Jennifer Ford, Travel Executive at the Howard Street (Belfast) Portfolio Suite travelled to Berlin, then onward to Dresden, as guest of Kirker Holidays.
As the capital of the recently reunited Republic of Germany, Berlin is Europe’s youngest capital: fast growing, fast paced and totally hip and trendy, with great night life, fabulous shopping and bars and nightclubs which stay open into the early hours of the morning.
Not quite what you had imagined? Well, Berlin is a city of surprises, neatly balancing its new prosperity and ‘happening’ vibe with an impactful range of historical and cultural sights and experiences.
Its proximity (roughly two and a half hours’ flying time with Aer Lingus to Berlin’s Schönefeld Airport) makes it the perfect choice for a short stay break and the popularity of this sophisticated city continues to grow.
Hotels reflect the sophisticated ambiance of the city and there is a vast diversity on offer. Travelling with the prestigious Kirker Holidays, I visited some of the city’s stunning 5 star luxury locations.
The Rocco Forte Hotel De Rome is a modern, ultra-trendy hotel right in the heart of Berlin. It was formerly the headquarters of the Dresdner Bank and today the old jewel vault is now a 20m pool while the erstwhile bank manager’s office is now a fabulous suite. As you would expect, rooms and en-suites are chic and spacious with elegant décor and (of course) free Wi-Fi, very much a necessity for modern travellers.
We dined in the hotel’s sumptuous La Banca Restaurant and enjoyed champagne cocktails on the rooftop terrace … gorgeous creations inspired by the lavender planted there.
It’s the perfect spot for a romantic retreat or a spoil-yourself escape and it’s convenience to the best of Berlins’ cultural and social scene makes it a truly 5 star choice.
Spoilt for choice, I stepped into a unique atmosphere of luxury and privilege in the famous Hotel Adlon Kempinski whose flawless service and Michelin-starred dining have made this a Berlin institution. The hotel’s fabulous spa overlooks The Brandenburg Gate and the hotel is conveniently located close to The Academy of Arts, Reichstag and Potsdamer Platz – surely Berlin’s most glamourous address.
There is a nostalgic old European atmosphere throughout and the lobby, with its dramatic fountain and piano, is the perfect place to sit, have a coffee, and watch how the other half live. Rooms are available overlooking inner courtyard or Brandenburg Gate.
The 5 star Regent Hotel was judged by Conde Nast Traveller as ‘one of the best places to stay in the world’ – quite an accolade – and in January 2015 this was Trip Advisor’s Top Berlin hotel. Traditional in style, it oozes elegance and is perfectly positioned in the heart of Berlin’s Mitte District, with an unforgettable view of the Gendarmenmarkt Square, where you’ll find many of the most notable museums, theatres and entertainment venues.
The Michelin-starred Fischers Fitz at the Berlin Regent is an experience not to be missed, with the best of European cuisine served with faultless precision in the most tasteful of surroundings.
It’s almost impossible not to fall in love with Berlin, but I would suggest that it’s worth combing a few days there with a quick look-see at other cities within easy reach. The Baroque opulence of Potsdam with its 17 palaces and wonderful parks is within easy reach, as is the picturesque city of Meissen, home of the world-famous porcelain.
A little more than an hour away by road is the amazing city of Dresden – a perfect spot for a two-centre break. Capital of the eastern German state of Saxony, Dresden is distinguished by the celebrated art museums and classic architecture of its reconstructed old town. The city isn’t small by any means but it is remarkably easy to navigate and find your bearings there and, with its maze of alleyways, cobbled streets and courtyards it has a captivating charm.
There is an excellent choice of hotels, each brim-ful of character. The 5 star Hotel Bulow, situated in the heart of Dresden’s splendid baroque quarter and close to the famous Three Kings Church offers a mix of modern and traditional elegance. The hotel is a small, boutique-style Relais Chateaux property, with a Michelin star restaurant and the excellent, but less formal, Palais Bistro. Weather permitting guests can also dine al fresco on the Promenade Konigstrasse. Breakfast is served in the Carousel Restaurant - absolutely excellent! Lots of wonderful freshly baked German breads, fruits, yoghurts, cereals, cold meats, cheese, plus hot egg dishes.
Sister hotel to Bulow is The Bulow Residenz, a 4 star property offering a further 30 rooms and suites.
Summer is Dresden is picture-perfect, but this is a year-round destination, almost as popular in Winter. The Striezelmarkt - Dresden’s Christmas market - is the oldest in Europe and gives the city a unique buzz throughout the festive season.
Call me on 028 9027 9985 or drop into our Howard Street branch and I’ll be happy to share my enthusiasm for Berlin and Dresden with you!