Hostels. Not as scary as the film franchise makes out to be (I don’t know if hostels are a main plot point of the films as I’ve never actually seen any of them) but more a fantastic place to socialise with other travellers, maybe get some travel tips from the staff and use as a base while discovering the sordid bars and clubs of wherever you’re staying.
During my time on the road I have stayed at many, many, many hostels; some good and some bad. In this article I will be reviewing my top 5 most memorable hostels, they’re all positive memories though as I’d prefer to forget the bad hostels I stayed at. As I have worked in some hostels before I realised I would be a lot more bias towards them due to their amazing staff (me) so I have only included the ones where I stayed as a guest. I decided not to order them in any particular ranking but list them chronologically from when I slept there.
Disclaimer: I stayed at some of these hostels nearly 3 years ago so I can’t say if they have changed since and this article is just a review of when I was a guest.
City Backpackers Hostel, Stockholm, SWEDEN
FREE Pasta? This is the first, and most likely the last, hostel I’ve visited that actually offered pasta to the guests, and not just leftover pasta on the shelf but they’d actually bought it in for the tourists to use for dinner! They also had bicycle tours of Stockholm, which was very beneficial because most of the main sights are all quite a distance from each other. The staff were all incredibly friendly and one of them even walked us to our first stop on a bar crawl before he left to start his night shift. In the basement, there was a massive common area with a TV for unsociable guests to watch. The location was also really good; it was just up the road from the central train station and as I was using an InterRail Pass, this was even better.
Wiki Hostel & Green Village, Zagarolo, Rome, ITALY
Rome is a massive capital city with, obviously, a lot of hostels, but the best one is actually just outside the city. In a tiny village called Zagarolo lie an amazing chill-out spot, pool included! Admittedly, it wasn’t the biggest pool, and it wasn’t the smallest pool, but for having a splash around with other guests in the middle of the Italian July sunshine, it was just right. The hostel also had an onsite bar and they were very interactive with guests and encouraged socialising. They invited us all to make our own pizza creations and then hand out our constructions to the other guests. As the hostel is situated in a tiny village, they also led the guests through the village to see how the locals live, including the morning farmers market. Also, I have to comment on the facilities here as I was in a 9 bed dorm, but it was actually separated into two rooms by a curtain so it more felt like I was only sharing with 2 others instead of 8!
Greg & Tom Party Hostel, Krakow, POLAND
Do you want a free, restaurant quality, Breakfast and Dinner? Then don’t stay anywhere else in Krakow. After dinner they also hosted a bar/pub crawl around the city that started with drinking games in the kitchen, and social drinking in the nightclub style common room in the basement. This was a brilliant way to interact with the other guests and make long lasting friendships. Greg & Tom know how to run a hostel, in fact they run 3 of them around Krakow, and utilising a partnership with a tour company, means the guests staying in the different locations get to interact too! The tour company run shuttle bus excursions to Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and the Wieliczka Salt Mine.
Wild Elephants Hostel, Bratislava, SLOVAKIA
Situated slap-bang in the middle of Bratislava’s Old Town is probably the most chaotic hostel I’ve ever been to. When I walked into the hostel, I didn’t realise I was also walking into a warzone; it was only a Nerf gun fight, but still the most unique welcome I’ve ever experienced. These same staff members that were trying to kill each other also led the most forgettable bar crawl I’ve ever been on. I say forgettable because I completely blacked out, but the parts that I do remember, I’ll never forget. In the point of inclusion, they cooked a vegan meal for the guests for a reasonably cheap price, sometimes including non-stop shots of the national spirit: Borovička, and Wild Elephants also had rather large rooms for guests to sleep off the expected hangover.
Hedonist Hostel, Belgrade, SERBIA
Never have I spent so long in the garden of a hostel, instead of actually exploring the city. For some reason, I could never motivate myself to leave the garden, unless it was to get more beer. Maybe it was the incredibly friendly staff that would always socialise (some even coming in on their days off), maybe it was the fantastic weather, maybe it was the games room with a PS3, maybe it was the outdoor Barbeque; I really have no idea. After spending all day in the garden, the staff also organised a pub crawl so us layabouts could actually see some of the city and venture outside. This was a great way to see the nightlife, even if we hadn’t seen the day life.
As I said at the start of this article, I don’t know if these hostels have changed in any way, they may not offer the same experience as I got, but they’re still the best places I stayed.
If you are planning a trip to Europe and need help or advice on where to stay, or things to see and do, then please do get in touch and I can do my best to tell you where, and where not, to go. All my contact details are listed below.