The Hotel Hafen Hamburg is well known for its thrilling past, which is taking us back into the 19th century. We would like you to follow us on a little maritme journey.
The foundation of today's Hotel Hafen Hamburg has been laid in 1858. Before the house opened its doors to visitors, it originally served as a seamen's home. This project was initiated by local shipping companies and supported by sponsors of the industry.
The accommodation offered space for about 24 sailors, who could get a bed and a warm meal for only 2 German Marks. The offer spread quickly and was very well received.
Despite the successful implementation of the seafaring home, the economic interests of the city increased, which resulted in a shared location, additionally serving as office space for the Hamburg Seamen Authority, shipping companies and the Hamburg Navigation School.
After the outbreak of World War I, the use of the building was awarded to the Kaiserliche Marine (Imperial Navy), which converted the building from a seamen's home into a training centre for naval soldiers.
The former sailor's home survived the First World War without visible damage. Years later, after the end of World War I and Adolf Hitler's seizure of power, the German Labor Front expropriated the non-profit building in 1938 and transferred the property rights to the Senate of Hamburg. However, World War II was imminent. During this time, the house was again used by the german navy for training purposes.
As if by a miracle, the facility survived the Second World War and the massive air raids, that devastated not only Hamburg, without any significant damage and remained in good condition despite two world wars. After the end of the war, the Royal Navy very quickly recognized the good condition of the building and confiscated the entire complex.
10 years later, the building was released by the Royal Navy and then returned to its former purpose – a seafaring home. But, due to economic interests of the city, this constellation did not last very long.
After the building was released, the Housing Authority handed over the premises to the Hydrographic Institute, the Shipping and Transport Authority and the Tropical Institute for a peaceful use. At the same time, an attempt was made to rebuild the seafarer’s home and thus return it to its former purpose.
From 1949, up to 30 seamen could once again be accommodated in multi-bed rooms. In addition, the accommodation rooms were extended in 1950 and the gastronomy was reopened. This was also the reason for the re-entry of various shipping companies who had already rented the premises of the seafaring home.
Despite the good condition of the building, the renovation and modernisation works were delayed, which led to the closure of the home. The city was no longer willing to put money into the building as it was simply no longer profitable. In 1975 the idea of the seamen’s home was finally abandoned.
The end of the seamen’s home was synonymous with the beginning of today's Hotel Hafen Hamburg. The beginning starts with the personal story of the founder and "king of St. Pauli", Willi Bartels. The former butcher was known as one of the largest real estate owners in Hamburg. In addition to 40 localities on St. Pauli, 2,000 apartments and 10 hotels, the Hotel Hafen Hamburg, was regarded as the heart of the entrepreneur.
During a walk with his wife Gisela, Willi Bartels first came across the magnificent building at the harbour and fell in love instantly. For him it was obvious: "This is going to be my new project." And so it happened.
After long negotiations with the city, the Bartels could finally take over the building and converted it into a hotel at a cost of 5.5 million marks.
For him, the acquisition, in addition to the continuation of the history and the preservation of the building, was particularly important in order to maintain the charm and connection to the port:
"Like hardly any other hotel, it fits in with the maritim tradition of the city. From the very beginning, great importance was attached to personality and Hanseatic flair".
- Willi Bartels, 1979
The opening of the hotel in the late 70s' was the beginning of a success story. The hotel first started to offer overnight accommodation with 105 bed rooms.
Two years later, the expansion of the Hotel Hafen Hamburg took place in the gastronomical area with the opening of the Restaurant Port.
Maritime interior in mahogany and brass, as well as an individually made buffet of planked boat tips, original from the boat builder, made the new building a real attraction with a unique flair.
Space for around 220 guests was created on 400m² including a free view over Elbe River and the harbour. The restaurant offers everything a gourmet can dream of: quality and a varied cuisine - then and now.
Only a few years after the opening of the hotel, Willi Bartels took over the east wing of the building and extended it to accommodate even more guests. Before the takeover, the side wing was used by the town and served as a nurses' dormitory for a long time. With the acquisition of the building, the hotel got expanded and the number of sleeping possibilities increased by 320 beds.
The tower building was constructed in order to create a connection between the two wings. The project was, like all structural changes, a project that Willi Bartels personally supervised from the beginning until the end.
The goal of combining both building complexes was a time consuming and costly project. Due to the historical structure of the building, it first had to be examined and approved by the responsible authorities.
Willi Bartels decided, together with the Chief Building Director, to build a tower as a useful link:
"When he decides to do something, his handshake is his thing", says the Chief Building Director about his former business partner. He goes on to describe Willi Bartels as a "real Hanseat" as "generous and passionate".
A total of around 13 million marks were invested in the construction of the building, which was certainly not a bargain, but it wasn't meant to be! With its opening in 1987, not only more hotel rooms, but also conference rooms and today's popular Tower Bar were built. At a height of 62m, delicious cocktails and a 360° panoramic view could be enjoyed from now on. At that time, the Tower Bar was the only bar of its kind, directly on the Elbe River with a view over the harbour and the city.
Despite the complex construction works of the past years, Willi Bartels still wasn't completely satisfied. Therefore, he thought about using the free space on the hotel ground of the Hotel Hafen Hamburg in order to build a new hotel, the Residenz Hafen Hamburg.
Willi and Gisela Bartels had estimated an investment volume of around 30 million Marks for the new project on an area of 7900m². The new building created additional space for 115 double rooms and thus increased the total contingent to 670 beds. In addition, the range of conference and event rooms was expanded. Due to their location and their view, the so called "Ellipsen" have become particularly popular for events and conferences of all kinds.
Well prepared for a new millennium - for the 20th birthday of the Hotel Hafen Hamburg, which was also the year of Willi Bartels' 85th birthday and the start of a new millennium, Willi Bartels made the hotel and himself a present – a new floor, a new event room called “Elbkuppel”. The new room was used as an event space offering a breathtaking view across Hamburg.
The construction of the Elbkuppel was carried out under difficult conditions, as the building could not bear the additional weight of another floor. Therefore the 4th floor and the roof had to be completely removed and a 4th and 5th floor had to be rebuilt and steel columns had to be driven into the masonry. But the building was finished in time and the neighbourhood celebrated its birthday as planned on 13th December 1999 with family and friends. Only 18 days later the big New Year's Eve celebration took place in the new floor.
And even today, many celebrations and conferences are held on the 290m² Elbkuppel next to New Year's Eve. With its size and its unique view over the Elbe, the room enjoys great popularity.
In 2000 the Hotel Hafen Hamburg was able to convince, next to its guests, also the responsible jury of the DEHOGA Federal Association due to its equipment and high quality. Since then it has been classified with four stars - just like the neighbouring hotel, the Residenz Hafen Hamburg.
From then on, both hotels, the Hotel Hafen Hamburg and the Residenz Hafen Hamburg, received a 4-star classification and thus a uniform standard. Because of this, it did not take very long until the idea of connecting both hotels came up. The merger of the hotels was a process that lasted until 2006 with standardized room categories and a similar design. The entire hotel now ran under the name “Hotel Hafen Hamburg”, while the name "Residenz", descriptive of the building complex, has remained the same until now.
The award brought the hotel additional success and special attention: Since then it has been regarded as one of the best occupied hotels in Germany. Over the years, the rush has not decreased and even today the average occupancy rate is still around 90%.
Willi Bartels couldn't be more proud, but he was down-to-earth and treated guests as follows: "We keep telling our team: the customer is not king, but welcome. People should simply feel at home while staying with us."
Willi Bartels has always passed on this philosophy during his lifetime, so that even today hospitality and well-being are still in the focus for guests and employees.
Willi Bartels still did not want to settle down - moreover he wanted to put his heart and soul into a fresh project. In 2007 he was building the Empire Riverside Hotel in the direct neighborhood of the Hotel Hafen Hamburg.
The design and lifestyle hotel is located close to the Hotel Hafen Hamburg. With its modern and puristic furnishings, the Empire Riverside Hotel does not compete with the traditional 4-star hotel - moreover, the hotels have benefited from each other ever since.
Only five days after the opening ceremony of his latest matter of heart, the Empire Riverside Hotel, Willi Bartels died and left a gap, not only on the family side, but also in his beloved neighbourhood, St. Pauli.
But, Willi Bartels is not forgotten even after his death, thanks to his grandchildren and long-standing employees at the Hotel Hafen Hamburg. His spirit is omnipresent and can still be felt throughout the company, especially in the beer bar of the hotel where you can even find a bust of him.
Even after the death of Willi Bartels, the hotel is constantly developing. The gastronomic offer got extended by a Burger restaurant with a unique hanseatic american touch. The former piano bar has been completely renovated and got a new and fresh design.
Since 2015, freshly prepared burgers with organic high quality meat can be enjoyed at the Hafen Diner. In addition to classic burgers, guests will also find a variety of seasonal and vegetarian meals and side dishes as well as refreshing cocktails and fruity milkshakes.
In autumn 2015 the Tower Bar got a complete new look. The interior changed to a stylish and modern bar without losing its charm and cosiness. Around 70 different cocktail creations as well as a breathtaking view arcoss Hamburg invites visitors to relax or celebrate.
In June 2019 the summer terrace opened in the Residenz building and now serves as an additional event room and barbecue spot for Hamburg lovers and friends of good food. With a fantastic view over Hamburg's most important sights, it is a wonderful place to eat, watch and celebrate until late in the evening.
For a long time the terrace remained unused, a wasted space that offers such a wonderful view! The project started in the middle of the year. The free area got renovated, furnished and planted at a cost of about 60.000€. From now on, the terrace can be exclusively rented from up to 20 people. Three different grill packages offer a varied gastronomic offer, fresh drinks and good food can be enjoyed while listening to relaxing DJ beats. Nevertheless, the highlight of this whole event is still the fantastic view!
To always provide you with the best possible service, we are constantly working on improving all kind of areas of the hotel.
Our next big project is coming up in March 2020: The Restaurant Port is getting a new face! Be surprised!
We are excited and looking forward to another 40 years and to create even more beautiful moments together with you! Based on the words of Willi Bartels ("For us the customer is not king, he is welcome"):
Welcome to the Hotel Hafen Hamburg, welcome home!
In 2019 the Hotel Hafen Hamburg celebrates its 40th anniversary. The German TV channel NDR took this as an opportunity to shoot a report (German language). Experience insights behind the scenes and into the eventful history of the hotel.to the report