Like many good things in life, it started with a What’s App group… and a discussion about where to go for Andy’s 40th birthday weekend. Suggestions were bandied around on where was close and not too expensive. Prague? Amsterdam? Krakow? But the place we kept coming back to was Berlin. Having visited a couple of years ago on a press trip I was personally keen to visit again but with the flexibility of visiting with friends.
Soon a plan was put in place, flights booked and an itinerary formed… it looked like Mr S’s friend Andy was going to have an absolutely brilliant surprise birthday in Berlin. Rather excitingly we’d booked to stay at Soho House Berlin, I’d visited the hotel / private members club for drinks last time but this would be my first time staying. With the majority of the group coming from Manchester, Mr S and I were on a different flight from London arriving at the hotel at about 5pm and check ing in immediately.
The hotel is made up of rooms in varying sizes as well as apartments which also include full kitchen and then vast loft spaces that are perfect for longer stays or great for event spaces. We had booked a ‘large’ room that measuring at 80 sqm was more than enough space. But on check in we were told we’d been upgraded to a ‘big’ apartment. I think ‘room upgrade’ has to be one of my favourite phrases and as you can imagine, I was totally delighted. Even more so when I saw the actual room… a whooping 120 sq m apartment space.
A very comfortable lounge space with lots of soft furnishings and retro touches such as an old fashioned record player was absolutely gorgeous! My absolute favourite thing was having a whole library of books in the room, of course I had no time to read any over the short weekend but I loved the idea of just having them there.
Adjacent to the lounge / library is a full working kitchen and dining area. There is literally everything you need should you want to move in! From an oven, to a dish washer, coffee maker and toaster. There’s a full drawer of snacks too. It reminded me of one of the one-bedroom cabins at Soho Farmhouse which come fully equipped with everything that you need too.
In the bedroom is a huge over-sized sleigh bed and I would not be exaggerating to say it’s one of the most comfortable beds that I’ve ever experienced. Those pillows will take you to cloud nine! There’s lots of storage space too, as ever Soho House group always pay great attention to detail.
The bathroom featured a huge roll top bath, beautiful vanity area and Soho House’s signature snuggly robes. In the vast shower are full size Cowshed products (the beauty brand owned by Soho House) in a variety of different scents to suit your mood. Whether you’re a Lazy Cow, Knackered Cow or Moody Cow! Well after our extreme excitement of the room, our phones were buzzing with messages from Jo, Andy’s wife, they’d arrived and wanted to kick off the surprise weekend. We’d been planning this for months and Andy had no idea where we were going to be there and he thought it was just himself and his wife… everyone else was a surprise.
As a Soho House member, I’d booked a member’s rate for myself and Mr S and the others had a friends and family rate. You don’t need to be a member or be with a member to book in but the rates are higher for non-members. We’d booked Jo and Andy and another couple into a two bedroom apartment and we had another friend staying in a single room. As Mr S and I knocked on the apartment door we were greeted with a very surprised and slightly tearful Andy… he’d had no idea that we were coming! Mr S and I had arranged for balloons and champagne in room so we kicked off the celebration there before heading for the bar.
After catching up in the bar we headed up to change. We’d opted for dinner in the House Kitchen at Soho House that night, where an all day menu of brasserie style food is served. We’d also arranged a very special cake to be bought out at the end which was absolutely huge! As well as the House Kitchen, there’s Cecconi’s Berlin on the ground floor. Cecconi’s is the Soho House signature Italian restaurant and you can find them all over the world – there’s two in London! While the House Kitchen is just for member’s and hotel guests, Cecconi’s is open to the public.
There’s also a roof top restaurant which is currently hosting a pop-up from Berlin star chef, Tim Raue. Unfortunately I can’t give you a full photo tour of the hotel as they’re pretty strict about photos in public places.
I actually got these photos last time I was here as I struggled to get any of the rooftop pool this time. It’s just outside of the restaurant and there are views on to the Berlin TV Tower. The building itself has quite an interesting history, it was once Jonass & Co, a department store with Jewish owners. In 1933 the National Socialist Party pushed out Jewish shareholders and the building served as the headquarters for the Reich Youth Leadership. Later becoming the seat of the Communist Party’s Central Committee and in the late 50’s Institute of Marxist-Leninism. After the Berlin Wall collapsed in 1989 the descendants of the original Jewish owners reclaimed the building under the reparations act but it lay vacant until Soho House opened in 2010. As well as a gorgeous place to stay there are great facilities for members and guests such as the Cowshed Spa, gym and screen room and events space.
The morning Jo had arranged for a three hour private historical tour of Berlin, and with seven of us in the group, we piled into a comfortable mini bus that would be our mode of transport for the day.
Dennis our guide was incredibly knowledgeable and personable plus it was so interesting to hear the history from a German perspective. I’d had a historical tour of Berlin last time I visited but we went to quite different locations this time. Berlin has a troubled history which perhaps makes it all the more fascinating. Our first stop was to see a surviving section of the Berlin Wall, this gives visitor some idea of what is was like at the East / West Border there is also as Memorial to the Victims of the Wall, a Documentation Centre and the Chapel of Reconciliation should you have time to explore thoroughly.
The Reichstag is one of Berlin’s most iconic buildings and is the home of modern Parliament.
And of course the Brandenburg Gate will be instantly recognisable to most. It’s a city gate built-in 1791 and following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 it was reinvented into the symbol of unity.
Very close to the Brandenburg Gate is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. There’s no direct meaning for the bleak grey stones designed by architect Peter Eisenman but rather, it’s left up to your own interpretation.
Checkpoint Charlie was the most well-known border crossing between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. Dennis told us there was nothing really to see here so tourists often left disappointed so an installation marks the location and there is also an outdoor exhibition.
If museums are you thing, you’ll be fortunate to find five world-renowned museums on Museum Island in the heart of Berlin. Unfortunately with limited time we couldn’t really explore the museums further but one of the most famous things to see is the bust of Nefertiti at Museumsinsel.
One thing Jo and I thoroughly researched for the trip was food and restaurants… of course I put aside my usual search for Instagrammable places and replaced them with places I knew Andy would like. For lunch we wanted traditional German food and craft beer. Brauhaus Lemke in Hackescher Markt ticked all the boxes (it’s one of three restaurant in a group but I was reassured it wasn’t chain-like) and it turned out to be the perfect place.
With artisan beer samplers, hearty goulash soup and pretzels plus a huge serving of sausage, it was the perfect place for lunch. There were plenty of other German delicacies on the menu such as Currywurst, schnitzel and dumplings. With our hearts well and truly warmed, I suggested we made a quick visit to the East Side Gallery before it got dark.
It’s basically a section of the Berlin Wall which has been turned into a 1.3 kilometre long open air art gallery by artists commenting on the political changes in 1989 and 1990. It’s the the longest surviving section of the wall and features 118 artists from 21 countries.
After a quick hot chocolate, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the night out. With such an amazing room, Mr S and I were entertaining for the night and we’d arranged a mobile bar to the room. It’s not something I’ve seen many places, but it’s another great idea from Soho House, we had the same thing in Soho House Barcelona and at Soho Farmhouse, they send a cocktail float to the room if you order it.
After a few expertly made cocktails, we had dinner booked at Crackers, a place we’d been recommended as one of the chicest places in town. The entrance to Crackers was really intriguing, it’s like going into a speakeasy and not knowing what to expect but once you’re through a big black door and a passage way that looks like a car park, you arrive at very stylish restaurant. The interior is very glamorous and the atmosphere was buzzy with a live DJ. I have to say I personally wasn’t blown away by the food, the menu is quite avant-garde and I found my halibut too salty. Everyone else loved their food though. We tried to get into the super cool Monkey Bar afterwards but there was a massive queue and it was closing in an hour so we headed back to Soho House.
With the others in the group having an early afternoon flight back to Manchester, Mr S and I had a few hours to explore ourselves. We decided to return to the Holocaust memorial and pay a visit to the information centre – it was extra poignant as it was Holocaust Memorial day. The information centre is free to enter and as well as giving general information, you can hear personal stories and read the letters from people who escaped the concentration camps as well as those who never made it out. I would dedicate a good hour to the information centre as there is a lot to take in and it’s a very moving experience.
For dinner on Saturday night we’d been torn between Crackers and a restaurant called Neni at the 25Hours Bikini Berlin Hotel. I’m always keen to see what I missed out on so Mr S and I opted to go to Neni for lunch.
It turned out that we’d made the right decision, Neni was lovely but more like a casual lunch place. Perfect for us to spend a final few hours on a Sunday… I loved the green hanging plants and the light open space… Neni is on the 10th floor of the hotel and over looks Berlin Zoo, so you can look down and see the animals too.
Conceived by the four Molcho brothers, the food reflects their heritage combining Persian, Russian, Arabic, Moroccan, Isreali, Turkish, Spanish, German and Austrian influences.
You don’t need to order much as portions are seriously hefty and we went for a few small plates of dips and pitta and I had a chicken kebab while Mr S had beef.
Our last few hours in Berlin simply flew by and as we finished up in Neni it was already time to grab our bags from the hotel and head to the airport. It was such a fun weekend and we seriously laughed so much we cried! Berlin couldn’t have been a better choice for a fun weekend with friends.