The ‘Best’ Accomodations in Europe for Backpackers
During our 9 months of travel we stayed in hostels, hotels, bed and breakfasts, people’s couches, AirBnBs, and beds provided by Workaways. Choosing the ‘best’ accomodation is a tricky task, since the places vary so much and our needs and wants probably aren’t the same as yours.
The ‘best’ accomodation is too relative to be shortened to a ‘top ten’ list. We often had a tough time choosing what type of place we would stay at. Being a couple we wanted certain levels of privacy, but being budget travelers we wanted to have the cheapest bed possible. We are a few years out of college so we didn’t want to stay in notorious party hostels, but we still wanted a place where we could share a few drinks with fellow travelers.We typically scoured through AirBnB, Hostelworld, and Booking.com until we found the best price.
We are not grandparents or anything, but we also don’t want to be partying all night, every night. Again, not a grandparent, but like grandma I appreciate a nice breakfast to start my day. We like meeting new people and were lucky to have found places that create a special environment for meeting other travelers, many of them without a forced party scene that you oftentimes find in hostels.
In the end, we typically chose the cheapest hostel with the best reviews, with a few other criteria (namely free WiFi and free breakfast, and hopefully a decent location). We would find the best place on Hostelworld and then book direct, which usually saves you money and keeps prices down at the hostel since they don’t have to pay a fee to Hostelworld. Sometimes it’s still cheaper on Hostelworld or booking.com, though, so we’d take that price. It is the same bed, after all.
All of these places share one thing in common: amazing hospitality. Budget backpackers shouldn’t have to forgo all sense of hospitalty when staying in a place, and this lists is chaulk full of some amazing hospitality at budget prices. You can be taken care of and be made comfortable even though you’re paying the lowest price possible for a bed to sleep in.
We didn’t include AirBnBs on this list, although we stayed at plenty of those too. When the price was nearly the same, we always chose to have our own place. Sometimes you just don’t want to wear pants while cooking dinner. Usually, though, hostels are still the cheapest beds to find while traveling.
Overall, the hostel scene in Central to Eatern Europe is much better than in Western Europe, the United Kingdom, or Scandinavia. Our image of hostels before embarking was a somewhat grimy place with a cool atmosphere, lots of beds, groups of travelers, a cheap price, and a place to enj0y a drink. In a lot of Western Europe, however, a lot of the popular places feel like industrialized dorms and they can carry of hefty pricetag versus their Eastern European bretheren. They tend to lack the charm that a converted old house has. And since some of the Eastern European cities don’t attract the same number of visitors, they tend to work a little harder for your appreciation, offering those extra bits of hospitality. For perspective, $12 can get you a really nice bed, free breakfast, and a free drink in a cool hostel in, say, Romania, but you can’t even find a single bed under $20 in Stockholm and you end up without breakfast in an overly stuffed room in essentially a bad hotel. It’s just not the same experience.
These are the accomodations we enjoyed staying at the most (in no particular order). If we were to go to any of these cities again, I would not hesistate to book a bed there. This list may not fit every travelers wants or needs, but they are definitely worth checking out and offer great hospitality to budget travelers! Plus, we’ve imbedded links to the hostel’s websites to help you book direct and save money.
The Best Value Hostel in Europe
- Hostel Mostel in Sofia, Bulgaria
This place does not mess around when it comes to the necessities. They offer free linens, towels, breakfast, AND dinner (with a beer!) This dinner is not some stange colored, mass produced goo that comes from some huge pot * insert elementary school flash back*. No. They offer 3 different options- 1 veggie and 2 meat. All the beds have a privacy shade so you can sleep in or go to sleep early (something you’ll appreciate after being kept awake all night at other hostels). They offer day trips to Rila Monastery and the surrounding mountains, which are definitely worth it. You have to opportiunty to hangout with the staff and fellow travelers when they take you out to the bars at night. Don’t miss karaoke night!
Doesn’t this all sound too good to be true? Wait until you see the price… It only costs 12 Euro a night to stay in an 8 bed dorm. I cannot recommend this place enough for budget traveling.
Almalfi Coast on a Budget
- The Secret Garden Relais in Sorrento, Italy
Sorrento is a great budget option to be used as a launch pad for the Amalfi Coast and Pompeii. It is in between the Almalfi and Napoli so you can visit either in about an hour on the Circumvasuvia train. We stayed at this place because it was cheap – $37 a night, which is great for the location. As with most cheaper places, you can find something wrong (our room was smokey) but everything else was so great that I had forgotten that until I began writing. You have a key to open the huge outside doors into this huge garden filled with orange trees. No one told me we couldn’t so we ate oranges all day. They have a beutiful study filled with tourist info and games. It is not a lot, but its comfortable enough to unwind and read a book. There are not that many rooms, but they make enough breakfast to feed an army. I stocked up bread, muffins, loaves and fruit. Just as I thought I had grabbed too much food, this guy comes up to me and asks if we wanted eggs with our breakfast! He was so impressed with our Italian that for the next 2 days we were greeted with 2 espressos and a bacon frittata when we walked into the breakfast room. (One of our better experiences speaking foreign langauges.)
The only downside to the place is that it is a little bit outside of the main part of Sorrento (again, that’s why it is so much cheaper). However, it’s an easy one-stop train ride away from downtown, or 20 minute walk. Definitely worth it to save money so you have more to spend on all those Aperol Spritz and limoncello.
- Refugio Alpujarra Alta in Treveléz, Spain
We booked this place last minute for $27 for a private room and were so grateful to find such a wonderful place. Treveléz is a small town, known for being the highest village in Spain. You will not find too much going on in the town because everyone is out hiking until mid-day when they come back for some of Trevelez’s famous jamon serrano. Once everyone has stopped in for a tapa, it’s right back onto the trail. You can easily ascend to one of the highest peaks in Spain from downtown, or walk along El Rio Treveléz.
The owners were more than happy to sit down with us and talk about the different options for hiking. They have books and maps set up on a small table at the doorway. The rooms are upstairs with a comfy living room and terrace. We were the only ones in the place (again, it’s a small village), so they went out of their way to light candles and set up a romantic little table outside (which we took advantage of with a bottle of locally produced tempranilo and an unobstructed view of the stars). Since we were looking to get out early for our hike, a nice breakfast of oranges, bread, and oats were set out for us at 8 AM, upon our request. Our hosts again went over the maps with us (in Spanish, which we actually understood!) and before leaving she gave us a bag of walnuts to snack on during our adventure. These owners are so sweet and willing to do anything to help out. True hospitality.
Top Hostel Experience
- Mosquito Hostel in Krakow, Poland
Mosquito Hostel is able to create a unique enviorment that brings everyone in the hostel together. The rooms are big, bed is comfy, each person gets a huge locker and only costs $14 a night. They have a small reading room which is very quiet and relaxing. The kitchen and dining area always has people around to talk to. The staff works very hard to help travelers engage with each other every night. The night starts off at around 7 with a free dinner that you simply sign up for so they know how much to make. In the morning (on your way to your free breakfast) you will find a board to sign up for dinner. The board will tell you what that night’s dinner is and allows you to sign up for a vegetarian option. It is not a lot of food, but it is enough to hold you over before heading to the 24 hour pierogi shop across the street!
Each night has a different theme, sometimes its game night, others are trivia. After a few hours of games, the staff brings out palinka, does a couple rounds of shots and takes everyone out to the bars. During the day they offer trips to the salt mine and Auschwitz. The trip are reasonably priced. Auschwitz costs around $30 and includes pick up and drop off at the hostel. This is a great deal, but any budget backpacker knows it can be done for cheaper. We paid $10 round trip by bus. However, I would suggest booking the tour with the hostel in the winter. We went when it was below freezing and had to wait another hour because the first bus was full.
Overall, a memorable hostel for how many people we met and all the cool stuff they prodived for only $14 a bed. Don’t just take our word for it: Check out the 2015 Hoscars, Hostelworld’s annual list of best hostels, where Mosquito Hostel is the #2 Best Small Hostel in the World.
Taken Care of ‘In Bruges’
- St. Christopher’s Inn in Bruges, Belgium
Bruges can be an expensive city, but this hostel tries to make that a bit more bearable. Rooms cost about $18-20 a night. I would suggest browsing all of the sights a few times because the prices can change a lot for this place. The beds are comfortable and have the privacy shade. They offer breakfast in the morning. The bread they get from the local bakery just down the street is delicious. Breakfast is served in the downstairs bar which offers great happy hours. They do not have a kitchen to cook at, but also offer a 5 Euro pizza at night at the bar.
It’s Belgium. They know why you are here: Colin Farrell and beer. The hostel offers a beer tour at night for around $20, or you can take the free walking tour and get coupons for a free beer at Le Trappiste, which we highly recomend.
Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the St. Christopher’s Inn in Paris. The drinks and food here are over priced. The place is huge so the staff does not really have time to talk to you or really explain the area and it’s not in the greatest neighborhood. You may be tempted to take the straight road walk to Moulin Rouge, but don’t. You’ll end up walking through one of the sketchiest neighborhoods in Europe. Their breakfast is still good though, and it can still be one of the cheapest hostels in Paris (although it’s still overpriced!)
- Lights Out Hostel in Malaga, Spain
We originally chose this place because it was only $12 a night and offered free sangria, but it has so much more. The free sangria is served on a cozy roof top bar. Again, one more time: there’s free sangria.
Some nights they offer paella for 5 Euro. They have a free basic breakfast of toast and cereal to start your day. It’s small enough of a hostel to generate good converstaion, and we ended up meeeting a good number of fellow backpackers during our brief stay. They are also really close to the fish and vegetable market, where you can find some amazing paella de mariscos for 6 euros when the hostel isn’t serving theirs.
Pro tip: You can work in the hostel for a month in exchange for a free bed. Malaga is a really cool place, very underated, so you might end up falling in love and cleaning beds is a great way to extend your trip!
- Shout out to hostels everywhere in Romania
We stayed at 3 different hostels in Romania and they were all great. We did get stuck in Romania (that’s for another story) so we were not having the best time, but the people we meet here kept us sane and we ended up having a great time with them.
In Cluj we stayed at Transylvania Hostel. We got in super early after an extremely uncomfortable bus ride, but they had our beds ready. Every night a staff member takes a group to dinner, Roata is the best restaurant. After dinner, they come back to grab the rest of the guests for shots of palinka and then head to the bars. If you are really luckly you can spend the night talking to Robert about Romanian history and an entire drunk lesson on the history of European languages and then watch him crush it at karoke (he did a screamo cover of “By the Way” by Red Hot Chili Peppers and I can’t ever hear the song the same way). He did ruin my dreams of seeing the Haunted Forest ( it’s all a lie), but I’ll let it slide.
I don’t know what it is about Cluj, but everyone is very happy and wants to make sure you have a good night out. On the surface, the city isn’t much to look at, but the city, especially the hostel scene, is full of great vibes.
In Brasov we stayed at Promenade which is very small and cozy. The staff is helpful at explaining maps and were to go. Not far from the hostel is the best coffee shop I have been to in Europe: Croitoria de Cafea is an absolute must. They roast their beans in house and the owner will gladly go over the different roasts with you before making your coffee. This is like heaven for coffee nerds (which I count myself as).
Our last stop was in Bucharest at The Cozyness Downtown Hostel. We stayed about a week here due to flight changes and cancellations. It was an extremely stressful time, but everyone here helped us through it. They offer free pasta and popcorn with a great selection of movies for movie night. The rooms are a bit small so everyone spends most of their time in the living toom so you have plenty of opportunities to chat. One of the places where we made lifetime friends and we got the unique opportunity of meeting the owner, who was in the process of purchasing the hostel, so we got some inside views on the hostel and the city of Bucharest. Lovely place, cool vibe, and it’s housed in a renovated home, which makes it very comfortable.
What did we miss?
Of course we weren’t able to stay in all of the hostels across Europe. What is important about these places, though, is that we booked them because they hit all of our criteria. All of these places were close to the cheapest price in the city, they had great reviews, and most of them came with free breakfast. What made these ones in particular stand out was the great hospitality we recieved and the extra little bonuses, like free drinks, cheap food, or getting to hang out with the staff.
What about you, though? Have you stayed in some amazing places that deserve a shoutout? Comment below and help spread the word about the best places to stay for budget backpackers!