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Sometimes when you're staying in a big city, you want something a little more homely than huge bar-and-bed hostels with all night parties. Even the most hardcore backpackers need some downtime and somewhere to relax on the road, and this is where the welcoming small hostel steps in.
The following places are all designed to make you feel at home as soon as you step through the front door. From breakfast in bed to ready-made slumber-party rooms, they offer the perfect opportunity to meet people in a relaxed setting, and catch your breath from the outside world…
Albergo Paola, Florence, Italy
There’s nothing quite like being waited on in the morning – after all, everyone enjoys a bit of indulgence now and then. And that’s exactly what Albergo Paola encourages, morning after morning after morning. This vibrant little hostel in Florence specializes in one thing above all else: Breakfast in bed.
And what a breakfast too! Sizzling rashers of bacon, perfectly runny scrambled egg, toast, jam, yoghurt and cake all come delivered straight to your bed. So whether you’re recovering from the night before, or preparing for the day ahead, Clara’s breakfast puts you right!
A guest writes: ”This hostel is definitely worth it. You wake up to an excellent breakfast every morning, and both Clara and Lilly are so cool, it is hard not to feel comfortable and to be yourself.” (Posted on 15th July, 2008)
O’Callaghan’s, London, England
London hostels tend to be on the large side and specialize in mass backpackers’ parties. Which is fine (we’ve all been there before!), but it can feel a touch impersonal. O’Callaghan’s, however, is different: this intimate, cozy little hostel is proud to be ‘London’s smallest, oldest backpackers hostel’.
You won’t get breakfast in bed here – you’ll get it on the beanbags in the lounge instead. You’ll also get free beer (honestly!), summer barbecues, and the chance to enjoy one of the best hostel atmospheres going. Oh yes, and at 22 Euros a night in central London, it’s quite the bargain, too!
A guest writes: ”I loved how cosy the place was. It was more like staying in a big house with a bunch of friends than staying in a hostel. The people (staff and guests alike) were really friendly and helpful.” (posted 20th May, 2008)
Bus Station Backpackers, Edinburgh, Scotland
Bus Station Backpackers’ appeal is simple: it’s a home from home. Tucked into one of the city’s grand avenues, arriving at this fantastic Edinburgh hostel is as comforting as returning home after a hard day’s work. And since you probably won’t have been working during the day, the sensation’s all the better!
From the travel memorabilia that covers each and every wall, to the chit-chat of the guests as they swap stories over a glass of wine in the lounge, everything here makes you feel as though you’re amongst friends and family in familiar surroundings. Quite simply one of the most comfortable hostels around.
A guest writes: ”This hostel is perfect!! You feel like you are staying at a friend’s house for the night… It is very quiet so you can get a great night’s sleep but at the same time the FREE pub crawl that is organized daily is a great way to get out… and meet people.” (Posted on 1st July 2008)
Home Made Hostel, Budapest, Hungary
Home Made Hostel has a pretty winning strategy; ‘You Book, We Cook’, they say. This brilliant Budapest hostel – set in one of the city’s entrancingly crumbling courtyards – offers some of the best Hungarian grub you’re likely to find. And it even holds classes for those who want in on its secrets.
But it’s not just Home Made Hostel’s culinary expertise that impresses. Each room here has its own loft, meaning you get that extra little bit of space to chill out. The eight bed dorm, for example, has a gorgeous TV area – perfect for a late night movie and slumber party!
A guest writes: ”The hostel itself is very unique and fun… The kitchen has lots of resources available for use by all guests. My first night, the staff made all the guests a traditional Hungarian dinner, which was really good.” (Posted 26th June, 2008)
O de Casa Hostel, Sao Paulo, Brazil
They don’t come much more frenetic and sprawling than Sao Paulo. Brazil’s largest city is known as a bit of a concrete jungle that has to be worked at to be understood. So what’s the best way to get to grips with this city? Simple – join the student scene.
O de Casa was once the rented home of seven students – today it’s their hostel. Whether you’re looking to kick back in the chilled garden, join in with the impromptu street parties, or find out about the best underground raves, O de Casa ensures you’ll experience Sao Paulo ‘from within’.
A guest writes: ”Really felt like living in a student house. Easy to relax here, chat idly with other travelers and soak up the Sao Paolo city vibes. The breakfast is good too.” (Posted on 21st May, 2008)
Hippo Hide Backpackers, Durban, South Africa
One of the main reasons to stay in small hostels has to be their frequent eccentricity. Take Hippo Hide Backpackers in bustling Durban, for example: How many large party hostels are run out of someone’s backyard, and style their entire decor on hippos?
Ok, to say ‘backyard’ is doing it a disservice – this is more a tropical haven of a green space, replete with lush vegetation and a local family of monkeys. What’s more, since the owners live in a house right next to the hostel, guests here are never far away from good local advice, and a hearty meal, too!
A guest writes: ”I LOVED the staff at Hippo Hide. They gave so many great suggestions for things to do in the area and were awesome to just talk to while having some down time.” (Posted on 26th June, 2008)
Spicythai Backpackers, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Thailand’s highest rated hostel is a triumph of transformation. Only three years ago this was the grand home of the US Ambassador. Today, it’s an ambassadorial-quality hostel in Chiang Mai for many a happy backpacker on their journey through Southeast Asia.
Set in an affluent and peaceful suburb, Spicythai Backpackers has five beautifully furnished communal rooms to complement its four spacious bedrooms. There’s also a sunbathing spot on the roof, and a hammock in the garden… What more could you ask for?
A guest writes: ”Spicythai is the best hostel I’ve have stayed in. Free internet, TV with a huge DVD collection to chose from, tours available and great people working there. The atmosphere is friendly and it is so easy to meet people and get along.” (Posted on 8th May, 2008)
Ostello Gallo D’Oro, Florence, Italy
And so we come full circle: to another Florence hostel. It must be something in the water there, because (along with Albergo Paola) a more friendly hostel than the Ostello Gallo D’Oro it would be hard to find. Silvia and Max are the perfect hosts: they lay on real home-cooked meals for their guests, and even take long-termers out to their farmhouse in the beautiful Tuscan countryside.
It may not be the biggest hostel around; it may not have a swimming pool, a gymnasium or its own nightclub. But it certainly provides one of the very warmest welcomes – and that, ultimately, is what small hostels are all about. So let’s hear it for the little guy!