Berlin: This is tomorrow calling

by John Keenan
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Berlin MICE hotels and services

Browse MICE and corporate hotels in Berlin on the Great Hotels of the World website including detailed meeting information, photos, reviews and more.

For great MICE offers and to request a proposal for your next event please visit the Great Hotels of the World MICE page.

For more information on MICE events in Berlin contact Heike Mahmoud at the Berlin Convention Office: Tel: +49 (0)30 26 39 183 /


History, like celebrity, can be as much as curse as a blessing. It seems only natural that a city such as Berlin should capitalise on its past. But at what point does a destination become trapped by that image? And when is it time to move on?

This year sees the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and it seems that everybody in the German capital has gone over the top. Museums have organised themed exhibitions on the division of Germany and Berlin at the time of reunification. They include the house at Checkpoint Charlie, the German Historic Museum, the Allies Museum, Museum Karlshorst, the Stasi Museum, and the GDR Museum, among others. An exhibition on Alexanderplatz focusing on the Berlin Wall and the revolution will run until October and there are plans for an ineluctable fireworks display on November 9, the day of remembrance, followed by the inevitable concert at Brandenburg Gate and the indispensible political remembrance ceremony.

What of the future?

There is more to Berlin than spies and subversion. For example, this year’s cultural highlights include the new Dali Museum on Potsdamer Platz, a temporary art gallery Berlin on Schlossplatz and the reopening of the New Museum on Museum Island in October. And to underline Berlin’s cool credentials the MTV European Music Awards returns there this year. On November 5 the movers and shakers of the international music scene will be presented with coveted trophies in front of the Brandenburg Gate and in the O2 World.

Perhaps it is this side of the city that will be emphasized when Meeting Place Berlin 2009, organised by the Berlin Convention Office (BCO), seeks to showcase the city as an attractive and sought-after destination for meetings, conventions and incentives.

From July 2-6, around 100 national and international hosted buyers, on the invitation of the BCO, will have an opportunity to see for themselves the range of services offered in Berlin.

And no doubt BCO will hammer home the quality of its transport links. The international flight connections from and to Berlin are being extended; the non-stop flights to the USA by Delta Airlines and Continental and those to Qatar by Qatar Airways guarantee the shortest possible international business links. The new Berlin Brandenburg International Airport – BBI, on the site of the current Berlin-Schönefeld airport – is scheduled to open in 2011. When BBI opens there will be a 20-minute shuttle service between the railway station and the airport.

For a fine example of how history can be intelligently incorporated into modern-day life, look no further than the Hotel de Dome on Berlin’s Bebelplatz. Rocco Forte’s typically stylish property is the former Dresdner Bank - the huge bank vaults now admit the visitor into a world of health rather than wealth, with spa rooms and a decent-sized swimming pool. The hotel has 146 bedrooms and five meeting rooms – the ballroom is a triumph of the restorer’s art and can comfortably host 250 delegates.

A contrary approach has been adopted at the Ritz-Carlton on Potsdamer Platz. This traditional-looking hotel is in fact only as old as the modern unified city, but that doesn’t stop it exuding the ambience of a time-honoured fixture. If you get the feeling that you are surrounded by the Art Deco splendour of mid-town Manhattan, it’s no co-incidence; that’s what the designer wants you to think. But step beyond the gilded doors and you are soon disabused of the notion – you are bang in the middle of the steel and glass modernism of 21st century Berlin.

For the authentic experience of historic Berlin, the best game in town is the Hotel Adlon Kempinski. This landmark property, in the shadow of the Brandenburg Gate, has had its share of notorious guests – including Michael Jackson who was inspired to dangle his baby over the railings of his suite – but more importantly it has hosted a number of prestigious international events.

Bang up-to-date, the InterContinental, in the west of the city, features a glass pavilion conference centre which can hold up to 400 delegates. It also offers 37 meeting rooms, which includes the main ballroom with a maximum capacity of 1,300 people in theatre style. The InterContinental has 534 bedrooms and 50 suites.

From the sleek sophistication of the Hyatt to the robust Americana of the Marriott, by way of the monumental Westin Grand, there is no shortage of upmarket brands in Berlin. You negotiate your rate and you make your choice.

The Israeli hotel chain Leonardo Hotels will be opening two new hotels in Berlin this year. The first is taking shape in the former police headquarters on the Alexanderplatz. The listed building is being renovated and will open in July as the Leonardo Royal Hotel Berlin; 346 bedrooms plus function rooms for up to 500 persons are promised. The second hotel (a three star) is currently under construction on Wilmersdorfer Strasse in the west. The Spanish Silken Group is building its first four-star-plus hotel in Germany on Lietzenburger Strasse. Guests will be able to book a stay there from autumn onwards. It will have 205 rooms, including 42 suites. The highlights in the Silken Hotel are a Japanese garden with a waterfall and the large wellness area looking out over the roofs of Berlin. A 450 sqm meeting and conference area is an appropriate setting for all kinds of events.

In spring 2011, the luxury Waldorf Astoria Group will open their first newly-built hotel in Europe. Located in the vicinity of the Kurfürstendamm and the Zoological Garden, the 31-storey Waldorf Astoria Berlin will feature 242 rooms and suites, a conference area covering more than 1 100 sqm and a sumptuous spa facility.

The Hotel Barcelona on the Alexanderplatz is due to open in the summer of 2011 and will feature a swimming pool 30 meters above the lobby - separated by a single sheet of glass, this should keep you occupied while waiting to check in.

Away from the hotels, the city has a clutch of weird and wonderful venues. Axica – a typically eccentric Frank Gehry creation - features a modern conference room which can hold to 85 delegates, while the Forum, below stairs, is ideal for receptions for up to 750 people. The restored Museum for Post and Communications is another idiosyncratic gem encased in a glass atrium and is suitabe for a gala dinner for up to 100 people. The courtyard at the Jewish Museum can hold 500 people for a reception while the Meilenwerk tram depot – home to classic and modern cars – comfortably seats up to 450 for a gala dinner. The Kaisersaal on Potsdamer Platz offers a more exclusive atmosphere for small groups, while E-werk – formerly the electricty generating station – comprises two halls offering a maximum capacity for 900 people at a reception or 300 for dinner.

Brief word...

We asked a leading Berlin-based destination management company to respond to this hypothetical brief: a pan-European company needs to retain staff and strengthen its upscale brand image internally. A two-day conference including by break-out sessions, a keynote address by the CEO and a gala dinner on the final evening. Here is what they suggested.

Jill Tanamal, Ovation Germany

For a conference in a city as rich in history as Berlin I would suggest the heritage property Hotel de Rome Berlin. Dating from 1889, the former headquarters of the Dresdner Bank has been impressively restored to form part of the Rocco Forte Collection. Located right in the heart of this bustling city, it combines the ornate grandeur of the original bank with many striking contemporary design elements.

With 146 sleek rooms, a luxurious glazed ceiling ballroom, spacious breakout rooms and a lavish Spa carved out of the former vaults, this hotel provides for every meeting planner’s and conference delegate’s need. For something a little different, the former GDR chancellery of Erich Honecker is now a private university combining historical walls with state-of-the-art meeting facilities.

Berlin offers a superb variety of locations for gala dinners. In addition to its world renowned museum spaces, the architectural highlight of the AXICA building cannot be missed. Located beside the historic Brandenburg Gate, architect Frank Gehry’s innovative and futuristic venue will wow even the best-travelled delegate.

‘Must-do’ group activities include the Trabi-Safari (using Trabants, the former cardboard cars from the GDR) or a flight with the well-known Rosinenbomber – guaranteed to combine a little German history with great entertainment and fun.

Vital indicators: Berlin

Value for money – 3
Compared to its near-neighbours, Germany is not cheap, and prices in the city reflect that fact. That said, Berlin offers good value compared to other major European capitals.

Infrastructure – 4
The city has a good supply of five-star products and a choice of extremely professional destination management companies.

The X-factor – 2
Two decades have passed since the fall of the Berlin Wall. If you were born in the late 1980s, the Cold War seems as distant as the Holy Roman Empire. It’s time the city sold its future rather than its past.

Access – 3
There are two airports either side of the city: Tegel in the north and Schönefeld in the south. The former is the main international hub. It is comparatively painless to get into the heart of the city from either.

Luxury investment - 2
The city’s existing five-star stock is good but the focus of new-build hotels is downmarket.

Berlin needs an image makeover if it is going to seriously challenge the big players in the meetings market.

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