Back in the day, a hostel was little more than a place to get a decent night’s sleep in return for a bit of cooking or cleaning and earning your keep. And sure, there’s a high chance that your family still pictures you scrubbing the floor before curling up under a flea-bitten blanket with a steaming bowl of soup in hand. But little do they know: hostel life has changed pretty drastically.
You might think that all you need is a good internet connection, a plug socket by the bed, and a fun bunch of people to hang out with, but these hostels are about to seriously to raise the standards of your travel checklist. Here are 13 of our favorite unconventional hostels across Europe (for the budget-conscious traveler).
Caveland in Santorini, Greece
Santorini is a bucket list destination for almost everyone, so why not step the experience up a notch by staying in a cave? The island of Santorini itself is highly volcanic, so the team behind Caveland decided to capitalise on that and created a classy hostel using Greek techniques. If that wasn’t enough to draw you to this hostel, it also used to be a winery. Most of the hostel has been upcycled, so you’ll drink from old marmalade jars and admire artworks that used to be nothing more than old cable drums. Want some inspiration? Chat away to Kostas, the owner, and he’ll tell you his famous upcycling secrets.
Average price per night: €25-€70
Celica Art Hostel in Ljubljana, Slovenia
Celica Art Hostel combines two things that we wouldn’t traditionally put together: art and prison. But relax, because you don’t need to commit a crime to stay here. Inside Celica’s salmon-pink walls, you’ll find multiple dorms individually designed by both local and international artists. The walls might be beautifully decorated now, but the hostel originally served as a military prison for more than 100 years. And it’s not only the cells that are decorated, there’s also the hostel gallery, Srečišče, to explore, as well as the two solitary confinement cells in the basement, which act as a small museum that will help you understand the history of the building. As of 2018, the hostel is also now considered a part of Ljubljana Castle.
Average price per night: €20-€25
Jumbo Stay in Stockholm, Sweden
Most of us have slept on a plane before, but now’s your chance to finally get a good night’s sleep on a jumbo jet on the ground. The plane is basically a gutted jumbo jet model 747-212B from 1976, featuring 33 rooms with 76 beds. Stockholm’s JumboStay hostel is also placed conveniently next to Arlanda airport, making it the ideal spot for a kip before you venture further into Sweden. There’s the option to sleep in Economy dorms or, if you want to upgrade to First Class, you can book a luxury suite in the converted cockpit with panoramic views from the plane.
Average price per night: €45-€185
Gyreum Ecolodge in Sligo, Ireland
Gyreum Ecolodge in Sligo, Ireland, has been called the most extraordinary building in Ireland, and for a very good reason. Featuring all of the components you’d expect from an eco lodge (wind and solar powered, organic veggie food, and exercise classes), Gyreum is based in the sort of remote location that’s perfect when you want nothing more than fresh air and a “no service” pop up on your phone. Based at the top of a huge hill, expect breathtaking views and gorgeous landscapes. There’s a cozy indoor copper fire circle, 2.5 acres of land to wander around, and a 30-person yurt to snuggle up inside at the end of the day.
Hub New in Lisbon, Portugal
We already know Lisbon to be chock-full of culture with a large chunk of history thrown in, and HUB New Lisbon Hostel combines all of that with…a ball pit! HUB Lisbon exists in an 18th century building filled with vibrant designs and original Portuguese tiles. When you’re done exploring the city, spend some time playing foosball, beer pong, pool, PlayStation, and board games. But the star of the hostel is the entire room dedicated to nothing but soft, plastic balls. There are 70,000 of them crammed inside one room waiting to be jumped into. Perhaps unsurprisingly, HUB Lisbon is the only hostel in the world with a ball pit.
Average price per night: €12-€58
Urban House in Copenhagen, Denmark
Everything at Urban House hostel in Copenhagen exemplifies the sleek, Danish charm that you’d expect. As well as being based in the vibrant neighbourhood of Vesterbro, it’s filled with a mixture of old and new furniture, a buzzing bar, and a cute 1950s-style laundrette. You’ve probably got a huge list of things to do while in Copenhagen, but we’ve got another to add to your list: while staying at Urban House, you can get a tattoo at their in-house tattoo parlour. Obviously it books up pretty fast, but it’s a souvenir that you won’t be able to find anywhere else in the world!
Average price per night: €20-€150
Clink78 in London, England
Sleeping in a prison cell might not sound like the ideal way to spend a night, but people book far in advance to do so in London. At Clink78 you can choose to sleep in solitary confinement, with a partner in crime, or in a dorm room of a converted prison cell. Clink78 has a fascinating history dating back to 1792. It’s thought to have been the spot where Charles Dickens wrote Oliver Twist before it was converted into Clerkenwell Magistrates Court. When that shut up shop in 2008 it turned into a hostel. Along with all of the typical hostel features it’s also kept a lot of the traditional features, including the bars on the doors!
Average price per night: €15-€77
Sant Jordi Rock Palace in Barcelona, Spain
Sant Jordi is the company behind a group of hostels in Barcelona, but Rock Palace is the one to go to for music lovers. There’s a guitar collection and a drum kit in the main area and soundproofed rooms for any spontaneous jam sessions. The entire hostel is rock ‘n’ roll themed, which means it’s impossible to turn a corner without admiring gritty murals of some of the world’s most famous rockstars. And if you truly want to feel like a rockstar, chill out with a swim in the rooftop swimming pool or head next door for one of the city’s best clubs.
Average price per night: €20-€30
Jugendherberge Nürnberg in Nuremberg, Germany
Germany is known for its impressive castles and now you can stay in one without splashing all your cash on a single night’s sleep. Jugendherberge Nürnberg is set inside a medieval castle, a mere 550 yards away from the city centre. Each of the rooms maintains a modern approach to hosteling, but step into the communal areas to be transported back hundreds of years. Imposing stone archways will lead you through the different areas of the hostel and wooden beams will make you feel like you’re taking a stroll through historic times. It’s not often that the hostel itself forms part of the sightseeing, but that’s exactly what you’ll find in Nuremberg!
Average price per night: €32-€46
Kex Hostel in Reykjavik, Iceland
“Kex” means biscuit in Icelandic, which might give you a clue as to what you’ll find at this hostel. True to its name, Kex Hostel in Reykjavik exists inside an old biscuit factory. Most of the hostel is furnished with salvaged materials and objects found over the years keeping the industrial-chic feel that everyone expects from Iceland’s capital city. There’s a tiny area decorated like a 1950s barber shop and brilliant views of the Icelandic sea. There’s also a boxing gym, a defunct elevator that now exists mostly as a piece of art, and, just to top it all off, it’s only a stone’s throw from the action.
Average price per night: €36-€265
Cocomama in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Cocomama might be one of Amsterdam’s boutique hostels nowadays, but it’s another with a murky past — it used to be a brothel. It’s located inside a monumental building and has kept some of its original features, including a stripper pole! Every room is uniquely designed with a focus on Dutch history, so expect to admire the work of various local artists when you wake up. Unusually for Amsterdam, Cocomama has its own garden as well as a cinema room. So come rain or shine, you’ll find somewhere to relax in the hostel. And one of the best parts? Check in at Cocomama starts with a glass of champagne and a stroke of resident hostel cat, Joop.
Average price per two nights: €82-€258
The Monastery Hostel in Milan, Italy
The clue is in the name at The Monastery Hostel because you’ll be sleeping in an actual, functioning monastery. While it’s true that it’s located in a wing of the beautiful Franciscan Friars Convent in Milan, you don’t need to prep yourself for any religion-based activities because this wing is fully modernized with all the typical backpacker comforts. Some rooms even offer guests a stunning view of the Convent Cloister. Throughout the hostel you can admire different decor themes like Earth, Water, and Sky, and the decoration is just as extra as you’d expect. Don’t fear plain white walls at this monastery, because the decor was all designed by Lombard painter Celso Maffi.
Héraðsskólinn Hostel in Laugarbraut, Iceland
Héraðsskólinn Hostel might not be able to boast of its central location, but it thrives on being the exact opposite: a rural 1920’s ex-school building that exists among mountains and greenery. The hostel is located within the famous Golden Circle sightseeing trail, which means you might even get to see the Northern Lights from your bedroom window here. If you don’t get a mountain-view room you’ll be given a lake-view one, so it’s a win-win situation if you’re a fan of nature. It’s no exaggeration to say that Héraðsskólinn is a world away from your typical hostel, especially with those views!
Average price per two nights: €58-€189