Staying at the Westin Grand Berlin
The past few days in Berlin have been excellent. With my trusted travelling companion Matt, we’ve been doing typical touristy things to a certain degree — but even more so, have been enjoying the snow, the German beer, the experience, and our stay at the Westin Grand Berlin. Once again, Starwood’s Westin brand contiues to impress.
Matt arrived on Thursday evening on the later side, just slightly before I posted my flight report. Seeking food – we were both hungry at this point – we quickly realized it was 10:30pm on a Thursday and weren’t sure what would be open at that point. After finding that the hotel’s restaurant was still serving dinner, we figured we could put our plans on exploration on hold for a bit to ensure we don’t starve to death looking for a restaurant, all of which might’ve been closed.
Well, currywurst and champagne? Sounds like an odd combination – and it was, but it worked. And €17. A lot of the other menu items looked positively fantastic, but something simple was really on the mind at this point. Of course, you can find currywurst on the street for a couple euros, but this was convenient — and open.
The hotel, so far, hasn’t given much reason to disappoint. The Westin Grand Berlin, a Category 4 Starwood hotel, appears quite opulent when walking in, with a beautiful interior hallway system below a spectacular glass ceiling. You can tell this building is quite old originally despite being well-renovated, and clearly well-taken-care-of.
Today, as in the 19th century, this corner was one of the most popular and coveted business addresses in Berlin. Since March 15, 1873, the site had been occupied by the Kaisergalerie (Imperial Gallery), a meeting place for wealthy Berliners, who not only used the shops but also visited the cultural facilities, such as the waxworks museum Panoptikum. The 14-m-high glass-roofed interior room of the arcade, which was later destroyed in the Second World War, was an architectural masterpiece in its day, extending into an octagonal hall at its center.
When I checked in, I was told that I was “upgraded” to a “deluxe” garden room on the second floor as part of my SPG Gold status benefit. I can’t say that this is a deluxe room by definition, or that a garden view is an upgrade, but others have said that the exterior-facing rooms are noisy from the busy street, which also has major construction in progress. I’ll take it.
Besides, the snow-packed garden outside is lovely to look at; I’ve read is used during the summer for lunch and dinner, but was clearly not designed for this during winter as the entire area was packed with snow.
Also, as part of the SPG Gold benefit, I’m entitled to 250 SPG points, a free drink or free wifi — and being that wifi is often expensive in Europe, I opted for that. It’s a good deal.
The bathroom is modern and bright, with dark counters and a very typical European bath/shower. Though not Westin’s Heavenly Shower, it was just as good (is that US only?) — however getting the showerhead to stay in one spot proved to be a challenge. In addition, keeping the water in the shower/tub and not on the floor was an even bigger challenge as the shower curtain hangars hung from outside the glass divider, which meant the first couple days often had not-insignificant amounts of water on the floor.
As with much of Europe, a “king” bed is often two twin beds side-by-side, which ended up being perfect since Matt ended up joining me – I didn’t have to ask for a different bed configuration when I arrived.
Friday morning, we did discover one thing that was disappointing: the window shades were not blackout shades. It sounds ridiculous to talk about window coverings, (at least for this blogger) but when you just want to sleep in a dark, quiet room, a little light goes a long ways.
Are you really sure you don’t want housekeeping?
Starwood properties also often have something called “Make a green choice”, where you can earn 500 SPG points per night you decline housekeeping. Often, you either place a hangar on the door by 1am or let the front desk know. Essentially, this is a way for Starwood to cut down their staffing/maid costs under the guise of “being green” (“green” = cheaper for them).In our case, it was a little really late in the evening when I called to ensure that housekeeping wouldn’t bother us, but I called, left the door hangar on the door and the Do Not Disturb hangar too. Sure enough, around 10:30am, knock knock: “are you sure you don’t want housekeeping?”, said the housekeeping person auf Deutsch. My German is bad – and even worse when I’m groggy and jetlagged. I’m not sure what part of two door hangars and a phone call doesn’t translate to “don’t wake me up”, but c’est la vie. As it turns out, they came back again later when we were gone and left us another complementary bottle of water.
Also, good to know: the gym doesn’t open until 7am, as I learned on Saturday. It’s attached to the pool/day spa facilities, so they have to open it all up to access it. So, I did the next best thing: go for a run in 34-degree Berlin in shorts and a t-shirt. It was…cold, but definitely a great run and a great way to get the blood going for this jetlagged guy.
A rather large breakfast is served daily starting at 7am. If you don’t select a room with breakfast included, it’s €34 per person. Too expensive for my blood, we walked down the street a couple blocks and found a bakery. Breakfast for two for under €10? I’ll take it!
All in all, the Westin Grand Berlin is a fantastic hotel. It’s in a fantastich location, close to Brandenburg Gate, tons of shopping, across the street from an U-Bahn station, a couple blocks from an S-Bahn station and in a very safe (and, ugh, touristy) area. Though a little pricey in general, if you can take advantage of using SPG points like I did, it can be a superfantastich place to stay for relatively very little money.
Tomorrow, Monday, I head home, and I’m sad to be leaving — but it’s truly been a great stay.
In this series:
Berlin: Heading home on Swiss
(full disclosure: I do not receive any promotional consideration or compensation for any airfare, products or other items mentioned)