Berlin Like A Local

Hotel Adlon Kempinski’s Head Concierge, André Höftmann, Shares Insider Tips From His Hometown
André Höftmann, head concierge at Hotel Adlon Kempinski.
André Höftmann
Head Concierge, Hotel Adlon Kempinski

Born and raised in Berlin, André started as an intern as Hotel Adlon Kempinski was being reborn in 1997. He left for Paris and Spain, and returned to the hotel as head concierge in 2010, and since then, he has been living in Prenzlauer Berg, one of the hippest parts of Mitte. “I love living in the city,” he says, explaining that his apartment is just a ten-minute bike ride from Hotel Adlon Kempinski. In his free time, he likes to try out different restaurants and bars at least twice a week so he’s up-to-date on all the latest hotspots around the city, and can guide guests with his insider knowledge. He maintains a friendly working relationship with restaurant owners and can often get a reservation even when no tables are available.

André spends most of each day assisting guests at the concierge desk.
The Work

On a day to day basis, André spends about 90% of his time at the concierge desk, though he’s happy to sit down with guests looking for a more in-depth consultation in the lobby. Being able to react quickly and jump into action is a key part of the job. “You never know if you have to organize a private jet in an hour or find 500 roses when all the shops are closed already. This is what keeps us going,” he says, adding, “For me, the most rewarding part of my job is making people happy.”

Local Recommendations

Explore André Höftmann's Berlin Travel Guide

With its fascinating history and booming contemporary art scene, Berlin provides myriad opportunities experience culture, music, history, and a variety of tantalizing restaurants. Here, Hotel Adlon Kempinski's in-the-know head concierge shares his favorite places around Berlin.

Live Music

Enjoy A Concert Inside An Architectural Masterpiece

Whether you’re a fan of opera or electronica, you’ll find plenty of places in Berlin to take in a show. André recommends attending a concert at the Pierre Boulez Saal (33d Französische Straße; +49-30-4799-7411), an architectural masterpiece with 360˚ seating located near the hotel in Mitte. Opened in 2017, the concert hall was designed by Frank Gehry, a close friend of world-famous composer, Daniel Barenboim, who founded the Barenboim-Said Akademie, which houses the concert hall. “The idea is on one side to give students the opportunity to learn about music, and on the other, for all kinds of music to be played in this very special oval-shaped hall,” André explains.

Inside Pierre Boulez Saal. Photo courtesy of Volker Kreidler.

Art Galleries, Street Art, And More

Delve Into Berlin’s Red-Hot Art Scene Beyond The Major Museums

“As a photo addict I love the changing photo exhibitions at C/O Berlin Foundation (22-24 Hardenbergstraße; +49-30-2844-4160),” André says. This nonprofit gallery is located in the former Amerika Haus, which was built in 1957 and served as the cultural and information center of the United States until 2006. Now, it organizes solo and group exhibitions—as many as twenty per year—by a roster of internationally acclaimed photographers, including Annie Liebovitz, Nan Goldin, Anton Corbijn, Peter Lindbergh, Stephen Shore, and Irving Penn.
“To see a different side of Berlin I would suggest a private bike tour with one of our amazing guides on the theme of street art,” André continues. “This will take you to Kreuzberg and Mitte discovering art in hidden courtyards and ateliers.” Anyone can visit the East Side Gallery to admire the murals on the remains of the Berlin Wall, but street art fans who want to go deeper can have André organize a tour.

C/O Berlin Foundation is known for its rotating photography exhibitions.

Restaurants And Food Halls

Between Food Halls And Fantastic Restaurants, Berlin’s Culinary Scene Goes Far Beyond Bratwurst

“Transformed market halls from the late 1800s are now the next big thing to visit; they show you the variety of cuisine Berlin has to offer,” André says. “Following the mainstream will lead you to the Markthalle Neun ( 42-43 Eisenbahnstraße; +49-30-6107-3473), which became famous for its Slow Food Thursday once a week from 5 pm to 10 pm. Taking a different direction will lead you to my favorite, the Arminiusmarkthalle (2-4 Arminiusstraße; +49-15-1153-07908).” Opened in 1891, this covered market was heavily damaged during WWII and rebuilt during the 1950s. Now a protected landmark, it’s still a lively market where locals shop for food and enjoy dining in the restaurants.

André’s personal favorite is heimlichTreu (38 Anklamer Straße; +49-30-4849-4599), a cozy spot set in the courtyard of office buildings. “No signage, only knowledge can lead you there,” he says. “Maik and his team create a very homey atmosphere and amazing food creations, which are presented to be shared.”

The dining room at Heimlich Treu. Photo courtesy of heimlichTreu.

Where To Shop

Discover Berlin’s History And Contemporary Designers At The City’s Largest Department Store

André recommends a behind the scenes tour of KaDeWe (21-24 Tauentzienstraße; +49-30-21210), Berlin’s largest and most famous department store. “Our guide will give you the lowdown on the architecture of this beautiful building, which opened its doors for the first time in 1907, and will link it with the history of the city of Berlin.” Short for Kaufhaus des Westerns, KaDeWe was damaged during WWII and lost many of its customers when Berlin was divided, but flourished again after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas began a multi-year restoration of the store’s interiors in 2016. Today it’s known for its unbeatable collection of German and international designer goods and exclusive offerings as well as its massive gourmet food hall.

In front of KaDeWe, the largest and most well-known department store in the city. Photo courtesy of KaDeWe.

A Day Trip From Berlin

A Tranquil Oasis Awaits At Weißensee Lake

For a different, more tranquil side of Berlin, André suggests exploring the borough of Weißensee, about 20 minutes from the city center. There you will find the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe, Jüdischer Friedhof Weißensee (31 Herbert-Baumstraße; +49-30-925-3330), and the composers’ district, a beautiful residential area where all the streets bear the names of well-known classical composers. André recommends capping the visit off with a stroll around Weißensee lake, where you’ll find Milchhäuschen (33A Parkstraße;+49-30-927-1144), a beautiful coffee house from the late ‘70s. Berliners love to visit the lake in summer.

For a moment of quiet reflection visit Jüdischer Friedhof Weißensee, the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe.