Staying at the Almodovar makes you feel as if you're in the 'real' Berlin, writes Louise Southerden.
A city hotel with a twist, the 60-room Almodovar is an urban oasis, a "bio-hotel" ("bio" means "organic" in Europe) in one of Berlin's hippest and most creative neighbourhoods, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. Staying there makes you feel as if you're in the "real" Berlin, amid artists and bearded Berliners in leather jackets and skinny jeans. Because of the city's vast public transport network, everything interesting is within a 15-minute bus, tram, train or subway ride.
On the outside, this six-storey hotel is contemporary with some (commissioned) street art on its white walls. Inside, it's all eco-elegance: high ceilings, more white walls, potted bamboo plants, nature-inspired furnishings and sheer, flowing curtains. It's earthy, sophisticated, even whimsical. In the lobby there are couches and cushions made to look like river stones. Each room has a faux-suede bean bag instead of an armchair. (All the furnishings are available for purchase.) One warm, summer afternoon I return from sightseeing to find a flask of organic apple juice and a tray of glasses at reception; around the neck of the bottle is a handwritten Alice in Wonderland-inspired note saying, "Drink me".
The rooms are stylishly minimalist with bare floors, white (organic) bed linen and bath towels, sheer white curtains and simple, sustainably sourced rosewood furniture (a low king-sized bed, a desk and a chair). A small Indonesian statue gives each room a relaxed, Asian vibe. There's airconditioning but the glass doors can also be opened for fresh air. The desktop computer doubles as a television, and Wi-Fi is free throughout the hotel. In keeping with the Almodovar's eco-ethic (which includes a multitude of behind-the-scenes actions, such as using electricity only from renewable sources and environmentally friendly cleaning products), there's a dispenser of French, tea-based Thérmaé shower gel and shampoo in the bathroom instead of disposable toiletries (BYO conditioner), and no minibar fridge or kettle (drinks and snacks are available at reception 24/7).
The rooms are spacious and serene, comfortable and uncluttered. You can book an organic cotton bathrobe and slippers as part of a wellness upgrade, and yoga mats are standard in every room. The Zen-like rooftop spa, which opened in 2013, offers Ayurvedic, aromatherapy and shiatsu treatments, qi gong and yoga classes, and one-week healing fasts, and has two sun terraces, futons and bean bags for relaxing, and a real Finnish sauna with a view.
Almodovar's vegetarian restaurant, Bistro Bardot continues the hotel's green theme, with its forest-green and wood-brown décor, al fresco street patio and private courtyard lit at night by boulder-like lamps. The all-organic Mediterranean menu includes organic wines, fair-trade coffee and teas, vegan tapas and raw food dishes. Organic cooking classes are also available, on request.
WORTH STEPPING OUT FOR
Much of the former East Berlin has now become a hub of creativity and eco-friendliness, and Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg is no exception. Explore Berlin's famous street art on a walking tour (goart-berlin.de), do a bike tour of the Berlin Wall (berlinonbike.de; Almodovar also has bikes for rent), visit the nearby East Side Gallery (the largest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall, eastsidegallery-berlin.de) or just browse the Saturday farmers' markets, fair trade cafes, upcycling shops and Europe's first vegan supermarket (veganz.de). Badeschiff outdoor swimming pool, on the river Spree, often has live music, yoga and other events (arena-berlin.de).
Opened in 2012, the Almodovar is one of Berlin's newest and most authentic "bio-hotels" and living proof that great design and comfort need not be sacrificed at the altar of sustainability. Best of all, its location makes it a great base from which to explore one of Europe's most lively and liveable cities.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Almodovar is 20 minutes by taxi from Berlin's Schönefeld Airport and 15 minutes from Berlin Hauptbahnhof, the main train station. There are also bus and tram stops right outside; pick up a Berlin Welcome Card (€18.50 for 48 hours) for museum discounts and free travel on the city's buses, trains, trams and U-bahn subway.
The writer travelled as a guest of visitBerlin, Almodovar Hotel and Etihad Airways.