Hotel Watch: The Adlon Kempinski

by kevin_chaffee

Berlin’s most famous hotel is one of the best in Europe, with matchless decor, food and service.

Outside the Adlon Kempinski


The hotel occupies a corner of Pariser Platz on the famed Unter den Linden, directly facing the Brandenburg Gate. Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial is a few minutes walk near the rear of the hotel and the Tiergarten, Reichtag, architecturally significant Gendarmenmarkt and upscale Friedrichstrasse shopping district are all within 10-15 minutes walking distance. The S-Bahn and U-Bahn stop are mere steps from the front entrance.

The entrance to the Adlon Kempinksi


Rebuilt on the site of the original 1907 edifice that was mostly destroyed in World War II bombings, the Adlon Kempinski retains pride of place as Berlin’s most storied luxury hotel. It has hosted numerous heads of state, crowned or otherwise, over the years, including every American president from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Vladimir Putin and the Dalai Lama plus entertainment luminaries ranging from Charlie Chaplin to Michael Jackson (who famously dangled his son from one of the balconies). Greta Garbo uttered her most famous line, “I vant to be alone,” while filming “Grand Hotel” at the Adlon in 1932. The current entity, rebuilt in 1997, retains the storied glamour of its predecessor. The grand lobby, “the living room of Berlin,” was spectacularly renovated in 2017 at a cost of $7 million and lives up to its reputation as the most unique see-and-be-seen destination in the German capital. Guests settle in to plush armchairs and sofas as a mix of VIPs, tourists and local residents order drinks at the popular bar, descend the grand marble staircase or pause to admire the famed elephant fountain and spectacular Murano chandelier.


The property retains its luxe Old European atmosphere with marble and plush carpeting, warm cherry and mahogany paneling and discreet lighting throughout — belying the essential fact that all is as modern and comfortable as can be. From a welcoming glass of vintage champagne to offering a complimentary bicycle to tour the neighborhood, the top notch staff fulfills every need or request with speed, efficiency and aplomb but no cloying obsequiousness.

The Brandenburger Tor Suite


Guest rooms are spacious and luxurious, with traditional decor that might not appeal to everyone but is hardly a surprise in a hotel of historic provenance. A neutral palate predominates in the rich silk curtains, damask and wood-paneled walls and parquet or limestone floors with tastefully framed black and white photographs of old Berlin providing a gemütlich touch. Comfortable armchairs (and settees in the larger accommodations) are ideal for stretching out with a good book or an order from the speedy room service. The bed and linens are first rate, helping to ensure a good night’s sleep along with thick plate glass windows that seal out most noise from the 24/7 swirl of activity on the busy Unter den Linden below. (Securing a view from the front of the hotel is an absolute must.) Windows can be opened for fresh air and to soak in the panoramic view. Accommodations include flat-screen televisions, personal tablets, Wi-Fi, Nespresso machines, safes large enough to fit a laptop, a well stocked minibar and ample closet and drawer space. Bathrooms are equally inviting with black granite floors and walls, a separate tub and rainfall shower (both commodious), enclosed toilet and double basins where abundant high-end Kempinski toiletries are replenished twice daily.

The indoor swimming pool at the Adlon Kempinski


The Adlon’s three-level, 9,000-square-foot Response Spa, conveniently reached via a separate elevator to avoid encountering guests from the lobby, features a columned pool area resembling a Greek temple with lap lanes, comfortable loungers, fluffy towels, a whirlpool and a bar open during peak hours. A hammam and sauna are accessed from comfortable changing rooms with automatic foot disinfectors. The gym – where President Obama is said to have worked out – offers cardio machines and just about every other type of equipment one would expect in a top notch hotel facility. Three ultra-exclusive suites with individual saunas and Jacuzzis, private sound systems and color therapy walls can accommodate up to six guests. Massage treatments, La Prairie facials, yoga sessions and other services are available at the Adlon Spa by Resense. Note: The pool area, sauna and dressing rooms are scheduled for a full renovation this summer.

Breakfast buffet


The breakfast buffet off the main lobby in the Quarre Restaurant is famed as the best in Europe and few who have partaken of its bounty would protest the accolade. At 42 Euros per person it is very expensive but the efficient service, ambience (piano and flute music on most days), quality of the food and a staggering number of selections make it an experience not to be missed. Champagne and an astonishingly high-end caviar bar are included along with an impressive array of smoked fish and cured meats, rare cheeses, a cornucopia of breads and pastries, fresh fruit and multiple freshly squeezed juices. Other buffet tables offer Muesli and additional premium cereals, omlettes and hot egg classics, pancakes and french toast. You’ll want to choose a table facing Brandenburg Gate or Pariser Platz to people watch — at least until it’s time for lunch (or dinner), when German cuisine is featured.

Restaurant Quarré Terrasse

The Michelin-star Lorenz Adlon Esszimmer restaurant was closed during my visit but I did manage to dine on the south side of the hotel at Sra Bua, a casual hot spot featuring international chef Tim Raue’s “symbiosis of Japanese product perfection, Chinese culinary philosophy, Thai aromas and European influences.” Three- or six-course menu options are available (39 to 74 Euros) with definite thumbs up for the Wasabi prawns, scallops, Hokkaido seafood with tomato and basil, guinea fowl tom kha gai, pork belly and crispy duck. A few guests were heard to complain about slow or inefficient service on a night when the restaurant was only about half full. Note: smoking is allowed in the bar.


Rooms range from $250 in low season to $620 in high; major suites overlooking Brandenburg Gate max out at around $5,700 per night.

Unter den Linden, 77, Berlin 10117, Germany

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