Despite its unassuming moniker, you won’t be forgetting Side Hotel Hamburg in a hurry – the heavy-hitter names behind its eye-popping look have seen to that: architect Jan Störmer set the bold, angular stage, Milanese designer Matteo Thun brought the ‘zen-meets-pop’ concept of Lucite-bright colours and pebble-shaped furniture, and stage-design-master Robert Wilson conceived the hypnotic light installation in the lobby. The city’s genteel lakes and high cultural institutions are just a stroll away, but with the restaurant doing a line in top-notch steaks, a heated swimming pool downstairs and the space-age Sky Lounge on the rooftop, it’s tempting to just stay put and let Hamburg’s hippest come to you.
Get this when you book through us:
A free cocktail in the Botanist Bar (one a person); for GoldSmiths, a bottle of wine in your room on arrival
Noon. Earliest check-in, 3pm. Both can be flexible, subject to availability, and late check-out is guaranteed on Sundays until 8pm.
Double rooms from £140.28 (€153), including tax at 7 per cent.
Rates don’t usually include the lavish Continental breakfast – it’s €29 a person (or €14.50 a child) for the large selection of freshly baked breads, muesli, fresh fruits and juices, cold cuts, and made-to-order eggs or waffles.
If you’re staying in the summer months, join one of the group rooftop yoga classes for cat-cow with a side of city views.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, valet parking. In rooms: TV with Sky Sports, tea and Illy coffee, black-out curtains and Babor bath products.
Our favourite rooms
In contrast to the multi-sensory play of light and colour in the public spaces, the bedrooms are startlingly sober and purist in design: white beds with dark wood accents, floating glass basins and sculptural furniture. We’re fans of the Flying Suites, on the 10th and 11th storeys, for their oak floors, lacquered bath tubs and sparkling city views.
The spa’s brightly-coloured, 15-metre indoor swimming pool is heated and family-friendly.
They’ve dispensed with the standard all-white spa palette here and played with pre-school pigment instead. There’s nothing elementary about the tempting treatments, though – choices range from bespoke facials tailored to your skin type, all sorts of massages (sport, Lomi Lomi, pre-natal…), and salt scrubs. The spa also has a whirlpool, sauna, steam room and a petite gym.
Bring a big scarf and lots of layers – with its nose towards the North Sea, Hamburg can be nippy, even in summer.
The common areas and two bedrooms are adapted for wheelchair users.
All ages are very welcome, but the hotel is better suited to older children and teenagers as smaller Smiths are not particularly catered to. Babysitting is available for €25 an hour, and cribs or cots can be provided on request.
There’s no prime position at the Meatery, only prime cuts, so feel free to choose a table anywhere.
In homage to this music-loving city that helped to launch the Fab Four, we’d take our fashion cues from the Help! era: monochrome suits and Chelsea boots.
Calling all carnivores. There’s nothing trivial about the flintstone-sized steaks at Meatery or the 800-degree infrared oven they’re prepared in. The hormone-free beef comes from the finest Argentinian, American or German cattle and is aged for up to nine weeks in a ripening chamber before it’s served up every which way (tartare, T-bone, tagliata) in this low-lit Seventies-inspired spot. For lunch, there are chunky chowders, chopped salads and heavenly hamburgers. And, on the off chance that any vegetarians are still reading this, you haven’t been forgotten – meat-free options range from avocado tartare to beetroot burgers and burrata.
There are two. A dark and stormy palette and lots of lush greenery prevail at the Botanist Bar, where the menu skews strongly towards gin in many forms and guises: try the Basil Gin Smash in summer months or the Slow Thyme Negroni with sloe gin in the winter. Sky Lounge is the lighter, brighter rooftop cocktail bar on the 8th floor, which serves as Hamburg’s favourite summer meeting spot and has impressive views, sporadic barbecues and live DJs.
The restaurant is open daily from 6am to 10.30pm.
The full restaurant menu is available as room service during opening hours – after that, a limited menu of sandwiches and soup is served in the wee hours.
Side Hotel is in the centre of Hamburg, close to both the Inner Alster Lake (the ‘Binnenalster’) and Neuer Wall, the city’s slickest shopping boulevard.
It’s under half an hour by car to Hamburg’s Fuhlsbuettel Airport, which serves almost all major European cities directly. The hotel can arrange private transfers for around €75 each way.
Hamburg’s Central Station is just five minutes away by car (or 20 minutes on foot) and serves all major German cities. The hotel can arrange taxis, which should cost around €10 each way.
You won’t need a car to get around – German efficiency ensures Hamburg’s buses and trains run with precision timing. If you do decide to drive, there’s valet parking on-site for €32 a day.
Worth getting out of bed for
Though Side Hotel’s immediate surroundings may not be eminently Instagrammable, you only need to walk a few minutes in any direction to be rewarded. Start with art. Buy one ticket for access to the five museums that comprise the Kunstmeile (the art mile); the most eminent is the Hamburger Kunsthalle, home to seven centuries of European art and works by Rubens, Rembrandt and Rodin.
Then, wander to the waterfront to explore the on-trend HafenCity district and see how Hamburg’s gritty River Elbe port is reinventing itself. The signature project in the area’s regeneration is The Elphi (sadly not named after the witch from Wicked – its full name is The Elbphilharmonie), the colossal avant-garde concert hall with a rippling roof that resembles a hoisted sail. Book tickets well in advance to experience the acoustics inside (the best in the world, apparently).
It’s not all high culture, opera and art, though – you couldn’t be in a better city if your idea of a Saturday well-spent is a Kaufrasch (shopping spree). More modest budgets should loosen their purse strings at the Alsterarkaden; robber barons can do some quantitative easing in the big-name brand stores along the Neuer Wall.
The Table is set in an industrial-style building with exposed concrete walls and metal accents in HafenCity. All guests sit around a curved cherry-wood bar facing the open kitchen, where chef Kevin Fehling’s team create dishes from his innovative tasting menus, which include some unusual combinations: flamed goose liver and Norwegian lobster, or aromatic smoked eel with a macaron-like side of steamed rice. Booking is essential at talk-of-the-town sushi restaurant Henssler and Henssler – sit at the bar to see how these seafood senseis create nigh-on perfect nigiri. And, bring your Reeperbahn hangover for an early-morning visit to the Fischmarkt (stay with us) – it’s not just for chefs and restaurateurs, the market has live music, sandwich stalls and even a dance hall.
The seamy, steamy Reeperbahn may not be for everyone, but some of the city’s best bars are nestled between the adult film shops and strip clubs, so it’s not totally verboten, even for the chicest Hamburgers. Clouds is one such example that does a roaring trade in expertly mixed cocktails, live DJs and sweeping city views, despite its unseemly address in St Pauli.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this ultra-modern hotel in northern Germany and unpacked their coffee beans from Claus Kröger and Nordic fashion finds from Edited, a full account of their European city break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Side Hotel in Hamburg…
You may not expect a futuristic light show or 80-foot atrium to hide behind its hulking glass-and-stone facade, but Hamburg’s Side Hotel delights in these kind of japes and juxtapositions – just when you think you’ve got the place licked, it subverts your expectations. The Tron-tastic lobby leads to serenely minimal bedrooms in tones of cream and butter; the walls in the spa are splashed in riotous sherbet shades, but Seventies-style wood-panelling gives off groovy gentleman’s-club vibes in the restaurant. It may sound a splash schizophrenic, but it’s a sorcery that works – the hotel simply shows off a different side of itself to every type of traveller: dry-aged steaks for the carnivores and businessmen, a spa, pool and sauna for the wellness-seeker, and a city-gazing rooftop bar for, um, people who like cocktails and views. So, pick a side, any side at this confounding, colourful, cool-as-a-cucumber hotel.