The lounge and bar area shows off the talents of designer Karim Rashid. // © 2011 Nhow Berlin
During the check-in process, if a bellhop offers to bring me an iPod adapter, I’m thrilled. When he offers to bring me an electric Gibson guitar, I’m nothing short of shocked. Complimentary, in-room guitar service is just one of the many ways Berlin’s music-themed hotel, Nhow Berlin, resonates in a city known for creativity.
Located in the former industrial port district known as Osthafen (East Harbor), along the River Spree, the five-month-old property is a marvel of contemporary architecture and design. Architect Sergei Tchoban managed to not only preserve two, pre-existing storage buildings, but also contrast their uneven brick facades with an adjoining stainless steel and glass tower. This reflective tower, located on the seventh through 10th floors, stretches nearly 70 feet over the river and houses two professional recording studios, which can be rented for corporate or team-building events.
The interior design, by New York’s Karim Rashid, is no less impressive: light projections that change when movement is detected, a free-form fuchsia check-in counter that doubles as an objet d’art and a bar crowned with gold-lacquered fiberglass. Every design element, right down to the bar menus shaped like vinyl records, seemed at once thoughtful and precise.
Of the hotel’s 304 guestrooms, more than 60 percent boast views of the River Spree and the banks of Kreuzberg. All guestrooms feature top-of-the-line sound systems, wireless Internet access, more than 5,000 on-demand videos and charging stations for Macs, PCs and Mp3 players. In my Junior Suite, I loved the curved partition — with its swiveling flat-screen television — separating the bed from the living area.
The suite was so comfy that I found it hard to leave. Luckily, a fully stocked minibar and prompt room service were there to enable my laziness. I ordered the lightly fried cod fish and chips, which were served with a selection of oils and vinegars in eye droppers, and watched music videos from bed.
Eventually, after a sound rest, I took a five-minute stroll across the Oberbaum Bridge to the Berlin Wall East Side Gallery. There, I browsed the work of hundreds of international artists on one of the longest remaining segments of the wall.
The hotel itself features an impressive rotating art collection and, during my visit, it was exhibiting the rock and lifestyle photography of local gallery, Sevenstar. Black-and-white photographs of Elvis in the army, Jimi Hendrix in the kitchen and candid shots of The Beatles lined the walls.
The following evening, Swedish clothing line, WESC, hosted a private party in the gallery while another MICE group held a costume party in one of the hotel’s seven meeting rooms. It was definitely a lively evening on property, and guests were still chatting in the bar and lobby area when I came back from a nearby nightclub in the early morning hours. (Berlin is known for being a late-night city, and bars can stay open as long as they wish.)
Breakfast was an event in itself. The buffet breakfast, which costs about $30, was a fun way to start the day. For example, even though I never scooped my spoon into one of the candy-colored bowls of “bling bling sugar,” I appreciated the whimsy. Other oddities for my American taste buds were Nuremberg-fried sausages, meatball and potato mash and three-minute eggs. There were still plenty of choices for less-adventurous eaters, including pancakes, waffles, cheeses, cold cuts, fruit salad, pastries, homemade yogurts and a musli station.
My most memorable dining experience, however, was arranged by the concierge. When I expressed that I wanted to dine somewhere truly unique, he wrangled a last-minute reservation at Nocti Vagus in the city’s Mitte district. Nocti Vagus is Berlin’s first dark restaurant, where guests dine in pitch-black darkness and are served by blind waiters. It was another singular experience that I would have never expected during my stay at Nhow Berlin — exactly how the hotel had wanted it.