Berlin Film Festival: Where to Stay, What to Eat, What to Do

Courtesy of Hotel Zoo
Hotel Zoo

Fur-lined hammocks, 16 Rembrandts, the footsteps of Grace Kelly and other unexpected pleasures in the German capital.

Nothing like trading the rustic cold of Park City for the urban freeze of Berlin as you move from Sundance to the Berlinale running Feb. 5-15. Last year’s Oscar contender, Grand Budapest Hotel took its bow there, just don’t expect this year’s most talked about world premiere, Fifty Shades of Grey, to do the same. Among 2015’s hopefuls are Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups, starring Christian Bale and Natalie Portman, as well as Werner Herzog’s Queen of the Desert with Nicole Kidman and Robert Pattinson. Whether you’re a player or a schlepper, read on to find out where to stay, eat and do Berlin right.

Read more Complete Coverage of Berlin 2015

WHERE TO STAY

Classic-contemporary

Hotel Zoo
Kurfurstendamm 25, 10719
(from $180)

Yes, there’s the Hotel ADLON Kempinski, the city’s premiere lodging a short walk from the festival’s main action, and the Waldorf-Astoria, the final word in elegance with its fine blend of deco and contemporary, but why not stay where it all began? Across the Tiergarten, away from the main action (but not too far), Hotel Zoo was the place for players back in the festival’s heyday, hosting names like Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren and Romy Schneider who no doubt relished its address on Kurfurstendamm, Berlin’s main shopping boulevard. Originally a mansion built in 1889, it has been a hotel since 1911 and recently underwent a redesign at the hand of New York designer Dayna Lee who leaves a touch of 1920s Hollywood glamor in her contemporary scheme. Rooms are decorated with fashion photos and feature walnut hardwood floors and furniture.

Contemporary-contemporary

25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin
Budapester Strasse 40, 10787
(from 120 euros)

Exposed ventilation, Shindelhauer bicycles dangling from the lobby ceiling, recycled mixed with designer furnishings, naked concrete overgrown with lush green vines like the earth had made up its mind to reclaim Bikini-Haus, the long neglected 1950’s modernist structure, from the hands of man, and then we decided to take it right back. Part of the chic Hamburg-based 25hours hotel chain, the Berlin edition opened a year ago after major revitalization by German designer Werner Aisslinger. You’ll find fur-lined hammocks in the lobby and a Vitra swing sofa, and in your room you’ll find plush bedding, dim lights and wall-to-ceiling windows overlooking the zoo (Jungle), or a view of West Berlin (Urban), or you can view both while having a cocktail at the rooftop Monkey Bar, or dining on Mediterranean cuisine at Nani.

WHERE TO EAT

Fine Dining

Facil
Mandala Hotel, Potsdamer Strasse 3
Tucked away on the fifth floor of The Mandala Hotel under a stunning retractable glass ceiling, Chef Michael Kempf and his team offer up a fixed menu that is Michelin-starred. The eight-course dinner features Ammersee Char or veal shank, with a more reasonably priced lunch menu including corn poularde or grilled octopus, and for dessert, raspberry rhubarb.

Casual

Joseph Roth Diele
Potsdamer Strasse 75
Named for Austrian journalist, Joseph Roth, who wrote about Berlin in the 1920s, this cozy eatery features traditional German dishes like Wiener Schnitzel, homemade cheese noodles, tartes, sandwiches, roast pork and beef roulade all in a bustling, homey atmosphere with live piano and violin. Joseph Roth Diele is the ideal place for a beer or wine after strolling through the nearby arts district, though not a lot of art on the walls here, just quotes by Mr. Roth himself.

On the Go

Markthalle IX
Eisenbahnstrasse 42/43
This cavernous 1891 structure housing hundreds of stalls offering food from all over the world prompts the same question from every visitor: Where do I start? You can begin with Kantine Neun for lunch, offering numerous vegan dishes like Wilde Gartneri’s wild herb salad with smoked tofu, or the Spatzle, a type of noodle. Markthalle IX will host a street food market for the duration of the Berlinale, offering hundreds of dishes including Korean Ramen, pulled pork, ceviche and traditional Allgau Kasspatzen, a delicious flour noodle.

WHAT TO DO

Between screenings and meetings, Berlin offers numerous diversions for the tastes ranging from refined to outrageous. The Gemaldegalerie boasts a 1000 masterpieces by artists like Raphael, Titian and 16 works by Rembrandt, including the exquisite “Susanna Among the Elders” and the moody masterpiece from 1627, “The Parable of the Rich Fool.” If 20th-century is more your style, the Bauhaus Archiv offers the largest collection of art and materials ever assembled on the influential aesthetic school of the 1920s. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can grab a cocktail at the Kit Kat Club, (only glam or fetish, please), or rock out to indie and alternative bands over a beer at the rooftop Klunkerkranich. The Berlin Opera is among the best in the world where you can currently check out Rossini’s The Barber of Seville or Donizetti’s tragic tale of love and madness, Lucia di Lammermoor.

Meanwhile, if you still need a fetish fix after the premiere of Fifty Shades of Grey, you're in luck: Berlin is also Europe's capital of kink.

KitKatClub
Kopenicker Str. 76
Arguably the most famous of Berlin’s many sex spots, the KitKat is a fetishist’s delight. Freaks of all types and shapes are welcome, though the dress code is strict: latex and leather, top hat and tails, or that sexy nurse uniform are fine — but no street clothes allowed.

Berghain
Rudersdorfer Str. 70
This techno club has a long and kinky tradition, having emerged from Snax, a floating fetish sex party that finally found a permanent home in this former railway freight yard. Berghain’s three-day parties and anything-goes dark rooms are infamous. You’ve been warned. 

Zwanglos
Gneisenaustr. 10
Billed as Berlin’s “original swingers club,” this cozy spot, open 24/7, is perfect for a nooner between meetings or a quickie before the premiere. More comfy than hard-core, Zwanglos caters to the 30-plus crowd and offers sauna and wellness nights every Tuesday. 

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