Berlin has an international reputation for being a buzzing epicentre of European contemporary art. With over 440 galleries and more than 20,000 artists making the city their home, it’s a place that embraces creativity and encourages people to showcase their idiosyncrasies.
25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin is a hotel worthy of a crown with the emblem:
“I’m different, and I’m proud of it!”
Situated in West Berlin, the building was originally a 1950s industrial high-rise but thanks to the talents of German designer Werner Aisslinger and his team, it underwent a magical transformation in 2014 and became what is undoubtedly one of the coolest hotels in Europe.
LOCATION: The hotel is part of the iconic Bikini Berlin complex on Budapester Strasse in the rejuvenated area known as City West. It’s a short walk from both Zoologischer Garten and Kurfürstendamm stations and a 20-minute taxi ride from Tegel Airport. The hotel benefits from having Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, Breitscheidplatz and the fabulous Kurfürstendamm shopping street in one direction, and the green oasis of the Tiergarten and Berlin Zoo in the other.
CHECK-IN: Arriving at the hotel was an experience in itself. The ground floor is an industrial looking space with bikes suspended from the ceiling, a decommissioned mini estate parked in the entrance foyer and steel framework twisting upwards towards the high ceiling. Werner Aisslinger’s aim was to create ‘suspense’ when people first arrive and he certainly did that!
A short ride in the lift to the 3rd floor takes you to reception. The lifts are a multi-sensory experience in themselves with sound effects and an animated wall panel. Check in was smooth and precise, and in moments I was off to my room. Although I could have been delayed quite happily – the reception floor features a wealth of distractions that caught my eye, but more of that to come…
STYLE & DESIGN: The hotel is raw, wild and energetic – the word ‘unpredictable’ comes to mind. From suspended bikes, to hammocks and tree trunk tables - there’s art everywhere you look.
When designing the hotel, the aim was to ‘go beyond conventional architecture’ and portray what is unique to the local area (something that all 25Hours hotels do in their respective cities). So, the hotel is a fusion of ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ which creates what Aisslinger calls an ‘urban jungle’. It merges the concrete architecture of West Berlin with the green zoological park.
It’s all about wild vs domestic, cityscape vs green. Which side will you see?
There are 149 rooms in total and half of them overlook Berlin Zoo and have a warm design with lots of natural textiles, wooden floors and earthy colours. The other half of the rooms overlook West Berlin’s famous landmarks such as the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church and represent edgy, urban Berlin with an ‘unfinished’ raw feel and metallic features.
A cool story about the hotel illustrations >>> Werner Aisslinger met Japanese artist Yoshi Sislay when he was working as a chef and a street artist in Barcelona. He had no formal art training but Aisslinger recognised his natural talents and hired him to fill all the walls of the hotel with improvised illustrations in black marker pen. Some of his decisions were based on things he saw out of the window – for example, in my room, he saw birds in the trees while illustrating, so chose for birds to be the main part of the design on the walls. His fantastic visual representations of metropolitan life combined with nature cover the whole hotel and I walked from the 10th floor down (instead of taking the lift) just to see his incredle art on the stairwells. I particularly loved the little squirrel on a skateboard near the skirting board!
WELCOME DRINKS/SURPRISES: The room had a welcome bag waiting for me with monkey nuts, a pen, toothpaste, a wrist sweatband and post-it notes with ‘memo relevance’ options such as ‘super-duper important’, ‘let’s have a drink first’ and ‘never ever forget’.
THE ROOM IN A NUTSHELL: Jungle L Room with platform bed, separate bath and rainfall shower, living area with vintage sofa, hammock and zoo-facing view.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE ROOM: The hallways are intentionally darkened with neon room numbers as Aisslinger suggested: ‘the darker the hallway, the more surprising the mood when guests walk into their room.’
My immediate impression was: “Wow this is SO cool!” My eyes were instantly drawn to the hammock and I wanted to jump in! I thought the room was light, spacious, modern and quirky. It’s the kind of room you just can’t wait to explore and find the little surprises inevitably waiting for you…!
WHAT I LOVED: Many hotels try desperately to be unique and carve out their own identity but fail miserably and end up appearing to lack thought or authenticity. 25Hours make originality feel effortless. The room is instantly unique simply because of its layout. It feels like a New York studio apartment with subtle Japanese influences and a clear appreciation of nature with real plants in the room as well as on the wall art.
The design of the room merges the living, sleeping and cleaning quarters into one bright, clean and airy space, but without any feelings of intrusion. A strong concept of the hotel is to have distinct ‘corners’ which seamlessly blend into one another and make one large space feel more intimate. You can quite literally leap from the bed into the bath, into the shower and then over to the hammock, all in a couple of steps. Yet somehow this feels so natural – like all rooms should be designed this way.
Once you start zeroing in on the small details, it becomes instantly apparent the degree of thought and character that has gone into the design of this room. The view of the monkey enclosure at the zoo is complemented by a toy monkey in the room, and hand-drawn illustrations of plants and wildlife by Yoshi Sislay on the wall. A bicycle is mounted on the wall which is yours to enjoy at your disposal (as well as a spare outside the room).
One of the most fascinating features of the room was a suitcase bolted to the wall, with an eyepiece in its centre. A quick look in and you see nothing, but a click of the attached switch and a whole cityscape diorama appears before your eyes. And all this is within the first few steps of entering….
The hammock was an absolute joy – laying, watching the animals, the clouds and the stars late at night from the comfort of your own room. I wish every hotel room had a hammock!
The bed lay directly on the floor, albeit in a slightly raised sleeping area, but it delivered one of the best night’s sleep I can remember…ever.
Sometimes hotel suites can appear pretentious, stuffy and somewhat cold. This room felt like home – admittedly a very sleek and immaculately well-crafted home. But it had warmth and character and a real human touch. It wasn’t artificial or perfect – it was still rough around the edges with evidence of the original concrete architecture- but that was the beauty of the space…it’s real.
The attention-to-detail was something I was impressed with throughout the hotel. For example – the bedroom has a bluetooth speaker, a canvas day bag to use for the duration of your trip, and even a ‘jewellery minibar’ which was a necklace on the floor beside the bed to wear during your stay (and buy it if you become attached!)
MINI-BAR/ROOM SERVICE/IN-ROOM DRINKS FACILITIES: The hotel featured a small mini-bar, stocked with water, crisps, chocolate, nuts and a selection of soft and alcoholic drinks. Not the biggest fridge or most extensive range, but adequate. Unfortunately, there was no room service, but you are able to order from NENI and collect. I really hope room service is something 25Hours introduces in the future. The tea options were limited to some own-brand varieties. I would have liked to have seen a coffee machine.
THE BED: When it comes to bedroom design, I’m a huge fan of all things Japanese, and this area certainly had a feel of the orient. The bedroom area felt like a wooden cube, slightly raised and sunken back from the main part of the room, so that you had to walk up a few steps to enter it. The mattress was directly on the floor which meant something of a climb in and out of bed. However, the result was a fantastic night’s sleep.
THE BATHROOM: Wall to ceiling dark grey tiling announce where the bathroom area begins, and the soft lighting gives it a muted, natural feel. The shower was easy to use, and the sunken bath was bliss. It has a temperature controlled digital switch so you can get it to the exact temperature you desire. The hotel provides toiletries from the sustainable brand ‘Stop The Water While Using Me!’ which not only offers 100% natural, organic ingredients but also donates a portion of their revenue to charity water projects. A pleasing feature of the bathroom was a ‘warm feet’ button which heats the bathroom floor.
RESTAURANT & BAR: On the 10th floor of the hotel you’ll find NENI restaurant. As far away as you can imagine from being a ‘bland and predictable hotel restaurant’, NENI has its own distinct identity and attracts hotel guests and locals alike. So much so, that it has gained a rather exclusive reputation among Berlin locals as a city ‘hotspot’ and from early evening onwards, there are long queues of people that trail outside the hotel, waiting to get up to NENI.
The breakfast at NENI has everything you can possibly wish for. From a cold buffet section with nuts, cereals, yoghurts, meats, cheeses, freshly-baked bread and even fresh honeycomb which trickles honey into a bowl.
Then there’s a juice station with smoothies, yoghurt drinks, tea, and coffee. Finally, the hot station included Berlin’s famous currywurst, eggs, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes and even an omelette if you wished. It was definitely the best breakfast I’ve ever had in Berlin! Perfectly crispy bacon always gets my vote…
In the evening, ‘Monkey Bar’ dims its lighting and offers world-class cocktails by expert mixologists. A lot of the cocktails have amusing monkey-esque names such as my favourite ‘Rafiki’ which was made up of gin, rhubarb juice, fresh rosemary, lemon juice and sugar syrup. There is a DJ corner, fireplace and even an outdoor terrace with blankets and palm trees. The patterned cushions have a Moroccan feel to them and the colourful fabrics compliment the exposed steel and concrete.
NENI restaurant is a culinary masterpiece with a mix of Mediterranean, Persian and Austrian influences. It’s very proud of its ‘Balagan style’ which translates as ‘positive chaos.’ Their concept of ‘Haya Molcho’ means try a little bit of everything. I tried the ‘Balagan’ set menu which is a ramble through mezze, main courses and desserts. It’s the perfect restaurant to visit with a group of friends or a date as the dishes are ideal for sharing. The homemade falafels were perfectly crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside and having a sweet tooth meant the dessert plate was absolute heaven. What’s great about this restaurant is the glass-fronted kitchen so you can watch your dinner being prepared.
OTHER NOTABLE HOTEL AMENITIES: Impressively, the hotel offers free bike and MINI Cooper rental. There’s a jungle themed dry sauna with a glass window that overlooks the zoo. It also has a rest area with loungers, magazines, plenty of foliage and refreshments.
The public areas have plenty of places to relax or work – with curtained iMacs, a raised chair with a ladder (which reminded me of a lifeguard’s chair), fur-lined hammocks, a swing and even an in-house wood-fired bakery. The bakery offers pastries, sourdough rolls, cakes, speciality breads and amazing coffees too. I think it’s pretty much impossible to work/read/sit nearby without getting a whiff of the bakery and skipping over to purchase a treat.
The hotel’s public areas are incredibly welcoming and its aim is to offer ‘inspiring stimuli, an open atmosphere and community involvement.’ I loved all of the little cubby-holes aimed for people to find their own little oasis of calm.
From a pod at the entrance terrace to the ‘The Newsroom’ and ‘Bikini Island’, the hotel describes its furniture as ‘experimental seats with a difference.’ I certainly experienced this – from swings to hooded seating areas – it definitely makes an exciting place to work remotely from. ‘DJ corner’ was particularly unique and has headphones and piles of records for those who wish to take some time out and listen to music.
TO SUM IT UP: The hotel symbolises FUN…and lots of it! It’s playful, it’s experimental and it’s quirky. I love how it shuns the norms that make other hotels
dull predictable distinctively average. Some hotels you visit simply to have a place to rest your head and explore the city. 25hours Bikini Berlin is the complete opposite of that – it’s worth a trip to Berlin just to experience the hotel. The designer Werner Aisslinger describes it as a place where ‘sophisticated, cultured travellers can experience Berlin in a condensed form.’
With CEO Christoph Hoffmann winning Hotelier of the Year 2017, it’s clear that 25hours is on fire at the moment. They know exactly what they’re doing – and they do it extremely well. Undoubtedly – one of the coolest hotels I’ve ever stayed in…keep up the great work 25hours!
If you want to see what my room at 25hours looks like on video – check out ‘The Sweetest Suite: Episode 3′ below:
Huge thanks to 25hours for accommodating me during this trip to Berlin. As always all views and opinions are my own.
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