By David Armstrong
If the old business mantra – location, location, location – is as key to success as commonly supposed, then the Radisson Blu Hotel Berlin is one of the hotels most likely to succeed in the German capital.
Installed in an eight-year-old contemporary building in the heart of Berlin’s classically styled Mitte district, the Radisson Blu sits on the River Spree, just across the water from the domed stateliness of Berlin Cathedral and just steps away from the central city’s most famous boulevard, Unter den Linden.
Looking at the crowds shouldering into the 427-room hotel to book a room or simply shoot mobile-phone photos of the eye-popping, cylindrical aquarium, called AquaDom, in the main lobby, it’s hard to believe this neighborhood was once the withered heart of terminally gray East Berlin.
When the Berlin Wall was breached in 1989, it all began to change. Now, two decades later, a fresh sheen of modernity covers Mitte – at least those parts of it not torn up by the extensive construction and re-construction that distinguish early 21st-century Berlin.
I spent two nights at the Radisson Blu Hotel Berlin in early October, my first time in this hotel, which hovers between a 4- and 5- star property. It was also my first time back in Berlin in six and a half years. I was there on business, which figures: The Berlin showcase for the Minneapolis- and Brussels-based Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group is very much a business hotel.
Oh, it has its share of couples and families on holiday, but meetings, conferences and individual business travelers make up a big part of the hotel’s clientele.
The Radisson Blu Berlin boasts 14,424 square feet of meeting space on the ground floor and free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel. On the top 7th and 8th levels, in the Dom Lounge, are 15,069 square feet of meeting space.
Large windows give a broad view over the Berlin skyline, and the absence of tall buildings affords the day-dreaming meeting-taker a lovely panorama. It’s a nice break from routine.
I stayed on the 6th floor in one of the hotel’s 55 Business Class guestrooms. (There are also 22 suites.) My room was a short walk from the four glass-walled lifts, which operate in an enormous central atrium, lending a decided three-dimensional quality to the ride.
The check-in and concierges’ desks and a kiosk selling amenities, snacks and German and international magazines and newspapers occupy the ground floor, as does the expansive and attractive Atrium Lobby Lounge & Bar.
A complimentary copy of the International Herald Tribune was left for me each morning, a nice touch and newsy reminder of home.
My room faced out on Karl-Liebknect Strasse, which becomes the aforementioned Unter den Linden.
The plug-ugly TV and radio tower in Alexanderplatz – recently modernized with a new shopping center – dominated one corner of the sky. Happily, freshly scrubbed and refurbished 19th century buildings and Berlin’s soft canopy of trees occupied most of my view.
Double-decker buses, including the popular No. 100 bus, which runs between Alexanderplatz in the east to the Zoo railway station in the former West Berlin, trundle by. The Hackescher Market S-Bahn station is a walkable 500 meters away.
My room had an in-room safe, the requisite mini-bar, a large and comfortable bed and a desk. As is the case with most business hotels nowadays, the room sported an array of plugs for personal electronic devices, as well as a Nespresso coffee-maker.
Closet space was easily adequate for a lone guest on a short visit. The bathroom was clean, well-lit and well-equipped, though, oddly, it lacked a door.
I was traveling without a personal electronic device, so I relied on complimentary-use PCs just off the main lobby to Net-surf and check e-mail. The two work stations, each with two PCs, include printers, handy for printing out airline boarding passes.
Berlin is soldiering on with small and over-scheduled Berlin Tegel airport until the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport Willy Brandt makes its thrice-delayed scheduled opening on October 27, 2013. Tegel is about 7 miles from the Radisson Blu Berlin; the new airport is 16.7 miles from the hotel.
My Business Class room (available from $250 per night on some travel Web sites) included breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant, Heat (which the Radisson stylizes as ‘HEat’ in signage and promotional literature).
Heat – er, HEat – opens up in the warm months onto a patio bordering the paved promenade along the Spree. It has plenty of room indoors, where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served.
I can attest to the tasty and wide-ranging breakfast buffet, where cereals, herring and smoked salmon, cured meats, cheeses, fresh fruit, chef-cooked eggs made to order in an open kitchen, juice, wonderful German breads and big carafes of good coffee are the norm.
Stressed-out from all those meetings? The Radisson Blu boasts a 4,843 square-foot spa, a 36-foot-long swimming pool and a 24-hour fitness room.
A reviewer cannot close a review without hosannas to the cylindrical lobby aquarium, suspended directly above the Atrium Lobby Lounge & Bar.
Operated by the nearby attraction Sea Life Berlin, the AquaDom is truly spectacular. Filled with one million gallons of saltwater, it commands the view of every visitor; in fact, guestrooms that don’t look out on the street look in at the atrium and thus at the aquarium.
A leisurely 10-minute glass-walled elevator ride into the center of the 25-meter-high AquaDom allows guests to get up-close-and-personal views of many-hued, wiggling tropical fish.
The Radisson Blu Hotel Berlin is located at 3 Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse, 10178 Berlin, Germany. For reservations and information, call +49 (0)30 23828 0, e-mail info.berlin (at) radissonblu.com or visit www.radissonblu.com/hotel-berlin.
David Armstrong is a San Francisco Bay Area journalist specializing in features, news and reviews about travel destinations, airports, airlines, hotels and resorts. He is the former tourism, aviation and international trade reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle and covered tourism, movies, media and theater for the Hearst-owned San Francisco Examiner. He is the author of five books and numerous travel articles for TheStreet.com, Travel + Leisure, Global Traveler, Napa Sonoma Magazine, The Globe and Mail (Toronto), Toronto Star, Chicago Sun-Times, Aviation.com and many others. He blogs at http://davidarmstrongontravel.blogspot.com.