Would you go for money or experiences when booking accommodation for your next Europe trip? Think twice – you can have it all here! Take a glance at some of the most unique, quality and affordable hostels in Europe below. After 7 months of nomading throughout the continent as a solo female, here are my top 7 hostel experiences for low-budget travelers who can now be thrilled to spend approximately 5 to 10 EUR per night in one of these selected places during low season.
Celica Art Hostel (Ljubljana, Slovenia) – No.1 hippest hostel in the world
Located not very far away from the historic centre of Ljubljana, in the city of Metelkova, the ex-prison Hostel Celica was rated by lonely planet as the No.1 hippest hostel in the world. Experience the night behind bars from 20 former prison cells. These are some of the most fantastic artworks in town, designed by 80 local an international artists who renovated the previously abandoned building and transformed it into a social centre for travelers nowadays. Celica is located in the underground hippy city of Metelkova – an alternative culture community with plenty of art gallery, artists studios, LGBT spaces, cultural organizations and clubs featuring different types of alternative music. Celica has a space for art exhibition and some thrilling underground areas, both of which I could entered for free.
Franz Ferdinand (Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina) – Yugoslavia history and art in one place
While strolling around the capital city of Bosnia & Herzegovina that survived the war 50 years ago and is now growing drastically as a top destination in the Balkans area, one must consider spending a night at Franz Ferdinand. This first and only boutique hostel of Sarajevo is known for its interior designed by young architects who transformed the Austro-Hungarian building into story-telling spaces. Nowadays, you can enjoy versatile art concepts through massive artworks on the walls that embed aspiring history of the country during the 1st World War.
Charlie Rockets Hostel (Bruges, Belgium) – bustling bar found in a classic movie theatre
In what used to be the biggest movie theatre in Bruges, Charlie Rockets Hostel is now one of the most trendy cafes and hostels with a very unique interior design that differs itself from other cafes and bars. The walls are wrapped artistically with newspapers, a massive chandelier along with various Christmas decorations are hung from the ceiling in the main lounge. This creates a colourful, yet medieval atmosphere for the hostel. Charlie Rocket has an indoor bar, a pool room with five tables and lively on-going atmosphere.
United Hostel Frankfurt (Germany) – impressive art and lightning
One of the most impressive things about United Hostel Frankfurt is their versatile collection of artworks, all of which were bought by the owner from a French artist, displayed throughout the whole building. Dont be surprised to find an Old English Theatre on the ground floor of United Hostel Frankfurt, just by the corner. Yes you have not read it wrong! This stunning theatre with a dazzling LED lightning system can hold up to over 100 people, hosting a wide range of events such as movie nights, live bands’ performances and discotheques.
Old Town Kotor (Kotor, Montenegro)
The most impressive, eye-catching feature about the Old Town Kotor is its interior design. From the moment you walk in, you will be immediately attracted to the stone walls, vintage looking furniture, antiques and typical classic artworks of Montenegro. Experience spending a night within old walls of Montenegro, enjoy delicious dinner and breakfast served only at 4 EUR in total, and the vibrant atmosphere of both premises ran by Old Town Kotor.
We-Bologna (Bologna, Italy) – a stunning modern hostel and residence
Built based on the concept of bringing guests and students to live together, We-Bologna is one of the newest accommodations in town. Is is run as both a hostel and a dormitory. The student-friendly environment is one of the things I liked the most about We-Bologna. With 250 beds located in a highly modern premise, We-Bologna did not cease to amaze me with its mini cinema room on the ground floor, a contemporary style study room, and the open-air green surroundings.
Urban Garden Hostel (Lisbon, Portugal) – my favourite of all
Among all of these unique experiences, my favourite of all was the night spent at Urban Garden Hostel in Lisbon. After leaving my couchsurfing host due to an unexpected incident, I changed my accommodation to the nearest hostel where I was warmly welcome with a free beer. And every guests can get a free check-in beer, yay for that! They serve free breakfast with pancake (not those typical boring cereals packages and bread with jam), and decent vegetarian dinner offered at only 3 EUR. Keep in mind that though Portugal is the place to be for foodies, it is not easy to find vegetarian dishes around!
Bosnia & Herzegovina together with its capital are still off-road destinations for most of the travelers to Europe. It’s a country of around 3.8 million people while during the last war over 1 million of people had to find their home in other countries and the same number of people were internally displaced. In this post, Emina – a local travel guru will guide you through the country while busting the myths of this undiscovered must-see in the Balkans region.
Is there still war?
If you ask this to some of the locals, if they don’t punch you in the face, probably you are good friends with them. The most common myth existing about this country in the South East of the Old Continent is that there is still an armed conflict going on or that it’s hard or expensive to reach. War ended over 20 years ago and although people were back to their everyday lives, this very event marked the modern history of the country, leaving it in a difficult economic state, corruption in public institutions and high unemployment rate. However, if you meet anyone who has ever been to Bosnia and Herzegovina, they will most likely tell you about the exquisite food, cheerful people ready to share a good laugh at any time and an interesting influences in architecture.
Bosnia and Herzegovina also isn’t 2 countries
Bosnia is an inland part of the country, with often snowy mountains and the region where the capital is located. Predominantly mountain areas and great climate made it an ideal place for 1984 Winter Olympic Games. Herzegovina, on the other hand, is an area more on the south with Mediterranean climate. There, you might come across palm trees, lemons and take a dip in the sea. It’s not unusual for barometer to hit +40 in summer months. However, people use only “Bosnia” because it’s shorter and therefore more convenient. Most of the tourists are left wondering how different places of worship such as churches, mosques and synagogues and people praying in them, were living side by side for centuries, sharing the same culture and language.
Getting around by bus
If you got used to having extremely cheap bus or train tickets in the rest of Europe, in Bosnia it’s not exactly that way, at least according to the local standard. Ticket fees are fixed but luckily for most of the bus lines, you can check and buy tickets online and they are more convenient to travel by than trains. Centrotrans is supposed to bring you to pretty much any destination within the country. If you decide to travel to neighbouring Croatia, Serbia or Montenegro, there are also options available. To Montenegro you can, so far, travel only by bus whereas to Serbia and Croatia you can choose among bus, train, taxi van or plane from Sarajevo International Airport. From the same airport you can fly also to Slovenia, Germany, Austria, Turkey, Sweden, Norway, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, and seasonally to some other destinations.
The historical significance and beauty of Mostar
Have you ever seen a picture of that tall stone bridge over an emerald green river that left you breathless? It was probably one in Mostar, a city 2 hours away from capital where you can find cheerful people, great food and wines and a lot of sun. The Old Bridge (originally called Stari Most) is under UNESCO protection and it definitely is in top 3 things to see in South Eastern Europe. Although it resisted to many external factors since it was built in 16th century, this bridge was entirely destroyed in war in 1993. It was re-built and solemnly opened in 2004.
Not so far away from Mostar, on the way to Neum, a coastal city, you should visit Blagaj. Apart from its old town, located on the high cliff, the most important landmark is so-called “tekija” which is essentially a Dervish house/monastery. If you go to house’s balcony, you’ll be able to see the well of Buna river hidden in the deep and dark but beautiful cave. Do enter the house itself and visit its rooms and hallways. They will bring you back to some other era and wake up some mystical feelings in you.
Food culture in Sarajevo
Just about anyone in this country will tell you they like food and good drinks. As someone who really likes to eat, I have to say Sarajevo is one of those cities with strong food culture. You’ll notice there are no popular fast-food or beverage chains here, such as Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks. Surprisingly, I’d say this city doesn’t really need them. You can find a wide array of homemade food in the very center of the city, ranging from meaty dishes to iconic cheese/spinach pastries and delicious vegetable soups.
If you’re a passionate meat-eater, you’ll appreciate a visit to Željo – a traditional fast-food restaurant where you can find ćevapi, probably the most famous food in this country. In case you like vegetarian food, unfortunately, choices are a bit more limited but I’ve heard it’s getting a bit better. Place I would recommend are Klopa and Superfood. They both have a diverse menu, Klopa is a non-smoking restaurant (many aren’t) and they’re both very affordable. Ćevapi (photo above) is probably the most popular dish from Bosnia & Herzegovina. They’re essentially grilled minced meat rolls stuffed in pita bread and served with milk cream (also known as kajmak). If you’re not vegetarian, enjoy this every single day.
You’ll want to grab a nice coffee and dessert too. There are some places you have to visit! Although you’ll have to go a bit out of the city center, Mrvica cafe bakery will make you literally drool when you see their desserts. And, a place where you MUST go for a coffee or a tea is called Zlatna Ribica. I promise you, you still haven’t seen a place like that. Why? You will have to go and see.
Other must-see but less touristy places
Going up from the capital area, following the flow of Bosna river (no, it’s not misspelled) you’ll come across many interesting places. Definitely one of them is Travnik. This is a mid-sized city (according to Bosnian standards) and its center point is the Old Town located on the hills. Besides offering a medieval feel and a taste of some old times, it will also give you an excellent view of the whole city.
Continuing on the same road, you will arrive to Jajce. This city has one of the world’s biggest waterfalls in its city center. Even more interestingly one river makes a waterfall but water falls into the other river, flowing just beneath and continues further as that river. Quite unique, right?
Bihać, a city you also probably heard of if you’ve ever shown interest in traveling to this country, has one of world’s cleanest rivers Una. You can have a lunch or coffee break somewhere on the river bank and enjoy the nature to the fullest in this small city, just next to the border with Croatia.
Pro-tips from a local expert
I will tell you something that rarely any tourist site will. Reserve 2 extra days in Bosnia and visit Prokoško lake. It’s a lake in central Bosnia, located on the Vranica mountain. Not only will it be unbelievable for you that this place actually exists but you’ll also enjoy peace, fresh air and homemade food. Your experience will be unbeatable once you spend a night in an old Bosnian house, or in a tent under a starry sky- as you wish.
The source of inspiration
The whole Bosnia and Herzegovina is definitely worth visiting, especially in the summer when everything is more lively and you can even take a day-long hike to some of the thousand hills. Once you come and visit, you will understand why so many poets, musicians and artists in general, found an inexhaustible source of inspiration. Although torn apart, wounded and destroyed for so many times in the past, this country still has a seductive charm of a grown man and heart and energy of a girl. And once you visit, you’ll always be coming back.
This month is the most exciting time to plan your annual travel bucket list again. While most nomads are keen to backpack in Asia or go on a get-away trip in South America, I would stay in Germany for many reasons. After years of traveling in Europe and many months spent in Germany, I can say this country never get me bored with its rich history, diverse culture, splendid landscapes and fun people to hang out with. Thus I have created this concrete list of the top 10 things for all sorts of travellers must try here.
10. Adore the most visited cathedral in Germany
Cologne Cathedral, also known as the Kölner Dom, is probably the most famous and oldest building of Cologne. There are about 6 million visits to the Dom annually, making it the most visited cathedral in Germany. Cologne is also popular for its annual carnival taking place every February.
9. Walk through the Red Light District in Frankfurt
Known for its versatile cultures and lifestyles, Frankfurt is undoubtedly one of the most interesting city in Germany I ever visited. Right at the Station Quarter near the main station, there are many legal brothels, strip bars, sex shops, adult clubs, and pornographic cinemas. You will be surprised to find here not only prostitutes and drug dealers but bankers, students and rich people in the same neighbourhood. Photos are usually not allowed in this area.
8. Go on a shopping spree at the longest pedestrian street of Europe
The small city Heidelberg is not only famous for its gorgeous castle but also its longest shopping street in Europe. This traffic-free street offers an excellent location for the real pleasure of shopping at countless boutiques, speciality shops and chilling at various coffee shops and restaurants.
7. Party in Berlin
Berlin is one the most well-known cities in Germany for its intense and alternative clubbing culture. The city never seems to sleep. You can find here all sorts of places for a great night out: from the most erotic clubs like the Kitkat, gay bar like the Schwuz to indie places like the Comet Club. Berlin is also famous for the Brandenburg Gate, the Berlin Wall and the Checkpoint Charlie – a symbol of the Cold War dividing the East Berlin and West Berlin in the past.
6. Take a boat tour in Hamburg
If you love port cities and waterways, come to this town of the so-called Hamburgers! With its harbour being the heart of the city, Hamburg offers great views on Binnenalster and Speicherstadt, especially on sunny days as you can view the old small houses lying along the rivers. Remember to take a boat tour here to adore the sunset view, watching the small boats as they pass by.
5. Drink beer
As one of the best specialties in Germany is beer, dont miss out the weekly beer tasting night at your hostel. Check out Five Elements Hostel in Frankfurt – they usually organize beer tasting night, pasta night, pub-crawls, free walking tours and other events for guests. After few beers, you will be ready to explore the German nightlife and fall in love with it!
4. Try the second best kebap in Europe
The Turkish have originally brought their kebap to the multicultural Germany and created another version to suits the German taste. Hence nowadays you can find one of the best kebaps in Europe in Berlin. This is an awesome snack for after-parties, along with fries.
3. Experience Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest is so famous that every year this world’s largest beer festival draws over 6 million people around the world to come together to Munich. During these 16 days of celebration people put on their best Bavarian outfits, drink beer by litre since noon, eat traditional Bavarian food and listen to live bands performing at various tents while singing and dancing all day.
2. Go to a Christmas Market
The famous Christmas market is a worldwide tradition and a great excitement for both children and adults throughout Germany. The magic of German Christmas Markets attracts such a huge number of visitors that every December millions of travelers come to Germany to taste a cup of Gluhwein, enjoy Germany’s traditional food and experience the Christmas atmosphere that you can find nowhere else.
1. Visit a castle in the real-life fairy tale
Germany and especially Bavaria region is well-known for castles which are like in your dream fairy-tales. Some of the most famous ones is the Neuschwanstein Castle built by King Ludwig II in Schwangau and the Heidelberg Castle in Heidelberg city close to Frankfurt (about 1 hour by bus).
After 4 years of experiencing all the ups & downs of student life whilst traveling on and off around Europe, I was questioned by many friends about how I afforded time and money to travel every now and then. Thus I decided to write this post, realizing I was blessed to have such an amazing opportunity to travel to 17 European countries without spending so much.
My journey started when I decided to move from Vietnam to Finland to pursue business bachelor at the age of 18. Coming from a middle-class family, I had to save, work part-time and do my university study at the same time, especially in one of the most expensive countries in Scandinavia. Nevertheless, I took advantage of my 4-year Schengen visa and traveled as much as I could.
On 2011 I moved to Rovaniemi – the hometown of Santa Clause village located in the north of Finland, where snow, reindeer, and as low temperature as -20 degree is no surprise. Studying abroad while living far from home for the first time in a totally different culture was a huge shock and challenge for a young girl coming from a small country.
After few months, a classmate invited me to Italy together to explore the country, where spent 11 days somewhat one-third of the savings I brought to Finland for half a year of living. Though the cost was high, I enjoyed Italy so much and knew I had to travel more. Later on, I luckily figured out how to travel cheap so I can see more of Europe without cutting on my other expenses.
In 2013, I used some of the savings from my summer job to visit Estonia (Tallinn), Lithuania (Vilnius), Latvia (Riga) and Poland (Warsaw, Krakow). This trip was designed by a friend of mine who is a well-experienced traveler, thus we saved a lot by traveling by cruise, Eurolines Bus, and Baltic Airlines. We stayed overnight on boat, buses and at our friends in Warsaw to save the accommodation expense.
Fascinated by the gorgeous classic European architecture of Poland and how sweet Polish people are, I decided to go back there in summer 2014 for an internship with AIESEC – the world’s largest student organization. Working as a freelance blogger in Szczecin for SzczecinAloud enabled me to stay in a residence, eat in restaurants, and attend festivals for free. Here I’d travel to different parts of Poland and Germany (Berlin) with Polish train, buses, and airlines which offer 1-euro ticket sometimes.
The last autumn 2014, I decided to take another huge step of my student life and take the 6-month Erasmus Program in the Netherlands (Groningen), which changed my life completely and opened up my world with so many new connections with people from all over the world. Here I got supported with my home university’s Erasmus grant and worked also as a freelance blogger for GroningenLife, which helped me cover part of the expenses.
Like in Poland, it’s easy to travel within different cities of the Netherlands (Amsterdam, the Hague, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Eindhoven, etc) with the 7-euro day ticket for a group of 10 people with NS train, which allow you to go to any part of the Netherlands within 24 hours. Here I started using Couch-surfing and Blablacar a lot to save, which I also did in Belgium (Brussels and Antwerp).
After 6 months in the Netherlands, I met amazing people from all over the world especially Germany, Spain, and France. This was why I decided to take another big challenge and designed a root to 6 different cities in 5 countries (Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Czech Republic) in 2 weeks. In these places, I’d stay with friends, at hostels and move around with Ryanair, Norwegian, BlaBlacar and take free walking tours.
Through my journey, I’d worked as a volunteer, promoter, and freelancers on and off. I slowly developed different personal travel blogs, leading me to the marketing & freelance writing field which I never knew I’s enjoy this much. Since January 2015, I started working online for LittleLives – an education technology company based in Singapore. This work allowed me to travel after graduation to Greece, where I again couch-surfed in Crete & Athens.
The journey so far has been incredible, and I am looking forward to being seeing the rest of Europe before heading back to sweet home Asia!