In the century or more since it was founded, the Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin has welcomed everybody from the Queen of England to the King of Pop.
While Michael Jackson created quite a stir during his visit in 2002 – notoriously dangling his son, Prince Michael Jackson II, from a top-floor window – Queen Elizabeth II has also been known to discreetly enjoy the facilities.
Her signed portrait even hangs in the Royal Suite.
Situated directly opposite the Brandenburg Gate at the heart of the German capital, Hotel Adlon was for decades the centre of social life in the city.
Visiting dignitaries would be housed here for months on end, sampling the best the 1920s had to offer, including running hot water, an onsite laundry and dedicated electricity generator.
Sadly almost completely destroyed by a fire at the end of WWII – apparently caused by Red Army soldiers celebrating in the lavish wine cellars – the property was rebuilt and reopened by Kempinski in 1997.
Since then the luxury hotelier has worked to resort the Adlon to its rightful place on the European hospitality scene, offering historic grandeur with a modern flourish.
With this illustrious past in mind, I was interested to see during my stay if the property lived up to its billing – of course, a storied history would be of no value if the hotel was unable to deliver today.
As Michael Sorgenfrey, managing director of the Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin, tells me over coffee: “We are always in the limelight here; the signing of the Adlon brought Kempinski itself to international recognition in the 1990s.
“Our guests are honest with us – expectations remain very high, even during this troubled time.
“We are always questioning how we can make it more convenient for our visitors, to anticipate their needs, and improve the reputation of the hotel.
“The pressure is always here; Kempinski has flagship properties across Europe, in Munich, Istanbul and Budapest, so we have to keep the standards high.”
Walking down Unter den Linden and in through the front door of the hotel, initial impressions are good.
The huge lobby is the beating heart of the property, a cool, relaxed space with the concierge and reception desks subtly tucked virtually out of sight.
Water burbles from the famous elephant fountain, a present from the Maharaja of Patiala in the 1930s, while magnificent Murano glass chandeliers hang overhead.
On the veranda above, guests breakfast a Bel Etage, a place where fine silver from yesteryear clinks against contemporary crockery and classical music plays.
For a certain strata of Berlin society, you feel, if anything happens, it happens here.
Up in the suites, fresh white roses await, along with sparkling wine, bon bons and fresh fruit – the quintessential welcome to a luxury hotel.
Opening the curtains, the view over the Brandenburg Gate is worth the price of admission alone, with the glass cupola of the Reichstag building glistening in the background.
A note should be made on the electronics in the room, which could do with a refresh – it seems odd that even at this rarefied end of the market, guests still have to plug their phones miles away from the bed.
Having survived one world war, and the majority of a second, the Adlon has known adversity, but Covid-19 has taken a toll here too.
As Sorgenfrey explains: “The recovery, for the summer, was pretty good; from the start of June, we have been busy.
“Though, it has been a rollercoaster, demand goes up on the weekends, and then comes back down during the week.
“The market is also purely domestic - the outbound market, from Asia, the United States, has not returned, those regions remain in virtual lockdown.
“We have seen visitors from Germany, they come from all over the country to look at the museums, the attractions.
“But as we look ahead to the winter, that doubt comes back, and people are unwilling to book right now – people cannot make plans.
“When it comes to the final quarter, we do not know – but we want to stay positive.
He adds: “We stayed open throughout the whole period, a second home for our regular guests – but occupancy did fall as low as three per cent.
“But we are now up to around 70 per cent, so the domestic market has been able to help here.”
Indeed, the journey has been something of a rollercoaster for Sorgenfrey himself, taking over just as the first wave of the pandemic was crashing over Germany last spring.
“I took over on January 28th last year, at the height of the Berlin Film Festival; the hotel was crazy busy and packed with stars,” he adds.
“I was the food and beverage manager when the hotel reopened in 1997, coming back as the hotel manager and now as the managing director – a beautiful circle.
“Expectations were high, from myself and from the team, and then suddenly we were not flying any more.
“But we have grown with the challenges; nobody knew what to do, we were all in the same boat, everybody was on the phone asking how to navigate this crisis.”
While a recent move into South America for the first time has lightened the mood, there is a feeling the Adlon now, more than ever, represents the brand at the highest level.
Luckily, the property remains in a position to deliver.
The 385 rooms, including 78 suites, are all classically elegant in design, furnished with precious natural woods and fabrics.
Ranging up to 220 square metres, they can meet the demands of even the most cultured of traveller.
Special attention has also been paid to the bathrooms.
They feature black granite, light marble and exquisite cherry wood panelling, as well as double vanity units, a separate shower and bath and a built-in multifunctional dressing table.
Adlon also offers its guests three restaurants: the gourmet Lorenz Adlon Esszimmer, which has been awarded two Michelin stars, Restaurant Quarré, offering national and international classics, and the pan-Asian Sra Bua restaurant.
The latter remains closed due to the pandemic, but is set to return in the spring.
On the streets outside, the hotel also offers Adlon to Go, bringing a taste of luxury to passers-by.
Located at the Pariser Platz with a wonderful view of the Brandenburg Gate, the team shares international coffee specialities, homemade sandwiches and sweet creations from the in-house patisserie, as well as the finest ice cream in the summer.
The Hotel Adlon was the nexus of social life in the city during the last century, but today, like Berlin itself, it wears that history lightly.
This is not a stuffy place, coasting on its past, but a vibrant example of contemporary hospitality, the jewel in the Kempinski crown.
It is an unashamedly prestigious address, a stately residence welcoming politicians, celebrities and the elite from around the world – an icon that lives up to its reputation.
The Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin is located in the very heart of Berlin, right next to the famous Brandenburg Gate.
Its unique location, legendary history, opulent furnishings and decor, as well as a service above and beyond impeccable, make Hotel Adlon Kempinski ideal for leisure travellers, but also the perfect venue for social and corporate events.
Head over to the official website for more information.