Few hotels have had as tumultuous a history as the Adlon, now officially the Hotel Adlon Kempinski. Its fate has mirrored that of its home city, ever since Lorenz Adlon first convinced Kaiser Wilhelm II that the German capital deserved a grand luxury hotel on par with those in London and Paris.
After it opened in 1907, it became Berlin’s most important social center for the upper class, and even following the Kaiser’s abdication at the end of World War I, the hotel retained its cachet. During the Weimar period, it ranked among the most famous in the world.
The hotel even managed to survive the bombings of World War II with little damage, but was destroyed soon after in a blaze that, according to legend, was accidentally started in the wine cellar by drunken Red Army soldiers. What remained after the fire stood at the edge of no man’s land, just steps from the Berlin Wall that divided the city for half a century. A few years after the wall fell, the site of the original hotel was acquired for the new Hotel Adlon Kempinski, which opened in 1997.
Inside, the lobby still has an air of Wilhelmine decadence, with its elephant fountain, gold-leaf embellished coffered ceilings and stained-glass cupola. The art-deco style of the rooms nods to the hotel’s Weimar years, and the Brandenburg Gate views from certain Junior Suites and suites never fail to send chills up my spine.
The lobby can sometimes feel too crowded with tourists, it’s true, and the occasional motorcade can gum up the entrance. But the Adlon remains a pinnacle of hospitality, having reclaimed its place among the great hotels of the Continent.