Waldolf Astoria Berlin
Hardenbergstrasse 28, Berlin, waldorfastoriaberlin.com. 232 rooms, 50 suites, starting from $318 (€210).
It's been almost a decade since Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit famously described his city as "poor, but sexy." In recent years, however, as the economy has boomed, the first part of that equation has been altered by an influx of wealth, leading to grumbling about gentrification from artsy types. No doubt, the gorgeous new, five-star Waldolf Astoria hotel in the posh Charlottenburg neighbourhood is a sign of richer times for the German capital – but does it make the city sexier?
The Waldolf's location is certainly one sexy sandwich. A block to the south stretches the Kurfurstendamm – the Ku'damm to locals – a boulevard of upscale shopping from A (for Apple Store) to Yves (St. Laurent). A block to the north is the Berlin Zoological Garden, located in the wonderful Tiergarten, the second biggest urban park in Germany. And, lest you forget what a sinful city you are in, there's the shabby and strange Erotik Museum a block to the west – ironically, the least sexy spot in the neighbourhood.
There are plenty of nods to the brand's New York heritage in the building – from the reception hall inspired by the transatlantic ocean liners of the 1930s to the art-deco design of the Peacock Alley lobby lounge. As grand and impressive as the giant grandfather clock is, though, I'm not sure it ticks the sexy box, per se. (Art-decoholics, take note: Right around the corner is the Zoo Palast, the movie theatre famous for having held the premiere of Fritz Lang's 1927 art-deco, sci-fi flick, Metropolis.)
WHOM YOU'LL MEET
Though the hotel has been open less than a year, celebrities such as Carla Bruni, Dustin Hoffman and John Goodman have already stayed the night. Indeed, you'll know exactly which famous figures have been guests because their signatures will be blown up and affixed to the wall at the entrance alongside Bruni's, Hoffman's and Goodman's. Even if this does take place on marble, this seems a little unsexy – or unsophisticated, anyway – not to mention an invitation to credit-card fraud.
Fifteen floors up – betwixt the rooms and the suites – you'll find a library with 600 books and counting, a quiet retreat within the hotel. Whether or not you can read German, it's worth a visit: The views from up there, of skyscraper-sparse Berlin, are as sensational as those from the Berlin TV Tower (it looks like a disco ball on a skewer) in the other end of town.
EAT IN OR EAT OUT?
Les Solistes is a Michelin star (or three) just waiting to be born. French chef Pierre Gagnaire's first restaurant in Germany has not one, but two tasting menus – the most mouth-wateringly original being the six-stage, $182 "menu fromages." The gnocchi with Parmesan cream will turn your knees into fondue, while the roasted goat cheese salad puts the old Waldorf salad to shame. Cheese: So unsexy, it's actually the sexiest.
IF I COULD CHANGE ONE THING
With the first Guerlain spa in Germany and the spectacular Les Solistes as its main restaurant, you have to dig for niggling nuisances at the Waldorf. But really, charging $18 (€12) an hour for WiFi in your room, in this day and age, is anachronically inane – way to kill the mood for a traveller wanting to quickly check e-mail before nestling into luxury linens with a lover. While the Waldolf Astoria has enriched Berlin's hotel options, ultimately it leaves the sexiness of the city at roughly the same level as before.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.