Berlin Film Festival: Where to Eat, Stay and Play

Courtesy of Katz Orange
Katz Orange

Check out the hottest spots to visit during the annual fest, which has drawn the likes of Wes Anderson, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton and Aaron Paul.

As the Berlin International Film Festival continues through Feb. 16, filmmakers and industry folks such as Wes Anderson, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Imogen Poots, Aaron Paul, Toni Collette, Shia LaBoeuf and Uma Thurman in support of films The Grand Budapest Hotel and Nymphomaniac will descend on the vibrant city known for its delicious food, grand hotels, great shopping and stimulating cultural offerings. Here are nine experiences not to miss while in Berlin.

WHERE TO EAT

The Modern Option
Mogg & Melzer Delicatessen
Auguststrasse 11-13, 10117

Located in a former Jewish Girls School (Ehemalige Jüdische Mädchenschule), which now houses chic art galleries and restaurants, Mogg & Melzer is a confluence of cultures. DJ Oskar Melzer and business partner Paul Mogg set out to bring the comfort food found in New York City’s delicatessens to Berlin. They recruited chef Joey Passarella, a native of Nyack, N.Y., to come up with the perfect formula for a pastrami sandwich: pink, slightly smoky, not too salty, peppery meat, tucked between two slices of un-spongy rye bread and accented by tangy brown mustard. The result is knife-and-fork delight that rivals the monster creations found at Katz’s on the Lower East Side. Culinary denizens flock to Mogg & Melzer for breakfast, lunch and dinner, feasting on specialties such as Matzo ball soup, beef brisket, patés, homemade desserts (cheesecake, what else!) and regional jams. Enjoy American-Jewish food, in Berlin’s former Jewish neighborhood, while sitting on benches made by Berlin furniture manufacturer Tipla or in Pirkka chairs by Finnish designer Ilmari Tapiovaara. If your travels take you to Frankfurt, also check out Melzer’s new restaurant Maxie Eisen, pioneering the new era of the Reuben sandwich.

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Classic
Pauly Saal
Auguststraße 11, 10117

Located next to Mogg & Melzer inside the historic Ehemalige Jüdische Mädchenschule, Pauly Saal shuns its neighbor’s hipster-cool vibe in favor of paying homage to Berlin’s golden 1920s era with its decor, food and cocktails. Warm amber chandeliers, rich wood paneling, tanned leather bar stools, sumptuous green banquettes and modern art punctuate the minimalist space, which was once the school’s gymnasium and now serves as the backdrop for chef Michael Hopefl’s cuisine. Recently awarded a Michelin Star, Saal serves lunch and dinner. The curated menu offers specialties that range from Pomeranian beef-filet with juniper turnip cabbage and mushrooms to wild duck with hazelnut crust, Williams pear and cranberries to local pan-seared pike perch with cauliflower and green pepper-jus.

Rustic
Katz Orange
Bergstraße 22, 10115

The predominately meat and potatoes German food scene has reaped a benefit from the farm-to-table culinary trend. Katz Orange is Berlin’s leader in this category with a concept that skillfully presents simple meat dishes alongside innovative vegetarian ones. Offering only what’s in season, the menu -- printed on equally rustic brown paper -- is divided into appetizers, main courses, slow cuisine, sides and homemade dips. At the bar, patrons find a lively mixology program with plenty of spirits on display from German distilleries. The organic feel is carried over to the craft cocktails. Beyond the food, Katz Orange is housed in a 19th-century brewery building that’s beautifully illuminated at night.

WHERE TO STAY

Modern
Das Stue
Drakestraße, 10787
(from 185 Euro)

After reunification, East Berlin became the hip place to play. As the city has matured, renewed interest has formed around the grandeur of the west and the recently opened 79-room Das Stue boutique hotel is the epitome of this movement. Danish for living room, the hotel is big on communal space -- a place where people relax, socialize and entertain. What’s unique about Das Stue is that it occupies both a historic building (Berlin’s former Danish embassy) and a new building by Potsdam-based Axthelm Architects. It also stands in Tiergarten Park, which offers a front row seat to the Berlin Zoo. Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola created the look of the hotel’s public areas and two restaurants. Its grand entrance hall with a fossilized crocodile head, two sweeping staircases and hundreds of tiny lights, is an unforgettable arrival. Inside the rooms, find amenities such as rain showers and Apple entertainment systems. In the common areas beware of the roaming leather animals (rhinos!) that Urquiola uses to create an element of playful surprise.

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Classic
Adlon Kempinski
Unter den Linden 77, 10117
(from 200 euro)

A backdrop of the famed Brandenburg Gate -- one of Berlin’s most recognizable sights -- sets the tone for a stay at the 304-room, 78-suite Adlon Kempinski. Its predecessor the Hotel Adlon, built in 1907, burned to the ground during World War II and after many delays a new hotel finally opened in 1997. Today, the Adlon Kempinski is the preferred place to stay for heads of state, royals, politicians and celebrities (Queen Elizabeth, Barack Obama and the scene of Michael Jackson’s infamous baby dangling incident). Aside from its ideal location, the property offers three restaurants -- one of which was awarded two Michelin stars -- and two bars, among many other amenities including three presidential suites. This is a hot spot for Berlinale premieres and junckets as well, with some major U.S. studios setting up on its campus for the 10-day festival. Liam Neeson, January Jones and Aidan Quinn have been known to call the historic Adlon their home away from home.

WHAT TO DO

A quartet of cultural outings belong on any Berlin agenda.  Visit the Helmut Newton Foundation for a complete look at the Berlin-born celebrity-and-fashion photographer’s work. Norman Foster’s glass dome atop the Reichstag is one of Berlin’s most notable architectural feats, with 360-degree cityscape views and a peek into the parliamentary debating chamber below. By appointment only. Architect Daniel Libeskind’s deconstructed “zinc” building at the Jewish Museum Berlin creates a bridge between the stories of the Holocaust and the rich tradition and history of Judaism.An indoor-outdoor museum, the Typography of Terror is the former headquarters of the Gestapo and SS High Command. Its exhibits document the history of the site as the control center of the National Socialist program of persecution and annihilation.

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