Schlosshotel im Grunewald
Grunewald. Not an obvious destination for a sexy weekend away. It’s Berlin – but not as this resident knows it. Images of independent upcoming art galleries, vintage-filled fleamarkets, excessive nights out and a Bohemian lifestyle aren’t what spring to mind. It’s quite to the contrary – and that’s part of the charm of this leafy enclave celebrated for its posh villas and volume of Bentleys. Only 15–20 minutes away from Berlin’s city centre, Grunewald – meaning 'green wood’ – has us stepping into another world where there are more trees, cleaner streets, perfect families... it’s a happy place where everything seems just that little bit, well, nicer.
Not knowing quite what to expect from Schlosshotel im Grunewald, the only thing I’ve heard before our visit to this boutique hideaway is that it was once renovated by King Karl (Mr Lagerfeld, to you and me), which I like. But if I am truly honest, I’m initially a little sceptical of its residential location. Soon though we’re loving how this retreat has an anything-but-conventional luxury hotel air – it feels like an exclusive country house. And the warm and friendly welcome at the reception only enhances to this home-from-home hospitality.
Then the strangest thing happens: Mrs Smith and I suddenly feel fantastically posh. And trust me I’m not. Not at all. A quick snoop into the main sitting room, with its super high ceilings, golden chandeliers, refined wood pannelling and delicate ornaments, and the wealthy older folks sitting on the elegant sofas all seem to swivel around to stare. Feelings of sophistication vanish as they eyeball my old t-shirt, shorts and my beloved run-down Vans sneakers. But don’t misinterpret this! These aren’t looks of 'What is he doing here?’, more expressions of 'Oh, he must be an artist!’. Ha! And believe me, this concept store and gallery co-owner is enjoying this image to the fullest, playing out the role perfectly – short of actually setting up an easel.
As much as we are impressed by our stylish spacious suite and all its little details (to-die-for pistachios, a plate of exotic fresh fruits and a bathroom equipped with some fine Aesop products) ich bin ein Berliner, and as I am on holiday in my hometown, I want to explore Grunewald. With plenty of time before our date with fine dining in the Vivaldi Restaurant, we take one of the hotel’s bikes and head into the Grunewald Forest just five minutes away. Clear blue skies and 28º summer heat, the sun rays shine effortlessly through the fresh air. It’s just like being in the countryside. Soon we discover a beautiful clear-watered lake where some hippies are splashing about – mostly naked. This sure isn’t proving to be your average city-break excursion.
We continue our ride up to the top of Teufelsberg mountain where an abandoned US listening tower overlooks Berlin, a reminder of the Cold War of decades past. A station once used to eavesdrop on Soviet and East German military traffic, today, it provides a soul-stirring vantage point for taking spectacular photos. Facing south we have the whole city of Berlin at our feet, and gazing north we see nothing but green forests. It’s like the perfect romantic ending scene of a love movie. Except there’s a small flaw in this particular plot... My Mrs Smith is, well, not in fact here. My stand-in Mrs Smith cancelled last minute, so I’m actually missing out on a partner-in-crime for this kissing-scene happy ending spot. I head back to my made-for-romance hotel – sadly on my own.
I may be solo but where better for a relaxing time-out from a busy Mitte week at my concept store Soto and art platform MADE. Ready for some serious pampering by now – albeit à un – I ask about the spa treatments. The two ladies and a gentleman at the front desk ask if I’d prefer a man or woman for my massage. The male receptionist just grins at me and says: 'Easy choice, right?’ By now the two ladies also have the biggest smiles from here to Melbourne on their faces. I just nod. A knock on my door soon reveals a very hairy Slovakian guy. He may be the wrong gender to be my dream Mrs Smith but he is a mighty fine therapist and I surely feel like a newborn baby afterwards.
The hotel’s fancier restaurant Vivaldi is renowned for being exquisite, all white marble and gilding – very Versace if anything. Even though its more adventurous dishes are what many flock here for, I plump for national favourite, Wiener Schnitzel with French fries. Well, when in Berlin, and all that. After dinner I hit the cosy bar at the other side of the central sitting room – it would be the perfect place to be pondering highballs with a sweetheart. Big leather lounge couches, an open fire place – where is my Frau Schmidt? Two huge safes filled with wooden boxes with golden name tags on it then catch my eye: cigars. Sealed and stored in a humidor. Too bad I am sitting here by myself otherwise this room is the perfect spot for telling tales of yore over a glass of even-older whiskey. Next time.
Now, it’s supine on a sunlounger in the gardens of the Schlosshotel when I really start plotting my return with a special someone. A little water fountain, green grass, high trees, little walkways, lounge chairs – it actually feels like I’m sitting in our own garden watching your well-heeled neighbours.
Intimate, romantic and secluded – this small-scale palace was created by the Kaiser for his lawyer in 1914, who barely had time to enjoy it before WWI struck. Ensconced in parkland it’s a hip-but-historical hotel with a heritage as rich as its soft furnishings, its furnishings have been finessed to design hotel status. Spanish hotelier, Alma, recently zhuzhed up its elegance and injected some stylish contemporary flourishes and it all works. The only problem? Unlike me, you might find it hard to motivate yourself to venture out. I haven’t even mentioned yet that there is a spa and swimming pool below. Be assured, I’ll be back with the Mrs Smith soon for a cheeky steam-and-sauna-enhanced escape.
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Smith extra at Schlosshotel im Grunewald
A bottle of champagne in your room upon arrival. Book a Luxury or Grand Suite, and you'll be picked up from the airport too.