One of Europe’s finest second cities, Porto is less pretentious than the capital, Lisbon, and extremely welcoming. Art-loving travellers in particular will feel right at home in this superb and spacious, hostel-cum-gallery in Porto’s emerging artists’ quarter. The house, built in 1906 and carefully restored, has its own library, bar and TV room. The helpful family running it even offer free tours and trips to local galleries.
We’ve been keenly following Belgrade’s rejuvenation over the past few years, and its growing stack of terrific hostels is yet another string to its bow. Occupying an old town house, the fantastic Hedonist Hostel is a superb antidote to the ubiquitous apartment-style places that proliferate – bare brick walls and low, wooden-beam ceilings lend it considerable charm. There’s also a chill room with PlayStation, and the chirpy owners lay on regular barbecues in the pretty garden. A massage room and bike rental are available too.
You’ll find the alternative face of Ljubljana, Metelkova, a five-minute walk east of both the bus and train stations. This is one of the city’s most colourful quarters, its graffitied streets now accommodating a cosmopolitan array of independent societies, underground clubs, bars and galleries. Stay at the centre of this artistic district at this brilliantly original hostel in a former military prison. Beds are in bright dorms and two/three-bed “cells”, each designed by a different architect or artist. Expect concerts, exhibitions and parties, too.
Photo courtesy of Hostel Celica
St Christopher's have two outposts in Paris: a whopper of a hostel with over six hundred beds well-placed for the Eurostar by Gare du Nord and a purpose-built “canal” branch close to the nightlife along the Canal St Martin. They're a very slick operation: dorm beds have lockable storage cages and USB points in the headboard, plus there are on-site restaurants and bars. Other perks include phones for free international calls, a female only floor and a slew of nightly activities.
You’ll find this attractive, high-end hostel in a gritty Berlin neighbourhood close to all the action in Kreuzberg, a premier twenty- something late-night hangout, and Friedrichshain, home to many of the city’s best clubs and alternative hangouts. Perks include free internet, a buffet breakfast and under-floor heating, along with bicycle rental, laundry facilities and cheap beer.
No backpacking trip to Europe would be complete without a trip to Rome, recently voted the world's most beautiful city by Rough Guides readers. The area around Termini station can be pretty insalubrious, but this wonderful hostel still gets our vote as one of the best places to stay. As well as spacious rooms with artisan mirrors and designer furnishings, there’s a vegetarian organic café, a massage room and a quiet leafy patio perfect to unwind with a book.
Photo courtesy of The Beehive
You’ll find this quirky hostel a short walk from London’s Kings Cross station – an area fast being regenerated. It’s unusually housed in a Victorian courthouse, with dorms of various sizes (some of which are girls-only) painted in cheerful colours. Chill-out space is in the actual courtrooms, while the cheapest of the private rooms are the cramped former police cells.
Sofia can seem an uninspiring place to first-time visitors, but this is a city on the up. Much has been done recently to revitalize the centre, and pavement cafés now buzz with life. These days the city also has a number of good hostels, but this one is superb, located in a historic building a short walk from the centre. Besides the free all-you-can-eat breakfast, they offer a bowl of pasta and a bottle of beer for every night of your stay.
Built across fourteen islands, water and green space dominate the landscape of Stockholm, so it’s no surprise that you’ll find one of the world’s most elegant hostels inside a converted Stockholm landmark, the tall sailing ship, Af Chapman. If you can’t get one of the pricier beds on board, there are cheaper rooms on dry land in the hostel building, which houses the reception and a breakfast room plus a decent café.
For a full guide to travelling in Europe, check out the Rough Guide to Europe on a Budget. Compare flights, book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.