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Following my stay at the Waldorf Astoria Berlin using a free weekend night certificate from my Hilton Hhonors Barclaycard, I decided to change hotels for the second night to an IHG hotel to count towards my IHG Accelerate targets (and because the cash rates at IHG were around €100 less per night than the Waldorf!!).
Originally I had booked a refundable standard King room for two at the Hotel Indigo Ku’damm for €100 including taxes, but after experiencing the luxury of the Waldorf Astoria, my fiancé indicated a 4* Hotel Indigo would just not cut it…
It seemed the universe agreed and the planets aligned… as at 10:30am just as we were discussing other options, my IHG Rewards statement dropped into my inbox, with an advert for the new IHG Premium Credit card. Given the benefits of the card have remained in line with the original Barclaycard version, including Platinum status from opening your account (the importance of this will become clear later…), I checked my eligibility, got the green light, applied and was approved by 10:35am. Following this, I checked the IHG app and the InterContinental Berlin down the road from the Waldorf Astoria was showing rates from €101 excluding tax. It was too good an opportunity to miss for a travel geek like me: I could then compare the two 5* “Flagship” hotels from two of the major hotel chains in one trip, and it would keep my fiancé happy and make up for the fact I’d “subjected” him to Ryanair to get there and back 🙂
Hotel Indigo cancelled, standard king room at the InterContinental booked via the IHG App, we checked out of the Waldorf Astoria and walked down the road to the drop our bags before heading out for the day.
The InterContinental Berlin is located on Buderpester Strasse, about a 5-10minute walk from the Zoologischer Garten train/bus station, and a 5min walk from the Wittenbergplatz U-Bahn, with Berlin Zoo and Aquarium on the one side, and the Landwehr canal to the other. There are bus stops right outside, and there were always a couple of taxis waiting out the front as well.
We arrived at the hotel at around 11:45am, having literally booked the reservation, checked out of the Waldorf Astoria and walked up the road to the new hotel in 45 minutes. Passing the two doormen/valets, we entered the “Louvre-esque” glass pyramid reception, where we were immediately attended to by the receptionist.
Now you may call me a cynic, but initially I was actually pleasantly surprised that my reservation was already showing up in their system having fallen foul of ancient hotel IT systems before with last minute bookings refusing to materialise for a number of hours. What happened next however completely blew me away and I really do take my hat off to IHG.
I explained to the receptionist we were looking to drop our bags as obviously I didn’t expect to check in before check-out had even ended for the previous night. The receptionist however was happy to check if something was available immediately, and after a couple of taps on his computer told me that as a result of my valued IHG status, he was pleased to be able to offer me an upgraded executive King room immediately and the choice of either 1,000 Bonus points or two complimentary drinks in the bar.
After a slightly stunned silence, given that when I woke up that morning I hadn’t even made it to Gold IHG status, I sheepishly enquired what status my account was showing, to which he replied “Platinum sir, this is correct?”. I was completely blown away that IHG and Creation finance seem to have aligned their systems to automatically update customers’ status literally at the point of approval of their new card account, rather than the few days/weeks I had been reading about with previous cards or other schemes or having to wait for physical cards to arrive. Well done IHG!
I opted for the drinks voucher to celebrate.
On reflection however, my excitement did mean I overlooked a few things he neglected to mention at checkin, such as what time breakfast was served and where, whether there was a lounge and if an executive room upgrade granted me access, and what time checkout was.
Yes! To an Executive King as a result of my Platinum Elite IHG Status obtained via the IHG Premium Credit Card.
Our room 706 was in the left hand block as you enter reception, overlooking the central entrance and reception roof, so not the greatest of views, but we were only there for one night and the room was for sleeping not looking out the window.
Apologies for the photos being dark, I didn’t have time to take them when we first arrived as we had to dash off for lunch up the TV tower on the other side of the city, and by the time we got back it was dark!
The room itself was spacious, with a large King bed at one end, and a sofa at the other, separated by an island which housed the mini bar, Nespresso machine, random sculpture ornament and storage.
Unfortunately, the bed itself was rather firm, too firm for us, which was a disappointment, and the pillows whilst they look impressive when made up, when you actually lie on them they squish into nothing. As we didn’t make it to bed until after midnight, I couldn’t be bothered to call reception to ask for some additional pillows so just put up with it. It also had this two individual duvets thing going on, which I can only assume is a German thing maybe? Not a problem, just something I’m not used to.
One thing we did note as it was quite warm whilst we were in Berlin (mid 20s) was that the aircon seemed a little sluggish. Not so bad that I felt the need to report it to reception, although the fact we were only there one night and didn’t go to bed until after midnight played into me not notifying reception, but it was noticeably warm in the room despite the aircon supposedly being on full cold.
The TV was off to the far side of the room on another unit which has a desk built into it, and the TV could be swivelled depending if you were sat on the sofa or in bed. The red thing on the wall on the right was a double paned window into the bathroom, however you cannot see the shower or toilet from this window, only the bath. I assume this is so you could attempt to watch TV from the bath as there was a speaker in the bathroom or maybe it’s just a quirky design feature I’m reading too much into!
Running almost the entire length of the room but for the small entrance corridor was the bathroom. This had a sliding door, which opened onto a storage/dressing area with a wardrobe on one side, and what I took to be a large luggage rack on the other which I thought was very useful given hotel room dwellers in cities tend usually not to want to unpack everything into separate drawers for the one/two nights they are there!
The bathroom itself was very large, but had only 1 sink and the glass partitions for the toilet and shower were not exactly what you might consider the most private! There was also a full size bath on the left hand side which I appear to have forgotten to photograph, but it wasn’t anything special.
The water pressure in the shower was excellent, and a full range of good quality toiletries was provided including a sewing kit!
The hotel has a pool, gym and spa facilities. The pool and gym are free for guests to use, but there is an additional charge of €15 each for the sauna (odd, but ok??) and the spa has its own charges for treatments. Unfortunately due to the short duration of our trip we didn’t have chance to try any of these facilities out. The photos below are the hotel’s own:
There is limited underground parking, with both self and valet parking costing €26 per day according to their website. It was a very tight corner to swing round from the front of the hotel into the car park ramp as well, so I dread to think what it’s like actually down there!
There are three places to eat within the hotel, Hugos Restaurant for dinner which boasts a Michelin star and 17 Gault Millau points, the L.A. Café which is a more informal dining area on the ground floor which serves Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, or the Marlene Bar also offers a limited menu.
During our stay, we spent our evening in the Marlene Bar starting with our complimentary Platinum Elite drinks, I opted for a beer and Alex a glass of red, both of which went down very well after a long day taking over 18000 steps around Berlin! Too tired to move again, we spent another 4 hours working our way through the bar’s extensive cocktail list, people watching from the terrace overlooking the entrance and main street and we also ordered food from the bar menu. I had a cheese burger whilst Alex had a club sandwich. A special mention has to go to our waitress Joy who was an absolute pleasure, and took the time to talk to us whilst it wasn’t too busy and genuinely made our evening. Despite being a bar menu, the food was excellent, on par with what you might expect from a good casual restaurant, and the prices were pleasantly competitive. Whilst in my experience most hotels will gouge you for drinking or eating in the bar, our entire night of 2 speciality cocktails each and two main meals came to €85 which I don’t consider extortionate given the quality of the drinks and food. I’ve certainly paid much more for drinks at hotels before and got far poorer quality!
Breakfast in the L.A Cafe was a pleasant experience. There was some slight confusion with whether my rate included breakfast or not – but this was quickly resolved after we’d been seated. The buffet had everything you could really want for breakfast – cooked to order eggs and waffles, all the traditional hot breakfast options, full selection of cold cuts, fruit, yoghurt and cereals, an Asian selection, a complete section of loose leaf teas which you can make up in your own teapot, and even honey made by the hotel’s own bees! You would have to be extremely fussy not to find something you’d like for breakfast here.
I’m not exactly sure if there is a separate executive lounge. Despite being upgraded to an executive room no mention of it was made by the receptionist when we checked in. Their website does not necessarily list an executive loung, but does say there is one in the description of the Executive Rooms. If you know if this mysterious lounge exists or not – let us know in the comments!
Quality of Service
The level of service at this hotel I would say was good. The staff were efficient, some went especially out of their way such as Joy in the Marlene Bar, but everyone else was just “good” – a;though impressed how fast my Platinum status was applied and actually recognised by an InterContinental.
The receptionist at checkin could have given us more details about the hotel – I had to call down after midnight as we were going to bed to check what time breakfast was as it wasn’t mentioned at check in, nor was there any in-room hotel information guide I could find.
No complaints, but also not quite as “wow” as you might expect from a 5*.
Rate paid: €137.97 – Your Rate by IHG Rewards Club, Bonus Points + Breakfast. (Room only rates started from €101 + Tax, I opted for a bonus points and breakfast package to hit specific Accelerate targets).
Room Type: Executive King (Complimentary check-in upgrade. Booked a Standard King).
Summary of stay
The InterContinental Berlin offers a good experience. I wouldn’t necessarily say 5*, but maybe 4.5*. The hotel lost a few points with me as it is a 5-10 minute walk to the nearest railway station which is the cheapest way to get around Berlin. It’s not a deal breaker, and maybe we’d just been spoilt by the fact the Waldorf Astoria was literally across the road from a major station, it just felt a little further out. If you have a car, bike or take taxis around the city however this wouldn’t be a factor!
The room itself was well-appointed, but was let down slightly by small details such as the thin pillows, firm mattress and apathetic air conditioning. I do have to factor in however that the rates were significantly lower than the Waldorf Astoria so overall I still think the hotel offers great value, and I would probably stay again especially if I was paying cash.