The Hip Hostel Experience

I can’t imagine reliving my younger days hopping from one hostel to another while traipsing through Southeast Asia. But fast forward a few years, my friend and I resorted to hostels for our first night in Halifax and Prince Edward Island. Our constant movement throughout Nova Scotia didn’t warrant $200 per night stays. And we don’t mind simple amenities and occasionally meeting new people. You can’t get that built-in community in a hotel.

The communal experience wasn’t what I remembered. Retirees, couples, and even families with young children roamed the halls (that’s for another post). Everyone kept to themselves reading a book, staring at their smartphones, or snacking. Even our shared meals during breakfast didn’t feel shared. Our table mates kept up with their intimate conversations and never even turned to say hello. But one guy was audacious enough to make a comment in a unisex bathroom. Whoa, whoa Mr. Rogers… we’re not that kind of neighbor.

Suffice to say, I won’t be returning.

Hostels don’t usually have the reputation for being a destination property, but a handful of hospitality brands are changing that. Thanks to boutique hotels such as Kimpton, The Roger, Commune Hotels which have mostly been design-led, hostels are blazing a new trail, offering a hip and culturally charged ambience that reflects the local neighborhood’s lifestyle at an affordable price.

This new movement can also be attributed to a younger generation’s sophisticated, discerning taste for travel. They also own smart devices and want to show their experiences via social media. Yet they don’t have the budget for The Standard, W Hotel or Ace. 

The concept of well-designed hostels formed in Spain. From my time living there, it doesn’t come as a surprise… Spain’s proud citizens are eager to share their culture and history, the architecture, and genuinely warm hospitality. Have you been to Barcelona or Costa Brava? Luxury hostels such as U HostelsRoom007 VenturaOasis HostelsVioleta Boutique, all from Spain, have certainly paved the way for this trend.

Here are some of the newest and most impressive hostels I’ve stumbled upon and learned from friends:

Freehand Miami //

This hostel reflects Miami’s vibrant lifestyle, and it’s evident in their design, the presence of a pool and a restaurant, and its party vibe. Freehand Miami offers complimentary wifi and breakfast, air-conditioned units, en suite bathrooms for shared rooms. Private bungalows come with a kitchen, living room, private en suite bathroom, and a flat screen TV. The Broken Shaker bar was nominated for the James Beard Award.

Goli + Bosi //

If looks can kill, Goli + Bosi might meet the design criteria. This hostel is situated in Split, Croatia just across the sea from Italy. Rooms can go from 30 to 155 Euros per night. It also features a snack pizzeria called De*Belly with a nice terrace taking over most of Morpurgo’s meadow.

Generator Hostels //

Averaging 35 Euros, Generator has locations in Barcelona, Berlin, Hamburg, Venice, London, Copenhagen. Paris, Rome, parts of Asia and the US (Washington DC, Miami, LA, Boston) are in the works. Generator holds exhibitions regularly in its hostels and recently tied up with Out Here, a new web publication by film-makers and photographers.

TOC Hostels //

Currently only in Seville, Barcelona and Madrid, TOC has raised the bar in terms of amenities and services provided. They also offer private suites for 4 people averaging 125 euros. They’ve put a lot of care in the design and functionality of each hostel. Bravo!

We Hostel+Design //

This 1910s mansion can be found in a quiet and traditional area of south-central region of São Paulo. It gives off the feeling of a lived-in art gallery. The retro furniture mixes well with the contemporary fixtures. Featuring 9 rooms total, We Hostel takes care of details such as reading light by each bed and a spacious, lockable closet. The private room has its own balcony.

Other luxury hostels worth mentioning:

  • Base // St. Kilda, Australia

  • Hotel Cocoon // Salvador, Brazil

  • Chic & Basic // Barcelona, Amsterdam

  • Plus Hostels // Berlin, Prague, Florence, Venice, Rome

  • Lisbon Lounge Hostel and The Independente // Lisbon

  • Basecamp Bonn // uniquely designed and themed caravans. Based in Germany

  • Woodah Hostel // free yoga with a focus on organic, sustainable and healthy produce. Based in Copenhagen

  • Lub*d // cheery rooms and fun activities like chili eating competitions. Based in Siam Square and Silom, Bangkok

  • #BUNK // look above to find photographic prints of Istanbul’s most glorious ceilings. Based in Beyoglu and Taksim