One of the truly wonderful things about Hamburg, Germany is the convergence of old and new happening everywhere.
On my recent visit, I like to think I experienced the best of both after staying in two unique hotels: Gastwerk and the Hotel Atlantic Kempinski.
The Gastwerk is Hamburg’s first Design Hotel property, and it feels every bit design-y. The 120-year-old gas plant has been reclaimed as a totally unique hotel, with exposed brick and steel throughout for a tres industrial chic look and feel. The lobby atrium soars multiple floors, and the whole space lends a loft-like impression. Among the things that really got me was the “art room,” where an artist in residence creates all the property’s artworks (how cool is that, for real?!) and the arty steel bowl of gummy bears at reception — my first tip-off that the cute confection originated in Germany (now you know).
Here’s somewhere I didn’t stay, but it’s a second Hamburg Design Hotel worth noting: The George. It has truly impeccable style, including the pictured jellyfish sconces that I was obsessed with, and an Italian restaurant called Da Caio that offered one of the best meals I had in Germany: a truffled pasta prepared in a hollowed-out parmesan wheel, tableside.
On the flip side of emerging and modern, Hamburg has the Hotel Atlantic Kempinski, which exudes old-school hospitality and tradition from all angles (though it too was recently restored with a full facelift). The century-old five-star property feels grand and rich, with opulent purple decor detailing in the guest rooms, and honestly the most comfortable bed I’ve experienced anywhere in Europe. (The most-luxurious-bed-anywhere-in-the-world prize goes to the Four Seasons Bali at Sayan, BTW.) The view from the rooftop is impeccable, with white sailboats floating all up and down the Elbe River just in front, and a courtyard is not only pretty to gaze upon and dine in, but also its fountain lulled me right into a place of total tranquility from my third-floor room with doors open to the interior. And if you’re into this kind of thing, here’s a bit of trivia: the Atlantic figured rather prominently in the 1997 James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies, in which a stunt scene has Bond climbing up to the iconic globe on the roof.
I’m a hotel snob, I’ll admit it, but my general philosophy is if it’s good enough for Bond, it’s good enough for me.
Overall, Hamburg is a spectacularly easy sell: old-world European charm on a rather human scale, all wrapped up with thoroughly modern developments happening everywhere with classic German efficiency and cleverness. A wonderful city.