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Stay the Night: Modern Houseboat, Berlin

You can dance all night at the German capital's legendary clubs, then retreat to the River Spree, says James Litston

Unsurprisingly, Berlin isn't short of stylish places to stay. But of all the city's designer accommodations, few can compete with Modern Houseboat for character and one-of-a-kind charm. This quirky rental, which opened in June, has permanent moorings on Rummelsburger Bucht, a quiet backwater of the River Spree at the southernmost fringe of the Friedrichshain district.

The slightly out-of-the-way location is compensated for by the setting and set-up of the boat – walk down the dock and through the front door and you enter a scene that contrasts sharply with the urban grit of Berlin. The modern, open-plan interior is flanked by floor-to-ceiling windows, running the full length of the boat, that offer a serene, panoramic watery vista.

Berlin's landmark TV Tower crowns the skyline dead ahead, while reeds and poplars frame the foreground. For those who can tear themselves from the view, the thrust of the city is still close by. The central hub of Alexanderplatz is just five stops away on the S-Bahn (overground railway), with the edgy attractions of Kreuzberg lying closer still.


The Rooms

Modern Houseboat is a single, linear space characterised by clean lines and a muted palette of browns, greys, and gleaming whites. Combined with an uncomplicated construction of poured concrete, natural pine and wall-to-wall glass, the interior feels light, bright and tremendously uncluttered. A wide, wooden deck beyond the living- room windows invites you to get even closer to the water.

Exposed aluminium crossbeams add an industrial edge that complements the working dockside setting, while low-slung daybeds and a wood-burning stove add a warm, homely feeling. The most striking feature, of course, is the view. Open water and the fringe of greenery lend a softness that tempers the industrial feel. The westerly aspect makes the most of the sunlight and whether it's daytime or night, the ever-changing scenery – combined with a perpetual, gentle rocking – is mesmerising.

A dividing wall, with sliding door, separates the queen-size bedroom and adjoining bathroom with its dual washbasins and a walk-in shower. A second double bed folds down from the living-room wall; but although there's space to accommodate up to four, this is a property best suited for a getaway à deux.


The Modern Houseboat lit up as evening falls

Out and About

Guests can make use of bicycles for exploring the trail around Rummelsburger Bucht. It's also pleasant for a waterfront stroll, and can be extended to Kreuzberg and beyond.

If sleeping on the water is just too sedentary, pleasure boats can be hired locally (spreeboote.de; prices from €8/£6.60 per hour); or upgrade to a vintage craft for a sightseeing tour along Berlin's waterways (00 49 30 5091 2035; berliner-bootsverleih.de; €520/£430 for three-hour tour).

Nearby, Kreuzberg has a thriving café scene along Schlesische Strasse, but to stay close to the water, head to Freischwimmer (00 49 30 6107 4309; freischwimmer-berlin.com), one of several edgy establishments on a canalside adjoining the Spree with a crackling fire during winter and hearty weekend brunches.

For sightseeing, head across the river via the Oberbaumbrücke (Berlin's prettiest bridge) to the Eastside Gallery – the largest remaining segment of the Berlin Wall, since covered with mostly political paintings by international artists (eastsidegallery- berlin.de).

Modern Houseboat's location is ideal for sampling Berlin's nightlife. Legendary Berghain – ranked among the world's best nightclubs – is in nearby Friedrichshain (berghain.de). Or head to Alexanderplatz for drinks with a view at the TV Tower's revolving bar (00 49 30 24 757 5875; tv-turm.de) followed by all-night dancing at Weekend (week-end-berlin.de), a club on the top floors of an office block.


The Food and Drink

There's only tea, coffee and juice on the boat, though an Aldi supermarket a few blocks away along Hauptstrasse is handy for stocking up on essentials. For anything more substantial, Hafenküche (00 49 30 4221 9926; hafenkueche.de) is a chic, Scandinavian-style restaurant (with an outside, dock-front terrace) serving lunch, dinner and weekend breakfasts. Further afield (just a few minutes' walk from Alexanderplatz), Restauration 1840 offers traditional German fare in the midst of charming Hackescher Markt (00 49 30 2472 7401; berlin-1840.de).


The Essentials

Modern Houseboat, Rummelsburger Bucht, Gustav-Holzmann Strasse 10, Berlin, Germany (00 49 176 641 150 16; welcomebeyond.com). Rental starts at €180 (£113) per night, or €950 (£594) per week. Sleeps two adults and two children; minimum stay three nights.

James Litston flew to Berlin with British Airways; return flights from Heathrow start at £109pp (0844 493 0787; ba.com).