Despite a reputation as Europe’s party capital, Berlin has plenty to offer the business traveller too. Director investigates where to stay, what to eat and what to do
While dead-at-night Mitte (central Berlin) hotels can leave you feeling you’re divorced from the city’s lively nightlife and any Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg digs could have you complaining about 1am noise to reception the next morning, the Amano’s Scheunenviertel location offers the perfect middle-ground. Awash with genteel courtyards, art galleries and cosy bars, the charismatic neighbourhood is only 20 minutes’ walk from main tourist sights. Stylish (parquet floors, a gin-and-tonic bar) without being snooty, its conference facilities and rooftop terrace overlook the imposing Alexanderplatz TV Tower with boutique touches including iPod walking tours and cheeky vending machines. The Amano’s enormous-but-affordable (from €95 a night) 60sq ft apartments, with their oak floors and kitchens including dishwashers and washing machines, are perfect for directors looking for some Airbnb homeliness without the hassle.
Where to eat
For a quintessentially Berlin dining experience, try Cookies Cream. Previously a ‘moveable’ restaurant, you’d struggle to find this secret dining room (hint: look for the Westin Grand’s service alley, walk past the bins until you find a chandelier, then ring the bell). Once inside, you’ll find a handsome industrial loft, which serves vegetarian fare such as seaweed caviar, Harzer cheese soup and parmesan dumplings with truffles (all washed down with riesling served by the magnum) – it’s enough to convince any hardened carnivore. Also don’t leave Berlin without scoffing the city’s famed culinary contribution: currywurst (grilled sausage in tomato sauce dusted with curry powder).
What to see
If you’re lucky enough to have two or three hours, you can tick off Berlin’s ‘big five’ in one fell swoop. Starting at the Reichstag parliament building (topped by Sir Norman Foster’s stunning glass dome), the Brandenburg Gate, the contemplative tomb-like slabs of the Holocaust Memorial, Potsdamer Platz and Checkpoint Charlie are all a short walk from each other. Museum-wise, the DDR Museum – an interactive odyssey into the GDR where you can drive a Trabant, spy on a bugged room or learn about East Germans’ penchant for nudist holidays – and the open-air Berlin Wall Memorial (featuring Wall remnants, plus the chance to stand in no-man’s-land and read stories of those trying to escape) are both good bets.
“What I really enjoy is that most of the German businesspeople I deal with semi-adhere to traditional stereotypes,” says Linsey Fryatt, Germany managing director of Clarity PR, who has lived in Berlin since 2011. “I love that people are super-punctual, as it’s one of my big bugbears. I also appreciate the fact people are incredibly straightforward. There’s a bluntness, which means you cut to the chase quicker. There’s no fuzziness, which is how I like to do business.”
For the flight
Back in the days of the Wall, David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Depeche Mode all sought sonic inspiration from Berlin, decamping there to give their music a darker edge. Downloading Bowie’s ‘Berlin Trilogy’ (Low, Heroes and Lodger) to your iPod is a good start, while Fritz Music Tours will whisk you around the seminal music haunts once you’re on terra firma.
Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin is a great semi-biographical account of the decadence of early-1930s Berlin (the book would go on to inspire the Liza Minnelli-starring musical Cabaret), while Alan Crawford and Tony Czuczka’s Angela Merkel: A chancellorship forged in crisis should provide good insight into how the GDR research scientist rose to become the world’s most powerful woman. You may not be able to watch a movie on the brief flight, but try watching Wolfgang Becker’s Good Bye, Lenin! before leaving, a cult comedy about a young East Berliner’s mission to keep the fall of the Berlin Wall secret from his sick mother.