Pulling from my recent 4-month adventure around Europe as well as countless other hostel experiences over the years, here are my all time favorites. HOW DID I FIND THESE HOSTELS? Check out my formula for choosing a hostel when you’re traveling alone.
1. Bahaus Hostel, Istanbul
I was there in off-season (December) so it was basically EMPTY, but that created a really intimate atmosphere and a lot of bonding went on among the travelers that were there. The beds are comfortable and have privacy curtains (!), GREAT showers, the location is right in the heart of Sultanahmet, and the rooftop bar is where everyone goes every night to hang out and play drinking games (drinking Jenga is the best) and smoke shisha (Laura gets the hooka going every night around 9). We went on a pub crawl (25 Turkish Lira) and they also organize family dinners and other outings regularly. There is no kitchen and you can’t bring in outside food or drink, but most party hostels in Istanbul are like that from what I gathered. The food at the bar is decent and reasonably priced. Breakfast is FREE and awesome (olives, cheese, bread, eggs, cucumber, tomato, fruit…). The people I met at Bahaus were the best: very diverse group in terms of nationalities (Brazil, USA, Canada, Argentina, UK, New Zealand, China, India, France, Mexico, Finland…), pretty much ALL solo travelers, and lots of experienced solo travelers on long-term around the world trips.
2. Kabul Backpackers Hostel, Barcelona
This is the cheapest hostel on my list AND on top of that they give you FREE breakfast and FREE dinner. Now the food is, well, kinda shit (white rolls, american cheese and ham for breakfast and undercooked pasta for dinner) but it’s free and dinner is a great way for everyone to come together in the common area/dining room/bar to start the evening. Speaking of cheap…did I mention that drinks at the bar are only 1 EURO and you get 2 for 1 during happy hour (until 8 and after 11 I believe)? There is a rooftop terrace with a bar and view, a pub crawl every night (12 or 13 euros), it has a great location (Plaza Real right off the Rambla), comfortable beds and big lockers, clean facilities. The 22-bed dorm is ridiculous but fun and has a private balcony. FYI there is no kitchen and the showers are crap and this is the biggest hostel I’ve ever stayed at so you need to be really out-going if you’re on your own. This was one of the most diverse hostels I’ve ever stayed at: nice mix of solo travelers and groups of friends from absolutely everywhere (Brazil, Turkey, Ireland, Argentina, Mexico, South Africa, Latvia, Canada, USA…..ETC.). Mix of ages but generally a younger crowd.
3. The Trip Hostel, Punta del Este
This was and still is #1 on Tripadvisor. While the rooms and bunk beds are pretty ridiculous (unless you’re on the bottom bunk, get ready to CLIMB…and the rooms barely fit the beds and not much else) and the breakfast is crap, the atmosphere is amazing and the place has a great vibe and quirky style. There was a mix of groups of friends and solo travelers from ALL over the world (Brazil, Australia, Argentina, Peru, UK, South Korea, USA…). Everyone was really fun and open. Nightly happy hours, DJs, BBQs, lots of hanging out on the rooftop terrace and downstairs patio. Everyone is always cooking together in the kitchen and everyday everyone goes to the beach together (staff too). The staff is basically a bunch of wild Uruguayan guys that love to party with the guests. Don’t expect to sleep much as you can hear the bar from all of the rooms.
4. Discovery Hostel, Rio de Janeiro
This hostel was the #1 hostel in Rio on Tripadvisor when I stayed there, and right now it’s #2, and it’s not even in the touristy part of the city, so obviously I don’t have to tell you how great it is. First of all, I’m pretty sure that other than one couple and one set of two friends, everyone staying there was a solo traveler. There was a nice mix of age groups and nationalities (although I have to admit, there were a lot of Americans). The breakfast is AMAZING (salsa, french toast, fresh fruit, cakes, panini maker…seriously). The staff are all just open and social hostel goers themselves. All of the common areas are ideally set up for socializing. Every night there is an outing (pub crawl, favela funk party, live samba, etc.). It’s super comfortable (great mattresses) and clean and beautifully decorated, and there is a great kitchen for cooking, comfy couches to relax on, great showers.
5. Circus Hostel, Berlin
An immaculate “hotel-like” hostel with a party atmosphere. They have their own brewery downstairs that opens every night at 7 where everyone convenes to get the night started (people that live in Berlin go too). The upstairs couches by reception and front patio are also very social areas. It even has it’s own café with an amazing (but not free) breakfast until 1pm, and it serves sandwiches, cakes and coffee all day. Rooms are huge, beds are comfortable, facilities are super clean and there’s lots of security (key cards to go everywhere). No kitchen and meh showers. Everyday there is a free walking tour which is a great way to meet other travelers staying at the hostel, and the “meet the brewer” event is another good way to meet people. A mix of groups of friends and solo travelers, again, from all over the world. Actually, there seemed to be a lot of Europeans at this hostel (Irish, French, English, Italians, Spanish, Bavarians), as well as a nice mix of ages (more 30+ than I’ve seen at other hostels). FYI this hostel is the priciest on my list, but I think that contributes to the age diversity. There were lots of working professionals staying there for the weekend, not just students or travelers.
(#6. HONORABLE MENTION: It didn’t make the top 5, but I decided to give it an honorable mention since it’s a special place.)
Hostel One Paralelo, Barcelona
This is one of the smallest hostels I’ve stayed at so there is an intimate family atmosphere. You get free dinner, which unlike Kabul is actually pretty damn good. It’s always vegetarian, different every night, and tasty. They also put huge pitchers of sangría on the table for everyone. Like with Kabul, the free dinner is a great way for everyone to come together to start the evening. After dinner, drinking at the hostel continues until about 11:30 when everyone goes out together with a staff member- usually to a bar and then to a club. At the bar you meet up with everyone from the OTHER Hostel One (it’s a global chain) in Barcelona, so that’s pretty fun. There is a daytime activity everyday as well. BTW they don’t charge for any of the activities or outings. Nice rooms and kitchen, and they even have laundry service (7 euros). GREAT showers. The crowd at this hostel was mostly English speaking and quite young (lots of American study abroaders) compared to other hostels, but super friendly and open. The staff are young people from Australia and New Zealand. Reasonably priced during the week but pretty expensive on the weekends.
CONGRATULATIONS TO BAHAUS, DISCOVERY AND HOSTEL ONE PARALELO ON THEIR 2016 HOSCARS WINS!