Ultra-Cool, Ultra-Cheap Stays That Will Change Your Mind About Hostels

By Nneka M. Okona |

Courtesy of King Kong Hostel

This piece originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.

If the word hostel conjures images of a grungy college dorms or communal bathrooms, it's time you examined your hostel choices. Seven new and upcoming luxury hostels in cities all around the world are redefining the inexpensive accomodations you may remember from your post-grad backpacking days. These new properties boast all the design-driven details and comfort you expect from your favorite boutique hotels while maintaing the friendly vibe and affordable price tag. From Art Deco beach digs to Alpine inns with an eco-friendly bent, consider bedding down in a hostel on your next vacation.

King Kong Hostel in Rotterdam, Netherlands

Local artists lent their design sensibilities to this hostel, located in the center of Rotterdam. Hostelers can choose from dorms and more private rooms with ensuite bathrooms (though all the baths on-site have rainshowers). Mornings at King Kong are best spent indulging at the low-cost breakfast buffet or lingering in one of the colorful hammocks strung from the dormitory ceiling. Unlike most hostels, this one has an aroma you won't mind—something not unlike a flower garden—pumped through the property.

Freehand in Chicago, Illinois
Freehand Chicago hostel interior

Courtesy of Freehand Chicago

The River North neighborhood of this windy city is the stomping ground for guests at the Freehand Chicago, a hybrid hotel and hostel. Nicaraguan coffee and all-day breakfast (African shakshuka, Cardamom-Farro Porridge) are featured at the in-house restaurant, Café Integral. Just like its predecessor, the Freehand Miami, the Chicago outpost has The Broken Shaker, a celebrated and decidedly eclectic mixology bar. Roman and Williams-designed interiors incorporate dark oak woodwork and other touches that provide a decidedly sophisticated feel.

wellnessHostel4000 in Saas-Free, Switzerland

Modernity meets cost-effective at the eco-friendly wellnessHostel 4000 in Saas-Free. Stunning views of the Alps are best enjoyed while making use of the hostel's spa-like features. There's a swimming pool, sauna, terrace, gym, massage showers, and a hot tub: a perfect match for this glacial mountainside town. Rooms tend to be compact, but chances are you won't spend much time in bed, thanks to their extensive on-site offerings, like a tapas restaurant.

Slo Living Hostel in Lyon, France
Lyon hostel lobby and bar

Courtesy of Slo Living

Traveling can often be a mad dash to tick items off the to-see list, but in Lyon, Slo Living Hostel encourages guests to literally slow down. Centrally located in the La Guillotière district, this hostel—open since June 2014—puts an emphasis on the community. Staffers arrange dinners with local ingredients and events for the guests (no more than 40 at a time) to bond. Slo Living has minimalist, Scandinavian decor with a modest color scheme of yellow, white and a soft blue, reflected even in the artworks on the wall.

Hlemmur Square in Reykjavik, Iceland

This hostel in Reykjavik is well-suited for all types of travelers, as the property boasts both dormitory-style hostel accomodations as well as a chic hotel. The third and fourth floors house the hostel rooms, with modern bed frames (designed to be noise free) and black-out curtains for those midnight sun months. Two kitchens, a lounge for socializing, and free wireless internet throughout the building are just a few perks. Hlemmur Square also boasts luggage storage and complimentary shampoo and soap in the showers.

Wombats City Hostel in London, England
Wombats hostel London

Courtesy of Wombats Hostel

Originally a hostel for sailors, Wombat's City Hostel has come along way from its swasbuckling past. Now, 150 years later, the interiors are bright and clean, and feature 500-year-old wood from ships and churches. Highlights include the underground, exposed brick tavern meant for mixing and mingling, as well as free Wi-Fi throughout the communal space and private rooms. 

Generator Hostel in Rome, Italy

By Spring 2016, the Generator Hostel chain will open its first property in Rome, bringing affordable private and shared accomodations to the city center. Guests at the Generator Rome will enjoy cocktails at the namesake bar, just steps from the cozy lounge area. Keep things intimate with a private twin or double, or bed down with a group in a triple or quad-style room. All rates include breakfast.

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