Even though the Berlin wall no longer stands, there are still two distinct sides to the city – both of which deserve exploring. The hotel is located in the west part, so for those here on a short stay it’s quick and easy to step outside and explore one of Berlin’s most elegant precincts. West Berlin and ‘city west’ are not exactly the same thing though, with the former being the name allocated when the city was divided and the latter appearing in recent years, possibly thanks to property developers, hipsters and a few rebranding consultants. Whatever the reason, ‘city west’ has certainly taken on a cooler, more modern feel, with an eclectic blend of grand historic architecture, funky cafes, old school glamour, edgy fashion and its own unique blend of characters. A simple stroll down the length of the area’s main boulevard Kurfürstendamm, will tell you all you need to know about this intriguing and evocative part of Berlin.
Once you have fuelled yourself with a good German breakfast and plenty of coffee in the hotel, it’s time to hit the shops. Kurfurstendamm is a shopping event as much as an experience. It’s a far cry from the chic avenue it once was, populated by the city’s elite, visiting their favourite tailor, milliner or hair stylist. Now it is a seemingly endless stretch of chain stores, department stores, boutiques, restaurants and cafes. H&M, Adidas and Lego stores sit side by side with Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Porsche dealers. Kurfürstendamm is modern yet timeless all at once. The architecture has been brought into the present day, yet there are still traces of old world Berlin as you stroll – especially if you look up to take in the facades of some of Berlin’s most spectacular buildings.
Be sure to stop to notice the elaborate doorways, entrance halls and staircases and read the blue name plates scattered throughout the area, telling the story of the famous creative souls who once lived on that spot. Or look down at the small gold ‘stolpersteine‘ embedded in the pavement beneath your feet, memorialising the former homes of individual Jews and other marginalised people, taken from the city to their deaths in concentrations camps.
Don’t miss the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church at the top end of Kurfürstendamm. It’s distinctive broken spire can be seen from afar and it’s ‘restoration’ after the war and the free museum of mosaics, objects and photographs provides great gravity to just how deeply the city was affected during that time. The calming blue oasis that is the ‘new’ church across from the museum is one of the most tranquil and surprising places in Berlin.
Two of the greatest shopping experiences that can be found are in city west. The stylish and innovate Bikini Berlin design mall and the beloved iconic KaDeWe (Kaufhaus de West or the shopping house of the west). Bikini Berlin is home to mainly Berlin based or german designers and was specially designed to provide shoppers with a more pleasing aesthetic than the usual malls. It’s light and airy with lots of pale green steel, timber and glass, including one giant picture window that looks into the monkey enclosure of the Berlin Zoo.
You’ll need a break after all the shopping so make your way to the Food Hall on KaDeWe’s top floor and find the oyster bar. Fresh oysters are flown in daily from all over Europe and there is nothing quite like perching on a stool as elegant chefs prepare your oysters and pour you crisp glasses of Champagne. KaDeWe celebrates 111 years of operation this year and the original iron gate that was placed at the entranceway in 1907 is still in use today, welcoming customers when the store opens. It’s status in the city is legendary with an incredible history and an indelible status as the place to find the finest quality clothing, jewellery, homewares and more.
Don’t eat too much though as you have a wonderful dinner back at the hotel waiting for you. Restaurant Le Faubourg takes a seasonal approach to its menus and also embraces the ‘old meets new’ personality of city west. The menu is updated every 3 months to reflect availability of seasonal produce and the focus is on ingredients – beef, duck, prawns, mushrooms – rather than the dish itself.
The starter menu offers plates to be shared and the main course menu always offers 6 to 8 ingredients in traditional and nouveau style. You can see the latest menu here. If it’s a Friday or Saturday night you’ll also be fortunate enough to enjoy our regular DJs in Le Faubourg lounge bar, with some of Europe’s finest DJs every weekend from 9pm.