In the lift to reception at Swissôtel Berlin, we checked ourselves for stray smudges of sauce.
It’s probably not particularly classy to try the local speciality that is currywurst (sausage and curry ketchup) before booking into a five-star hotel, but how can you resist when there’s a stall just down the road and it’s very late at night?
Not that I think they would have minded up at reception. This is a very chilled out place. (There’s even a PowerNap Lounge for those who want a disco slumber).
With a branch of C&A below, the hotel occupies the third floor and upwards of a curved modern building, which features a Three Graces-esque sculpture on the outside by German artist Markus Lüpertz (his paintings also appear in the rooms).
However, unlike many upmarket hotels, this place eschews any sort of blingy-ness in favour of a restrained and comfortable vibe. There was another lift up to our bedroom, where we found a selection of little welcome cakes, including a white chocolate Brandenburg Gate. Not to scale, sadly.
This space felt very cocoon-like, almost completely silent, with a massive soft super king bed and undulating wooden walls.
Dinner is served in the downstairs Restaurant 44. If we hadn’t had the currywurst, we might have tried their Swiss style raclette or fondue.
As it was, we had to wait until breakfast to sample their wares. When this came round, I felt it was a bit too early to have one of their little iced Swiss carrot cakes or a glass of prosecco (though I appreciate them for offering these at breakfast). Instead, I snaffled their not-too-sweet and very delicious take on Bircher muesli, while my other half went for a fry-up with perfectly crispy bacon and some herby little Swiss meatballs.
Enough to set one up for a day of exploring. The hotel is in the Charlottenburg area – a business and shopping district – where you’re just a short walk to Europe’s biggest department store, KaDeWe, as well as shopping street, the Ku’Damm and Berlin Zoo.
We stationed ourselves at nearby hip department store Bikini Berlin, which has huge windows that look straight out onto the baboon enclosure. It also features pop-up shops from independent designers, and there’s a restaurant on the roof.
To get our bearings beyond Charlottenburg, we took the hop-on-hop-off tour bus, which offers three routes through the city: the Wall and Lifestyle Tour, Traditional Tour and West End Tour, each of which offer narration, through bright red headphones, of the city’s sights.
We tried the Wall and Lifestyle option, as it was a Sunday and we wanted to stop at the Mauerpark flea market. Otherwise, we sat tight and let the city wash over us, as we passed by Checkpoint Charlie, the Reichstag, and the moving Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.
The only time we stirred was to disembark for Mauerpark in Prenzlauer Berg, which was packed with Berliners and tourists. Behind the stalls, selling vintage collectables, pieces by new designers, glühwein and strudel, there’s a hill where they have a weekend open air karaoke.
Get there early if you want to bag a good seat on the slope, as we were a little too far away to appreciate the crooning.
Back to Charlottenburg using the so-simple and clean U-Bahn. Although Berlin has loads of great restaurants, we had trouble locating somewhere affordable near the hotel. It may be handy but avoid the Italian across the road, where we had one dud feed. Your best bet may be one of the many traditional kneipes (there are loads around here) where we had gut-busting pork knuckle and a lardy rosti with bacon and an egg on top.
If you want to go further afield, try Monsieur Vuong in Mitte. They don’t take reservations, but the queue moves incredibly speedily. It’s been serving Vietnamese food, with lots of contemporary art galleries and boutiques nearby, for nearly five decades. We tried a light and veggie packed salad, though their pho soup is supposed to be amazing. It was the antithesis to pork knuckle. Or, for that matter, currywurst.
If I was to continue on this slippery slope, next time I will be having breakfast Swissôtel style, with carrot cake and prosecco. Bring it on. n
EasyJet (www.easyjet.com) flies from Edinburgh to Berlin from £22.99 per person (one-way, including taxes, based on two people on the same booking); classic rooms at Swissôtel Berlin (www.Swissôtel.com) start from £129 per night, on B&B basis, based on double occupancy.
isango! offers tours, activities and attraction tickets in Berlin, with hop-on, hop-off bus tours starting from £15. See www.isango.com/berlin