Forget shared dorms and bathrooms, the new generation of hostel has stylish private rooms and hip rooftop terraces.
1 TOC Hostel
A pool on a decked roof terrace scattered with cushions and sunbeds, 700m from Plaza Catalunya and 25 minutes from Barceloneta beach — who needs five-star luxury? TOC Barcelona is one of three properties in a group that calls itself Spain’s “coolest hostel chain”. The others are in Madrid and Seville. Unlike the usual creaky metal-framed bunk beds, dorms have mattresses partially hidden behind white, wooden perforated screens. Bathrooms have complimentary toiletries and hair dryers, there’s free wi-fi, Mac computers in the communal areas, and private rooms come with flat-screen TVs.
Details Doubles cost from £75 (tochostels.com/barcelona)
2 Generator Hostel
The Generator chain is a poshtel pioneer, with an expanding portfolio of inexpensive but design-led hostels in typically pricey European cities including Venice and Copenhagen. Interiors are by an agency that has also worked on Soho House hotels and Momofuku restaurants. Our favourite is Gen Venice, in a converted 19th-century grain house on the waterfront at the island of Giudecca facing the city, which has bagged several design awards. Original features have been carefully restored, and you can expect details such as Fantini mosaic flooring, and a Murano glass clown chandelier. St Mark’s Square is five minutes away on the water bus. Try to book the private attic room, with spectacular Venetian views — though all rooms look out to the water.
Details Doubles cost from £32 (generatorhostels.com)
3 Maverick City Lodge
In a prime location in the Jewish Quarter of Budapest, with ruin pubs such as the famous Szimpla Kert within a few minutes walk, the newly opened Maverick City Lodge is getting rave reviews for its hotel-quality rooms and social events with free Hungarian wine and Pálinka (fruit brandy) tastings. Its older sister property, Maverick Hostel, is in a renovated royal mansion built by the Hapsburg dynasty. Both have a variety of dorms and private rooms.
Details Doubles cost from £27 (mavericklodges.com)
4 Saas-Fee WellnessHostel4000
The “world’s first wellness hostel” has a bio-soft sauna, herbal steam bath, “freezing fog” or “mountain stream” hydro-massage showers, hot stone massage programme and indoor pool with waterslide. Plus there’s a gym, tapas restaurant and lounge with open fire. The hostel, which opened in September 2014 in the glacier village of Saas-Fee, looks out on to Switzerland’s highest pistes. Skiing guests have to walk only five minutes to the nearest cable car.
Details Doubles cost from £89 (youthhostel.ch)
5 Hostel Old Plovdiv
A Lonely Planet must-visit destination for 2015, Plovdiv, one of Europe’s “most beautiful old towns”, has a backdrop of Bulgaria’s Rhodope mountains. Built in 1868, Old Plovdiv, in the historical centre, belonged to a rich tobacco merchant and has been carefully restored in original Bulgarian Renaissance style. The unbelievably cheap rooms are furnished with antiques, including the beds, which are not bunks but mismatched antique wooden or wrought iron-framed singles and doubles. In the dining room is the remains of a Roman fortress wall.
Details Doubles cost from £28 (hosteloldplovdiv.com)
6 Urban House
In case the in-house tattoo parlour and bar serving gourmet hot dogs and cocktails in jam jars is not enough of a give-away, some dorms at Copenhagen’s newest hostel/ hotel hybrid, opened in March in Vesterbro, near the meatpacking district, have the word hipster plastered across the wall. Still, considering it’s in one of Europe’s most expensive capitals, Urban House offers impressively slick rooms for relatively little. There’s also a cinema and live music venue, library, pool room, launderette, garden and bike rental.
Details Doubles cost from £62 (urbanhouse.me)
7 Surfers Lodge
Portugal’s breezy west coast is full of cheap ’n’cheerful surf shacks with easy access to its beaches. But this one in Peniche, 100km north of Lisbon, is a cut above the others. The former Swedish national surfing champion, John Malmqvist, who opened Surfers Lodge last year, has created what he believes is a “beyond comfy” home from home for surfers or people who want to give surfing a try. After a long day being battered by the Atlantic you can soak in a rooftop jacuzzi and pool, or be pummelled in the Moroccan-inspired massage room. The lodge has two “bunk rooms” which sleep up to six, as well as nine twin, en suite bedrooms and six double rooms with names such as Hippie, Woodstock and the Bali Suite, which has a bathtub at the bottom of the bed. Surf lessons and yoga lessons come as part of a room package.
Details Doubles cost from £69 (surferslodgepeniche.com)
8 Generator Hostel
We make no apology for including the excellent Generator chain twice in this list. Its latest property,opened this year in a formerly derelict office block in the Canal Saint-Martin neighbourhood, is also its biggest, with 900 beds, including 54 private doubles with en suites, eight of which have their own terrace. There are Tom Dixon lights in the lobby, original Paris metro tiles in the breakfast area, and a rooftop terrace with sunset views of Montmartre and Sacre Cœur.
Details Private rooms start at £69 (generatorhostels.com)
9 Michelberger Hotel
There’s no shortage of stylish budget sleeping options in Berlin, but Michelberger, in a former factory in Friedrichshain, east of the city, is one of the best. It calls itself a hotel, but some of its rooms sleep up to ten and there’s a hostel atmosphere, with a huge lobby lounge area furnished with minimalist grey sofas and lined with industrial metal cages rammed full of books. Michelberger-branded coconut water called “fountain of youth” is for sale and DJs play the courtyard beer garden. Each room is different — one has a sunken bath — but the general theme is lots of plywood, exposed concrete, and low beds on mezzanines.
Details Doubles are from £59 (michelbergerhotel.com)
10 The Hat
The new Hat Madrid’s selling point is that it “looks like a hotel, it’s a hostel”. Rooms, both private ones and small and large dorms, are furnished to an extremely high standard by Spanish design firm Aaprile, with specially crafted wooden beds, bare filament bulbs, Eames chairs, french windows and juliet balconies, and art on the walls by Spanish illustrator Yembara. Communal areas include a sunny, sociable terrace for a glass of rosé. The hostel is less than 100m from the Plaza Mayor, between Gran Via and La Latina.
Details Doubles cost from £35 (thehatmadrid.com)
Reykjavik has several cool boutique hostels, but Kex is the most Instagrammable. It has its own old-fashioned barber shop with a retro swivel chair, a “gastro pub” serving local ale, and “gym & tonic”, a space styled as an old-school gym with a leather punch bag and horse, which also functions as a movie-screening room. Kex is in an old biscuit factory (Kex being Icelandic for biscuit), a building that also houses the Living Art Museum for innovative and contemporary art and has a view across the sea to Mount Esja.
Details Doubles are from £77 (kexhostel.is)
12 Slo living hostel
Lyons’s first luxury hostel is small — it sleeps 40 — but it is very sociable. As the name suggests, “slow travel” is its ethos, and guests are encouraged to get together for dinners made with local produce; this is France’s gastronomic capital after all. An all-you-can-eat breakfast, for €5, includes croissants delivered by an artisanal bakery. Guests in the city-centre hostel can also meet on free three-hour walking tours of Lyons neighbourhoods.
Details Doubles cost from £54 (slo-hostel.com)
13 City Circus
This is a restored four-storey, early 20th-century mansion in the hip Psirri neighbourhood of Athens. Decor is a mixture of period features — wrought-iron balconies, high frescoed ceilings, baroque floor tiles — mid-century furniture and modern bathrooms, and City Circus prides itself on its very comfy mattresses. There is a free breakfast buffet, and you can take your morning coffee on the rooftop terrace with a view of the Acropolis.
Details Doubles cost from £34 (citycircus.gr)
In 2010, two twentysomething friends renovated a former brothel and opened Cocomama, the Dutch city’s first boutique hostel. They were keen to combine the benefits of the “super luxurious” hotels in which they stayed for work with the sociable hostels they preferred when travelling for fun. Their latest creation is Ecomama, with the strapline “green, quirky, cozy, conscious sleeping”. Its water-saving system and green roof make it a more eco-friendly version of the original hostel, but the Cocomama style — part industrial, part flea-market finds — remains. There are seven kinds of room, including “El Cheapo” (a 12-bed dorm), “shabby cabins” (private rooms with shared bathrooms) and “double deluxe”, with exposed concrete walls and a vintage chesterfield sofa.
Details Doubles cost from £47 (ecomamahotel.com)
15 Dream Hostel & Hotel
Last summer Dream Hostelgrew to include a hotel too, on the same premises with the same staff and facilities . . . so those who don’t like listening to strangers snore can still experience the “acclaimed hostel atmosphere” but in private rooms. The rooms are extremely swish, designed by Helsinki architects Studio Puisto. The corridors, with seating including wooden cocoons suspended from the ceiling, are intended to be a space for everyone, as is the hotel’s kitchen. It deliberately blurs the boundaries between hotel and hostel. Carpets are made of twine and there are lots of soft scandi colours and Finnish timber, which gives a warm, peaceful atmosphere. Rooms have travel guides, design books and magazines to flick through.
Details Doubles cost from £42 (dreamhostel.fi)
16 Mosaic House
Prague, Czech Republic
This place is huge, with hundreds of beds in 54 shared and 41 private rooms. Mosaic House was one of the top three best “extra large” hostels in Europe in this year’s Hoscars, the annual awards hosted by the website hostelworld.com. A four-star hotel and hostel share the site, but the rooms have a similarly high standard and feel, with dark wood furniture, crisp white bedding, parquet floors, air-con and rain-dance showers. Top-floor private bedrooms come with their own terraces with city views, and it is only a ten-minute walk to Charles Bridge.
Details Doubles cost from £46 (mosaichouse.com)
17 Alcazaba Premium Hostel
A recent TripAdvisor review warns that this hostel is not what you might expect: “the rooftop bar and restaurant are so posh that I think backpackers would feel uncomfortable, I have seen mostly rich locals there.” Maybe Antonio Banderas has popped in — he has a penthouse flat opposite. The bar looks over Alcazaba and Gibralfaro castles, which are both floodlit at night. The Batik Restaurant even has a sommelier.
Details Doubles cost from £70 (alcazabapremiumhostel.com)
18 Hello I’m Local
Each of the 12 rooms, from doubles to a 14-person dorm, are designed by students of the interior-design school in Haarlem, the historical centre of the tulip bulb-growing district in the Netherlands, about 20km west of Amsterdam. The hostel is in the Burgwal neighbourhood, across the water from the Teylers museum and the Grote Markt central square. Some rooms have specially created “bedstede” bunks, based on the traditional Dutch beds tucked away in a nook in a wall, a bit like sleeping in a cupboard, but in a good way. There are no TVs or wi-fi in the rooms, because the idea is to encourage people to socialise, play board games or read books.
Details Doubles cost from £60 (helloimlocal.com)
19 Home Lisbon Hostel
Voted the world’s best medium hostel for 2015, Home is one of the first and oldest hostels in a city crammed with chic inexpensive places to stay. The rooms and communal areas have high ceilings, wooden floors, and period features, breakfast is free, and “Mamma”, the owner’s mother, rustles up home-cooked meals for guests. It’s in the Baixa area.
Details No doubles, but with beds in four-bed dorms from £14 you can afford to book a whole room (homelisbonhostel.com)
20 Laivahostel Borea
Built in Sweden in 1960, the former Baltic ferry Bore was the last commercial steamship to be built in Scandinavia. She was retired in 2010 and is now a floating hostel, on the River Aura. You sleep in the cabins, breakfast is served in the ship’s restaurant, and the on-board sauna is heated up every morning for “guests to start their day in the traditional Finnish way”.
Details Cabins start from £33pp (hostelborea.fi)