For many of us, youthful wanderlust led to backpacking adventures in Europe and Asia on a shoestring budget. Come nightfall, the place to be was a local hostel—full of like-minded new friends, yes, but often iffy in some respects. (Did you ever rest your head on a dog-eared Lonely Planet, not quite trusting that lump of material trying to pass as a pillow?) Those days had their charm, but are luckily now behind us. As the next generation of world travellers sets off on their summer vacations and gap years, a new breed of hostels has emerged to suit more discerning needs. Indeed, hostels are going boutique, offering high-occupancy with high-design and all the creature comforts of a great hotel. Here are three of the best.
Freehand Miami Beach
From the development group behind the NoMad Hotel comes a line of boutique hostels spanning four locations across the United States under the moniker Freehand. At the Freehand Miami, recently opened inside a former 1930s art deco building, accommodations feature full-sized guest rooms and suites in addition to quads (sleeping quarters with four twin-size bunks). Bunking with strangers might seem elementary, but with seasoned designers Roman and Williams behind each room, the quads are as chic as they are convivial. Panelled walls vibe with crisp royal blues and high-gloss whites, while bunks are snug with patterned wool blankets and wooden ladders—think summer camp with style.
The Robey Hall
Chicago’s Wicker Park and Bucktown neighbourhoods were hardly in need of yet another coffee shop. But H! Bar’s sleek espresso counter is only the first level of the Robey Hall. Located within a converted, century-old warehouse, the hybrid hotel/hostel boasts a selection of private lofts in addition to eight shared spaces called “social stay” rooms—pocketing four to six beds, all bunks. A cool and contemporary atmosphere is achieved with exposed ceilings, polished concrete floors, and high-walled, blonde-wooden berths anchored by stark pipes with ample headroom, giving the appearance of suspended couches, perfect for lounging around with new mates.
In the world’s oldest metropolis, Generator Rome is the latest from Generator Hostels, a branch of design-forward havens for travellers throughout Europe (and soon, North America). Generator Rome is tucked away from the city’s pulsing streets, housed in the contemporary Esquilino neighbourhood. Characteristics that decades ago might have been every backpacker’s headache are now part of the charm: graffiti-type art embellishes communal spaces, while minimalist guest rooms are well-balanced and smart. Beyond its 12 dormitories, 53 of Generator Rome’s 75 rooms are private and peaceful, touched up with oak floors, white linens, ashy-green wainscot, and en-suite bathrooms.
Backpacking, yes. Roughing it? Not at all.
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