My 12 Favourite Hostels in Europe

EUROPE

PREIKESTOLEN FJELLSTUE: NORWAY

I’m writing about the Pulpit Rock hike in Norway again?! Seriously Bethany, shut up about it already.

Anyway, in my post all about the hike I talked a little bit about where I stayed, but it’s just amazing. Sitting in the lounge, watching the sun set (which didn’t happen until around 10:30PM) and journalling about my delightful hike was worth the absurdly overpriced food.

You could use the word run-down to describe the youth hostel portion of the facility, but I prefer to use the words rustic and charming.

YOHO INTERNATIONAL YOUTH HOSTEL: SALZBURG, AUSTRIA

They play the Sound of Music every night. In Salzburg.

Enough said.

Read a little more about Salzburg here

HOSTEL ANDROMEDA: GHENT, BELGIUM

I stayed at this hostel on what is objectively the worst trip of my life – I got norovirus, I had the worst sore throat of all time, I hit my head, I broke my phone and I hurt my back. However, the trip still has so many great memories, and one of the coolest places I stayed was in Ghent, Belgium – my favourite city in Belgium!

When I saw that sleeping on a houseboat was an option on Hostelworld, I couldn’t pass it up. It was so cool to actually stay on one of the canals, and Hostel Andromeda has so many ecological initiatives that make it even better. I’ll admit the place was kind of creepy when I stayed there because it was the middle of off-season, but at least I got a whole dorm to myself! 10/10 for experience.

Read more about Ghent here

MOSAIC HOUSE: PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC

Another highlight from the trip of mishaps. Honestly, I spent most of my time in this hostel’s bathroom (thanks norovirus) but let me tell you, it was the nicest hostel bathroom I’ve ever seen. Mosaic House is a dirt cheap hostel, but with the design savvy of a boutique hotel and a really nice bar that I didn’t get to experience. The staff here were so great – my mom emailed them to ask if they could see whether I was alive, and one of them very kindly did so – and I’d love to go back here and actually enjoy the facilities.

The entirety of the Charles Bridge at your feet

Read more about Prague here and here

PERUGIA FARMHOUSE: PERUGIA, ITALY

I’m currently writing an entire post about Perugia, which involves such dramas as being robbed. Most of it centres around the hostel I stayed at, which had the most amazing community feel and farm animals. The word paradise has never been so applicable, and every time I’m talking to someone who is travelling to Italy, I urge them to go to Perugia with the sole purpose of staying at this hostel.

Read more about Perugia here

VILLA FRANCESCATTI: VERONA, ITALY

Verona was a completely unexpected  highlight of my summer in Italy. I went to see an outdoor opera (it was amazing) but was blown away by everything else that I discovered. I even fell in love with all of the Romeo and Juliet-themed attractions. One of the best parts, though, is the fact that I got to stay in a sixteenth century villa.

The gardens are beautiful and authentic and the villa itself feels magical, so I spent most of my time in the hostel exploring and muttering to myself in Italian about how pretty it was, and probably seeming crazy to my fellow guests.

HOSTELSUN B&B: BRUNICO, ITALY

I went to this place because I saw a lake, Lago di Braies on Instagram, and knew I had to go. An au pair friend went before me and recommended this hostel for the friendly and outgoing owner, who had dogs. Obviously I booked it immediately.

I had been sweltering hot for my entire time in Italy, and getting into the mountains was the greatest relief I’ve ever felt. It was so perfect and quiet here and I sat on my private balcony drinking Hugo, my favourite Italian alcohol and looking out at the view. So peaceful, and that wasn’t even the best part – that was Lago di Braies! Highly recommend making your way up to the very unexplored Italian Dolomites.

LAKE COMO HOSTEL: MENAGGIO, ITALY

I booked this hostel because it was basically my only option. It was way above and  beyond what I expected! In my post about Lake Como I described what an incredible and luxurious time I had in this place. The view was more than I could ask for and everything about my weekend here was just impeccable. If you want to feel rich but still stay in a cheap hostel, look no further.

Read more about Lake Como here

CHEERS HOSTEL: ISTANBUL, TURKEY

Me and my sister fell in love with this place immediately and talk about it constantly. Obviously, the highlight is the fact that the sweetest golden retriever ever lives there – his name is Zaman and he has his own Instagram account (@cheerszaman). But the terrace with a view of the Blue Mosque, the wonderfully kind staff whose names I still remember (a rarity considering how many hostels I’ve stayed in), and the unbelievably central location are what really took this place over the top. We could have stayed for weeks!

Read more about Istanbul and this hostel here

GOODMORNING HOSTEL: LISBON, PORTUGAL

When my friend Erika and I got to Lisbon, we were tired. So to be honest, not much sightseeing happened here. We did a hop-on hop-off bus tour (#tourists), went out to the beach at Cascais, and walked around a little bit, but otherwise…a lot of lounging occurred. We were overjoyed to learn that the hostel had an extraordinarily comfortable movie room with tons of DVDs to choose from – we watched Juno one night and it was lovely to take a break.

The breakfast is what stands out most in my mind – I ate Nutella waffles every morning and we had spirited discussions about politics and life and travel with the staff and fellow guests.

KISMET DAO HOSTEL: BRASOV, ROMANIA

As another illustration that yes, I do have a problem, this hostel is on here because I liked the dog that lived here. Her name was Zara and we spent a lovely morning hiking up Mount Tampa. By spent a lovely morning I mean I was dragged up the mountain by a dog who didn’t speak my language or care to listen to me. But anyway, it made me feel very local to walk my dog up a mountain, enjoying the first sunshine in days.

Also, at this hostel you get a free beer every night – more if you walk the dog. The greatest hostel feature I’ve ever encountered.

Read more about Brasov here

PURA VIDA SKY BAR & HOSTEL: BUCHAREST, ROMANIA

I feel like a lot of these hostels are on here because of one thing, while the rest of the facilities were just adequate. Note to self: if I ever open a hostel, it needs some  sort of fancy thing that people will remember and talk about. At Pura Vida, it was the Sky Bar – a rooftop bar with one of the most incredible views I’ve ever seen. I don’t have any pictures, because I’m an idiot, but here is one from the hostel website.

They had killer mojitos and the Australian girl from my dorm room who I forced to be my friend was great company. A rooftop terrace always seems to make a place stick in my mind.

Read more about Bucharest here

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When Travelling Goes Totally Wrong

I knew my Europe trip this January had been a bit rough when it ended with me walking into airport arrivals and bursting into tears. Almost everything that could have gone wrong did, which is why everyone who asked about my trip got a very inconclusive answer…”oh, it was great, Belgium and Prague are beautiful, but I was really sick!” Here’s my take on when travelling goes totally wrong:

Cancelled Flight

Everything seemed fine when I arrived at the Halifax Airport, and it was fine until we got on the plane and sat there for half an hour. Then they told us we had to wait for some sort of mechanical check, and after endless waiting for that we were told to get off the plane…sending us back to the gate. We stood there for a while, as I started getting nervous that I was going to miss my connection in Philly. Rereading my travel journal, I seem very positive at the beginning, and then it quickly turns into trying to figure out my options. Luckily, the airline just rebooked me for the next day and I was given a free night in the nicest hotel at the Halifax airport! I did miss getting a day in Brussels, but all my pre-bought train tickets still worked – so no real loss. I also got an upgrade to first class for the short flight to Philly!

Worst Sore Throat Ever

I spent a few hours working on the biggest iMac I’d ever seen in the hotel lobby, then settled in to the massive bed to watch a few hours of What Not to Wear – living the dream. However, I quickly realized my throat was starting to hurt..I brushed it off thinking that it would be fine soon. Little did I know that it would quickly become the worst sore throat I’d ever had, making it so my eyes watered in pain every time I tried to talk. I spent the whole trip walking around cringing every time I swallowed, avoiding speaking and feeling bad for myself.

See how dead I look? I felt worse.

See how dead I look? I felt worse.

Broken Phone

About 12 hours into my trip, my phone started turning on and off and on and off over again, before turning off basically forever. I got a few minutes of use out of it every now and then, but it was pretty much down and out. For me, the biggest problem was not being able to Instagram (my life is so hard) and not being able to access my Lonely Planet PDF I’d downloaded, but my parents were NOT impressed that I was hardly ever in touch. Luckily, European hostels seem to mostly have computers for guests to use so I could let them know I hadn’t died yet.

My phone not working also made me extremely nervous when I had to wake up at a certain time to catch a flight…I spent the night before my flight to Prague running upstairs to check the time every 20 minutes. So restful!

Norovirus

Ah, the memories. Upon arrival in Prague, I had one perfectly blissful day exploring the city and enjoying the sunshine. The next day I woke up feeling worse but still went out to explore, even buying a concert ticket for that night. I went back to the hostel for a lunch time nap and started feeling slightly nauseous – 5 seconds after the first signs, I was the sickest I’ve ever been in my hostel dorm’s bathroom. I managed to message my mom that something was very wrong, and then spent the next 8 hours alternating between throwing up and shaking feverishly in my bed, completely out of touch. Sorry mom – I guarantee I felt worse than you! I’m just glad I was staying in such a nice hostel (Mosaic House) with such nice bathrooms.

I thought it might have been food poisoning, but my mom suggested norovirus and I would agree – apparently you can get it from basically anything, so I have no idea what the cause was!

Hitting My Head

On my glorious day in Prague, the only thing that marred the experience was rather stupid of me. I climbed about 7 towers that day, and on one of them I smashed my head SO hard into the concrete ceiling. Apparently, the sign saying to watch your head and the yellow caution tape weren’t enough for me…..I saw stars for a long time and had to hold back tears because of all the other tourists! I’m just glad I didn’t get a concussion…now that would be a story.

Hurting My Back

After leaving Prague, I was just excited to get home. Normally the last thing I would want to do is leave Europe, but after all of the above I was exhausted, weak, and had lost at least 5 pounds – not a good thing. I made it through my flight to Philadelphia thanks to a lovely Belgian woman next to me who fed me cake and asked if I was okay. In the Philly airport, however, I turned around to see something and felt something snap in my back. I spent the next 3 hours of my layover and the 2.5 hours of my flight holding back tears (which seems to be a common theme) and trying not to move. Waiting to board with my backpack on my back was excruciating, and the gate attendants probably thought something was seriously wrong from the expression on my face. (Hm….they should have put me in first class!)

When I got through customs, I walked as quickly as possible (not very fast with my back) to my parents and burst into tears. They were mad at me for not getting in touch all day, which I had TRIED TO DO. Luckily my mother was able to put aside her annoyance to comfort me for a bit, and I had never been happier to get back to my house.

Have you ever been on a trip where everything seems to go wrong? Have you gotten sick while travelling?

 

The Gorgeous Ghent

Almost all of the people I asked for recommendations before my Belgium trip raved about Ghent, citing it as similar to Bruges but bigger and without all the tourists. With that in mind, I added it to my itinerary, and it fit in perfectly before my Ryanair flight to Prague! Although Bruges may have been more magical, I could have spent more time in Ghent exploring. It was also the place I tried my first Belgian waffle, which may have biased me a bit….Belgian waffles may be my favourite food in the entire world.

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My introduction to Ghent was much better than my introduction to Bruges. I had to take a tram to the other side of the city to check in at my VERY unique hostel (see the end of the post) and it went directly through the most beautiful part of the city. I was that obnoxious tourist oohing and aahing out the window while locals commuted to work, bored by the surroundings that I was so excited about. I loved that Belgium used trams as its main form of transportation: they’re much more quaint, so they don’t clash with the architecture.

The Belfry

As I’ve said, my favourite thing to do when I’m travelling is to go to the highest place I can and get the best view I can. In Ghent, that was the Belfry! While I was underwhelmed by this view after seeing the view in Bruges, it was still gorgeous – despite all the cranes marring the skyline! The view of the church was incredible.

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Boat Cruise

I wanted to go on a boat cruise in Bruges, but by the time I remembered that I wanted to, it was too late. I decided to rectify the situation by taking one in Ghent, which wasn’t that great a choice. It was 7 Euros, which isn’t bad, but the boat was covered due to the cold and the views were of things I’d already seen. The tour guide, however, was a gorgeous Zayn-Malik lookalike (but with a man bun!!) with an accent, so that made up for the disappointment. I didn’t take many pictures due to the fact that the boat was covered. After the boat cruise, the sun came out in all its glory for the first time on my trip, making me love Ghent even more!

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Castle Gravensteen

By this point in the day, I was ready for an educational attraction so I headed over to Castle Gravensteen! I love castles, and wandering through the rooms imagining myself as a princess (a very normal activity for any young woman) was lovely. I even read some of the historical signs! I really wish I could be a better traveller by enjoying museums and educational experiences, but honestly I get bored unless they’re aimed at little kids and therefore interactive. This one, however, was a hit! I also got another awesome view of Ghent from the castle ramparts.

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Belgian Waffles

Ah, the highlight of my trip…as usual, food. I had somehow managed to miss trying a traditional Belgian waffle in Antwerp and Ghent, so here I was determined to do so. I headed into a vendor on the main square, paid the paltry sum of 1.80 Euros and proceeded to eat the best waffle that has ever existed. It was warm and the perfect texture and filled with the perfect amount of sugar….I went on to eat approximately 8 waffles in Ghent alone. SO GOOD.

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St. Michael’s Bridge

Once I got to the point in the day where I was ready to wind down and trying to find something exciting to fill my time, I perused my map and found that I had missed out on St. Michael’s bridge, which is where you can find the iconic view of Ghent. It was seriously beautiful, and for once the person I asked to take my picture actually did a great job!
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Do It Yourself

  • I stayed at the Andromeda Eco-Hostel, which was VERY different. I struggled to find somewhere to stay because I’m pretty sure there are very few hostels in town, and the most popular was  closed for renovations. I settled on this one for the sole reason that it was on a houseboat!! Ghent is famous for its canals, just like Bruges (or Amsterdam, for that matter) and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stay on one of them. I liked the place, but I think I may have been the ONLY person staying there, which was quite creepy at night. It was also really cold in the hallways, but the room was great – and I had an 8 person dorm room all to myself! It was very cool to see all of the ecological initiatives and elements of the hostel, like their showers and lighting. There was an incident where I locked myself out of the indoor part of the boat in just a sweater (in JANUARY) and there was nobody to let me back in, but let’s be real – that was my fault. As for location, it was outside of the city but a very easy walk in, even sick and tired.
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  • Again, the train ride from Bruges to Ghent was about 6 Euros.

The Magical Bruges

There are some places in the world where walking around fills you with a constant feeling of awe. It might be somewhere you’ve never heard of and just happened to stumble across, or it might ďbe one of the most popular destinations in the world: either way, certain cities are just special. Bruges, for me, was one of those places. Every new alley was more beautiful than the next, each building more charming. Bruges is called the Venice of the North because of all its canals, and it’s become extremely popular for its quaint charm and amazing preservation. Here’s a post about the magical Bruges!

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Arriving on the train, I was very underwhelmed by my first sight of Bruges. I didn’t realize that the historic part of town was so clearly divided from the rest, and you arrive outside the city gates which makes it seem quite industrial.

Making my way through the gates, I started to see the amazing Bruges that I’d heard so much about. The buildings got more beautiful, the cars disappeared, but much to my shock not that many tourists came into view. Everyone I’d spoken to had complained about the crowds in Bruges, but not once did I feel like the city was at all busy. I guess that’s what happens when you visit on a gloomy day at the end of January!

I’d wander down a side street and see absolutely nobody else. The architecture and solitude transported me back in time, where I could pretend I was walking around in medieval times. I’ll admit that shows like Game of Thrones have convinced me I’m likely romanticizing medieval life, but that doesn’t stop me from pretending.

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The main square was something out of a fairytale and I just wanted to turn around and around to look at everything. I can imagine this place being a bit less charming when it’s packed in the summer, but as you can see from my pictures there was certainly room to breathe!

Going up the Belfry would also totally suck in the summer with that tiny staircase, but I had no problem. That is, until I totally wiped out down one of the flights and smashed my tailbone into a concrete step. A group of Chinese tourists stood there staring while I awkwardly got up and unsuccessfully tried to hold back tears….thanks for the sympathy, guys!

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  • The short train ride from Antwerp to Bruges was just 6 Euros. From the train station I was able to walk to my hostel!
  • I stayed at the Bruges Europa Hostel which was very cheap. It was outside the historic part of Bruges, but very walkable even despite how sick I was. I’d recommend it for the price, the breakfast, and the location right between the train station and the historic center!

Welcome to Belgium: One Day in Antwerp

Quite honestly, I never wanted to go to Belgium that much. I wanted to go in the way that I eventually want to go everywhere, but my trip in January only really happened because the flights were cheapest into Brussels, and I could fit Prague in as well.

Belgium totally exceeded all of my expectations; I loved it so much more than I thought I would! My first steps anywhere other than an airport were into Antwerp’s unbelievable train station, which I think we can all agree is one of the most beautiful train stations in the world. The square outside is amazing too.

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After this incredible first glimpse into Belgium, I had my first lovely encounter with a local, solidifying my awesome first impression. After half an hour of confusedly looking for the correct tram, I found it underground but was completely unable to use the machine where I needed to buy a ticket: I thought it might be broken, but the message on it was only in Dutch. Many languages, like Spanish, I can decipher, but Dutch is basically incomprehensible to me. While I poked the machine over and over again hoping to make it do something, a woman came up to me and asked a question in Dutch, so I stared in confusion, realizing I literally didn’t know one word in her language. I said, “English, Francais?” hoping one of them would work, but we sadly shook our heads at eachother as we realized we were both lost tourists and had no way to help eachother.

Luckily, a man heard my words and spoke both French and Dutch. He helped the Dutch woman before turning to me and coming out with a rapid stream of French which I miraculously understood. This trip was an awesome opportunity to practice my second language, and it helped me realize that I could actually communicate quite well in French.  He told me that the machine was broken (good, I was right!) and then offered to just pay for my fare. He confirmed which tram I should be taking, showed me on a map exactly where I was going, paid my fare and showed me where to get off…it was like having a personal guide, and he didn’t even try to kidnap me!

I tend to only approach women when I’m travelling solo, but I was so grateful to this man for helping sick and confused me. Once I made my way to my gorgeous hostel, I headed out to get a taste for the city.

I was totally gobsmacked by the beauty of Antwerp, which actually ended up being my least favourite of the cities I visited. Although it was beautiful, once I had walked through the main square I found myself struggling to find something to do or see. I’ll admit by this time I was rather sick and felt horrible, so that might have impacted my opinions, but it certainly didn’t do so in Bruges. This place is beautiful, but in my eyes it didn’t compare to Bruges or Ghent – I can’t wait to share more about both those cities. I think that despite the Old World architecture and European feel, it’s a very modern city. I think it’d be an incredible place to live, but as a tourist I felt a day was just fine by me: and I went to bed very early.

Grote Markt

The main square seems to be the most beautiful place in every European city (I say from my vast experience of three countries). The clock tower in Antwerp’s is visible from almost every point and features in the majority of my pictures. I also loved the fountain that featured prominently. If it had been warm and sunny I would have parked myself on a bench to people watch and relax for hours, but as it was I still spent a significant amount of time here!

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Scheldt River

Once I was done admiring the main square, I walked over to the river to explore its banks.

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Do it Yourself

  • I took a train straight from the main Brussels airport to Antwerp. If you’re under 26 make sure you purchase a GoPass and put Bruxelles as your origin, not the airport – they’ll overcharge you.
  • Every guidebook says people in the Flanders region of Belgium will be offended if you try to speak French to them, but everybody was very receptive to my attempts, and spoke more French than I spoke Dutch – just be respectful!
  • I stayed at the Antwerp Central Hostel and was very pleased. It’s steps from the Grote Markt, has a great free breakfast and was very clean.
  • Most attractions in Antwerp are free – don’t feel like you need to budget too much for it!

What I Spent in Belgium

I love when travel bloggers share details on their expenses and budgets abroad. I’m definitely a budget traveler, so if you’re looking to find out whether you can do certain destinations on the cheap, I hope I can help! Here’s the very first “What I Spent” post from my 4 nights in Belgium.

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Accommodation

Antwerp (Antwerp Central Hostel) – 22 Euros

Bruges (Europa Hostel) – 15 Euros

Ghent (Ecohostel Andromeda) – 23 Euros

Brussels (Grand Place Hostel) – 25 Euros

TOTAL: 85 Euros
AVERAGE: 21.25 Euros

I was pretty happy with all of the accommodation I booked for this trip! I stayed in the cheapest dorm available at each hostel, although if female dorms are the same price I always pick them. Look out for details coming on each of these places, but I would likely recommend them all!

Food

TOTAL: 53.89 Euros
AVERAGE DAILY SPEND: 13 Euros

This amount was thrown off by one majorly overpriced meal in Ghent. Without that I would have spent 8 Euros daily, and I would be ashamed to tell you how much of this was spent on waffles. Because I was sick in Belgium, I spent more on food than I normally would as I’d just pick the first place I saw so that I could sit down. Usually I spend less, and you definitely could!

Transportation

Trams/Buses: 3.40 Euros

Taxis: 11.80 Euros

Train: 24 Euros

TOTAL: 39.2 Euros
AVERAGE DAILY SPEND: 9.8 Euros

One of my favourite things about Belgium was how easy it was to get around! As you can see I hardly had to pay for public transit. Taxis are generally the bane of my existence, but on the last night of my trip I was so sick and so worn down that I couldn’t bear the thought of learning how to use Brussels’ buses. The whole time I was watching the meter go up and cringing. Rest assured, unless you’re sick you’ll spend very little on getting around in Belgian cities!

The trains were also quite cheap and convenient: I bought 4 train tickets for 6 Euros each, which got me between each city and to the airport on the last night of my trip. If you’re under 26 or a student, make sure to select the ‘Go Pass’ ticket – that’s what gets you the flat rate of 6 Euros.

Entertainment

TOTAL: 19 Euros
AVERAGE DAILY SPEND: 4.75 Euros

This amount is comprised of climbing the Belfry in Bruges (6 Euros and worth every penny), a boat tour in Ghent (7 Euros and not worth every penny), and a few other random little things. This category would certainly be a lot higher if you go out drinking when you travel, which I don’t tend to do when I’m both solo and sick. A lot of the attractions in Belgium are free, especially if you lie at every historical site in Ghent and say you’re 18. Perks of looking perpetually 12! This probably isn’t a place where you’ll bust your budget in the entertainment sector!

OVERALL TOTAL: 197.09 Euros
AVERAGE DAILY SPEND: 49.27 Euros

I obviously didn’t include my flights in this budget! I don’t think that travel costs would have any relevance here, since your flight/train to Belgium will be completely different. I hope this gave you a good idea of what you might spend in Belgium!