Hotel Cristall, Frankfurt ****

I’m surprised I haven’t reviewed this hotel before - I’ve stayed here a number of times; and not, because it isn’t worth it!

The hotel is right on the north-west corner of Frankfurt’s central station (Hauptbahnhof); this makes it extremely well situated for both late arrivals by train as well as exploring the city (which is extremely walkable).

I’ve stayed at this hotel multiple times over the last three years; while I realized they were doing some renovations (the last time I stayed, there was a huge scaffold set up on the outside), I didn’t know they were redoing all of their rooms!

I had room 42 on the top floor, and found the renovation to be really well done. The room was very modern (despite the higher than standard ceiling, hinting at the age of the building), with brand new everything: window, bed, furniture, walls, bathroom, etc. A/C is installed.

Really surprising and completely unnecessary: the brand-new door is a complete flop in keeping hallway noise out. So if you have people on the same floor as I had, rattling their door and clicking the key back and forth in a (drunken!) attempt to get into their room, or simply slamming their door shut at midnight, then you’ll likely be woken up a couple of times. We have extremely sound-tight room doors in our renovated house that didn’t cost an arm and a leg - and it’s simply a shame that this wasn’t considered when renovating the room.

Those who have read my reviews before know that I’m a big fan of thermostatic controlled show fixtures, especially in older buildings where the plumbing just doesn’t match up with modern setups. To my horror (really), I realized in the morning, that even though the entire bathroom is brand new, they hadn’t bothered to put in a thermostat fixture, opting for the slightly cheaper regular one-handled type. What a shame, folks - these things don’t cost that much more! As if to punish me for my annoyance, the water temperature varied wildly after about two minutes of showering...

Also, they have modern soap dispensers both at the sink and in the shower. While I usually find these more than convenient, the type they installed have to be squeezed and require an excessive amount of force. I doubt a child would be able to get anything out of them.

While I’m complaining: breakfast is really cramped (the tables are laid for four people but are so small, that seating four would make eating more of an annoyance than anything else) and the selection is just ok. For €8, I would have expected a bit more.

And beware: the building is quite old, as is the elevator (1986). While it works relatively silently, it only stops at in-between locations. Remember the high ceilings? Well, to take the elevator, you always have to walk up or down a half-floor when getting on as well as when getting off. This isn’t an issue if you’re traveling light. If your suitcase is a monster, however, you’re going to be unpleasantly surprised how long a half-floor staircase can be!

All in all the location is great, the rooms are nice and new and breakfast is optional - you may just want to have it someplace else.

Hotel Drei Kronen, Cologne**

The hotel is very close to the central train station and the cathedral, the building is first-row to the Rhine river. While this is nice for going out at night (if you’re keen on visiting one of the tourist-trap restaurants in that area), but getting there from the train station is - if you have a lot of luggage - a pain. Don’t take a taxi, they will hang you by your feet for waiting an hour for a passenger and then driving 800m. On foot from the train station, you’ll either have to walk up and back down some massive steps (you have to get over the cathedral “hump”) or circumnavigate the entire cathedral, adding a good 500m to your journey.

Most of the rooms go off to the rear or side of the building, only a few are to the front, facing the river. I really don’t recommend you get one to the front, however, since it tends to be quite noisy until late at night. And, you haven’t come to Cologne to sit in the hotel room and look on the river, right? Also, in the summer - when you’ll tend to have to keep the window open at night to let in cool air (no AC) - you’ll likely be surprised at how loud river boat traffic and the trains going across the large bridge just across from the hotel can be.

My room was to the rear (Room 54), which was fine, as rooms to the side will look onto other buildings standing no more than 2m away (not to mention various noisy compressors mounted to the walls)… unfortunately, the curtains were quite light in color, letting light pass in nearly unhindered. Even for me - I prefer waking up in a lit room - it was so bright that I woke up about an hour before the alarm. If you’re used to sleeping in a room without any light at all, you’ll have a hard time.

The room itself is okay in size, the furnishings look pretty new and are functional. A major pain is the fact that there is no power outlet anywhere near the “desk”. I had to slide the laptop all the way to the left and turn it slightly (great for your back) to be able to use power from near the window.

The bathroom smelled - pretty badly - like a bathroom does when one of the waste-water seals isn’t sealing anymore (toilet or sink). Running the shower to get water into the siphon didn’t work this time. One of the shower towels had a black hair on it, yuck, and the shower had a shower curtain - my absolute favorite way to keep water in the shower - not! The radiator had strange pinkish splotches on it and the aerator in the tap was so full of calcium, it sprayed water this way and that. All things that can be taken care of pretty easily, but unfortunately - in hotels of this type - never do. Without this issue, I’d have given a star extra.

Also, although the room has another room between it and the elevator (which only goes to level 4 1/2), the motor from the lift was quite noticeable. The “entry system” is “old-style” - a key with a huge fob on it. You have to take the key with you in the evening, as reception closes at 10PM. I ended up taking the key off the fob and putting it in my wallet.

To be fair, the price was quite good, I paid €59 without breakfast (+10€). Also, they have quite a fast Wifi access for free - definitely a plus! Breakfast, on the other hand, is a complete joke: two small plates of cheese and meats, some yoghurt, that’s it. Not even worth half the price.

So would I recommend the place? The bathroom smell might just be a problem in this room - if that is the case and you don’t have a lot of luggage and you don’t eat breakfast, then the hotel is okay. With luggage, I would definitely go elsewhere.


Sandmann's Hotel, Cologne ***

Sandmann’s is a small hotel-cum-lounge type of place. My room was 1-2, which is on the first floor and to the street. The entire hotel only has 11 rooms, and all are non-smoking. Despite the busy street, the windows did a good job of keeping most noise out. Mind you, there is no A/C and I doubt I would be able to sleep without earplugs should I have to keep the window open at night.

A bit annoying was the way the curtains were set up: they weren’t completely closable, leaking quite a bit of light from the street into the room. It was bearable, though.

The room is in “sahara deco” - as I would expect for them all to be - the hotel’s name makes that a requirement I guess. Nice touches everywhere, with a garish contrast provided by nearly neon pink stuff (like the chair, the wastebasket, the shampoo bottle).

I didn’t have breakfast, but it looked pretty good albeit somewhat simple, to be consumed in the small lounge portion. It didn’t look to be a steal at €10 extra, though.

The bathroom was clean (as was the room) and functional, though the shower sported my favorite accessory (not!): a shower curtain. Also, no thermostat control, it took a bit to get the temperature right.

My only real gripe is the bedframe: either the frame is too high or the mattress too low - in any case, you can’t get in or out of bed without getting some pain setting into your thighs from the wood. Also - but I attribute this to my personal clumsyness - the rear panel of the frame is about 5cm higher than the rest, so when I went around the bed and dodged the chair, I smacked my knee right into the corner of the board, not to my amusement, I assure you.

The location is pretty good, very close to the central train station and the cathedral.


Hotel Villa Oriental, Frankfurt ****

This hotel is a visual treat. You enter, and you’re in Arabia. The theme is continuous throughout the entire hotel and rooms. Room was quite big, but to the street (Baseler Strasse), which is excessively busy. Even though I’m sure the windows are pretty good at keeping noise out, you have a continuous noise level coming in from the street (I was, however, able to sleep). There is A/C, so there should be no need to open the windows in the summer.

The location is great, of course - you’re very close to the central train station, to the river and to the central part of the city. Also, there is a tram station right across from the hotel.

One major gripe I have is the tap in the shower: the handles are huge (which goes with the decor) and you almost can’t avoid hitting the cold water lever while showering, which will turn the water way too hot (if not scalding). The shower head, too, is a touch too simplistic, the water distribution would be much better with a modern one. The tiled floor of the shower seems to be pretty much level, which causes a pretty lake of standing water once you’re finished.

Breakfast was relatively simple (but ok), though I was delighted to find an oriental-style omelet available.

All in all, I would recommend the place, the price is okay. Try to get a room away from the street, if posible.

Hotel Esplanade, Cologne **

The hotel is located near a tram station (Zuelpicher Platz), from which you can get straight to the central train station or take one of two lines that form an inner ring, so you’re very well connected.

Also, a lot of shopping and some attractions are within easy walking distance.

The hotel has a lift, the room I was in (43) had the bathroom in a short hallway that ended in a second door to the main room.

The room seemed large, but it turned out to be too small to use the provided chair at the desk to work - there simply isn’t enough room between the end of the bed and the desk. Sitting on the end of the bed works, but not very well. This isn’t an issue if you’re a tourist, but if you need to get a bit of work done, doing it in the room might not be an option.

The room was to the street side - and Hohenstaufenring is
very busy, at all times of the day. Because of dual windows, however, noise was very well abated with the windows closed. If you’re the type that needs to have the window open at night, you will need to demand a room to the rear.

Also, and I’ve become quite used to this in older hotels, a lingering smell of sewage gasses inundated the bathroom. I tried my usual trick of pouring water in any siphon I could find (this bathroom had one in the floor), but that only worked for a short time. Also, much to my dismay, the bathtub / shower has a curtain, something I can’t stand. On the positive side, water temperature was regulated by a brand-name thermostat, so thumbs up there.

Breakfast was average at best, no highlights. One major downer became apparent when I lifted the lid to the hot foods (scrambled egg and bacon): a cloud of retched smell engulfed me, making me put down the lid as quickly as I could. Something was wrong, I couldn’t say wether there was a bad egg in there or the frying grease from the bacon was old, in any case I opted for the cereal instead. The visuals of the half-cooked bacon would probably had made me take the same decision even without the smell.

All in all, the hotel is ok for the price (an odd €61,61 for the room), although breakfast - which was included in the booking but priced separately at €10 on the bill certainly wasn’t worth it - if possible I suggest getting the room without breakfast, there are plenty of eating opportunities “just around the corner”.

One more tip: if you’re looking to take the tram due south on school days at around 8AM, don’t bother: the trams are so packed full, I ended up taking a taxi.

Boutique Hotel Villa-Soy, Erlangen **

Stayed April 16, 2013

I ended up in Erlangen, because there were no hotels to be had in my actual destination, Nürnberg, due to a trade fair going on. Since Erlangen is only 15 minutes by train, it is definitely a good alternative. There is a much younger crowd (and less tourists) than in Nürnberg, which makes staying there quite a good experience.

Despite the posh name, the hotel is pretty simple - I have no idea what is supposedly “boutique” about it! The reception is on the first floor, my room on the 3rd. No elevator. The atmosphere in the hotel is clinical at best.

The room was ok, though the bathroom wasn’t very attractive or comfortable. Also, it had a really noisy and annoying ventilation unit that stayed on seemingly for ever after turning the light out. Oddly enough, the ventilator (and subsequently the bathroom light) was on when I entered the room, even tough the windows was on tilt.

When I came back from meeting a colleague that evening - I’d closed the window and turned the bathroom light off before leaving - I noticed a distinct and annoying smell of some sort (couldn’t identify it), which might have been the reason to keep the ventilator on before the guest arrived.

Breakfast was not something worth remembering much about, but it was included in the room rate. I did get freshly made scrambled eggs, which was quite nice.

The hotel is within walking distance from the central train station (about 10 minutes at my walking speed) and the surrounding area is quite nice with a whole bunch of restaurants.

All in all, an ok stay, perhaps a bit pricey for what you get.

Hotel Zum Bahnhof, Cologne-Dellbrück **

Stayed: April 11, 2013

Despite having an appointment in the south of Cologne the next day, I had to book into this hotel in Dellbrück (which is on the other side of the Rhine river, quite a bit east): there were almost no hotels left within my budget due to a trade fair going on in Cologne that week.

There is an S-Bahn trainstation right across the street, however, so getting there from the central train station only takes about 15 minutes.

The hotel has an attached restaurant, which was too expensive for my tastes; I ended up walking quite a ways through Dellbrück and dining at a Brauhaus. Breakfast is in the restaurant, but has a really poor selection with possibly the smallest rolls I’ve ever seen and jam only available in small plastic packets. While there is a good quality espresso machine for restaurant use, the lady looking after the breakfast was not permitted to make decent coffee for the guests; bitter tasting filter coffee had to suffice.

My room (top floor) was okay, the bathroom was quite large, mainly due to the position of the shower unit. Cleanliness was quite ok. It was outfitted with two single beds which were comfortable enough.

What is a bit of an issue - especially in the morning (probably starting quite early) is the noise from the trains, that run quite frequently. The double-glazed windows don’t seem to keep that noise out very well and I ended up waking up much earlier than my alarm.

All in all, if you’re not much for breakfast in the morning, this might be a good alternative, even though you’re quite a ways from Cologne. I arrived by train, which is about as easy as can be with the hotel so close to the train station. If you’re coming by car, I would guess you’d have an issue finding a parking spot.

Oh yea: no elevator!

Tripadvisor Reviews

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aappartel, Bielefeld **

On first sight, the hotel makes a decent impression. Okay, the elevator is up one flight of stairs and the breakfast room isn’t particularly large, but that’s ok. The hotel’s location is quite good, very close to the old part of town, about 10-15 minutes on foot from the central train station (you can also go one stop by underground to Jahnplatz, it’s 100m from there).

The room is unusually decorated; mine (403) had two single beds arranged diagonally. This, unfortunately, has the effect of positioning the headboard of the left bed (which was unmade) at about the spot I generally have my elbow. Luckily, they aren’t cemented in place; I moved it out of the way.

Instead of a chair and desk, the room offers a longish wooden bench with matching wooden sideboard. The bench is somewhat uncomfortable and cold (strangely enough) - possibly, because the heating was completely turned off in the room. I had to rearrange a somewhat haphazard plug multiplier under the sideboard to give me room to at least plug in my laptop; there aren’t any outlets above.

The bathroom is large enough, however the shower stall has a curtain, something I can’t stand. Also, there are no hooks whatsoever in the bathroom, so towels have to be stuffed into the rungs of the heater. There is a soap dispenser next to the sink on the wall, unfortunately, not in the shower.

The bed was okay, but what took the cake was the apparent thinness of the walls to the next room - I was able to understand every word of the conversation the folks next door were having - as if there was a hole in the wall. Completely ridiculous. The elevator was built in 1962 (!), so while the place looks quite recently renovated, the infrastructure is certainly lacking.

Breakfast wasn’t a treat - while it looks to be quite well-stocked, the scrambled eggs were rubbery (I’ve never encountered this before in all my years of travel) and the bacon looked like it was merely passed over the pan. No yoghurt or fresh fruit.

Wifi isn’t free of charge, though the €2 for 24 hours aren’t an issue. What is an issue is that throughput is sporradic - at times, the connection seemed to stand still for 10-20 seconds at a time, then it would load very quickly only to stand still again.

For all that, the price seems too high, I really can’t recommend the place. This is a shame, because the location really is quite good.

Motel One Hauptbahnhof, Berlin ****

So far, I’ve found Motel One hotels to be quite similar in many ways all over the country. Its a fair deal, I sleep well there.

As with other Motel One’s I’ve visited, the room is very clean both visually and olfactoraly. The room isn’t large, but big enough for one person to stay a night or two. The fireplace-video that pops on the TV when you enter the room is a nice twist (the one in Hamburg had an aquarium video).

I’ve stayed at this particular Motel One before, and while I didn’t sign up for the breakfast this time, I did the last time I stayed. Breakfast was completely overrun, like a beehive, at primetime (when, unfortunately, I needed to be down there as well). A number of tables were empty but not cleared away and some of the food items were “sold out” and not replenished.

I’m not sure if that was because of some major event in town or if that is normal for this particular Motel One, but it made it easy for me to make the decision to eat somewhere else this time.

Other than that, the room is fine, as is the bathroom, no complaints. One exception: there isn’t an outlet anywhere near the desk, so if you have an aging laptop battery like I do with the need to plug in, you’ll be doing your work from the bed (which has outlets next to it).

All in all, I would recommend the place and will stay there again - you can’t beat the location, just kitty-corner across from the central train station. Maybe I’ll try breakfast again next time...

Seehotel Schlierseer Hof, Schliersee ***

Due to a conference in town (which I was attending), most of the hotels were already booked when I looked for a room. This hotel is very close to where the conference was taking place and directly on the lake, so at the price (€69 incl. breakfast), it seemed like a good deal.

To make things short: I’d booked at a room-to-the-street rate, which was absolutely ok, as there is very little traffic at night and the window does a decent job of keeping noise out.

Water pressure was very low both at the sink and in the shower, but this was fixed when I told reception about it. Also, water didn’t drain from the shower well at all (if I hadn’t paused my shower halfway through, I would have flooded the bathroom).

The shower head is an overhead type (no hand unit available), and in my room (310) it was in poor condition. The nozzles were of the modern, silicon type which generally are cleaned of calcite by just rubbing over them. When I did so (as the head was spraying water every which way), one of the nozzle bits broke off, so I ended up leaving it. The shower door didn’t close worth anything, so I ended up flooding the bathroom anyway…

The bed was ok (two singles pushed together), but the walls were much too “thin”, giving me input from both adjacent rooms.

Breakfast was great, the restaurant faces the lake which makes up for some of the annoyances.

Okay to stay in if you can’t get a room at one of the other places in town (which, in off-season, have similar price).

Hotel Tiergarten, Berlin **

The hotel is on Alt Moabit and only about 100m away from the bus stop “Kleiner Tiergarten” where the TXL bus (Airport Tegel to Alexanderplatz via Central Train Station) also stops - very convenient.

I had room 47, which is to the rear and at the very end of the corridor (and on the 2nd, not the 4th floor), so I was expecting a pretty quiet stay. Unfortunately, there is a relatively large gap around the door, so noise from the hallway comes in undamped, and the walls seem to be thinner than I would expect, so noise from next door was also quite prominent.

The room, which isn’t huge but big enough, has old-style double windows (not double-pane) which makes for nasty cold drafts due to the horrible insulation. I ended up sleeping “the wrong way” in the single bed to avoid getting the chills over night, with cold air literally pouring over my face (despite drawn curtains). The heating was on but not very hot, which made my room colder than even I like (and I prefer a cool room in the winter). The extremely high ceiling (estimate: 4.5m!) doesn’t help in keeping the heat where the people are.

To top it off, the water temperature in the shower varied widely, causing me to stop every 10 seconds or so to readjust. That is, after taking a felt 5 minutes just to get the hot water up to the second floor. I ended up stopping my shower short.

Breakfast is quite spectacular, especially for such a small hotel, with every kind of meat and a good selection of cheeses available, as well as different types of yoghurt, etc., rolls, bread, cake. Also, varied fruit including Mango and Rasberry. Excellent and completely unexpected. It certainly compensated some of the negative aspects of the room.

All in all, the location is a bit off the beaten path and considering the quality of the room, I felt the room rate to be too high.