I’ll Take My Hostel on the Rocks Please
When choosing a hostel on my backpacking Europe adventure, one of the first things I look for is its “community” feel. Of course I want clean toilets and showers, a reasonable price, and free WiFi but more importantly, I want a friendly staff and a hostel setup that promotes meeting fellow travelers. I like to lounge in the reception area after a day of sightseeing chatting up new arrivals or watching a late night rerun of Seinfeld that everyone in the room has seen before and can relate to, even if they are not from New York like me.
In my opinion though, one of the most appealing ways to be social, unwind and have fun when backpacking around Europe is to order up a stiff one at the hostel bar, a dedicated mingling space which extends the hostel experience to a whole other level. Easy access to drinks and an instant party certainly speed up the social atmosphere.
Hostel bars offer a “fun and safe environment for guests from around the world to meet, socialize and have fun,” says Sallie Stone, the manager of The Dover Castle Hostel in London. “It really helps the hostel be a backpacker’s hostel and not a dull budget hotel.”
Be sure to check out our article “How to Get Drunk in the UK - British Pub Etiquette”
The prospect of a perfect European night is right down the stairs at the bar. Whether your downing shots, sipping a glass of local wine with a new friend, or playing pool with a pint in hand, there are many ways to spend an evening in the safety of your home-away-from-home. Of course, your room is right upstairs, so there’s no need to worry about getting back to your bed after a wild night (perhaps a little help from the front desk staff may be in order).
“Since our hostel and bars only allow guests and staff (so no sketchy people from the street) we are all in it for the same reason; party with other backpackers!” says Sirtse Jansen, the manager of The Flying Pig Uptown in Amsterdam.
Just as there are many different types of travelers, there are many different types of hostel bars. There are the party central bars, the refined and classy bars, and the lets-all-watch-the-boys-play pool bars. All are good, just know that each type of bar offers a different speed and may attract a different crowd.
There are cons to staying at a hostel with a pub such as noise and those impromptu romps in the bunk below you that so would not have happened otherwise. And of course if it happens the night before your early morning departure (and if you just would have gone to the pub that night, it could have been you in the bunk below). But if the hostel is set up right, this should not be much of a problem.
If you’re not interested in partying at all, there are tons of great hostels to choose from that don’t have pubs. But this does not mean a party might not break out or some 2am bed creaking below you.
The Heart of Gold Hostel’s manager, Tom says “we try to get people out of their rooms, because the party should happen downstairs.”
So on that note, do you want your hostel shaken or stirred?
Here are our 10 favorite places to buy a drink:
The Flying Pig Uptown Hostel, Amsterdam: “Known for its great mix of a relaxed and funky atmosphere, and the real Amsterdam party vibe!” This is where to get your Amsterdam on. They have a smoking room in the bar, 1 euro shots, and two-for-one Becks beer.
St. Christopher's Inns, London: St. Christopher’s Inns are just fabulous all-around. But, they are especially fabulous because they all have an attached Belushi’s bar and when you show your “Beds and Bars” card you get a 10 percent discount. Fabulous. Sign up for the free Beds and Bars card at their main website.
Heart of Gold Hostel, Berlin: Unique and modern, this themed hostel is inspired by “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” The bar has a relaxed and classy vibe. Besides regular drinks they have Berliner Pilsner from tap and lots of cocktail selections. For Happy Hour we have surprise shots and "Drinks from outer Space" like the "Pangalactic Gargle Blaster" to match the hostel theme.
Three Little Pigs Hostel, Berlin: You may think it weird to drink in an old nunnery, but don’t worry, you won’t have to confess your sins to one of the pigs. The bar is big and airy with a very relaxed and classy feel - a perfect place for a glass of wine.
Bauhaus Hostel, Bruges: With Bruges being a beer-connoisseur mecca, it’s only natural that the popular Bauhaus Hostel’s attached, Sacré Coeur bar-restaurant, features 1050 different Belgian beers. Healthy and hearty food is served in a cozy, authentically Belgian bar.
Dover Castle Hostel, London: What could be more English than a pint before bed? There’s discounted beer, spirits, wine, cocktails and food for hostel guests. Get your pool on, maybe some dancing in, or relax and watch some television on their big screen. The best part: upon check-in guests receive a free drink at the bar. Now, that’s some English hospitality. There is a range of international beers and wines as well as a big selection of vodkas, tequilas and Jägermeister for the party animals.
Villa Saint Exupery, Nice: A former monastery, this hostel is anything but silent. Beers and wines are only 2 euros, top it off with some live music and yummy food and you’ve got the perfect place to unwind. And get this: there are two beautifully decorated bars. Because one just isn’t enough.
Alessandro’s Palace and Bar, Rome: Free pizza? Umm, yes please! This restaurant/bar is a real find with an authentic Roman atmosphere, and did we mention the free pizza?
Seven Hostel, Sorrento: Talk about a room with a view. The modern bar continues out onto the rooftop with a view that demands you sit and stay for a drink. The entire hostel has a clean, minimalist vibe that is extremely satisfying.
The Kabul Hostel, Barcelona: A hostel and bar that's busy with backpackers, this is the place to meet new people and exchange stories. Culture and partying mesh at Kabul Hostel just as they do in the city of Barcelona.