Since the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago, the city's new hotspots tended to crop up in the east. However, things are changing and one of the latest openings is in the heart of the West City. The 25hours Hotel has become instantly popular with locals, as well as tourists, creating a real buzz.
25hours is a hotel without borders. Everyone is welcome to wander in, lie in a faux-fur hammock, take a turn on the swing seat, read the (German) newspapers, buy a snack from the bakery or pick a vinyl to play on the turntable.
The hotel occupies a small high rise at one end of the newly redeveloped Bikini-Haus. Named after its two-piece appearance when it was built in the 1950s, the complex was a regeneration gift from the US to the sector of the city that it controlled in the Cold War. It has been completely revitalised as an arty "concept mall".
Besides the designer main shops, Bikini Berlin sports Bikini Boxes – oversized crates that act as pop-up shops. When you need a retail break, you can settle down next to the floor-to-ceiling windows or out on the roof terrace and watch the baboons in neighbouring Berlin Zoo.
The hotel can be entered from the Bikini roof terrace via wooden steps that double as bar-café seating, or from street-level where you are greeted by bicycles hanging from the ceiling and an old Mini. The hotel owns a fleet of bikes and Minis that (subject to availability) can be borrowed, free of charge, to explore the city.
The Monkey Bar, on the 10th and top floor, is packed even midweek, both inside and out on the terrace overlooking the zoo. The restaurant, NENI Berlin is led by Israeli-born, part-German-raised, Vienna-based chef Haya Molcho, whose cuisine is described as Balagan, meaning "pleasing chaos". You can order several dishes to share – it's fusion food of the best kind. The views of the Tiergarten are great too.
The hotel's slogan is "Come as You Are" and you really feel you can; it is genuinely fun and relaxed.
25hours sits directly between Berlin Zoo (home to 1,500 species – more than any other zoo) and the heart of West Berlin's commerce and nightlife. It is right by Kurfürstendamm (Ku'Damm), and Tauentzienstrasse, home to KaDeWe, Cold War symbol of West Berlin's capitalist prosperity and still Europe's largest department store.
Across the road, is Berlin's iconic Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, bombed by the RAF during the Second World War and retained as a ruin in memory of the war and its victims.
Corridors leading to the rooms are black with large white neon room numbers and each floor is scented with a different essential oil. Half of the 149 rooms are classed as "Urban", overlooking the city, the other half "Jungle", with green views of Berlin Zoo. I wake in my Jungle Room and pull open the curtains to see pelicans in the enclosure below and a (wild) heron flying by.
Rooms come in three sizes: M, L and XL, all a collage of styles. The dark entrance-ways are lit only by colour-changing neon, while the bed areas are much lighter in natural wood with pastel walls decorated with delightful doodling by Japanese artist Yoshi Sisley.
The rooms are playful with amusing extras such as a monkey soft toy, a selection of pillows with slogans ("Let's Sleep Together") and a booklet of Do Not Disturb signs (including "Still naked" and "Sometimes it's better not to know"). In the bathroom, a little arrow to one of the switches reads "warm feet". It turns on underfloor heating by the basin.
At night the rooms feel candlelit – hopeless if you are trying to do some work but lovely as you swing in the window-side hammock. This is a place to chill out and have fun.
25hours Hotel, Bikini Berlin, Budapester Strasse 40, Berlin, Germany
(00 49 30 12 02210; 25hours-hotels.com).
Doubles start at €115, including breakfast.