If you don’t want to end up with your financial consultant on speed-dial no. 1 after your next spontaneous city trip, you should definitely make some sort of budget plan. After flights and train journeys, accommodation might be the next biggest expense you have to deal with, and hostels can come in quite handy when you want to save a penny or two for some fun activities during the day.
I can hear the jet-setter in you say something like “hostels are not for me” – but don’t let her fool you. There are some awesome hostels around the world and budget is not the same as cheap! We have rounded up 10 of these hostels where filthy bathroom floors, out-of-date milk cartons stacked in community fridges, and sleeping pads that never deserved to be called mattresses are things of the past. Cool hostels for cool travelettes!
1. Slo Living Hostel, Lyon (France)
When avid world travellers return home and open their own hostel, it is quite clear that they know what other travellers expect from them. No wonder that Slo Living Hostel in the artsy neighbourhood La Guillotière in Lyon is so successful in creating a shared living space rather than an anonymous place where you sleep. The hostel was opened in June 2014 and has space for only 40 guests in 9 rooms. Some of the rooms open up to the interior courtyard, which adds to the feeling of forming a little neighbourhood with the other hostel guests. The owners commissioned local architects and designers with the structure and decor of the rooms and common areas – a slight minimalist influence of Scandinavian design is undeniable. Slo Living is devoted to the concept of slow travel and encourages all guests to take part in social events and explore their surroundings together.
Rates: Dorms from €25; Double from €75
2. Hangout @ Mt. Emily, Singapore
Hangout @ Mt. Emily in Singapore is a place where you can feel good and do good. Ever since its opening in 2004 the hostel donates parts of its sales to charity. But now to the “feel good” part. The hostel is located just a stones throw away from Orchard Road, Bugis and Little India and has space for well over 100 guests. It belongs to a bigger low-budget hotel chain and is yet another mixture of low-key hotel and upscale hostel. Breakfast is complimentary, bathrooms are en-suite and there is a great emphasis on enjoyable common areas. The absolute highlight must be the roof-top terrace with a sun deck and views of the skyline of Singapore. Guests can book all kind of activities, like city tours and trips to the Singapore Zoo, the Jurong Bird Park or even a night safari.
Rates: Dorm from SGD42 (~€32); Double from SGD 130 (~€80)
3. Superbude, Hamburg (Germany)
“Bude” is a colloquial German term for what you would call your best friend’s house, or any other place where you go to hang out and have a good time. The sister hostels Superbude St. Georg and Superbude St. Pauli in Hamburg are just that: cool. From the stackable design beds by Rolf Heide to all the self-made interior gimmicks (wheelbarrow-chairs for example), everything here is design through and through. An all-you-can-eat breakfast is served until noon, no need for alarm clocks in this one. After that the kitchen offers a “supermarket fridge”, always stocked with pizza, milk cartons or the local Astra beer, which you can add onto your room bill. Some other cool features are complimentary washing machines and detergent, bike hire and rain showers in the bathrooms. Every now and then on of the hostels hosts a free concert in their social area. The highlight in Superbude St. Georg is an in-door cinema with regular screenings while Superbude St. Pauli surprises with a Rockstar Suite, fully equipped with a convertible stage, instruments, amps and lights. Rock’n’Roll!
Rates St. Georg: Dorm from €16; Double from €60 / Rates St. Pauli: Dorm from €19; Double from €60
4. Marken Gjestehus, Bergen (Norway)
Travelling Norway on a budget is a big challenge even for the most skilled travelette, but this hostel in the beautiful sea town Bergen might your light at the end of the expenses tunnel. Marken Gjestehus (gjestehus means guest house in Norwegian) has been around since 1997 and won numerous Hoscars (Hostelworld’s oscars) as the best hostel in Norway – most recently in 2014. There is room for 73 guests in 22 dorms (max 10 beds), double and single rooms. All of them were refurbished in 2013/2014 and got a new, modern design. The decor is inspired by the Norwegian nature and wildlife – you can sleep among singing birds sitting in a tree, or surrounded by bears and moose; at least on the wallpaper. The hostel is right in the heart of town, just a stone’s throw away from the Bryggen waterfront, the fish market and Fløybanen.
Rates: Dorm from NOK210 (~€23); Double from NOK305 pp (~€33)
5. U-Hostels, Madrid (Spain)
Located in a 19th century palace in the centre of Madrid, U-Hostels is a great place to base yourself to explore the Spanish capital. Run by experienced travellers it has everything you could wish for: a library/bookstore, an in-house cinema, a scheduled for 2015 it will also sport a roof-top terrace. Most of the rooms have a balcony overlooking the city and numerous travel quotes on the walls inspire you for great adventures. What makes this hostel special are the social events and activities organised by the management. Of course there are film screenings and bar nights, but guests can also enjoy a free city tour, hire bikes, take a cooking class (yummy Spanish tapas!) or learn how to dance Flamenco. U-Hostels works with several NGOs around the world and supports social projects like a children’s centre in Malawi with donations.
Rates: Dorms from €14; Double from €25/€30 pp (en-suite)
6. Hotel Meininger, Berlin (Germany)
Not a hostel actually, but a low-budget hotel with all the benefits you would normally expect from a hostel: Hotel Meininger “Humboldthaus” in Berlin is cheap, stylish and social. The Meininger group has hotels all over Central Europe, four in Berlin alone, but this one stands out. It is located in the central area of “Mitte” in exactly the spot where the famous geographer and traveller Alexander von Humboldt used to live over 150 years ago. Today you’ll find cool cafes and restaurants here, but also some remaining abandoned compounds with fantastic street art all over them. The hotel opened in 2011 and offers 118 room. The wallpaper in each of them is individually designed in a cooperation with over 100 German, French and Austrian artists and the online design marketplace DaWanda. Most rooms have a beautiful view over Berlin, but the best way to enjoy this is in one of the gallery rooms.
Rates: Dorm from €20; Double from €28 pp
7. Syok Hostel, Penang (Malaysia)
In Malay syok means ‘cool’ or ‘fun’ and it doesn’t take much to see that Syok Hostel in Penang is exactly that. It is located right in the heart of George Town, a vibrant neighbourhood, in a restored retail centre. The historic structure was kept up in the new building. There are 66 beds in mixed and female dorms, but the ladies do get a little extra treatment here. There is free nail polish and nail polish remover – something I always leave at home, but long for after a couple of days… Where other hostels do book exchanges (also cool), Syok does a “Soap & Shampoo exchange” where everybody can take and leave what they want. Those will come in handy, because their fancy rain showers ensure that you’ll want to take a little longer letting off some morning steam. While you’re here you can participate in two art projects that have gone viral since they were started: “Before I Die” and “Confessions”. In the common area you can write down what you want to do before you die, and in the bathroom you are encouraged to think about your secrets and confess one of them.
Rates: Dorm from €11; Double from €25
8. Maverick City Lodge, Budapest (Hungary)
Maverick City Lodge is a brand-new hostel in Budapest and the latest sibling of Maverick Hostel. It is located in the Jewish quarter of the city, in the middle of an eclectic neighbourhood bustling with restaurants, bars, pubs and concert venues. The Budapest Opera House is just a stone’s throw away. Guests can choose between dorms and private rooms which are all furbished with custom-made furniture. From beds over sofas and pouffes to lamps and hangers, the interior details of the hostel were designed by local Hungarian designers. Each bunk-bed has drapes for privacy; to me they have a kind of ‘princess-y’ atmosphere though. Free social events create the right atmosphere to meet other travellers, that’s why at Maverick there are two evenings a week totally dedicated to Hungarian wine and palinka (aka. really nice fruit brandy). A couple of other activities can be booked for a small fee, such as caving tours, boat trips or bike hire.
Rates: Dorm from €6; Double from €30
9. Smart City Hostel, Edinburgh (Scotland, UK)
In big cities affordable accommodation is often far off the beat, but not in Edinburgh. Smart City Hostel is situated right in the city centre, just off the picturesque Royal Mile in the medieval old town. There could hardly be a better location to start exploring. The hostel itself occupies a listed building, whose historic structure was kept alive during the refurbishment process earlier in 2014. Old on the outside, modern and new on the inside. Some of the art, like in the eye-catching reception was created by local artist Kevin Allen, a former staff member. There are 49 rooms including up to 10-bed-dorms, several boutique double rooms and two special dorms for “stags” and “hens”. One with a foosball table, the other with extra-girly things like a dresser and a massive mirror. In the basement the hostel has its own bar and pub, Bar 50. All food is home-made and locally sourced where possible and the signature cocktails are invented by the bar staff themselves. The crowd is made up of travellers and local students as the hostel also rents our rooms to students of the University of Edinburgh – your best bet to meet locals right there.
Rates: Dorm from £10 (~€13); Double from £49 (~€62)
10. Czech Inn, Prague (Czech Republic)
If you are into cobblestone alleys and romantic bridges Prague is a must-see city in Europe – especially when you are on a budget. Czech Inn is a great place to be based even though it’s a little out-of-the-way of the famous tourist attractions. It’s located in the hip neighbourhood Vinohrady with plenty of bars, pubs and beer gardens around to soak up some authentic Czech culture – this is where the locals go out. The hostel itself is based in a historic building from the 19th century and one of the dorms looks like out of a medieval-themed movie (it’s only open in summer season though). The minimalistic design of exposed brick walls and concrete details are the works of local designer Olga Novotná. Guests enjoy all-you-can-eat breakfast and, my favourite, massive rain shower-heads. There are regular concerts and events happening in the BASEMENT bar downstairs, but the food and full cocktail menu alone are worth checking out before heading out into the local nightlife.
Rates: Dorm from €6; Double from €28
To find even more unique, travelettes-approved budget accommodation, check out our other round-up of hip hostels from a couple of years ago. Happy budget travels!
* This post was created in collaboration with the featured hostels.
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