Boats are cool and hostels are cool, so a hostel boat must be the coolest, right? After a memorable three-night stay on board the Eastern Comfort Hostel Boat in Berlin, we’re definitely convinced. The timing couldn’t have been better either since our stay coincided with New Year’s Eve. Every year on December 31st, your typical law-abiding Germans are transformed into absolute party animals, gone mad with the thrill of fireworks! This year we had front-row seats to this unique spectacle without ever leaving our cozy boat; Long Island Iced Teas in hand, we watched the fireworks from the upper deck of the Eastern Comfort. Our entire stay on board was so perfect, we can’t recommend it enough for anyone planning a trip to Berlin!
Location, Location, Location!
Docked on the Spree River right in the heart of the city, the Eastern Comfort has a fantastic view of the historic Oberbaum Bridge (Oberbaumbrücke). You can sip your morning coffee on either the lower or upper deck of the boat while enjoying scenic views of both the river and bridge.
South-side windows on the boat overlook the river, while porthole windows on the north side look directly out at the East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall just 30 meters away. The boat’s location is ideal for visiting the Wall in the early morning and late at night when the tourists have gone.
A handful of Berlin’s most popular tourist attractions – the Berliner Dom, Museum Island, and the TV Tower – are all clumped together several kilometers northwest of the Eastern Comfort. However, the Warschauer Station for both the S and U-Bahn lines is conveniently located just a block from the Eastern Comfort. If you opt to walk from the boat to these attractions instead, you’ll be rewarded with a handful of other popular city sites along the way, including the entire 1.3 km length of the East Side Gallery.
The Amenities of Life on a Boat
I have to warn you though – mornings on board the Eastern Comfort can be a bit tough. It’s difficult to get motivated to even go out sightseeing because it’s just so cozy on board.
Every morning found us nursing bottomless cups of fresh, hot coffee while we soaked up the morning sun. Older couples read books nearby while younger backpackers surfed the internet on their smart phones. One morning we splurged for the continental breakfast – a traditional German buffet of cold cuts, fresh bread, yoghurt, and fruit – while on our last morning we returned to the boat with a respectful haul from Dunkin’ Donuts and savored our goodies from the top deck. Sweet pastries, warm sunshine, and river views – that’s the life!
While we found our room to be quite perfect for us, it’s worth mentioning that if you’re accustomed to cabins on 1st-class cruise ships or fancy hotel rooms, you’ll likely find the rooms quite small. Think sailboat and maybe you’ll have some idea as to the size. Even our luxurious 4-bunk room with two portholes had little floor space. But we had a private bathroom, so Travis was happy, and we were on a boat, so we were both happy! Snuggled together on the romantically undersized mattress beneath thick down comforters, we slept like babies.
The lounge is worth mentioning too. Though it’s occasionally booked for private events, it’s typically open to guests, has a bar that serves cocktails, and regularly features live bands. We popped in on New Year’s Eve to find a swing band crankin’ out some pretty good tunes and the small dance floor packed.
New Year’s Eve Fireworks in Berlin
Many folks visit Berlin over New Year’s specifically to see the fireworks. The main display starts at midnight at the Brandenburg Gate, but the party officially kicks off hours before that with a massive street party stretching from the Brandenburg Gate to the Victory Column. Roughly a million people jam into the narrow street along that 2-km stretch, drinking and listening to live bands on various stages.
Since we had finished a guided walking tour of Berlin at around 5 pm, we ended up near the Brandenburg Gate just as the festivities were gearing up. Barricades had already been erected in the surrounding streets, closing them to both car and foot traffic. Police cars lined entire city blocks from one corner to the next with pockets of officers milling about specific checkpoints.
For about an hour, we sat on a bench near the Brandenburg Gate, sipping rum-spiked glühwein and watching the security noose tighten around us. When police finally cleared our square, we joined an exodus of party-goers through the maze of barricaded streets around to the front of the monument. Climbing up on a low concrete wall, we watched in disbelief as thousands of party-goers streamed around us to fall in line at a security checkpoint. Those arriving after the 2-km promenade reached capacity would be barred entrance, and the fireworks wouldn’t even start for another five hours!
Skedaddling outta there, we headed for our deliciously warm and cozy floating party boat. Our tentative plans to watch the fireworks from Brandenburg Gate had changed the minute we’d checked into the Eastern Comfort and the delightful manager, Carole, told us we could watch the fireworks from the boat. Not the fireworks, as in the main display at Brandenburg Gate. But she assured us the neighborhoods surrounding the boat wouldn’t disappoint us with their own brand of fireworks. She was right!
I’d be lying if I said the fireworks were the biggest display we’ve ever seen. They weren’t. But they were quite likely the most entertaining! Rather than watching the controlled bursts of color that are typical of big city displays, we watched an entire neighborhood come alive in a celebration of chaos and individualism. Seriously, does every German set off their own fireworks?! Because it sure seems like it!
If you’ve always dreamt of seeing the New Year’s Eve show at Brandenburg Gate, we would never tell you to miss it. But if you’d rather skip standing for hours in the freezing cold, the insane crowds, and having to trudge back to your hotel afterwards, the Eastern Comfort Hostel Boat is a great alternative. As soon as the festivities wind down, you can pad back to your cabin – already in your pj’s – and fall into your bunk. Come morning, the entire city of Berlin awaits.
Know Before You Go:
- Free complementary coffee and tea are included for guests in the morning.
- Breakfast is not free, but a typical German buffet of cold cuts, fresh bread, and fruit can be added on for €6 per person per day.
- Prices range from €16 per person for a dorm cabin with shared bathroom to €78 for a private 1st class double cabin.
- Free WiFi is included. Reception is poor in some of the rooms but works great in the dining area near Reception.
- Staff members are multilingual and offer 5-star customer service.
- A metal gangway leads to a secure entrance with a key-code that allows guests to come and go as they please, 24 hours a day.
- Late check-in is available.
- Upon check-in, guests are given free Berlin Stars booklets with coupons for 15-20 of the city’s most popular attractions!
- The hostel boat is eco-friendly, heating water with solar power and using wind energy for on-board electricity.
- A portion of every booking is donated to charity.
- Official website for Eastern Comfort Hostelboat (EN, DE)
What’s up next on our agenda?
Staring down the world’s most spectacularly unattractive fish at the Berlin Zoo & Aquarium, the oldest and most popular in Germany…