The leading business publisher, Forbes (of ‘Rich List’ fame) recently announced its experts’ pick of Europe’s most luxurious hotels.
Among them are the following six which are available to book at the best rates through Luxique. Alongside is a snapshot of the jury’s verdict:
• Le Meurice Paris: ‘Modern elegance, with the opulence of Versailles.’
• Claridge’s, London: ‘The destination of choice for the world’s celebrities and royals.’
• Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat, St Jean Cap Ferrat, France: ‘A legendary hotel that epitomises and exudes old-world glamour, while simultaneously offering modern amenities for today’s discerning traveller.”
• Hotel Adlon Berlin: ‘An historic masterpiece, in a prime location, provoking a sense of awe upon arrival.’
• Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal, Budapest: ‘Behind the opulent and grand façade lies the fully restored 19th-century spa where guests can enjoy anything from a mud or seaweed bath to an array of full-body wraps.’
• Villa d’Este, Lake Como, Italy: ‘A much-vaunted palazzo hotel that has dazzled royalty, celebrities, billionaires and chic in-the-know jetsetters for more than a century.’
by Andy Moreton, with acknowledgements to Richard Carnell of Forbes.com.
It’s the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall next month, and the occasion will be marked by various events in the city.
When the East German government built the wall in 1961, it didn’t take into account the ingenuity shown by those who were prepared to take any risk to try to escape the oppressive communist system.
While some flew over the barrier in hot air balloons and others were smuggled in secret compartments in cars, several hundred took advantage of the soft, sandy soil under Berlin to tunnel their way to freedom.
Now, that secret tunnel network has become one of the most popular attractions for tourists and locals alike. And their guide is often Hasso Herschel, who, in the 1960s and 1970s, helped dozens escape through the secret tunnels, some of which he dug with his own hands.
Mr Herschel, who escaped to West Germany with a forged passport in 1961, dug several illegal tunnels under the wall, the first in September 1962. It’s reckoned that about a fifth of the estimated 71 projects were successful. Often they were discovered by troops or secret police before they could be used. Others collapsed, were flooded or buried by loose soil.
Details of the underground tours can be found at http://berliner-unterwelten.de/
and for information on the city’s anniversary celebrations, go to http://www.mauerfall09.de/
by Andy Moreton
Whether visiting for the anniversary celebrations or at any other time of the year, Luxique can guide you through the best of the luxury hotels in Berlin.
Visitors to Berlin this year will find the artwork on the largest remaining section of the Wall brighter and more colourful than usual.
The reason is that the artists who created the murals have been asked to re-do them in time for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall in November.
The 4,265 ft stretch of wall, the world’s longest open-air art gallery, was decorated by 118 artists from 21 countries in 1990 and was declared a historic monument by the Berlin city government in 1992.
The East Side Gallery, as it’s known, has become one of the city’s top attractions, but it’s been damaged by the weather, exhaust fumes, vandals and souvenir-seeking tourists.
The head of the artists’ association at the East Side Gallery, Kani Alavi, said four of the original artists had set to work and another 82 had promised to participate.
But some artists have refused to join in the effort and are demanding 15,000 euros (£13,000 / $20,000) in compensation instead of the 3,000 euros (£2,600 / $3,800) on offer, arguing that they have not received a fair share of the Gallery’s earnings over the years.
by Andy Moreton
Events are going on in Berlin throughout 2009, culminating in a grand public party at the Brandenburg Gate on the actual anniversary of the fall of the Wall (November 9). If you’re planning a visit, browse Luxique’s selection of luxury Berlin hotels, including the celebrated Adlon Kempinksi.
The German capital, Berlin, displays a certain modesty with its advertising slogan: ‘Poor, but sexy.’
But it seems to work because so far, Berlin has bucked the trend of the crisis-hit global travel industry. Last year, it welcomed 7.9 million tourists, breaking its own record for the fifth consecutive year with a gain of 4.2 per cent from 2007.
Tourist numbers have soared since the 1990s - most of them visitors from the former East Germany rediscovering half a city they were banned from seeing under Communist rule.
But Berlin is attractive to foreign tourists too, because its prices are low while its image is cool. A four-star hotel room in Berlin will set you back around 150 euros (£140 / $192), less than half what a similar hotel in Paris or London would cost.
Low-cost airlines are also fueling Berlin’s tourism success. The city is the second biggest hub for low-cost airlines behind London.
Tourism officials are realistic about the difficulties of the coming financial year, but hopeful at the same time. “We may take a cut, but Berlin is very competitive with cities like Paris or London in terms of what you get for your money,” said a spokesman, Christian Taenzler. “That goes for the price of a cappuccino right up to tickets for cultural events.”
by Andy Moreton
Luxique can offer great deals at some of the best luxury hotels in Berlin.
There are plans to recreate the most famous outdoor musical event of the 1960s – Woodstock.
It’ll be 40 years this summer since Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in Bethel, New York, was turned into a four-day love-in, featuring some of the greatest names in popular music.
The original co-promoter, Michael Lang, wants to mark the anniversary with two free concerts in August, the first at an unspecified location in New York and the second at Berlin’s disused Tempelhof airport. He’s hoping to woo Woodstock veterans The Who, Santana, Joan Baez, Joe Cocker and Country Joe and the Fish.
It’s early days in the planning process – sponsors have to be found and the authorities in Berlin haven’t yet given permission for the former airport to be used.
There have been doubts about whether Tempelhof would be a suitable European venue. As one Berliner commented: “This airport was one of the Nazis’ strongholds, there’s not much peace and love to be found there.”
by Andy Moreton
You might have enjoyed camping out on the land in ’69, but these days you probably want a bit of luxury. Luxique offers an unrivalled selection of fabulous boutique hotels in New York and luxury hotels in Berlin.
The world’s biggest travel trade fair, ITB, has been taking place in Berlin, but with the industry under an economic cloud, the atmosphere’s been more funereal than festive.
Airlines and tour operators worldwide are suffering from the recession as companies spend less on business travel and tourists cut their budgets.
Most of the countries who welcome tourists – and some who rely heavily on them - are represented at the fair, but all are fearful of future prospects.
“Hard times lie ahead for the world’s travel industry,” said David Ruetz, chief organizer of ITB, noting that 2009 would be, at best, a year of stagnation for the industry. “In all likelihood the downturn will continue before things improve again. The signals for 2010 are not encouraging.”
Travel experts say people are economising by leaving booking to the very last minute and choosing different kinds of trips such as short getaways. The media here in the UK have been reporting a sudden surge in bookings of single-night stays - what have been dubbed ‘nano-breaks.’
But the experts say expensive luxury holidays and cruises seem to have bucked the trend because wealthier clients are less affected by the crisis.
by Andy Moreton
A decision has finally been made about the future of most of the Tempelhof airport site in Berlin – it’s to be turned into a park. (See “Farewell Flight” from October 10, 2008)
The airport, which served as a lifeline for West Berlin during the Soviet blockade, closed last month after more than 80 years’ service.
The city government says it will spend 61 million euros (£51 million / $79 million) converting the airport into a leisure area about the size of New York’s Central Park.
A spokesman for the Berlin government, Marko Rosteck, said the architecturally important limestone terminal building would be preserved. A wide variety of proposals for its use were still being considered.
“We’re very fortunate to have a giant patch of green in the heart of the city just waiting to be developed,” said Rosteck. Berlin hopes to host an international garden exhibition in 2017, attracting up to 3.5 million tourists.
“It will make Berlin, which is already one of the greenest capitals in Europe, even greener,” Rosteck added.
by Andy Moreton
Book a luxury hotel in Berlin through Luxique. We have a selection of 19 in the German capital at the best rates available
Berlin’s historic Tempelhof airport, which I wrote about in May, is in its final days.
The airport opened in the 1920s and was then expanded by the Nazis with the construction of a huge terminal building. It became a symbol of West Berlin’s resistance to the Soviet blockade during the Cold War: a non-stop airlift kept the city going with supplies of food and fuel during 1948 and 1949.
But the fall of the Berlin Wall and unification spelled the beginning of the end for Tempelhof. Nowadays just a handful of private airlines use the landing strip. All other flights to and from Berlin currently use Schoenefeld or Tegel while a new international hub is being built.
A referendum was held in April, but there was not enough support to keep the airport going and it will close on Friday.
Berliners are currently hurrying to say their goodbyes and trying to get a final sightseeing flight on one of the 1940s-era planes still operating out of Tempelhof.
The problem still taxing the authorities is what to do with the huge building. Tempelhof is, in essence, a massive bunker system and would simply be too expensive to tear down. So the city government is still accepting proposals from the public about its future use.
One use was found for it recently – a rock venue. The British indie band Bloc Party played a one-off gig in the airport’s dining lounge.
by Andy Moreton
Book luxury hotels in Berlin through Luxique. We have a selection of 19 in the German capital at the best rates available.
I promise you there’s no sense of Schadenfreude in this story, more a feeling of ‘there but for the grace of God …’
The Leading Hotels of The World company (LHW) had a wizard idea to celebrate their 80th birthday.
At 12 noon on October 1st, they planned to release a number of the world’s most coveted hotel rooms at the knock-down rate of $19.98 (£11) a night – but for 80 minutes only. Like Luxique, LHW have some great luxury hotels on their books, including Hotel Raphael in Paris, Banyan Tree Bangkok and Hotel Adlon Kempinski in Berlin.
Unfortunately, the unprecedented offer was followed by an unprecedented stampede and the booking system went into meltdown. (Shades of the Hoover free flight fiasco in the UK in 1992).
The company issued a press release announcing the failure of the promotion – the system was simply unable to cope with the demand. Everyone who pre-registered was e-mailed so that they might be able to compete for the offer at a later date.
LHW’s President and CEO, Ted Teng, was refreshingly apologetic: “Today we suffered a catastrophic technical failure, which is uncharacteristic for our highly respected brand. We should have been better prepared and we weren’t. We disappointed many people and I apologise for that. We intend on making every effort to restore our customers’ confidence.”
by Andy Moreton