Picture this: you’re sipping on hot cinnamon-spiced apple cider with your feet up by a log fire, a fur blanket over your legs, soft music playing in the background; the stress of daily life melting away as you sink deeper into a plush velour armchair.
While this might come across like a fake ad for the alpine lodge of your if I were rich fantasies, it’s actually the real life check-in process at the recently opened Unwind Hotel & Bar; where coziness, chic design and wine are top priority.
Taking inspiration from its location in Hokkaido, known for its cosmopolitan cities and breathtaking natural surroundings, Unwind Hotel & Bar offers a unique chance to experience the best of what northern Japan has to offer right in the heart of its bustling capital, Sapporo.
From the faultless chalet-inspired interior to the local Hokkaido wine served at the rooftop bar (free —free! — every night from 5 to 7 p.m.) to the thoughtful bilingual staff, every element of Unwind Hotel & Bar comes together to mimic a relaxing lodge stay deep in the mountains. Except, you’re in the city and you’re paying less than 100 bucks a night. Wait —what?
Sapporo meets the Swiss Alps
The first sign that you’re not at sea level anymore is the welcoming, clove-scented lobby, where attractive staff dressed in earthy tones will guide you to a seat by the wood-burning stove and offer you a warming drink. All twinkly lights, wooden logs and vintage sofas, it’s a lovely introduction to the warm and atmospheric interior which runs throughout the hotel.
In the bedrooms you’ll find similar alpine vibes with wood accents, including sliding oak doors that separate the bathroom from the main bedroom, soft carpeting and luxuriously large beds. Each type (there are four) features quirky design details, from cool typography posters on the walls and curtains to sleek brass mugs and tea boxes. As well as large comfy couches and a coffee table, rooms also come with a polished mini bar/kitchenette equipped with a Balmuda toaster — you know, the one that’s worth ¥24,000 and a three-month wait — and a kettle specifically designed for the hand drip coffee that you’ll get with breakfast. More on that later.
Wine o’ Clock
It’s (very) happy hour everyday from 5 to 7 p.m., during which guests can sample a range of locally produced wines completely free at Bar Ignis on the 10th floor. Indulge in as many glasses as you like in the sophisticated lounge, where antique furniture, a jazz soundtrack and low-lighting make for an intimate atmosphere.
Alternatively, you could bring your wine outside to the connected rooftop terrace, kept warm in the colder months by the central fire pit, where you can even roast marshmallows to make s’mores. The hotel has all the ingredients and there are plenty of tables, chairs and blankets ready for a sky-high campfire with glittering views of the city below. Both the bar and rooftop terrace are open to the public, so you can get locals in on your s’mores party too.
Breakfast in bed
Nothing says treat yourself quite like breakfast in bed and Unwind Hotel & Bar have you covered. Staff deliver a free lodge-style breakfast to your door, neatly packed inside a cute basket. Inside you’ll find a rustic Hokkaido soup, bread for that Balmuda toaster, hand-drip coffee and juice.
Soup flavors change daily and each batch is made with local ingredients. Once you’re done (hopefully without getting any crumbs on your pillow), you can leave the basket outside your room and somebody will come get it.
Where your Hokkaido adventure begins
Situated on the edge of the downtown Susukino district, known as one of Japan’s famous entertainment areas, Unwind Hotel & Bar is a great base from which to explore the tree-lined boulevards of Sapporo, day and night, and staff are happy to point guests in the right direction.
Depending on how much wine you’ve had, it’s a short walk to central Susukino and streets full of opportunities to stuff yourself with Sapporo staples like jingisukan (grill-it-yourself lamb), or to explore the battleground of competing ramen restaurants; the famous ramen yokocho, or alleyway, is a good place to start. Nearby, you’ll find Odori Park for the most photographed view of the city and its grid system from the Sapporo TV Tower. If you’re venturing further afield for the day, it’s a few stations on the subway to Sapporo station from where you can catch a bus or train to nearby natural attractions like Jozankei Onsen or Shikotsu-Toya National Park.
Thanks to its affordable rates (and judging by the great reviews), a stay at Unwind Hotel & Bar is a chance to experience all of the best bits of a relaxing mountain retreat and a fun city break at the same time — with free wine.
Yep, pretty much our dream hotel come true.