Hostels

The essential accommodation for backpackers. Prior to traveling around Europe, I basically had no idea what a “hostel” was – beyond the title of an atrocious American horror film.  Turns out picking the right hostel has a huge impact on your travel experience! So far I’ve stayed in over 35 hostels in Europe (and worked in 3) – so it’s safe to say I’ve pretty much seen the best and worst. Good hostels will be full of other young travelers, nightly activities, and wise advice about how to experience a city like a true local.  If you don’t mind sleeping among strangers, hostels are where to be!

Hostelworld.com is a great place to compare different hostels and read reviews. HOWEVER – after working in many different hostels – I’ve learned that it’s generally better for the hostel (and sometimes cheaper for you) to book directly from the hostel’s website. Hostelworld is a big company that is now unfortunately taking larger and larger cuts of booking costs from the hostels. So use Hostelworld to CHOOSE your hostel, then book directly! 🙂

If you must ask… “What Is A Pub Crawl?”  Basically, it’s a tour and a party at the same time. Some enthusiastic leader will drag people around a city to different bars and clubs (often with some sort of free shots included), aiming to get everybody drunk and happy.  Pub crawls may sound a little gross (certainly can be), but they’re a fantastic way to meet people and definitely worth trying!  I try not to fall for the gimmicky tour companies that charge 30 euro or whatever, and opt for pub crawls led personally by hostel workers!

My Very Favorite Hostels EVER:

Oki Doki Hostel – Warsaw, Poland 

Groovin' at KaraOkiDoki

Groovin’ at KaraOkiDoki night

Obviously I recommend this hostel because I worked (and lived!) there for four months, but honestly this hostel is incredible.  (It’s not one of Europe’s Famous Hostels for nothing!)  All of the staff are amazingly helpful (cough-cough, like me), it’s right smack in the city center, and of course there are activities arranged for every night: I’d help lead pub crawls, karaoke nights, campfires, dumpling-making workshops, etc.  Oh and there’s a cheap bar!  If you’re a solo traveler, you’ll definitely make friends here.

Granada Inn Backpackers – Granada, Spain

Blanka workin' it on the cello!

My friend Blanka workin’ it on the cello!

I worked here too – just for a month – but again, this is a most genuine recommendation. The atmosphere here is really nice; there’s always some sort of “jam session” taking place in the common area. Paella, pub crawls, good times. Well-located as well — just a stone’s throw from the Albacin!

Hostel One ParaleloBarcelona, Spain

Somehow I ended up staying in 7 different hostels in Barcelona, but this was my #1 favorite. The staff were so fun and kind to me (plenty of sympathy when I stumbled to their front door right after my purse was stolen! Shout-out especially to Mauro!). This is a smaller-sized hostel, so you get to know everyone immediately, and each night the staff prepares a free group dinner for everyone, usually including some kind of yummy spirits (I was a little scared of the absinth) – then they’d take us out on the town! Met great friends here.

Sant Jordi Hostel AlbergBarcelona, Spain

Tough competition for my #1 fav hostel in Barca… This place is the original of several different Sant Jordi chains, and I think it’s the best and homiest. It’s essentially a large flat, so everyone hangs out in the “living room” and socializes in the kitchen. We cooked dinners together and met up with the other Sant Jordi folks each night for a pub crawl. As a solo traveler, it was impossible not to meet new people here!

Cat’s HostelMadrid, Spain

Despite my horrific sickness at the end of my trip, I had a blast at this hostel. The crazy staff are always arranging some sort of embarrassing drinking games in the bar for guests. Pub crawls of course. And really beautiful, Moroccan-style interior.

Castle Rock HostelEdinburgh, Scotland

Epic view of George Heriot's School, one of J.K.'s inspirations for Hogwarts!

Epic view of George Heriot’s School, one of J.K.’s inspirations for Hogwarts!

Another hostel I volunteered in (every 2 hours of work = 1 night of free stay!) This place is kind of like Hogwarts; Victorian, castle-esque exterior, situated right below the actual Edinburgh Castle, with a sprawling common area where everybody’s drinking or eating or playing cards or something. They even have a little mini-theater inside! By day I was a busy little “house elf” – by night I clinked pints with travelers. Free pub crawls nightly, and guaranteed good times.

Inverness Tourist HostelInverness, Scotland

Highlands tour with the best guide!

Highlands tour with the best guide!

This is the perfect launching pad for exploring the beautiful Highlands of Scotland! It may not have its own bar or whatever, but I think it’s unfairly underrated on Hostelworld.  What stood out the most about this hostel was the kindness of the staff – particularly Andy, who leads his own informal tours of the Highlands via car for guests!  We explored the Loch Ness, Falls of Foyer, some hillwalks, and apparently now he takes people up to the Isle of Skye (really difficult to access without paying tons of pounds for an official tour!). Many lovely memories.

Greg & Tom’s Beer HostelKrakow, Poland

One of Krakow's many medieval buildings converted to clubs!

One of Krakow’s many medieval buildings converted to a club!

If you’ve traveled in Poland, you probably know about the Warsaw-Krakow rivalry — so I must say upfront that I am a loyal Warsawian.  But I can’t deny that Krakow is a darn good time (and gorgeous). There are a number of great hostels here, but I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at G&T and their knock-out staff. You pay a fee for their pub crawls but it’s well-worth it; unlimited food and drinks, and a crazy night out led by locals. Not to be missed!

What are your favorite hostels?! Let me know!

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