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EXCLUSIVE | Three Gay Days: Berlin Part One

EXCLUSIVE | Three Gay Days: Berlin Part One

Here's your must-have road map to 72 hours in one of the world's gayest destinations. Where to stay, eat, play and meet in youthful and alternative Berlin.

The booming capital of Germany is embracing the new millennium with an energetic zeal unmatched by any other city on the European continent. New development, new nightlife, new neighborhoods, new everything almost overwhelms the past -- and the unsuspecting visitor -- in this dynamic metropolis. But Berlin also respects her beautiful Baroque history; the city is dotted with graceful palaces, soaring cathedrals and elegant bridges. Though not stuffed to the gills with the old world splendor found in Rome or Vienna, Berlin has all the charms, modern and classical, to thrill any visitor. Gay and lesbian travelers in particular will find themselves enthralled by a rich variety of clubs, restaurants and other venues and a tolerance for alternate lifestyles.

Gay lodgings in Berlin are generally simple and affordable, though somewhat lacking in top-notch amenities. In the Sch?neberg area, Art Hotel Connection (33 Fuggerstrasse; +49-30-210-218-800; EUR48+) is a good example, almost right next door to the popular Connection Bar. Once a huge apartment, this gay hotel offers 18 bright and simple rooms with cable TV and phones, and a buffet breakfast. Hotel Arco (30 Geisbergstrasse; +49-30-235-1480; EUR57+) is situated on a small side street near gay establishments, as well as within walking distance of Berlin's swanky shopping area.

Gay-popular options include Kreuzberg's Hotel Transit (53-54 Hagel Strasse; +49-30-789-0470; EUR72+), a reasonably priced 49-room establishment with a courtyard and single, double and dormitory rooms. Popular with the young international traveling crowd, the hotel offers a bar and breakfast buffet. In the Mitte area is the fascinating Hotel Kunstlerheim Luise (Luisenstrasse 19; +49-30-284-480; EUR79+), an amazing hotel in a building dating back to 1825. Each room is individually decorated by well-known artists, including suites with murals, space suits, painted bananas or just great original artwork.

Hotel de Rome (Behrenstrasse 37; +49-30-460-6090; EUR420+) is just an elegant stroll's distance from the Opera House. The former headquarters of the Dresdner Bank looks across Bebelplatz to the grand, broad boulevard, Unter Den Linden. Alongside the grand Humboldt University and minutes from Museuminsel, Alexanderplatz and the Brandenburg Gate, the ultra-luxurious Hotel de Rome has a perfect location. Bold black, red and white d?cor in the lobby creates a dramatic entrance for your stay.

Accommodations have high ceilings and masculine colors, with some dramatic quarters created out of the wood-paneled former directors' offices and boardrooms. In the former bank vaults, a sparkling pool beckons, with gold mosaic shimmering on walls and pillars. It's small but the perfect place to luxuriate and imagine all the treasures that have been stored here. Up till the 1930s, Berlin's society ladies would come and collect their jewelry from their vault, adorn themselves, then sashay across Bebelplatz to the opera, bringing it safely back once the final curtain had fallen.

Another excellent choice is the Radisson SAS Hotel Berlin (Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse 5; +49-30-238280 or 888-201-1718 from US; EUR195+). Boasting a fantastic location in the heart of Mitte, the clean and modern rooms all feature either spectacular city views or jaw-dropping views of the lobby's AquaDom, the world's largest cylindrical aquarium, with 2,500 exotic fish. It's wonderfully strange, but also perfectly modern Berlin. The hotel gym and spa is one of the best in the city, and worth the stay, as is the daily breakfast buffet.

Finally, if you want to stay at Berlin's most stylish address, consider the legendary and completely rebuilt Hotel Adlon (Unter Den Linden 77; +49-31-22610; EUR290+, with special rates often available). Located adjacent to the Brandenburg Gate, the Adlon is an opulent experience that blends modern features with a classic style. A fully equipped spa makes a stay here even more memorable.

Part One | Part Two | Part Three

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Joe Okonkwo