Hotel Zoo is in proximity to many fantastic attractions in Berlin and has plenty of luxury and comfort to offer, as well as excellent food.
Hotel Zoo Berlin
Located on the glamorous Kurfurstendamm, that grand boulevard known as Berlin's Champs-Elysees, the recently reopened (2014) Hotel Zoo Berlin is the perfect base for exploring the historic and cultural attractions of West Berlin. A left turn brings you to the skeleton of the Kaiser Wilhem Memorial Church, a right to the leafy Savignyplatz square, in between you can demo a BMW, splurge on a Luis Vuitton handbag, or do as I did, and sit at a sidewalk cafe and watch the show go by.
Built in 1891 as a private residence for an affluent family, it was converted into an upscale hotel in 1911, before emerging in the 1950s as the VIP hotel of the Berlin International Film Festival. In 2012 it was gutted, renovated (a two year process) and reimagined by American designer Dayna Lee who added theatrical glamour to the faded beauty. From the entrance catwalk, with its four leopards woven into the jade-green carpet, to the 'living room', with its ruby red curtains and large-scale paintings the theme is old-school Hollywood meets off-beat elegance. Adjacent to the living room is the industrial chic Wintergarden, the speakeasy-style Grace Bar and elegant, yet quirky Restaurant Grace.
The 145 rooms (133 rooms,14 suites) are all unique with their own character and layouts. My deluxe room had seductive (dare I say erotic) photographs, a sumptuous king bed, dark hardwood floors and furniture, Nespresso machine, flat-screen television, old-school dial telephone and a commanding view of the Kurfürstendamm. I loved the free-standing bathtub (you'll need to request when booking or checking-in), included Wi-Fi, quality wine glasses and April Aromatics natural bathroom products. I also appreciated the huge mirrors, work desk with good lighting and easy-to-find power points. I did not like the timber bed base, which I kept banging my shins on.
Restaurant Grace offers an la carte lunch and dinner menu with Asian influences, served under a flock of birdcage chandeliers, while the moody Grace Bar serves tasty snacks and knockout cocktails. Both venues are popular with hotel guests and also "outsiders". In fact, the Grace Bar is operated by an external partner and has strict entry rules (on busy nights you'll need to dress up or gain an "access all areas" pass). I ordered a pretty-in-pink Grace Kelly – grapefruit, lime, orange, sugar, thyme and champagne – and a side order of crispy prawns with avocado dip and Sichuan hummus with pita bread. The buffet breakfast, plus freshly cooked hot options, is one of the best hotel brekkies I've had.
If you prefer animals of the living, breathing kind, the Berlin Zoological Garden, said to be the most species-rich zoo in the world, is a 15-minute walk (zoo-berlin.de). Photography fans should head to the Helmut Newton Foundation (closed Mondays, helmut-newton.com) while shoppers will love the newly-opened Bikini Berlin, a concept mall fashioned from a re-purposed 1950s building featuring carefully selected boutiques. Side streets are also full of surprises with bookstores, cafes and antique shops.
Hotel Zoo Berlin is sexy, stylish and fun. It may be a little OTT, but the friendly staff and warm service keep it real.
Location, location, location. Within walking distance of cafes, restaurants, parks, shops, historic sites and transport.
The lift designed to imitate the flashing bulbs of paparazzo's cameras. Fun the first time, annoying the second.
Kerry van der Jagt was a guest of visitBerlin.