Urban Loft Berlin and Cologne

To begin with, I will take you on a little journey through time: the era of the grand hotel industry began more than 150 years ago – five-star establishments dominated the market until the late 1950s. In the 1970s, the well-known Best Western and Westin hotels then prevailed; as a business hotel, functionality was more important.

And then, at the end of the 1990s, the revolution: what was different counted. Crazy. A new urbanity entered the hotel industry, completely new design concepts conquered the market: 25hours, Kameha and Roomers, to name just a few. But what is left of it, almost 20 years later? If you ask me about my stays in the Urban Lofts in Berlin and Cologne: quite a lot!

Because here we live what the foundation stone was laid more than two decades ago. And that in a further development par excellence. Of course, this path of fresh and bold concepts is no longer new, if you take a look at the budget design locations of Hoxten or NYX’s hotels around the world.

And yet it is different here, even if it may sound so flat at first. Because what comes together here is what is missing in other hotels: the desired hip urbanity and digitization shines in locally influenced design, garnished with an attentiveness and friendliness of the staff that is otherwise often only known from five-star hotels.

This is certainly not least due to the name in the background, because the Urban Loft series comes from the Althoff Hotels network. Founder Thomas H. Althoff has been making his mark on the German hotel industry for almost 40 years.

Fresh interior accents

The interior concepts of the Urban Loft locations score above all with their local colour.

(Photo: Steve Herud)

How successful this group is in the luxury segment is also shown by the fact that it has prevailed against national and international competitors and is now taking over the management of the former Rocco Forte Hotel, namely the “Villa Kennedy” in Frankfurt, and after the renovation that in Frankfurt certainly established leading hotel. The hotels of the Althoff Collection are also among the best gourmet hotels in the country and together have the most Michelin stars in the profession.

But new target groups should also be developed, and without losing their own standards of quality and design. In conclusion, the Urban Lofts were added to the houses of the Althoff Collection and the second brand Ameron Collection, under the direction of Frank Marrenbach. And this name speaks for itself, because he is a grand hotelier with experience in the most prestigious hotels par excellence, such as Le Bristol in Paris. He is also known as the inventor of the world-class brand Oetker Collection.

In his mid-50s, he didn’t shy away from creating the concept for a new urban brand – young, clear and with a high recognition value. I have a lot of confidence in the brand just because of the head behind this concept. But first things first.

As soon as I took my first steps in the Urban Loft Berlin in Moabit, which I visited a few weeks before my second stay in an Urban Loft in Cologne, also in a prime urban location, I was amazed at the colorful yet artistically designed lobby with works by Anna Mirkin and Olaf Hajek, two well-known figures in the art scene. Above the elevator is emblazoned in neon letters: Berlin, I love you.

Grade one

According to our hotel tester, the bed can hardly be surpassed in terms of comfort.

(Photo: Steve Herud)

And yes: I feel a little love for the special charm of this metropolis and for the city’s art scene. What may seem kitschy in other cities has the right setting here. Because the interior concepts of the Urban Loft locations score above all with their local color. They skilfully pick up on the peculiarities of the specific area. Hats off. A level that you wouldn’t expect in its entirety for a very fair overnight price of around 110 euros. And depending on the city, there is also real regionality, from Berliner Schnauze sayings in the capital to the “Home is where the dome is” lettering in Cologne.

Classic reception or digitized process

Continue to check-in: Here I have the choice between the classic reception and a completely digitized process at a self-terminal. Committed staff will approach me immediately to guide me through the process and to answer any questions that may still be open. By the way, I already received the registration form in advance via a link on my smartphone and can therefore shorten the check-in time. You don’t really need help here, the terminal is intuitive, the steps are simply explained.

I also receive my room card automatically and can encode it with my data via a small station. Easy, exciting and at the same time sustainable. Because: The door key is made of wood. I like how an apparently exciting, well thought-out journey starts with the smallest details.

This then continues in the corridors, because Urban Loft is not only written on it, but is also inside. Exposed concrete walls, graphic patterns, industrial metal – all this arouses curiosity about my room. And that’s exactly how you want it: 3.50 meter ceiling height, a well-equipped bathroom, beautiful parquet, a huge TV, interesting details, for example with a dwarf hanging from the ceiling. I stick to it: no kitsch, but modern art.

View over the city

The Urban Loft houses also impress with their excellent location.

(Photo: Steve Herud)

Again and again a clear “I like” in my thoughts, which now revolve around one of the most important topics in every hotel room: the bed. And here I clearly give the grade one, because it can hardly be surpassed in terms of comfort. In addition, twelve centimeter thick windows, optionally with double darkening with blinds and curtains. Absolutely undisturbed sleep is therefore guaranteed.

Still a small minus point, because two things that are important to me are missing: a desk and a coffee maker. But you can pass the time on the ultra-modern smart TV, which even allows complete smartphone mirroring. And last, but not least, there is sustainability in the room again, because the soap is made from the abrasion of citrus fruits according to the second-use principle.

Open seating

Hotel guests and external visitors mingle at breakfast.

(Photo: Steve Herud)

A few weeks later I will be able to share these first impressions in Cologne. Because the room in the Urban Loft there also meets my expectations and lets me start the next day well rested.

Also standard at all locations: no cash. A bit strange for me, here a two-track system would be even better for some guests. Another Urban Loft principle is the “No Foodwaste” concept at breakfast with pre-orderable to-go boxes in vegan, vegetarian, classic and sweet (16 euros including hot drinks flat rate until 11.30 a.m.).

Guests in their prime might find this a little too unconventional. At check-in in the lobby, two women initially politely declined the breakfast booking. In the end, I met her the next morning with satisfied looks in the open seating area, where hotel guests and external visitors mingle, before her breakfast.

Incidentally, the vibe of the morning reflects exactly what the Urban Loft wants. Because according to their own interpretation, the Urban Lofts should convince, among other things, in the following points:
• Lounge concept with Urban Food & Snacks
• Open seating for breakfast, coffee, snacks and co-working
• Open space as a place for local artists and designers, as a pop-up gallery or pop-up shop

Berlin snout

Neon lettering in the Berlin house.

(Photo: Steve Herud)

Here, visions are not only defined on paper, but actually lived. The hotel has something of a laboratory: people are open to questions and changes, new approaches and suggestions from guests are immediately taken up and discussed. In short: This is exactly how the focus on customer satisfaction works.

And that’s exactly how I leave the Urban Loft during both of my stays: completely satisfied. Here, instead of being cool, casual and arrogant, you are just one thing: attentive! This is exactly what makes the difference and is therefore a precursor to a promising future.

Plus: Enormously attentive and friendly staff, unobtrusive and yet coherent and memorable design concept, lived sustainability, good locations of the houses, very fair prices, quality in the equipment.
Minus: no desk and no coffee maker in the room.

Rath’s travel rating (current rating in bold)

1. Explicit Travel Warning
2. Better than under the bridge
3. So-so, not oh, là, là
4. Complaining at a high level
5. If only it were always like this
6. Great cinema

About the author: As a former grand hotelier and operator of the Travelgrand.ch travel platform, Carsten K. Rath is a professional globetrotter. He travels to all the hotels he writes about for the Handelsblatt on his own account. Rath is the brain behind the ranking “The 101 best hotels in Germany”, whose partners include the Handelsblatt. Rath is also the author of the book on the ranking, co-authored by Michael Raschke (Handelsblatt).

Carsten K. Rath, Michael Raschke: The 101 best hotels in Germany 2022/23.
Institute for Service and Leadership Excellence AG/Handelsblatt
594 pages
39.90 euros
ISBN: 978-3033094574

More: This is what makes the 101 best hotels in Germany so successful

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