United Kingdom: Clink78
If your European bucket list includes sleeping in an old historic prison, or checking your email in the actual courtroom where The Clash stood trial in 1978 for allegedly shooting some expensive racing pigeons, then London’s Clink! 78 is calling. In the delightfully sketchy Kings Cross neighborhood, this cheeky spot is done up with street-style art and Japanese-style “pod” beds. But the big kicker is the basement bar-slash-music venue ClashBAR, where DJs spin on weekends and live acts perform via the hostel’s “Stay & Play” program that puts the band up for free. Which helps make this notorious party hostel the perfect place to, ahem, rock the casbah.
Runner Up: YHA South Downs, Lewes
Germany: Circus Hotel
Ever stayed in a place with its very own David Hasselhoff museum? Enter Berlin’s Circus Hotel, which comes complete with its own basement microbrewery, rooftop concerts, and the aforementioned Hasselhoff museum showcasing an appropriately chest-hairy mural of The Hoff himself. They also offer a ridiculous number of activities if you’re clueless about Berlin, like historical tours and group outings to flea markets and craft booze tastings. Try hooking that up at The Marriott.
Runner Up: DJH Youth Hostel, Nuremburg
France: Generator Paris
Paris is historically lacking in decent hostels, so swank new spot Generator near Gare du Nord is a warmly welcomed addition. The Generator chain is well reputed for offering some of the finest accommodations in Europe and this locale does not disappoint, from the Metro-inspired bar/club in the basement all the way up to the 9th floor rooftop bar’s panoramic views. The Parisian art house vibe sets the mood for later when you step out into the oh-so-hip Canal St. Martin neighborhood.
Runner Up: Les Piaules Paris, Downtown Paris
A night spent at a grand majority of hostels will leave you hungover and chalk-full of toxins. This one seeks to do the opposite. With a Finnish sauna, herbal steam bath, and fancy hydro-massage showers, it claims to be the world’s first “wellness hostel.” You can swim laps in the indoor pool, hang in the fancy lounge, or walk a few minutes to the cable car station for a scenic ride over one of Europe’s most stunning mountain valleys. Although you’ll probably just spend most of your time staring at the mountains from your balcony. Which is quite alright too.
Runner Up: Balmer’s Hostel, Interlaken
Spain: La Banda Rooftop Hostel
This boutique hostel has a 40-head capacity with just seven rooms for a vibe that’s social and intimate while remaining low-key. A large family-style dinner served on communal wood tables up in the rooftop garden gives you a chance to meet like-minded wanderers and take in the view of the famed Seville Cathedral. They also have live bands, colorful rooms with handmade wood beds, and organized nights out with the ridiculously friendly staff. In other words, everything that you need and nothing that you don’t.
Runner Up: Oasis Backpackers Hostel, Grenada
Portugal: Gallery Hostel Porto
Can a hostel also be an art gallery? In the case of Porto’s immaculate and soulful Gallery Hostel, the answer is an emphatic “si.” In addition to the art gallery’s bi-monthly rotating exhibits, you can take advantage of their free walking tours and homemade dinners, which are served up in a beautifully redesigned traditional Oporto house with modernist décor and a sunny terrace decked out with solar panels. Watch an art flick in the hostel’s cinema, zone out in the garden, or stroll the shops and restaurants along Porto’s trendy Miguel Bombarda Street.
Runner Up: Home Hostel, Lisbon
Italy: The Yellow Hostel
It may not be the most beautiful place to stay in such a beautiful city, but The Yellow Hostel more than makes up for it in action. With an al fresco bar out front and raucous club in the basement, this “party hostel” offers everything from local live bands and beer pong to rooftop yoga and Italian cooking classes. There’s also karaoke, burlesque, and fire dancers, not to mention group outings around town and plenty of late-night tomfoolery in the hostel’s Arcade Bar. There’s even tattoos by request, an escape room in the works and, if that doesn’t get the point across, they have their proud Instagram hashtag #yellowasted.
Runner Up: PLUS Hostel, Florence
Netherlands: Lucky Lake Hostel
Amsterdam is a notoriously sketchy place for hostels. While there are a few decent options in town, it’s hard to beat the charming Lucky Lake Hostel about 30 minutes south on the shores of a, surprise surprise, lake. You can stay in colorfully painted caravan campers, private cabins, or dorm rooms (although everyone knows the camper is the way to go.) Grab breakfast in the Christopher McCandless-style “breakfast bus," head out on the lake from some kayaking, then take a nap in a hammock. It’s a solid way to decompress from what were most likely a manic few days in Amsterdam proper.
Runner Up: ClinkNOORD, Amsterdam
Hungary: Lavender Circus
Budapest is so well known for its raucous hostel scene that finding one without the phrase “party hostel” in its name is a challenge. And while those establishments are not without their charms, you’d be hard-pressed to find one more delightfully bizarre than the steampunk-meets-Alice-In-Wonderland-styled Lavender Circus. These big clean rooms are decorated with artsy hand drawings in a historic building right in the center of town. If you’re feeling social, the amiable staff throws dinner parties with home-cooked Hungarian food, but if you’re just looking to rage till 7 am you best do so elsewhere.
Runner Up: Retox Party Hostel, Budapest
Croatia: Swanky Mint
One of the coolest places to stay in one of the coolest cities in one of the coolest countries in Europe, it’s hard to find anyone who has a cross word to say about this lively spot located in a late 19th-century converted dry cleaning and textile factory along Zagreb’s main drag. You’ll be treated to a traditional rakija welcome drink and a breakfast-in-bed of Croatian specialties. The set-up ain’t bad either -- exposed brick, industrial furnishings, an always-happening terrace and bar area, an outdoor pool, and DJs spinning party tunes. You gotta try real hard not to make friends here.
Runner Up: Hostel Villa Skansi, Hvar
Greece: Caveland Hostel
While party animals have been making the rounds to Corfu’s notorious Pink Palace for decades now, Santorini’s Caveland Hostel is probably more what you had in mind when you pictured a relaxing Greek Islands vacation. Built on an 18th-century winery surrounded by gardens of flowers and fresh lemon trees, the rooms are comfy caves (hence the name) with homespun décor, in addition to apartment-style rooms and female-only accommodations. There’s group yoga and BBQ dinners and, oh yeah, the largest pool on the island. Not bad, not bad at all.
Runner Up: The Pink Palace, Corfu
Turkey: Traveller’s Cave Hotel
More caves! Turkey’s hostel game is surprisingly on point, and this one is etched into a cliff above Turkey’s scenic Goreme valley. The cave rooms are complete with jacuzzis and Turkish baths, plus garden terraces with 'grammable views across Cappadocia’s otherworldly Wild West-style volcanic landscape. But with hot air balloon rides, valley hiking tours, Jeep safaris, and horseback rides all at your fingertips, don’t hole up in your cave all day, man.
Runner Up: Kadir’s Tree House, Olympos