It felt like the hippest place in Berlin.
I was perched at a hightop table next to the exhibition kitchen in the Orania Restaurant on the ground floor of the Hotel Orania Berlin, watching endless platters of golden brown Peking Ducks being wheeled out to tables on trolleys. The dining room was warmly lit and full of lively conversation, and a rather hip band filled the open-concept lobby and restaurant with contemporary jazz.
It was quite a scene. Near the bar, a young woman with long blonde hair danced with the energy of a few drinks, but not enough to forget the luxury hotel environs, and the dining room was a sea of mirth, written plainly on the faces of the sated revelersue
This is a typical weekend evening at the Hotel Orania Berlin, situated on Oranienplatz in Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighborhood (or “Xberg” if you’re hip—”Kreuzberg” means “Cross Hill” in English) and the scene is in many ways unchanged from the location’s earliest days.
The building occupied by the hotel has watched over the square for over a century, harkening back to a time when Kreuzberg was the heart of middle-class Jewish Berlin. From 1913, the space now occupied by the Orania’s restaurant and lobby was a café that also featured live music and cabaret acts, while the floors now occupied by the hotel were industrial offices. From 1924, the ground floor was converted to a clothing store, and the upper floors became hotel rooms.
The original owners of the building sold it at a loss in the 1930s and emigrated. The building survived the war intact, as residential Kreuzberg wasn’t much of a military target, and changed hands several times until opening as the Hotel Orania in 2017.
Upon arrival, guests are seated in the comfortable living room and offered a beverage while their luggage is whisked away and registration is complete. One might look over the stage with its piano or the showpiece bar, or perhaps notice the shattered windows along one side of the restaurant, which were kept in place as an homage to the neighborhood’s counterculture history (Kreuzberg was known for a lively punk rock scene during the late 20th Century).
During the day, it’s a comfortable living room with floor-to-ceiling windows and views of the Oranienplatz square (the site of a pro-immigration live-in demonstration during the earlier 2010s)—by night, it turns back into the glittering bar-and-music scene, where craft cocktails are expertly poured and Peking ducks are expertly roasted.
Speaking of duck, they’ve become something of a local phenomenon. Introduced early on in the hotel’s history as a holiday special with a twist (duck is popular during the holidays in Germany, but Peking-style duck isn’t traditional, or even common), it proved to be popular, so much so that many patrons asked for it after the holidays. It soon returned as a nightly feature, dubbed the Xberg Duck, and now it appeared to be the restaurant’s main draw, for I noticed virtually no other dishes interrupting the steady conga line of roast fowl coming from the kitchen (although they’re on the menu if anybody isn’t in the mood for duck).
Diners ordering the duck start with a rich duck dashi soup with a dim sum nestled in the center. Next, the duck is brought out and the golden skin carved off and presented with pancakes, pickles, hoisin and other various trimmings. After that it’s rich sliced duck breast two ways with a balance of sour apple bok choy; to cap it off is crispy rice with duck leg with a duck egg yolk stirred in for creamy consistency., easy chairs and couches beg to be curled up on with a book (there’s a picture book of the building’s history in each room) or with one’s own streamed content from the Apple TV. Several of the rooms also have built-on window benches for pondering the view and reading or daydreaming; the one in my Orania.86 suite had a view of the Oranienplatz.
In addition to the music downstairs, those set on throwing a party or concert for their friends can rent out the salon on the topmost floor, which offers plenty of customizable furnishing options, a piano, bar and omnidirectional views of the city. The salon also features concerts additional to the living room’s main stage from time to time.
In the mornings, a cold breakfast buffet with an impressive selection of bread and pastries waits alongside a selection of lovely jellies and orange blossom honey, fruit and yogurt with all the trimmings. Hot entrees like Japanese-style omelets or eggs benedict are made-to-order in the kitchen.
The next night at the lobby bar, the act had changed from contemporary jazz to more of a world beat as a vivacious Afro-Cuban singer kept rhythm on a guiro (Cuban-style ratchet) while crooning Caribbean Latin melodies accompanied by piano in between audience interludes in Spanish and English. Paired with a sophisticated cocktail expertly prepared from the bar, and it’s another night of cool, sophisticated vibes in a city long famous for them.
The only luxury hotel in Kreuzberg, Hotel Orania manages to merge exceptional hospitality, dining and bar programs while paying homage to both the neighborhood and culture of the city it takes residence in, plus a global village of aesthetically minded travelers.
Rates start around € 252 per night.
Guest room reading nooks, stories of live music from the bar, or the X-berg Peking Duck are all sure to be hits.
Small Luxury Hotels of the World, when booking through the SLH platform.
Good To Know
Orania.Berlin is a Virtuoso Preferred Hotel.
The hotel is just steps away from the M29 bus line, and a few blocks from two U-Bahn stations.
The front desk and concierge staff are spectacular; they were able to get a table for six at a local restaurant at the last minute.
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