(published in November issue of Running In Heels, go to http://www.runninginheels.co.uk/)
Forget everything you thought you knew about hostels. Banish all thoughts of overcrowded dorms, of paying for the privilege of borrowing distinctly off-white towels and of eyeing your new suspicious-looking roommates who will inevitably roll in at 5.30am and turn all the lights on while they try to work out which bed is theirs. To say staying in a hostel was ‘roughing it’ was usually an understatement of epic proportions, until now.
There has been a recent explosion of boutique hostels all over the continent. These ‘poshtels’ are fast becoming the accommodation of choice for the traveller in search of style, quality and comfort on a budget. The glamping trend has been on the up and up over the last couple of years and who wouldn’t want to spend Glastonbury in a cosy cushion-filled, lantern-lit tepee? However, not all of us can afford the hefty price tag, especially in the current and woeful economic climate; flashpacking (as backpacking with style shall now be known) is certainly the next logical and somewhat cheaper step.
And whether you’re a flashpacker who is all about modern, sleek and minimalist spaces, or like your interiors flavoured with vintage linen, antique furniture and bric-a-brac, there is a poshtel out there for you. Some boast swimming pools, sun terraces, a la carte menus and private en suite rooms – and all for half the price of a hotel. Here is a selection of Europe’s best…
Miss Sophie’s - Prague, Czech Republic
Situated in the new town, Miss Sophie’s is ideal for those who want to experience the modern side of Prague as well as the old. You’ll be staying in the new cultural and social heart of the city – or in other words, where all the locals hang out. This hostel provides a peaceful refuge from the hubbub of the tourist-trapped old town but is still only a few tram stops away from the famous Wenceslas Square for when you are stepping out for some sightseeing. With the rooms and communal spaces so beautifully decked-out in etched glass, brushed steel and modern linear furniture, you can easily forget you are not in an upmarket hotel but in a hostel where a private double room with en suite will cost as little as €30 (£27) per person per night. And, if the glare from all that glass gets too much you can always chill out in their brick cellar lounge (above), which has an altogether cosier atmosphere, or head out to some of the trendy hangouts that line the surrounding streets. http://www.miss-sophies.com/
Red Nest – Valencia, Spain
The Red Nest is another modern and colourful hostel located on one of the city’s most beautiful streets in the very heart of Valencia and many of the rooms boast great views over the historic old town. Guests can catch up with each other and enjoy themselves in the vibrant communal areas or relax on the sun terrace after a long day on the beach – or if it may be shopping in the city’s pretty boutiques which has you worn out, you can certainly afford a blowout with prices like €41 for one of the uniquely decorated private ensuite rooms. http://www.nesthostelsvalencia.com/
Palmers Lodge – London, UK
If you’re looking for some authentic English Victoriana then Palmers Lodge certainly will not disappoint. Located in affluent and cosmopolitan Swiss Cottage the building has enjoyed many incarnations throughout its rich history, beginning life as the Palmers’ private residence, before becoming the Home for Incurable Children and then enjoying a long run as a college of nursing after the Second World War. Nowadays it is a stunning boutique hostel full of character and original features. The grand and large rooms have been opened back up, allowing a feeling of tremendous space. There’s an in-house bar too and even Wii players for you to challenge your fellow flashpackers! Continental breakfast is included in the £50 price tag – the steepest on our list, but still a very reasonable price for a room in London. http://www.palmerslodge.co.uk/
Mleczarnia Hostel – Wroclaw, Poland
Mleczarnia or ‘the dairy’ is almost impossibly kitsch: the rooms which contain pretty little dark-wood beds are accessorised with a variety of carefully chosen clutter such as floral lamps, oil paintings, vintage gramophones, old black and white photographs and handmade curtains. This place looks like it belongs to a century ago. A more modern feature however is the swimming pool – a rare but brilliant facility for a hotel let alone a poshtel – that’s as well as the library, the café and the bar, which sells speciality local beers and delicious home-made cakes. Situated in the Four Temples Quarter it is 5 minutes away from the picturesque old town and will set you back around £40 per night for a private room. http://www.mleczarniahostel.pl/
Lisbon Lounge – Lisbon, Portugal
Modernity and commodity are brought together in the Lisbon Lounge, possibly the trendiest boutique hostel on our list: some of its rooms have even been decorated by the country’s leading artists. Other features include fully-equipped kitchens and lounges featuring DVD projectors for cosy screenings on every floor. The hostel could not be in a better location for the city’s best cafes, restaurants, shops, all major transport and more importantly the buzzing nightlife of the Bairro Alto area, which can all be found within walking distance. Fancy getting out of the city? The train can take you to the nearest beaches in a matter of minutes. All this comes in at a positively meagre £24 per person – no wonder it’s won a couple of Hoscars – the hostel equivalent to the Oscars. http://www.lisbonloungehostel.com/
So if you’ve decided that a cheap, chic and cheerful city break is what you want then why not give a boutique hostel a try and change your mind about hostels once and for all?