Generator hostel, Hamburg - review

Francesca McCoy

Generator couldn’t really be more conveniently located – it’s barely ten metres from the Hauptbanhof station, from where it takes a 25 minute, €3.20 S-bahn train to get to the airport.

The area itself is reminiscent of that around the Gare du Nord – a bit grotty, dive bars and discount shops abound – but the more upmarket shopping district is a five minute walk away, and the infamous, stag weekend-friendly bars and clubs of Reeperbahn are a ten minute S-Bahn ride away.


Sure, it looks like a fairly non-descript tower from the outside. But this concrete block is actually Klockmann Haus, the city’s first skyscraper – and more importantly, the place The Beatles allegedly recorded together for the first time in history. In the lobby downstairs, the vibe is Shoreditch café meets student union: all funky chalkboards, primary coloured walls, hot hipster staff and hungover guest lounging over coffees in booths. The rest of the hostel is fairly firmly rooted in the grungy basement bar vibe of the Beatles’ Hamburg – authenticity rules.


Hamburg Bar (Generator Hamburg)

Besides the lobby café, where bikes can be rented, tours organised and general chill out time over beer conducted – this particular Generator hasn’t got quite the same number of facilities as other hostels in the group. But there is one key attraction, and that’s the hostel’s bar/nightclub, Helter Skelter, named for the Beatles’ track (the band apparently played in the building back in the day).

An edgy multi-level design, with feature walls covered with vintage LPs and neon lightboxes everywhere, there’s also a constant rotation of oh-so-cool local bands lined up to play. Somehow it manages to feel like a secret underground club despite being just one (very thick, soundproofed) door away from the main hostel.

Extra curricular

If your head's a little fuzzy after a night in Helter Skelter, a bracing walk to the Elbphilharmonie should clear it. The orchestra hall, which opened after ... is pretty awe-inspiring in itself; even better, those without opera tickets can access the plaza 37 metres above sea level, for some dazzling views across Hamburg's old harbour and waterways. Definitely make a trip to Satt Pauli, the Hackney of Hamburg. This arty, genteelly decaying and heavily graffitied area is fast being gentrified but it's still home to some brilliant - and cheap - bars and proper Hamburg food.

To make the most of it go on a food tour from the Satt Pauli Tourist Office where for €29 you'll try everything from award-winning currywurst to the best fisschbroten (cured herring sandwiches) in the city at Kleine Haie Grosse Fische (try saying that after a few beers), and get a healthy dose of the area's political history to boot. Round off with a gin basil smash at the brilliant, award-winning Bar de Lion.

Food and drink

Luke Thomas' famous hot dogs (Generator Hamburg)

Don’t be put off by the seemingly theme park menu choices (pizza, nachos). The food has been designed by Luke Thomas, the UK’s youngest head chef, and each dish is brilliant. Snap up a locally-sourced hot dog of the day – the San Jose chilli dog was one of the most delicious examples of its kind I’ve ever tasted – or, given where you are, one of Luke’s damn fine hamburgers.

You’ll need it after pillaging Helter Skelter’s admirable drinks list, especially if you opt for the Good Day Sunshine rum cocktail or dare the utterly lethal luminous green cucumber gin concoction poured on tap from vats. If you want to be alive the next day, there’s a healthy selection of organic wine and very good hyper-local beer.

Which room

Private rooms are available, but the whole point of Generator is to share a massive dorm with friends on a big, boozy sleepover. Ideally go with pals and take over one of the six bed dorms (with prices starting at a ridiculously reasonable 13 euros per head). The rooms themselves are pretty basic - this is a hostel - after all) and a little boxy.

Private double room (Generator Hamburg)

Still, the apparently meagre mattresses are actually incredibly comfy (specially designed for the Generator group); and walls are well soundproofed. And you won’t be tempted to waste time locked away in your room instead of exploring Hamburg – or drinking downstairs.

Best for

Groups of mates on a cheap but cheerful – and very boozy – weekend with a focus on going out, drinking and listening to live music.

When to go

Hamburg gets icy in winter and full of stag-dos mid-summer – aim for spring or autumn to maintain a sense of cool without freezing by the harbour.


Rates start from €13 for a shared room or €49 for a private room. Generator Hamburg, Steintorplatz 3, 20099 Hamburg, Germany;