What does £10 or £20 a night get you in Europe? More than you’d think at these sumptuous hostels in fantastic locations. Find large rooms, original, stylish design, all-day breakfasts and cool on-site bars. All have been tried and tested by budget traveller, Kash Bhattacharya, who is currently backpacking around Europe and blogging at budgettraveller.org
The Independente Hostel, Lisbon ( from €12 ) a night: The city is arguably the best in Europe for the budget-savvy traveller, with five of its hostels ranking in the top 10 hostels last year according to Hostelworld.com customers. The recently opened Independente is keeping up the good work. Situated in a former Swiss Ambassador’s residence, and run by three brothers as a meeting point where “travellers as well as locals can come together”, it boasts original architectural features and vintage design pieces. Eleven modern dorm rooms provide lodging, while four private suites are available for those seeking more privacy. Guests can dine in style at the hostel’s Decadente restaurant where, for as little as €10 on weekdays, you can try their fixed price lunch menu. In the evenings opt for the “dinner with the staff” – a sumptuous buffet from €7.
Plus Berlin ( from €10 a night): Plus Berlin is in an excellent location just off Warschauer Strasse near the S-Bahn station, so you’re well connected to the Hauptbahnhof and the heart of Berlin. The east side gallery – one of the remaining stretches of the Berlin Wall – is a few hundred yards away, there’s a clutch of cool bars in the area and across the bridge is the hip Watergate club. Onsite facilities include huge restaurant and bar, indoor pool and sauna, garden and laundry facilities. Staff are very friendly and available on call 24/7. Guests looking for bit more privacy and comfort can choose an en suite double room (with great power showers) within the “hotel” wing of the hostel.
Gallery Hostel, Porto, Portugal ( from €20 a night ): Set in a stunning 19th-century building, Gallery Hostel is a mix of design hostel and art gallery. Twice a month, the hostel opens its doors to the public for exhibitions of works by local Portuguese artists. Guests can choose from private and shared rooms with great views of the city; some have balconies. The hostel has a private bar for guests and a large screen for films in the living area that also doubles up as a karaoke room. The hostel’s in-house chef helps prepare breakfast and three-course dinners, featuring traditional Portuguese dishes such as caldo verde and arroz de pato (from €10, including a bottle of wine).
U Hostels, Madrid ( from €19 a night ): Located in a 19th-century palace next to the Alonso Martinez Metro station, U Hostels is a great base to explore Madrid. It’s modern, very clean and the staff are friendly with great tips on the best places to eat. The hostel offers Wi-Fi throughout, 24-hour hot showers and a private cinema room. Dorms are air conditioned and come with private lockers. Bunk beds are custom made with comfortable mattresses and individual reading lights. The hostel offers a basic free breakfast of toast, ham and cheese but for an extra €1 you get great cup of Lavazza coffee or for €3, a special breakfast which includes coffee, fruit and serrano ham.
Safestay Hostel, Elephant and Castle, London (from €20 a night ): Until recently the hostelling situation in London was pretty dire so it’s great to see the city now boast a clutch of impressive budget options, such as Clink 78 and Palmers Lodge in Swiss Cottage. This summer, they were joined by the Safestay Hostel in Elephant and Castle. Housed in the former HQ of the Labour Party, it has been jazzed up with a purple and hot pink colour scheme, quirky design features and lighting by Tom Dixon. The bar-cum-common room is a great shared space with a pool room. Beds in the dorm rooms come equipped with a reading light, good duvets and curtains to offer guests privacy. Families are catered for with rooms including a double bed and single bunk.
Cocomama, Amsterdam ( from €26 a night ): A 20-minute walk from Amsterdam’s red light district and its tourists and close to Rembrandt Square and the Heineken Museum lies Cocomama, a former brothel. It’s a beautiful building with high ceilings and chandeliers, plus a garden complete with gnomes, a hostel cat called Joop, a kitchen stocked with beers for €1, a great selection of books and movies in the common room; there’s even an old-school Nintendo. The staff are passionate locals armed with great tips – they directed me to a nearby Middle Eastern restaurant called Bazaar where I had tabouleh with grilled chicken kebabs for €9. Cocomama never caters for groups so it’s perfect for solo travellers who are keen to mix and socialise with other guests.
Stay Inn Hostel, Lisbon ( from €15 a night ): Located 500 metres from the Chiado Metro Station, in the middle of the party district of Bairro Alto, lies a wonderful dose of Portuguese hospitality with very cool interiors. Parquet floors, floor-to-ceiling windows, comfy leather sofas, a plasma screen TV sitting on a old leather trunk plus lots of natural light and bright colours help create a happy ambience here. The rooms are very comfortable – beds have good mattresses and pillows to sink into after a long day walking the city’s steep streets. Add to that unlimited coffee all day, a huge fridge, chilled water on demand plus a laundry, wash and dry service for as little as €2 and you have a fantastic base for your adventures in Lisbon.
Dream Hostel, Tampere, Finland ( from €22 a night ): A three-minute walk from Tampere train station, the Dream Hostel blends cool, clean design with warm hospitality. Centrepiece of the hostel is the white and blue kitchen-cum-common room where guests can use the hostel’s free Wi-Fi and help themselves to unlimited refills of Colombian coffee. It’s very peaceful – the rooms have big heavy doors and thick walls. Beds are sturdy and come equipped with reading lights. Toilets and shower facilities are plentiful and clean. Perks are free popcorn when it rains (which it does a lot in Tampere, so your chances are good) or on a Friday night. Grill the staff for tips and rent a bike to explore the city.
Oasis Backpackers’ Palace, Seville, Spain ( from €11, doubles from €45 ): Situated in a 19th-century building near Plaza Encarnación, close to some of Seville’s oldest tapas bars and cafes, Oasis Backpackers’ Palace is a great base for exploring the city. Guests checking-in get a free drink token which they can redeem at the roof-top terrace bar which also has its own pool. Dorms are spacious, bunk beds are sturdy with large lockable drawers beneath to store your luggage and valuables; private rooms come with a balcony and en suite bathroom. A late checkout of 11:30am means there’s no need to rush the free breakfast of pancakes, toast, cereal, tea and coffee. Staff are very friendly and organise a number of activities such as free walking tours or flamenco shows.
Ostello Bello, Milan ( from €28 a night ): Guests staying at Ostello Bello are welcomed with a free drink while checking in. The social atmosphere continues in the evenings when locals flood in after work for the aperitvo. Breakfast is included in the price and available on demand, anytime of the day. During the day, hammocks and a selection of magazines make it very easy to while away an hour or two on one of two terraces. Once you venture out, the Duomo is a 10-minute walk away. I stayed in a bright, spacious double room with a huge en suite bathroom. In the dorm rooms beds are well spaced out and have drawers below to allow you to secure your valuables.