Like many things in Germany, business travel works like a well-oiled machine. A key reason German destinations have stayed at the top of their game, besides the relatively healthy German economy, is their habit of constantly updating and reinventing themselves. The new and the old have a way of coexisting naturally.
Frankfurt, for example, is historically known as a banking center—appropriately, it’s also home to the European Central Bank. The city’s heart is undergoing a redevelopment but retains much of its quaint charm. Across the river, the busy Embankment district, with a row of impressive museums and café-filled alleys, remains a popular attraction.
Now, a new development near the bustling Frankfurt Airport (FRA) called The Squaire has stolen some of the limelight away from the city center. Opened last year, this sprawling, ultramodern, ship-like complex encompasses residential, office, retail, dining, and lodging spaces. The new Hilton Frankfurt Airport and its neighbor, the Hilton Garden Inn Frankfurt Airport, together contain a ballroom, 13 conference rooms, and 11 meeting rooms. The Squaire also operates its own conference center, with 28 intimate meeting rooms that can be booked on as little as an hour’s notice.
Munich, similarly, embraces the traditional along with the progressive. There you’ll find classic venues like the Hotel Bayerischer Hof, with 40 conference rooms, a ballroom, and a private screening room; the Beer and Oktoberfest Museum; and the Lowenbraukeller, a beer hall that hosts meetings, receptions, gala dinners, and more for up to 2,000 guests. You’ll also find the modern: BMW Welt and Museum, a futuristic complex where attendees can learn everything about one of the world’s most coveted auto and motorcycle brands; and the Sofitel Munich Bayerpost Hotel, a sleek and high-tech property, where the city’s largest pillar-free hall is equipped with a hydraulic stage.
Berlin, where the construction cranes have remained busy since Germany’s reunification more than two decades ago, is still evolving and is the most trendsetting of the country’s major cities.
For meeting planners, the biggest news is that the International Congress Center Berlin will be closing at the end of 2013 and will remain closed for at least three years for refurbishment. Meanwhile, a new convention center, CityCube Berlin, will take over the displaced business. It’s about a 10-minute walk from ICC, on the site of the former Deutschland Halle. The two facilities will eventually operate jointly.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Berlin offers a huge variety of more intimate event spaces. One notable location is the Axica, a modernistic Frank Gehry–designed conference center in an office building just steps away from the historic Brandenberg Gate and the site of the former Berlin Wall. The dramatic facility can accommodate up to 700 guests for meetings, receptions, and gala dinners, and smaller executive groups in a stunning boardroom.
Berlin is home to a number of world-class business hotels, including the ideally located InterContinental, with unusually spacious rooms, 37 meeting and conference rooms, a recently updated spa, and a gourmet restaurant overlooking the city. Among the most prominent new hotels to join the scene is a new Ritz-Carlton, scheduled to open this year just off the fashionable Kufürstendamm.
Because of its location in the middle of the former German Democratic Republic, Berlin lost out to Frankfurt and Munich when air travel exploded during the last half-century. But a major project, the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER), aims to turn that situation around and make air travel to the German capital more convenient. Opening in early June 2012 southeast of the city, it will replace the city’s Tempelhof Airport, which closed in 2008, and the overwhelmed Tegel. The grounds will include two new hotels and the Berlin ExpoCenter Airport.