If you’re staying in hostels for the first time, then Europe is the place to do it. In my experience, Europe consistently has some of the best hostels of any continent - trust me, I’ve stayed in a lot of hostels throughout the world.
So what makes a good hostel for me? One where the beds are comfortable, the bathrooms are clean, secure lockers, the kitchen is well-stocked with pots, pans, cutlery and plates, and the activities on offer are fun and inclusive. It may seem a long list but most hostels offer all this, though some do it better than others.
There are some European hostels that go that extra mile to give backpackers a great place to sleep as well as working to make their stay comfortable, affordable and memorable.
Greg and Tom Hostel
My favourite hostel is the Greg and Tom Hostel in Krakow, Poland. There are three of these hostels but I’ve stayed in the ‘home’ hostel opposite the train station. There’s also the ‘beerhouse’ and ‘party’ Greg and Tom Hostels, so it depends what type of atmosphere you’re after.
I can’t say enough great things about this hostel and was actually sad I only stayed one night during a stopover to reach the Zakopane Mountains.
I turned up after a long day of travel from Scotland to Poland and was offered a buffet dinner before I even checked in. Each night, the home hostel provides a free dinner for its guests but it’s really the staff that make this place special – they are lovely and helpful.
The rooms were a good size with comfortable and sturdy beds with power points next to the bed. Lockers are a good size, and the bathroom is right outside the rooms. The home hostel is spread over two levels, but it’s a small hostel with a very cosy feel. Pub crawls are organised though with its sister hostels.
And if a free buffet dinner isn’t enough for you, how about a buffet breakfast - Nutella crepes anyone?
The Wombat’s Hostels are a chain of hostels located in Vienna, Budapest, Berlin, Munich and London. Vienna was where the chain began before spreading to Germany and Hungary, and most recently London.
I’ve stayed in both the Berlin and the Budapest hostels – I love the city of Budapest and I’ve gone to the Budapest Wombat four times. It’s my hostel of choice in Budapest and I have no need to look at others.
The Budapest Wombat is a huge hostel (it used to be a hotel) but each room has an ensuite bathroom.
The rooms are a good size and very clean, and each bed has a little shelf and power point.
On check in you get two drink vouchers for a wine or beer at the hostel bar – a great place to start before hitting the many great bars in Budapest. A buffet breakfast comes at an additional cost, the equivalent of about €5, but there’s a large and well-equipped kitchen to make your own meals. There are also four washing machines and dryers at the hostel that you can pay to use (works out about €8) but that’s pretty much the going rate at any hostel.
The hostel is in a great location, right near the centre of town and the central metro station Deák Ferenc – which connects to the airport. A fairly new addition to Budapest is a great selection of bars, cafes, restaurants and regular market stalls located right across the street from the hostel. This used to be warehouses but is now a lively spot any day of the week.
The hostel is located on Kiraly utca (King’s Alley), which is full of great street art, vintage and second hand clothing stores and great food options including a delicious hot dog takeaway shop. Walking away from the city on this street, you’ll eventually hit City Park, which holds the Szechenyi Spa Baths. Alternatively, you can take the nearby metro.
City Backpackers, Stockholm, Sweden
I’ve stayed here twice and it’s not cheap (nothing is in Scandinavia is) but it’s in a good location and has great dorm and bathroom facilities. The only downside is you have to pay extra for linen but this is common across hostels in Scandinavia.
This hostel has probably the most comfortable bunks I’ve ever slept on.
Each bunk comes with a little shelf, power point and light. There are small lockers for your valuables in the room, and larger lockers outside.
The bathroom facilities here are great with private showers available. Hairdryers are located outside the showers.
The kitchen has plenty of bench space to prepare your food and two stovetops and also the hostel offers free pasta.
Rather than a large fridge, there’s a series bar fridges in the kitchen. Each fridge is shared by two rooms. The hostel also offers breakfast for a small fee, and plenty of activities such as bike tours, movie nights and Swedish cooking classes.
It’s pretty hard to go wrong with a hostel anywhere in Portugal. I’ve had great experiences at all the hostels I’ve stayed at in Portugal and heard the same from other travellers. Portugal really does hostels well.
I’ve stayed at the Sunset Destination Hostel and the Oasis Backpackers Mansion in Lisbon and recommend both.
Sunset Destination Hostel has a rooftop pool overlooking the river, bar and hammocks (need I say more?). After a day of exploring, this is the perfect place to chill out with a few drinks or relax with a good book on the hammocks or bean bags. I was up here every day of my stay.
I was in a private room with a shared bathroom in this hostel because Portugal is incredibly cheap. The room was perfect – comfortable, spotless and nicely styled. Bathrooms are equally spotless.
The kitchen is a little on the small side but has all the equipment you need and a good adjacent dining space. Breakfast is free and includes the usual suspects such as bread, cereal, ham and cheese and they also have a coffee machine.
Plenty of tours are offered such as day trips to Sintra or walking tours around Lisbon.
Other hostels I recommend are the Yes! Hostel in Porto and the Old Town Lagos Hostel in Lagos.
Jazz Hostel and Apartment, Bled, Slovenia
A cosy, little hostel in the town of Bled, popular for the church on the island on Lake Bled. Basic, but nice rooms, well equipped kitchen and close to the lake, town and castle. The manager is delightful and very helpful.
A must see during your stay in Bled is the Vintgar gorge, it’s located only a couples of miles from the hostel and you can walk there or take a bus.
Lights Out Hostel, Malaga, Spain
A recent addition to the backpacker scene, but a really good hostel with everything you need. The staff are very enthusiastic and helpful and the hostel is located in the center close to the port and beach and about a 15 minute walk from the main train station Maria Zambrano. It’s only five minutes from the train that goes to and from the airport.
Dorms have comfortable beds with curtains on each bed and large under bed lockers. The shower cubicles are a good size, modern and clean.
The best part of the hostel is the rooftop terrace. It’s a great place to chill and enjoy the free sangria on offer each night, or get your day going with breakfast.
Breakfast is free and has fresh orange juice, cereal and bread. Each night they also have a dinner on offer for a small cost – while I was there, they had burritos and burgers for dinner.
Sophie’s Hostel, Prague, Czech Republic
I booked a four bed female dorm with ensuite here but didn’t realise it would be more like an apartment. The “dorm” had its own kitchen and bathroom, and single beds instead of bunks. There is a little shelf above each bed for your things and a locker under the bed. The bathroom was like what you’d find in a nice hotel with a huge shower.
While not in the old town, it’s within walking distance of the old town, or it’s near a couple of metro stations. It’s about a 15 minute walk from the main train station or you can catch the metro if you don’t want to haul your luggage that far.
The hostel had a good vibe, and while I wasn’t there long, I was very impressed by this hostel and wished I could have stayed longer.
Things you should know:
- Read the reviews on HostelWorld or TripAdvisor before booking a hostel. I’ve found the reviews really reliable and swear by them. If there’s any mention of bed bugs, stay away.
- Booking sites usually charge some sort of commission so it can be cheaper booking through the hostel website if they have one. The bigger hostels usually have a website, but some will just rely on sites such as HostelWorld or HostelBookers.
- Most hostels have private rooms as well as dorms so take your pick depending on your budget.
- Talk to hostel staff about their recommendations for places to see or eat at when you arrive in a new place. Often they’re travellers too, and are happy to help out.
- If you want to work at a hostel and stay in a city longer, check out the HelpX website. There’s plenty of hostels looking for temporary workers and will give you accommodation in return for your work.
Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography, travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 40 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.