Hostelworld.com look after thousands of hostels, bed-and-breakfasts and hotels across the globe, but they took us to London specifically to show us some of the city’s coolest hostels. We discovered how cheaply and easily travellers can get a bed and a lively and welcoming home base among London’s most vibrant spots.
The Dictionary, Shoreditch
Prices – £16-50 per person per night
Rooms – 2-10 beds, ensuite bathrooms.
Fresh, cool, eco friendly and — amazingly — the first of its kind. That’s right, The Dictionary is Hackney’s very first youth hostel, though probably not its last: since opening, The Dictionary has been full to the rafters with visitors eager to explore London. For anybody keen to live and experience London’s buzzing, arty east – you now have a place to stay that’s part of it.
It sits in the epicentre of East London’s art, fashion, music and party-culture, right in the middle of the area’s most popular parts, and literally next door to Shoreditch’s best-known bars. Brick Lane is a short walk away, as is Bethnal Green, Old Street and Hoxton Square, all areas full of bars, restaurants, music venues and a large number of independent art galleries.
The architectural marvels of the Square Mile’s eastern limits are just over the road, while the enormously popular Geffrye Museum – which looks at the history of interior design through a collection of recreated historic rooms – is about 500 metres away. Whenever you feel like exploring you don’t have far to go to find something interesting.
A short bus ride east and you’re in Dalston, London’s newest pop-cultural hub, full of music venues, clubs, jazz bars, and London’s highest concentration of artier, trendier, edgier places to go.
The Dictionary itself seamlessly shares the famous Shoreditch atmosphere of creativity, and feels very much a part of its surroundings. Its bar gives no hint that it’s part of a hostel, and fits in perfectly with the other Shoreditch bars – it’s open to the public too, so you get a nice mix of travellers and locals here, sharing stories. Interior areas are decorated with street art and local artists’ work hangs on the walls, giving it a real sense of identity that fits with its surroundings. If you’ve always wanted to spend some time in Shoreditch, this is a hostel that will take you to the heart of it both inside and out.
Clink78 – Kings Cross
Prices – £10-50 per night
Rooms – 2-16 beds, ensuite bathrooms.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a hostel more centrally placed than Clink78. A short walk from King’s Cross, you’re a few tube stops from all of London’s attraction-heavy destinations, from Oxford Street to Soho, Camden, Shoreditch and the major museums down in Kensington to mention a handful. The bars and restaurants of Upper Street are just a bus ride up the hill, and Kings Cross’ two major venues, the Big Chill and Scala, are a five-minute walk away.
The hostel itself is unique. Once a Victorian courthouse, many of the former courtrooms are intact but cleverly converted into useable spaces. One is an internet room, so you can sit in the judge’s chair and check your email, perhaps giving your friend in the dock — also checking his email — a little conciliatory wave. Then stroll next door and put your feet up in the TV courtroom, maybe watch a few films sitting in the gallery before heading out.
If you fancy the full novelty experience of youth-hostelling almost-at-Her Majesty’s pleasure, you can stay in one of the converted cells in the basement. But don’t worry: if that’s not for you, most of the rooms are large dormitories that have never housed anyone who didn’t want to be housed there (as far as we know).
Downstairs you’ll find a communal kitchen area and the hostel’s edgy bar, which is large enough to be roomy but small enough to feel intimate and inviting. Overall, it’s fresh, punky — their bar is named after The Clash, who were once tried in the court here for shooting Royal pigeons — light-hearted and buzzing, full of people chatting, meeting in the large central entrance hall and relaxing in the hostel’s collection of comfortable communal spaces.
Safestay – Elephant and Castle
Prices – £18-66 per night
Rooms – 3-16 beds, ensuite bathrooms
For travellers looking for well-kempt, stylish accommodation, Safestay is just the thing. It’s housed in a grand grade 2 listed building — formerly the Labour Party headquarters — just around the corner from Elephant and Castle station.
It’s a nod towards hotel accommodation, the only difference being the rooms full of bunk beds. But couples or small families can go for a double room with just one extra bed if they wish, and have a very hotel-esque experience. Buffet breakfast, a large open-plan common room and bar, quirky but elegant furnishing and plenty of facilities make Safestay an option for all age-ranges. That’s part of their thinking too, and this is very much a family-friendly hostel. The hostel bar is of course a lively place to drink and meet new people, but it’s not a young-adults-only zone, and there’s no upper age limit for residents here.
Elephant and Castle is just two stops from London Bridge and its veritable parade of riverside attractions — Shakespeare’s Globe, the South Bank, the British Film Institute, Royal Festival Hall, The Golden Hinde, Tower Bridge, the Tower of London and the Tate Modern, to name a few. As it’s just south of central London, Elephant and Castle is well connected to the bars and clubs of Shoreditch in the east, the major shopping and theatre attractions of the West End, and to attractions like Royal Maritime Greenwich further south too.
For more information on these hostels and others like them, stop by hostelworld.com.