Hotel Review: King and Twin Junior Suites at the Waldorf Astoria Berlin
During a recent trip to Europe, I spent a long weekend in Berlin. I knew I wanted to stay in a good hotel that wasn’t too expensive, one that would still offer all the creature comforts and earn me some points in the process. Eventually, I settled on the Waldorf Astoria. Here's what it was like to stay there.
I’d been interested in visiting this hotel since it opened in 2013 and it was on my list because — at least for the remainder of 2016 — I had Hilton Honors Gold status thanks to the Platinum Card from American Express that I'd canceled a few months before, so I figured I should make the most of my elite status while it lasted.
Non-refundable prepaid rates for the dates of my stay started at 230 euros (~$243 at the time) per night for a King Deluxe room with a view. I eventually came across this third night free offer for reservations of four nights or more, which was still probably going to be too pricey for me, but I happened to zero in on this sentence from the terms and conditions: "The value of fourth night stay will be applied as a discount to the daily rate paid for all consumed nights as a discount of 25% off nightly rate."
Bingo. You see, I also have the Citi Prestige Card, which, as you probably know, offers a nifty 4th Night Free perk on paid reservations. Because Waldorf Astoria stipulated that rather than getting a night taken off the bill, the discount would apply to the daily paid rate, the reservation would look like all nights were discounted and the Citi Prestige benefit might also apply.
Essentially, my nightly rate would be knocked down to 187.50 euros ($199 at the time) per night, and then I’d have one of those night’s rates refunded to me via the Citi Prestige perk. After stacking the two discounts, here the breakdown of how much I’d be paying.
- Regular rate: 230 euros ($243) per night
- Total without discounts: 920 euros ($974)
- Special Waldorf Astoria discount rate: 187.50 euros ($199) per night
- Total cost: 750 euros ($794)
- New total with Citi Prestige discount: 517.50 euros ($548)
- Discount off original rate: 43.75%
- Total savings: 402.50 euros ($426)
I would also end up earning 10,275 Hilton Honors points on my stay, thanks to a combination of my points, a double-dipping promotion and my elite status with Hilton.
I called the Citi Prestige cardholder number and asked the representative to try entering the specific rate code for this package, and when she didn’t get the same rates I did when searching on Hilton’s website, I suggested that she call Hilton directly. She was friendly and seemed as determined as I was to get the right rate, so she asked me to hold. Sure enough, a few minutes later, she came back on the line to tell me she had been able to secure the same rate through Hilton and that it looked like the reservation was listed as four nights rather than three with the discount, so we went ahead and booked it.
Starting in July 2017, Citi will change the way it processes this 4th Night Free benefit — at that point, the rebate will be based on an average of the four nights and not include taxes. While this wouldn’t have affected my stay (well, except for the part about taxes), it’s something to keep in mind this summer.
Just for reference, the Waldorf Astoria Berlin is a Category 8 Hilton property requiring 40,000 to 70,000 Hilton Honors points per night. During my stay, prices were hovering around the 70,000 points per night mark, which is part of the reason I decided to go with the paid rate instead.
The hotel is located in an upscale business district on the western side of the city, just across the street from the Zoologischer Garten (Berlin Zoo) railway station, where you can find lots of U-Bahn, S-Bahn and bus connections — it's also a quick walk from the Kurfürstendamm shopping street. I caught the X9 express bus from Berlin Tegel Airport (TXL) for just 2.70 euros (~$3) and was at the hotel in about 20 minutes. Of course, the hotel’s non-central location also meant I’d be schlepping a fair amount to get to the city's major tourist attractions and to trendier neighborhoods like Prenzlaeur Berg and Neukölln, but I had a transit pass and there were so many connection possibilities available that I didn’t mind at all.
I checked my reservation on the Hilton smartphone app about 24 hours before my arrival and found that I’d been upgraded to a King Junior Suite, which would have otherwise cost 26 euros (~$29) more per night.
At check-in, the concierge acknowledged my Hilton Honors Gold status and gave me an envelope with materials explaining my benefits, including:
- My 25% points bonus
- Late check-out, based on request and availability
- Complimentary entry to the Guerlain Spa and pool, where the fitness center was also located
- Complimentary high-speed internet access (more on that later)
- A one-category room upgrade based on availability (which I’d already secured)
- One welcome drink per person
- One My Way benefit choice: 1,000 bonus Honors points or one complimentary in-room movie
I’d already gotten the room upgrade and just had to choose the My Way benefit, so I opted for the 1,000 Honors bonus points. I received my key and was on my way to the elevator when another reception staffer caught up with me, saying he'd accompany me to the room. When I politely declined, he told me it was so he could give me a tour of the room. I politely declined again — since I was in a hurry to leave my things and head out for an appointment — and left him there, looking a little flummoxed.
The King Junior Suite
My King Junior Suite felt enormous considering it was a starter suite — it was nearly 540 square feet, about 90 more square feet than the room I’d originally booked.
Just inside the entrance was a doorway to the bathroom. Just beyond that was the mini-bar as well as a Nespresso machine.
In the corner, there was a work desk with a 40-inch LCD TV with Apple TV mounted on the wall.
There was also a small vanity area and a couple of armchairs. Also along the wall was the second door to the bathroom. The bedroom consisted of a semi-separate area with a king-size bed, a chaise lounge and a coffee table.
On the wall across from the bed was another wall-mounted television. The bed was, of course, a Waldorf Astoria Signature model, which was comfortable and plush.
Overall, the red-and-gold palette and curvaceous velvet furniture pieces gave the room a refined Art Deco kind of look, but in such a way that it still felt somewhat corporate.
The white-marble bathroom felt pretty palatial. I loved the illuminated mirrored backsplash above the bathtub, which gave it a more elegant feel. The one drawback was that there was just a single sink when there seemed to be enough room for two of them.
The mirror held an embedded television, just in case you wanted to catch up on your news from the bath or while brushing your teeth.
There were also separate stalls for the WC and a walk-in shower.
The bath products were Tuscan Sun by Salvatore Ferragamo, which I’ve enjoyed in a few airline amenity kits.
There was turn-down service every evening — well, if you were out between about 6:00pm and 10:00pm anyway — and the housekeeping staff did a nice job of refreshing the room every day, even if there were no pillow chocolates.
The Twin Junior Suite
About an hour after I’d checked in, a friend informed me he would be coming to Berlin for two nights and wondered if he could stay with me. I was out and about, so I called the hotel and spoke to the same front-desk agent who'd checked me in to see if they could switch me to a room with two beds in it. He said he’d check and call me back.
When I got back to the hotel about two hours later, I stopped by the front desk to ask about the room change, and the concierge told me I should stay in my current room for the night, then once my friend arrived the next day, they’d be able to put me in the same junior suite category of room with two beds for the remainder of the stay. Best of all, there would be no extra charge for changing rooms or having another person in there with me. I was really grateful the staff were so accommodating and efficient, and, hey, I got to check out two rooms for the price of one!
The Twin Junior Suite was laid out a bit differently, with both the bedroom area and the living area being in the same big, open space rather than organized in a walkthrough-style like the King Junior Suite had been. While this made it feel a little smaller and more like a normal room, it was still quite large and comfortable.
The one thing that went wrong during our stay occurred the next morning, when we left our packed bags in a corner of the old room to be moved while we were out for the day. When we got back to the hotel, we were told that they hadn’t been moved because they appeared to not be packed and ready. Confused, we headed up to the room, and saw that our bags were still sitting there just as we'd left them. I called down and had the desk send me the new keys up with a bellboy and we ended up moving everything to the new room ourselves.
And now, for the one major gripe: If you’re not an Honors member with Gold status or above, Wi-Fi costs 25 euros (~$28) per day. In this day and age, that’s not only shocking, it’s enraging.
Luckily, I didn’t have to pay, but this would otherwise be a make-or-break issue for me when deciding whether or not to book this hotel. Given what a business-focused property this is, I can’t fathom why it would charge such an exorbitant rate — or anything at all — for Wi-Fi that was just fine but not amazingly high-speed.
The hotel’s lobby — dubbed Peacock Alley after the famous corridor that connected the original Waldorf hotel to the Astoria back in the day — featured a specially designed grandfather clock in homage to the New York City original.
Guests could get little snacks and light bites throughout the day and evening in the lobby, which was a nice touch.
Around the corner on the ground floor was the hotel’s all-day casual restaurant, Roca.
Bright and surrounded by windows, this restaurant served sandwiches, salads, baked goods and a few larger entrees.
There was also outdoor dining available along the sidewalk in good weather.
The hotel’s flagship restaurant, however, was Les Solistes by noted French chef Pierre Gagnaire, located one floor up and featuring both à la carte and set menus of seasonal delicacies. While I was there, one of the main courses was roasted duck from Challans with green-pepper bigarade, radicchio puree with balsamic vinegar, foie gras ice cream and chutney. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to dine there this time around.
Across the floor from Les Solistes was the hotel’s swanky Lang Bar, named after Austrian-born German cinematic pioneer Fritz Lang. The menu was a mix of international beers, wines and classic cocktails.
Up on the fifth floor, the fitness center was located within the Guerlain Spa, which was only open from 8:00am to 9:00pm. Note that guests could still access the gym 24/7.
I thought about getting the signature Orchidé Impériale L’Interlude facial treatment, but it was rather expensive at nearly 200 euros (~$224), so I skipped it. The facility also housed a beautiful indoor pool, steam rooms and saunas.
The hotel also had a lounge up on the 15th floor called The Library, where afternoon tea was served. There was a small business center there, too, but it appeared to be closed and locked the two times I went up to check it out.
Did my stay at the Waldorf Astoria Berlin blow me away? Not really, but it suited my needs. Not only did I score what I thought was a phenomenal discount and an upgrade to an enormous room, the staff were extremely accommodating when I had to change rooms in the middle of my stay. Despite the small kerfuffle with my room change, the rest of the staff were all friendly, efficient and cheerful, and helped me with everything from printing concert tickets to making restaurant reservations and suggesting places I should visit.
While the service was nicely personalized, I did find the overall design and décor of this hotel to be sort of bland and corporate — I think that’s par for the course with city Waldorf Astoria properties at this point, but these are Hilton’s top-tier hotels, so more individualized touches would be nice. If it's your first trip to Berlin, you might want to stay somewhere that’s closer to the major sights. But despite the extra time I spent on public transit, I was happy with the location and found I could get everywhere I needed quickly and easily thanks to the U- and S-Bahns that departed right outside the hotel.
Have you sever stayed at the Waldorf Astoria Berlin? Tell us about your experience, below.
All photos by the author.