Hostels around Europe

Given the fact that the previous two travel-related articles were so well-received, I've decided to address the topic which appears to be on so many people's minds when they discuss backpacking around Europe with me.

The expression "youth hostel" makes a majority of travelers apprehensive. The images it conjures up are not particularly pleasant. Which is the reason why I was more than a little reticent to book a bed in such an establishment.

Two years ago, after 3 years spent touring around Europe in 2 or 3-star hotels, with the occasional 4 or 5-star hotel, I finally garnered the courage to make a reservation at two different hostels in France and Spain. What I realized was that, as is the case with hotels, good research will almost always enable you to find an establishment where the price/quality ratio is excellent.

Last year, during a sojourn of nearly 4 months around Western and Eastern Europe, I made reservations in hostels in every city but Bratislava, in Slovakia.

Here is a list of all the hostels I have stayed at, as well as my rating of each. May it help you select a place to stay if you are planning your own European adventure!;-)

PARIS: Auberge internationale des jeunes: A good, clean hostel near Place de la Bastille. Nothing special in itself, other than being the cheapest place to stay in the City of Lights. Close to the métro, the bars, a Monoprix, a McD, and plenty of other cheap eats. Probably the best value in Paris, as far as hostels go.

MADRID: Los Amigos Hostel: A two-minute walk from the Palacio Real and the Teatro Real, it is a nice hostel. Colorful rooms, but absolutely no air circulation. Hence, I spent one of the worst nights of my life there, when temperatures reached 40 degrees celsius one day. . .

COPENHAGEN: City Public Hostel: Not a year-round hostel, but some sort of youth center. Nothing much, but the only place this affordable in central Copenhagen. Within walking distance of the train station. Avoid the 72-bed dormitory like the plague. . .

BERLIN: The Circus: The BEST hostel in the world. Clean, hip, stylish (everything comes from IKEA or Fly), with helpful and friendly staff, with its own café, bar, and many more amenities. The only place to consider if you are traveling to Berlin. . .

BRUSSELS: Sleep Well: Central and relatively modern, with all the amenities; a very good establishment not far from the Gare du Nord. It has a giant screen room.

AMSTERDAM: City Hostel Vondelpark: Clean and modern, a good bet in this city. The only problem is that it's one of the biggest hostel in Europe, with 475 beds. So it gets quite crowded, especially since it's an HI affiliate.

BRUGES: Snuffel Sleep In: Nice rooms, friendly and helpful staff, as well as a kitchen for guests. Close to the Markt, it's an excellent choice.

LUXEMBOURG CITY: HI Hostel: Newly-renovated, state-of-the-art amenities, clean. This hostel is in a splendid setting.

LYON: Auberge de jeunesse du Vieux Lyon: Nice enough hostel, even though the location is not easy to reach, other than by taxi. The effeminate barkeep will bring tears to your eyes when "I will survive" is on. And he is in control of the music. . .

GENEVA: City Hostel: In a charmless neighborhood near the train station. Offers the best price/quality ratio in town. Within walking distance of many attractions. Has all the amenities, including a kitchen for guests.

LAUSANNE: Lausanne Guesthouse: Within walking distance of the train station, this is probably one of the most beautiful hostels in the world. Built in an elegant townhouse, with its own garden and kitchen, spotless environment, this is a perfect place!

LUCERNE: Backpackers Lucerne: A few minutes from the train station, it is located on the lakefront. Situated in a peaceful neighborhood (it is actually a student house), a very good choice.

INTERLAKEN: Balmer's Herberge: If you have been backpacking, or if you are planning to, then you have obviously heard about this place. Like the Pink Palace if Corfu, it is known the world over. This place has a frat party atmosphere, which is cool at the beginning but gets old real fast. Although I had fun at the start of my stay, after 5 nights I couldn't wait to leave this place.

ZURICH: City Backpackers: Smack down in the middle of Zurich's "Fun Mile," this is a nice enough hostel. With its own rooftop area, where you can hang out!

MUNICH: Euro Youth Hotel: Near the train station, this is a very good establishment. One of the best hostels in Europe. Big rooms, all the amenities but a kitchen. . .

INNSBRUCK: Jugendherberge St Nikolaus: Great location, relatively good price, but more than a little soulless. But one seldom remains in Innsbruck for long, so it's not that bad. . .

SALZBURG: International Youth Hotel: Big, modern, friendly, rowdy, and centrally located. The best possible choice in this charming city.

VIENNA: Wombat's: Within walking distance of the main train station. Has everything one could hope for, from giant screen to outside terrasse, making it one of the best hostels in Europe.

BUDAPEST: Station Guesthouse: Unequivocally the worst hostel I have stayed at. With graffitis everywhere, and stoned staff, this place is certainly not for every one. To put it simply, it is a dump. But there is a free pool table. Situated in a dead neighborhood. You can still find nuggets of wisdom written on the walls, such as "Don't look up here. The joke is in your hands." in the boys room!!!

PRAGUE: Hostel Elf: Cheap, fun, colorful, with a very friendly vibe all around, this is a cool hostel. An outside terrasse is the best place to have a cold pilsner and meet new people! Free internet access and a kitchen.

LONDON: International Student House: Cheapest place in all of London, making this one quite popular. As the name implies, it is a student house, which means that the number of beds are limited. No vide, though, and little fun to be had. But with all the money you'll be saving, it's all good!

Remember, the best way to find nice hostels with good value is to first peruse a Lonely Planet Guide. Select those which appears to be what you are looking for, and then check on the internet to find out more. See how the hostels are rated, etc. It will make the process of selection where you wish to book a bed much more easier.:-)

If you have any questions, as always feel free to ask! And to all those who are currently planning an adventure, have a wonderful trip!!!

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