The Waldorf Astoria; the name itself already conjures up images of glitz and glamour. A name representing the most famous hotel in the world. World class in nobility, elegance, luxury and cultivated service; to perfection. Hotel tycoon Conrad N. Hilton described it as being ‘the greatest of them all’ after his visit to the legendary Park Avenue hotel in Manhattan. Soon afterwards in 1949, he fulfilled his dream and bought the hotel. Since then the Waldorf Astoria has belonged to the Hilton Worldwide Group and its sister hotel has been in Berlin since 2013. The first and only Waldorf Astoria hotel located in Germany; so even more reason to take a trip to the capital and see if the hotel can live up to its name.
My suite and some sweet and fruity greetings at The Waldorf Astoria Berlin
The hotel is situated in Charlottenburg, in the western part of the city and an area that has seen a renaissance over the last few years after a period of standstill. Here, between the Bahnhof Zoo, the zoological garden and the legendary and once again elegant Kurfürstendamm, the superior 5-star superior hotel the Waldorf Astoria was built. A spectacular, architecturally refined and almost encapsulated new skyscraper complex, which opened in January 2013. Zoo Window („Zoofenster“) is the name given to the 119 metre high building in which 232 rooms and suites, on 32 floors are housed and some of which are the highest in the city. Zoo window because of an extensive glass façade that stretches over several floors in the front of the building, like a gigantic window looking out onto the neighbouring zoo.
Hardenbergstrasse 28 is the address that I have keyed into my car navigation. At the entrance I am greeted by a friendly doorman who proceeds to take my car keys. A little while later, my car is parked safely in the garage and my luggage in my room. I am guided through the impressive high entrance of the hotel and through to reception. My first impression: Ostentatious! But not over-the-top. An elegant and modern art-deco style with lots of dark and light marble and clear lines which continue throughout the upper floors of the hotel.
A German version is here:
As I walk through the lobby, on my right a towering gold and bronze door, several metres high and surrounding a mirrored wall. On my left, the Peacock Alley; the heart of every Waldorf Astoria Hotel and a central seating area in the lobby with elegant chairs, sofas, tables and a grandfather clock. Here you can have your afternoon tea, desserts from the hotel patisserie or simply meet with other guests. But not only that, in contrast to the exclusive library lounge on the 15th floor (with its stunning views over the skyline of Berlin), the Peacock Alley isn’t limited to hotel guests.
Subtle piano music fills the lobby area. On the right, next to the lengthy reception desk and in front of the elegant spiral staircase leading to the first floor and the hotel’s acclaimed gourmet restaurant „Les Solistes by Pierre Gagnaire, a pianist plays melodic tunes on the grand piano every afternoon. Melodies that travel one floor higher because the area above the Peacock Alley stretches over two floors. The ship’s rail is what they call the banister from which guests can check out the goings-on below; like on the deck of a cruise liner. And now I know what the whole lobby area reminds me of; the inside of an elegant luxury liner.
The Waldorf Astoria Berlin: Like on an elegant luxury liner
But now, a few ‘decks’ higher on the 15th floor my deluxe room with panoramic views is waiting for me. Wow! What a room – what a view! Warm sand and earth tones on the walls and floors met with a strong red on the ceiling, curtains and floor lamp. A small computer hiding within the elegant sideboard is both connected to the TV and allows me to use the Internet. On the writing table at the window there is a welcome sweet from the hotel’s patisserie waiting for me; luxury chocolates and a lovely selection of fresh fruit, artistically arranged and inscribed with a personal greeting in icing. The carpet is woven with curvaceous graphical images that remind me of clouds and give the room a playful and light feel. It fits to the zillions of pillows on the bed and whose headboard is made out of golden glass panels.
I have two large windows in my deluxe room. The smaller one on the left, next to the bed, gives me a view of the zoological garden. The large panorama window in front of me, a view of the ruin of the Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church, the Zoo Palace and the Breitscheideplatz; the former and modern day heart of west Berlin. It was here, between the Kurfüstendamm and Hardenbergstrasse, where elegant department stores and extravagant cinemas like the Gloria Palast appeared in the golden 20s and where Marlene Dietrich’s Blue Angel film premiered in 1930. Berlin’s coffee house culture was also booming at this time. One of the most famous coffee houses of the city was the Romanische Café, which was loved by artists, authors and bohemians alike. It was just around the corner from the Kurfürstendamm where todays Europa Center is located. Illustrious personalities like Otto Dix, Kurt Tucholsky, Bertold Brecht, Billy Wilder und Erich Maria Remarque frequented there. Unfortunately Gloria Palast and Romanische Café were destroyed during the war but the café is having a revival downstairs in the hotel. You can spend your time there with delicious coffee, the finest cakes, seductive extravagances from the hotel patisserie or a daily changing business lunch (including a soft drink for only €16), in a relaxing and inviting atmosphere.
Night-view from my suite at The Waldorf Astoria Berlin
Later that evening, after a visit to the Lang Bars summer terrace, I take a very long moment to stand in front of my panorama window and watch the happenings of the other 15 floors below me. During my stay, the famous bar of the Waldorf Astoria relocated outside to the sixth floor to take advantage of the summer temperatures. Nice idea I think, to drink cocktails underneath the stars, to groovy lounge music.
Above the melodic tunes at my room window, I’m reminded that the Lang Bar was named after Fritz Lang, the director of the silent film classic Metropolis; a film about a futuristic bustling city. With my last drink of the evening in my hand, I glance upon the sprawling Berlin metropolis and simply cannot get enough of those big city lights. The evening traffic leaves a trail of blurred lights along the Budapest Road. On the right, behind the memorial church, the Mercedes star nestling on top of the Europa Center rotates in the darkness. Next to the elongated Bikini Berlin building, there are still a few night owls wandering around. And behind that, I can see the tented roof of the Sony Centre and the illuminated Bahn Tower at Potsdamer Platz. All of which I can see from up here – from my dream room, with my exclusive bathroom which is even more exclusive than any hotel bathroom I’ve ever been in. The spire of the memorial church that I can see from my bed, even lying down! How lucky am I to have such a room I think and promptly fall asleep – in the bed with the zillion cushions. Perfect!
The next morning isn’t easy. I should’ve left that last cocktail. From my luxurious and freestanding marble bath, I listen to CNN on my TV that isn’t even switched on. As I brush my teeth, I discover the built in TV monitor in the right hand bottom corner of the huge bathroom mirror. Good idea, a TV in the mirror. I’ve seen a couple of these in 5-star hotels before, but never in the bathroom.
A little while later I’m at breakfast, which is served downstairs in the restaurant Les Solistes by Pierre Gagnaire. Good coffee, lots of fresh fileted fruit and delicious pancakes with maple syrup that pep me right up. And something rather special at the fruit counter; banana slices marinated in orange juice – wonderful! Along with the heart-warming service this morning, it’s the best hotel breakfast I have had in a long time! Conrad Hilton would certainly have been as convinced as I am (‘The greatest breakfast of them all’). And yes, the hotel does live up to its name.
But now I have to check out because my journey must continue, sadly!
Text & photography: ©Peter von Stamm
Many thanks to Bianca Demsa for the translation!
Waldorf Astoria Berlin
Tel: ++49 (0)30 – 814 000-0
How to get there:
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