Taken from the Rough Guide to Europe on a Budget, here's our pick of the best hostels in Europe.
Europe presents an irresistible challenge to the budget traveller. From London’s Royal Parks and Amsterdam’s canals to İstanbul’s Grand Bazaar and the Berlin Wall, just getting tangled up in its sights is a huge draw – you can see the Algarve, the Alps and the Arctic, all in one trip. There’s time travel here too: with Stonehenge and Ephesus, cathedrals and castles, châteaux and palaces (not to mention statement-making modern architecture). But to take all this in, you’ll need to get some kip. Picking accommodation wisely is one of our top tips for backpacking through Europe, and these days hostels go far beyond basic bunks and a breakfast buffet...
Historical, whimsical, hedonistic and cynical, Prague bewilders its visitors – and charms them. Fall in love with the city at Czech Inn, which with its oak floors, brushed aluminium and discarded backpacks seems like the product of a tryst between a youth hostel and a luxury hotel. It’s on the edge of the town centre in the great Vinohrady neighbourhood and has a café-bar with live music, great staff and a 24-hour reception.
On a flying visit to Sweden? Treat yourself to a night at a working hotel and hostel built into the shell of an old Boeing 747. Up front in the flight deck, with two adjustable beds and a flat-screen TV, the cockpit suite is the reserve of first-class travellers. Thankfully there’s cheaper accommodation further back in the fuselage, where cattle class used to be.
is a “bucket-list” city for most travellers. Its relaxed attitude to drugs and vice attract thousands of thrill-seekers, but after assault from the haze of cannabis and the gaudy Red Light District, you’ll need somewhere to catch forty winks. Located in a former brothel, this “boutique” hostel has themed dorms sleeping up to six people and lovely en-suite private rooms, plus a pleasant, smoke-free communal/kitchen area, a cute little garden and even a friendly house cat.
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.
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.
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.
Top image: Af Chapman in Stockholm © Nikonaft/Shutterstock