In the last installment of my trip report to Berlin, I wrote about my stay at the Hilton Berlin and suggested it felt like more of a business hotel, a little quieter and further away from the main attractions. (It was still convenient enough, if you have a brand preference.)
I also stayed at the Westin Grand Berlin during the same trip. This hotel is located a few blocks away on Friedrichstrasse and just off Unter den Linden. Not only were there more tourists checking in and out, but the surrounding neighborhood also felt more active. The two properties are roughly comparable in price — I paid 10,000 Starpoints in lieu of €200 (~$220) — and in quality of accommodation.
Walking into the main lobby, I found a busy front desk to the left, adjacent to a concierge and various other services. It felt like a small area for all the people who needed assistance, while the dining area off to the right, inside the atrium, remained open and underutilized.
The central atrium is very impressive. Several modern elevators take guests between floors (no creaking, groaning mechanisms), and there is a breakfast buffet each morning on the first level (above ground). In the afternoons and evenings I saw many people stopping by the lobby for some pastry, tea, and coffee.
My award night booked into a Garden Deluxe room, which happened to be in a smaller, newer extension of the hotel. That required a bit of a walk. More historically decorated rooms, particularly suites, are also available if that style appeals to you.
However, I really liked the view of the garden from my room. It appeared that some of the original rooms did not have walk-out balconies like mine. There was no discernable road noise making its way through the courtyard.
Of course, I ran into some confusion trying to operate the local door technology. Crazy Europeans. For a moment I thought I had broken it.
The rest of the room was tastefully decorated, although quite plain. The birch tabletop and upholstered headboard provided the most color in the entire place. Even the wall art was entirely in shades of white and grey.
I did like the Samsung tablet on the desk. You could use it to read a digital newspaper, read up on guest services, or order room service. Other hotels have also tried using tablets to replace paper newspapers or provided services through the television.
What was unusual about this model was that it served other functions, too, and I didn’t have to download a new app onto my personal device. It’s the most successful digital innovation I’ve found in a hotel room so far besides the free mobile phones that some Asian hotels provide to their guests.
Aside from the sleeping area and desk, the rest of the room was quite spartan. A row of closets and a minibar lined the entryway. The coffee maker was a Braun model I’ve only interacted with a few times before — better than K cups but worse than Nespresso.
The best feature of the bathroom was probably the walk-in shower. I hate tubs and am glad to see more hotels getting rid of them. Unfortunately this room still had the standard Westin toiletries — probably my least favorite of any hotel chain. The green leaf-shaped soap bars are especially impractical.
There’s also an indoor pool at this hotel, which looked nice despite the absence of natural light. I held off on taking a photo given the large number of people using it; you can catch a glimpse by visiting the hotel website.
If I were returning to Berlin as a tourist, I would probably choose the Westin over the Hilton for the balcony and the more central location, though I expected and received less special treatment at this hotel. The check-in desk usually had a line, and there was no verbal recognition of my SPG Gold status when I arrived. Admittedly, SPG Gold isn’t worth much.
Meanwhile I thought the Hilton processed my arrival much more quickly, and I enjoyed the daily amenities delivered to my room (as a Hilton Diamond member) and the club on the ground floor (for Hilton Gold and Diamond members). The Hilton may lack some historic charm, but I do think it offers better elite benefits.