was gifted to the Hotel Adlon in 1930 by India’s Majaraja of Patiala, and is surprisingly sparkling after undergoing a recent cleaning. This dining area overlooking the lobby also offers afternoon tea (pictured above).
Amenities and Activities
The Hotel Adlon’s famous spa is its largest amenity: Measuring 9,000 square feet, it offers an array of treatments and treatment packages, from massages to manicures, and includes an indoor pool that’s free for guests to use. The hotel also has a fitness center, business center, the option of add-on butler service, and a first-level shopping arcade that includes local artists’ galleries. City tours are also available through reception, and Kempinski’s signature Ladies in Red, who support the concierge services, can be spotted throughout the hotel and are there to give recommendations and advice on how to make your stay more memorable or comfortable. Being owned by an international luxury hospitality chain gives the Hotel Adlon an edge when it comes to customer service and amenities.
The Hotel Adlon’s location also lends it to activities: Brandenburg Gate, just outside the main lobby, is the tourist center of the city. Mobile rental bikes always seem to be available in the square (you can reserve through your smartphone with apps like Uber, Donkey Republic, or Mobike; Uber’s e-bikes, called Jump bikes, were my favorite). The Berlin Tourism information office location inside the gate’s structure is the perfect place to inquire about all your to-dos, acquire a guide book, or purchase a Welcome Card. Berlin Welcome Cards vary in price and permissions, but all include public transit (there’s a station just outside the Hotel Adlon, too) and discounts to museums and other sites and activities. Read more about Berlin’s Welcome Card here.
Price and How to Book
Kempinski’s lowest-price guarantee means you’re better off booking directly with the chain, which typically offers free cancellation up until your arrival week. Basic rooms start around $260 per night; if you’re looking to splurge, the Brandenburg Gate suite starts around $1,300 per night. For specific rates and an exact outline of amenities, peruse the room options and available dates on the Hotel Adlon Kempinski website.
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SmarterTravel’s Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel and stayed at the Hotel Adlon Kempinski as a guest of the property. Follow her on Instagram @shanmcmahon.