PHOTOGRAPHY BY GAYLETTER
25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin
Berlin's hotel of the hour.
Previously, when I thought of the Berlin Zoo, my first association was the scenes from Christiane F. – We Children from Bahnhof Zoo where 14 year old Christiane and her boyfriend turn tricks for heroin at the Bahnhof Zoo station. Well, that, and the Helmut Newton Foundation, which is on the opposite side of the tracks across from the actual zoo for which the station is named.
Today I have a few more associations, which are decidedly less bleak than those relating to Christiane F. I recently stayed in a delightful room overlooking the Zoo at the 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin. The hotel is the most recent property from the Hamburg-based 25hours Hotel chain. It is located in the newly renovated Bikini Haus, a modernist complex built in the 1950s along the edge of the Berlin Zoo. The Bikini Haus, which got its name because the top and bottom structures are separated by an open-air floor between, now houses a shopping center and restaurants in addition to the hotel.
The location is a bit surprising for a hip hotel in Berlin. It’s in the west, near affluent Charlottenburg and spots like KaDeWe, far from the grit and decay of eastern neighborhoods like Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain or Neukolln that epitomize the city’s “poor but sexy“ moniker. Of course, with Berlin’s public transport you can quickly ride over to those neighborhoods at any time. But the area around the hotel is worth reconsidering. In addition to the previously mentioned Helmut Newton Foundation and Zoo, the area has several other institutions that merit a visit. Adjacent to the Bikini shopping center is the newly renovated Art Deco Zoo Palast Cinema, which was hosting screenings of the Berlin International Film Festival while I visited. Located a few blocks further west is the Amerika Haus, a modernist building originally opened in 1957 as a center for Germans to learn about American culture, which now holds exhibitions of photography and visual media by C/O Berlin.
Even with all that culture calling you out, you may not want to leave your room. The hammock in mine overlooking the zoo was a perfect place to perch and scope out the monkeys and pelicans below. Add to that the beautiful sauna and sumptuous yet healthy food of the rooftop restaurant, and you may never want to leave the premises at all. The hotel is fantastically designed, with an immaculate attention to detail. Every inch of the rooms and common areas have been carefully engineered to match the hotel’s “urban jungle” theme. The lush, verdant look was created by local designer Werner Aisslinger, who cleverly drew on the hotel’s proximity to the zoo to craft a space that feels both wild and domestic.
The reception desk is staffed by helpful young Berliners
There’s a cute gift shop in the lobby, perfect for finding something for your friends back home. I brought the GAYLETTER family some cute soaps handmade in Berlin.
The lobby’s cafe is a great spot to grab breakfast to-go or sit and browse through the art books on display.
This huge hammock in the lobby is perfect for lounging and watching the monkeys.
The elevator’s walls are video screens playing a trippy loop of surreal images.
On the opposite side of the zoo are views of the urban skyline.
Sleek black hallways extend from common areas teeming with life. My room number was 909, an auspicious number: 909 was the area code of my childhood phone number.
I loved the design of my room and its views of nature. The comfy hammock got a lot of use during my stay.
It was like a visit to the zoo without leaving the comfort of your own room – throughout my trip I heard the hoots and bellows of baboons (though fortunately, never at night). While the hotel’s vibrance cut through some of the legendary gloom of Berlin, if you’re looking to enjoy the zoo view you’ll be better off visiting in spring or summer, when the plant life of the zoo and Tiergarten are less dead and grey.
Rooms are stocked with ecologically focused toiletries from Stop the Water While Using Me!
The hotel’s sauna is a wonderfully tranquil spot to relax and warm up. For a small fee, you get access to the sauna, use of sandals and a robe, as well as complimentary tea, soda, beer and snacks in the sauna area.
To conclude, this isn’t Christiane F.’s Zoo anymore. Nor is this the Zoo of the 1990s, where new arrivals from the East shelled out 99 marks for their uniforms of leather jackets, acid washed jeans, and tennis shoes. Instead, you can drop in to the Berlin-based eyewear manufacturer Mykita‘s boutique and pick up a pair of Mykita X Maison Martin Margiela sunglasses for a little over 500$. This isn’t the utopic outburst of underground DIY activity chronicled in Der Klang Der Familie, Felix Denk and Sven von Thülen’s recently translated oral history of Berlin’s techno scene in the early 1990s. But it is Berlin now, at this hour; without any self-righteous nostalgia.
The 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin, Budapester Strasse 40; +49-30-120-2210; 25hours-hotels.com. Rooms from 120 Euros.