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What does luxury mean to you when you’re travelling? Kash aka The Budget Traveller spent months backpacking around some of Europe’s best hostels to find the answer.
In his Guide to Luxury Hostels in Europe you’ll find rooftop pools, killer views and gorgeous design to rival any hotel. But luxury is about more than just swanky facilities. Luxury is watching a movie with new travel buddies in your very own indoor teepee. It’s a free pancake breakfast after a night of karaoke in the hostel bar. It’s a yoga lesson in the garden before a day exploring the city like a local on a free guided tour. It’s knowing that your hostel is as committed to protecting the planet as you are. Here’s our A to Z of how hostels are pioneering a new kind of luxury.
A is for arty
There’s nothing more luxurious than being surrounded by art: from the gorgeous frescoed ceilings and quirky illustrations at City Circus Athens (pictured) to Gallery Hostel Porto which has its own public art gallery and PLUS Berlin who kindly re-homed a collection of bizarre metal sculptures after a local artists’s commune was bought by developers. The best bit is you’ll be supporting local creative talent with your stay.
B is for bathrooms
A nice bathroom can go a long way to making you feel at home on your trip. In Kash’s guide you’ll find power showers, full-length mirrors, free toiletries and towels, not to mention many hostels with en-suites on every dorm and private. Special mention goes to Czech Inn in Prague (pictured) for their inventive design, Bongo Hostel in Belgrade for their underfloor heating, Casa Gracia Hostel Barcelona for the Jacuzzi bath and spa package in their super suite and Ecomama in Amsterdam for the free nail polish, hair dryers and straighteners.
C is for chilled
Whether you’re a party animal, or like to pack insane amounts of exploring into your itinerary, every traveller needs a place to chill. Hostels taking chill to a whole new level include Ecomama (pictured) in Amsterdam, where you can watch films and hang with your new travel friends in an indoor teepee tent, and King Kong Hostel in Rotterdam where the “hangover basement” does exactly what it says on the tin: beanbags, Netflix and free popcorn.
D is for design
The beauty of hostels is that no two are alike, especially when it comes to their design. We love the bar at Backstay Hostel Ghent made from hundreds of wooden typesetting letters from a local printhouse, the industrial chic design at Meininger Brussels City Centre, EVERYTHING at Wallyard Concept Hostel in Berlin and Superbude Hotel Hostel St Pauli who have taken upcycling to a whole new level: magazine racks made from old water pipes, chairs created out of old wheelbarrows and hostel keyrings from old skateboards.
E is for eco-friendly
One of life’s greatest luxuries is having peace of mind that your travels aren’t destroying the planet. From local, organic produce to eco cleaning products, you’ll find loads of sustainable hostels in this guide. One hostel leading the charge is Ecomama in Amsterdam, where you’ll find a water-saving system, natural stone heating and crazy amounts of upcycled furniture. Mosaic House in Prague also has a water recycling system and runs off 100% renewable energy. And at The Beehive in Rome, the food served in their organic veggie café comes straight from the hostel garden.
F is for freebies
Hostels are notoriously generous compared to other types of accommodation. From free walking tours to yoga lessons, unlimited laundry to free entry to the best parties, you’ll be in freebie heaven. We love Lost Inn Lisbon, who offer guests free sangria and chorizo every single night. But now let’s talk about the undisputed best freebie: free breakfast. Loads of the hostels in this guide offer it, but Lisboa Central Hostel had us at free pancake breakfast – lovingly cooked by the owner’s mother every morning.
G is for gastro-hostels
The new breed of gastro-hostel offers amazing local food that is budget-friendly. There are way too many in the guide to list here, so here’s a little *taster*: Hostel Gastama in Lille serves up amazing vegan curry and its very own brand of beer. TOC Hostel Sevilla has an in-house tapas bar. Sir Toby’s Hostel (pictured) in Prague does a mean BBQ. Circus Hostel in Berlin has a microbrewery in the cellar. And finally at The Yellow in Rome you can learn to cook authentic Roman cuisine such as pasta guanciale.
H is for hammocks
There’s nothing more luxurious than a hammock and that’s a fact. You’ll find plenty of these glorious swinging thrones in Kash’s guide, but here are a couple of options to get you started: Ostello Bello Grande (pictured) in Milan, Wombats City Hostel Munich and Slo Living Hostel in Lyon.
I is for illustrious former residents
At Clink78 you can sleep in the same building where punk rockers The Clash stood trial and Charles Dickens once worked as a scribe. If Joseph Conrad is more to your literary taste, then book a stay at his former residence which is now home to Wombats City Hostel London. For something a little racier, try King Kong Hostel in Rotterdam, a one-time brothel, illegal casino and tattoo parlour.
J is for Japanese-style pod beds
This is the future of hosteling peeps. Pod beds give you all the privacy and peace of a private room, with the low prices and sociability of a dorm. Each pod generally comes with its own reading light, plug sockets and a little shelf for valuables. For a new kind of dorm experience, check out Boutique Hostel Forum (pictured) in Zadar, Code Hostel in Edinburgh and Main Square in Zagreb.
K is for kick ass events
One of the best things about hostels is that they organise cool events that help you meet other travelers – many of which are free. Here are a few from the guide to try: wine and cheese tasting fun in the Chianti wine region with PLUS Florence, Sunday brunch and the best coffee in Lyon at Away Hostel & Coffee shop (pictured), whisky tasting and traditional Scottish dancing at Code Hostel in Edinburgh, and crepe parties or Apéro-pétanque (Tasty treats + the traditional French ball game) at Slo Living Hostel in Lyon.
L is for location
One of the best things about hostels is that they’re super central and put you right in the heart of the action. Unlike big hotels, hostels can be opened in almost any kind of building – from a tiny townhouse to a former factory, so hostel owners can be flexible and bag the very best locations. One of our favourites is Héraðsskólinn Hostel (pictured) in Iceland, located on the banks of Laugarvatn Lake and an amazing, rural place to see the Northern Lights.
M is for multitasking
Need to cram getting a tattoo and a haircut into your busy travel schedule? What about a co-working space to catch up on work? Not a problem – at The Yellow in Rome you can do it all without leaving the hostel. Or try Urban House in Copenhagen for more tattoos, and the added bonus of a bicycle shop. Another hostel that understands the modern traveller’s complex needs is Backstay Hostel Ghent (pictured): their quiet space for creative people is situated in the lighthouse turret at the top of the building and is completely free of charge for guests to use. This space was once rented to notable Flemish authors, so you’re guaranteed good creative vibes here.
N is for nightlife
Hostels are the best way to meet people from all over the world and create crazy memories together after dark. The Yellow in Rome is an example of a party hostel that really pulls out all the stops in their basement nightclub, where the free Jager shots flow and things can get a little wild and weird. If you’re all about the VIP party, then Superbude Hotel Hostel St Pauli (pictured) in Hamburg has a room which can be hired for private parties and comes with its own stage and beer hidden in the bed.
O is for original features
It’s the little details that really add to the character of a place, and it’s great when a hostel manages to preserve a little piece of the past while offering gorgeous modern facilities. We love the gorgeous original stained glass windows at ClinkNOORD (pictured) in Amsterdam and the old textile factory machinery at Swanky Mint in Zagreb.
P is for pool
A hostel with its own pool is #travelgoals: a great place to recharge your batteries and meet new friends. Special shout out to PLUS Florence (pictured) where you’ll find not one, but two pools, plus a Turkish bath, steam room and sauna. And then there’s TOC Hostel Barcelona, where 50 cent likes to stay when he’s in town, and Sant Jordi Hostel Rock Palace, whose rooftop was pool designed by Barcelona’s legendary Razzmatazz club.
Q is for quirky
Staying in an eccentric hostel can make your trip that little bit more special, and gives you loads of stories to tell back home. Try sleeping in a former prison cell at Celica Art Hostel (pictured) in Ljubljana, a bed built into an old fiat car at Hostel and Garten Eden in Leipzig, or a bright green camper van inside Kingkool in The Hague. Or if that’s not quite weird enough for you, Circus Hostel Berlin has a museum dedicated to David Hasselhoff in the cellar. Two words: chest hair.
R is for roof terrace
You know what’s more luxurious than watching the sunset with a beer and some mates on your very own hostel roof terrace? Nope, nothing. Special mention goes to La Banda Rooftop Hostel in Sevilla for their rooftop concerts with a stunning view of the cathedral. Generator Paris (pictured) for their massive suntrap roof terrace with panoramic views of the city. City Circus Athens whose roof terrace offers amazing views of the Acropolis;
S is for staff
Often, the people working in hostels are fellow travellers working to pay for their next adventure, so really understand what their guests need: from local tips to a friendly partying buddy. This extends to the hostel owners too: many spent years travelling around before starting their own hostel, such as Tinja, the owner of 7 Fells Hostel in Lapland, who describes herself as a retired backpacker.
T is for travel buddies
Some luxuries can’t be bought – like making new friends and having unforgettable experiences together. Hostels are great at bringing people together from all over the world, whether you choose a party hostel, design hostel or eco-hostel. One of the best places ever to make new friends is in the adult ballpit at Hub New Lisbon Hostel.
U is for ultimate bargain
You know that amazing feeling you get when you bag a bargain? Well that’s what it feels like staying in the hostels in this guide – whether you stay in a dorm or a private you’ll often pay less than in a hotel, and find better facilities, loads of freebies and an awesome social atmosphere.
V is for views
Being in some of the best and most central locations in the world, you can expect incredible views from many of the hostels in Kash’s guide. A few highlights: Casa Gracia Barcelona Hostel (pictured) for possibly the best view you could hope to wake up to in the morning. Generator Venice, which is located on the island of Giudecca and boasts amazing views across the water to Piazza San Marco and the grande canal. PLUS hostel Florence (pictured) for one of the best views of the Duomo from their roof terrace. And Boutique Hostel Forum in Zadar, where you can gaze down at the 3,000-year-old Roman Forum.
W is for Wifi
Wifi is an essential for most travelers, and the best thing about all the hostels in this guide is that the Wifi is completely free – unlike in many hotels. Kudos to Ostello Bello Grande for going the extra mile and providing their guests with free mobile Wi-Fi devices with data to take care of all your
X is for XXL beds
You’ll find some seriously luxurious beds in Kash’s guide, both dorms and privates. Special shout out to Die Wohngemeinschaft (pictured) in Cologne where all the dorm beds are doubles and Lisbon Calling for their ornate gilded beds with velvet headboards.
Y is for yoga
It’s so important to take care of your mind, body and soul when travelling. Yoga is one of the best ways to do that, and many hostels now offer free or cheap sessions to their guests. Try the yoga brunch at Slo Living Hostel in Lyon; yoga lessons in the garden at Hostel Ani & Haakien in Rotterdam; or free yoga on the terrace at Casa Gracia Barcelona Hostel.
Z is for zzzzzzzzz
A good night’s rest is one of the most important things in life, especially when you’re travelling. Some people think hostels and sleep don’t go together, but the new breed of luxury hostel takes your sleep very seriously: soundproofed rooms, pod beds, free ear plugs and reading lights next to every bed. At Backpackers Villa Hostel in Switzerland there’s even a meditation room in case you’re having trouble switching off – peace and quiet plus a library of spiritual books.
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