There's a lot to be said for luxury bath products, high thread counts, and, ahem, privacy, but today's hostels are in a class all their own. From boutique guesthouses to reclaimed warehouses, modern hosteliers have set new standards in design, cleanliness, and amenities. Forget the youth hostel of old: Travelers of all ages and families of all sizes can enjoy unbeatable locations, community feel, hyperlocal experiences, and even private rooms at a fraction of the cost of a traditional hotel stay.
For this month's installment of the Fathom Travel Awards, we're highlighting hostels all over the world that punch well above their weight class. As always, we care about size, sensibility, design choices, amenities, location, and price. Hostels mentioned on this list have beds ranging from $6 to $60 a night. Cheap, but still cheerful — all over the globe.
World's Coolest Hostels That Will Make You Rethink Hostels
Where: Venice, Italy
What we love: Mosaic floors, stone fireplaces, exposed ceiling beams, and chandeliers lend a Dolce Vita air to the design hostel, which is situated in an old warehouse on Giudecca island, facing the city. The views are unbeatable and so is the access, as guests connect to Piazza San Marco via 24-hour vaporetto (waterbus) service. In this most popular of popular cities, prices are decidedly un-Venetian. And, in a city not exactly known for its raging nightlife scene, the late-night vibe at the hostel's glam cocktail bar makes it more than a convenient place for a nightcap.
Where: Vagator, Goa
What we love: Beach meets jungle at the sanctuary in North Goa, trance capital of the world (or so they say). Mornings begin with rooftop yoga followed by excellent homemade samosas for breakfast. Guests can rent scooters from the hostel to cruise between Artjuna (a popular hang) and the beach. Parties rage nightly during peak season, but there are always folks down for a low-key evening back at the hostel.
Where: Tiblisi, Georgia
What we love: The up-and-coming travel destination has a design hostel in the old city that caters to tapped-in travelers and locals alike. The overhauled alternative lodge, formerly a Soviet sewing factory, is more than just a place to rest your head. It's a cultural center, music venue, art gallery, watering hole, co-working space, and general place to meet like-minded people.
Where: Lisbon, Portugal
What we love: Spacious and bright in a picturesque city square, the former residence has 100-year-old moldings, new-fashioned furniture, beautiful floor tilings, and suites with balconies overlooking the river. Perks: Security cards, lockers, cool restaurant and bar serving Portuguese fare. Private rooms? Yes, suites with classical Portuguese architecture.
Where: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
What we love: The Netherlanders have a (right, efficient, cool) way of doing things. Take, for example, this approach to affordable lodging in Amsterdam – which manages to bridge the gap between hotel and hostel in a way that makes you feel like you've been invited to stay in the lively and bohemian De Pjip neighborhood by an incredibly hospitable family friend. It's quirky and simple and very Dutch. Of course, they already thought of a sustainable option, called Ecomama, near Waterloo Square.
Where: Austin, Texas
What we love: Here's a hostel for intrepid, dynamic, young — or young at heart — travelers who don't mind sacrificing all the frills of an upscale hotel for a good time. Guests can choose from communal rooms outfitted with bunk beds and a shared bath, loft rooms with bunk beds and one king-sized bed (ideal for larger groups), or private suites. The industrial design is so elegant that you'll wonder if you've stumbled into the coolest boutique hotel in town. Perks: Between Monday night happy hour, Thursday and Friday night DJ sets, weekend yoga and tubing excursions, and Sunday night movie screenings, you'll never be at a loss for things to do.
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Where: Marrakech, Morocco
What we love: Get all of the Andalusian charm of a classic riad without the luxury hotel price tag. At this little oasis in the middle of the historic center of Marrakech, one can swim in the courtyard pool and dine on the terrace to the sound of live Moroccan music. And there are activities: Moroccan cooking class, souk tours, journeys to the desert. Not headed to Morocco anytime soon? Equity Point, one of many emerging companies with multiple properties, has hostels in Barcelona, Lisbon, London, Prague, and Venice.
Where: Santorini, Greece
What we love: True to the site's original architecture and design, the grotto of the 18th-century winery-turned-hostel is carved into 3600-year-old volcanic pumice. Lemon, pomegranate, orange, pear, vanilla, and pistachio trees grow around every corner, lending a lushness to the stone and woodwork painted in hues of aqua, salmon, and yellow. Relax by one of the island's largest swimming pools as you plan your local excursions.
Where: Sevilla, Spain
What we love: There's a music and arts theme and boutique-y design and decor at this well-located hostel. As the name implies, the rooftop is a major selling point: The family dinners held there every night offer new friends and incredible views of Seville.
Where: Reykjavik, Iceland
What we love: Cozy and hip and just two blocks from the city’s main drag. Reclaimed wood floors, Bauhaus furniture, and lots of books make the gastropub, lively bar, and heated patio places to linger. Perks: Live concerts, movie premieres, art parties, gym, free WiFi, and a full range of sleeping options. There are private single, double, and family-style quads with a shared WC.
Where: Sao Paolo, Brazil
What we love: A bright and airy 19th-century villa in the historical Vila Mariana neighborhood has a grand entrance, herringbone wood floors, midcentury furniture, simple dorms, private rooms for couples, and free breakfast for all. Maps and recommendations can be downloaded to guests’ phones from QR codes embedded throughout the house.
Where: Tokyo, Japan
What we love: The stylish, pleasant little hostel in Akasaka is fabulously located close to Shibuya and the Chiyoda train line. The cafe/bar area (open to the public) is set up like a homey living room with a big communal table, lamps, sofa seating, and a relaxed vibe all around.
Where: Mexico City, Mexico
What We Love: Old palaces are adapted for all sorts of modern-day uses, but Spanish nobility never could have guessed their grand Mexican estates would be repurposed as social hostels for the young and mobile crowd. Here, tidy bunkbeds feel a little more like private pods thanks to some nice design decisions. Clever amenities are stashed all over the place: laundry on the rooftop, a pool on the terrace, beer on the patio, hammocks and bicycles at the ready. Grupo Habita owns several boutique hotels across Mexico, and they bring the same fun and fearless sensibility to their down-market offering.
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