Best of both worlds

Berlin isn’t just about a troubled history and an extensive range of sausages. Glamorous, with a side of craziness and a sprinkling of chic, this vibrant city is full of possibilities, so pack your bags. By JOYCE HUANG

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Berlin isn’t just about a troubled history and an extensive range of sausages. Glamorous, with a side of craziness and a sprinkling of chic, this vibrant city is full of possibilities, so pack your bags. By JOYCE HUANG

Main Photo Getty images
Main Photo Getty images

25 Hours Hotel Bikini Berlin (tel: +49 30 1202 210, bikini/home/home.html)

Trust the cool folks behind the 25hours Hotels group to off er such a striking and fun stay. Playing on its location – right next to the city zoo – this Design Hotels member exudes an “urban jungle” vibe with warm colours, natural materials and floor-to-ceiling windows that provide unrivalled views into the neighbouring monkey and elephant enclosures (yes, really). Inside the 149 quirky rooms (rates from 94 euros, or S$150 a night) are extra treats such as locally designed bags and jewellery that you can use during your stay. Larger suites even off er bikes for you to ride around the city on. Feel all cosmopolitan up on the top floor at Neni, which serves food with a hotchpotch of Middle Eastern, Russian, Moroccan and European influences (hummus with minced beef and lamb, for example, or Moroccan codfish in a spicy tomato ragout), and Monkey Bar, whose heady drinks and rooftop terrace location make it one of the best places in town for sunset cocktails.

Grace Bar Hotel Zoo Berlin (tel: +49 30 8843 7750,

If there is one place in Berlin to see and be seen, Grace Bar is it. This stylish hangout is part of the newly refurbished Hotel Zoo, an iconic landmark. The hotel used to be where legendary movie stars like Grace Kelly and Sophia Loren, and the intellectual and political elite, would stay in the ’50s during the Berlin International Film Festival. Today, with its flair and elegance restored, celebrities – including Bruce Willis and supermodel Karolina Kurkova – are flocking back. Don’t leave without sipping a cocktail or two, inspired by classic tipples of the ’20s through to the ’50s. Try the French 75, which incorporates home-infused lemongrass gin and champagne; or the Oaxaca Sazerac, comprising San Cosme Mezcal, agave syrup, chartreuse, bitters and flamed absinthe (from 11 euros).

My Reading Room

Neue Heimat (

Berlin has an obsession with breathing new life into abandoned spaces. Meaning “new home”, Neue Heimat (pictured above) is the latest brainchild of Sebastian Baier, Danny Faber and Andreas Socknick, former owners of internationally renowned techno nightclub, Bar 25. Neue Heimat has taken over the expansive grounds of the former East German railway repair yards and transformed them into an urban space for concerts, street-food markets, art showcases and more. Drawing on the founders’ club and musical expertise, the place plays host to live jazz sessions on weekend nights, a rotating roster of DJs spinning throughout the weekends, and special music and party events – so remember those dancing shoes!

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Nobelhart & Schmutzig (tel: +49 30 2594 0610,

Restaurateur Billy Wagner and chef Micha Schafer are getting foodies excited about local and regional produce here. On top of provenance (farmers, producers and suppliers are highlighted beside each course on the menu), seasonality and sustainability are the driving forces behind the restaurant’s ever-changing 10-course degustation menu (80 euros). Dishes highlight produce by simplifying components to just four ingredients, and by preparing them through fermenting, pickling and brining. Despite being just months old, it has already won much acclaim for its traditional preparation methods, locavore philosophy, and just downright clean and tasty dishes.

My Reading Room

The Store (

At 30,000 sq ft, this is one of the largest one-stop concept stores in Berlin. Its amazing vegan cafe dishes up healthy, delicious fare such as grilled aubergines with chickpeas. It also has freelancer-friendly co-working spaces and an outpost of uber-trendy British salon Barber & Parlour, where you can do your hair and nails. Vintage lovers will go crazy at the shop by leading vinyl record companies Phonica Records and The Vinyl Factory, as well as at Idea Books, the favourite rare-book vendor of London’s fashion elite. And local designers are represented by Christine Roland’s ceramics, and Daniel Heer’s leather goods and furniture.

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