• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Bunking down in Berlin’s best hostels

Shannon Smith · 22 Apr 2009, 16:24

Published: 22 Apr 2009 16:24 GMT+02:00

Four years ago architect Pierre Ammon and geographer Jörg Schöpfel said goodbye to their day jobs and teamed up to realise a long-time dream: opening their own hostel.

Within months, the two had founded EastSeven, situated just north of Berlin’s über-hip Mitte district. Despite what appeared to be a saturated budget travel market at the time, their project quickly became one of many modern hostels sprouting up in the centre of the German capital.

"Berlin is booming,” says Ammon. “The secret is you can survive here quite cheaply.”

But EastSeven and its contemporaries are certainly not your father’s Jugendherberge – even if Germany was the birthplace for the youth hostel movement back in 1909.

After the teacher Richard Schirrmann first came up with the idea of offering a safe and affordable place for young travellers to stay in the town of Altena in North Rhine-Westphalia, the dorm-style youth hostel concept spread like wildfire around the globe.

Of course, many modern hostels in Berlin and elsewhere in Germany have long since ditched rickety bunk beds to morph into slick budget hotels often catering to Europe’s EasyJet set rather than your typical backpacker crowd.

And with 62 hostels competing for customers in Berlin alone, it’s perhaps no surprise that four of Germany’s top-five rated hostels on booking website Hostelworld.com call the capital home – and three of them are even located within a few blocks of one another in Mitte.

"Berlin is the most visited city in Germany with 17.7 million [stays] last year,” says Lars Beineke of Wombat’s City Hostel Berlin, which came in fourth for Best German Hostel at this year’s Hostelworld.com’s HOSCARS (HOStelworld Customer Annual Ratings).

“I think this is the reason why the top five [hostels] are all in Berlin. The more votes you get the better rating you'll have – if you do a good job, of course.”

The Wombat’s chain, including two other locations in Munich and Vienna, won the HOSCAR for Best Hostel Chain of 2008. Beineke cites the rise of low-cost airlines as one explanation for the recent explosion in budget tourism.

But with hundreds of hostels and budget hotels on offer, Berlin leads Europe in this kind of tourism, according to Christian Tänzler of Berlin Tourismus Marketing GmbH, which runs the city’s official tourism website VisitBerlin.de.

“Factors already fuelling the industry in Europe such as cheap flights and communication technology pair well with Berlin’s general affordability,” Tänzler said.

Hostel managers themselves attest to a sort of demographic shift in the budget travellers filtering through their locales.

Roughly one third of Berlin’s tourists are under the age of 30, according to Tänzler. Boasting unique music, art and clubbing scenes, the capital city draws a decidedly young and distinct brand of budget traveller. Tänzler says this combined with the city’s unmatched cost-benefit ratio in Europe gives it a pronounced advantage.

But Tänzler says the number of youthful visitors to the city also contributes to its long-term tourism sustainability, since the target market grows with the times.

“People who may have backpacked through the city as young adults are that much more likely to return, sometimes with families, sometimes a decade later,” he explains.

And that’s where the modern hostel concept shines with plenty of private rooms and stylish design all at an affordable price.

Schöpfel and Ammon apparently have given customers a lot of what they liked at EastSeven: Hostelworld.com users have repeatedly voted EastSeven among the top contenders in the world for Friendliness, Cleanliness and Location – not to mention Best Hostel in Germany for 2008.

Story continues below…

“My mother shouted at me: 'I don't believe it. Cleanest hostel? No way!'” recalls Schöpfel.

Those responsible for Germany’s top-ranked hostels, however, still insist that one should never underestimate the importance of good, old-fashioned hospitality.

"We try to win our customers at the reception," says Jim Hadfield of the nearby Circus Hostel, which won second place for Best Hostel in Germany at the 2008 HOSCARS.

"We have very good staff that really enjoy their job," he continued. "People who work here get praised often. 99% of the time customers are having a good time, and that gets back to the staff."

Meanwhile, EastSeven owners Ammon and Schöpfel continue to host Monday evening barbeques, twice-daily cleanings and personal meet-and-greets with guests.

Would Richard Schirrmann still consider such a place a hostel? A century later there’s no way to know, but the mastermind behind the Jugendherberge would certainly have no quibble with quality accommodation easy on the wallet.

Shannon Smith (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

06:55 January 2, 2010 by wtfrantz
My wife and I stayed at East-Seven Hostel this past Fall for a week. It was a terrific experience. Nick, at reception, was so welcoming, friendly and very helpful with suggestions that ranged from things to do in Berlin to must-see areas in the Czech Republic. We had no difficulty understanding why East-Seven is rated the best hostel in Berlin!
Today's headlines
Is German diplomacy getting too chummy with Russia?
Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Photo: DPA/AFP Pool.

Critics have been questioning the German Foreign Minister's recent series of comments about working closer with Russia, with some labelling the diplomat a "Russia-sympathizer".

Police investigate after mosque door is bricked shut
The bricked-up door. Photo: Facebook/Netzwerk für Flüchtlinge in Parchim.

Unknown people have bricked up the entrance to a mosque in northeastern Germany and stuck racist flyers to their masonry work.

Vice-Chancellor: TTIP trade deal is dead
Photo: DPA

Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said Sunday that negotiations on a massive trade deal between the European Union and the United States were effectively dead in the water.

Law to force mums to give up identity of child's real father
Photo: DPA

Germany has drafted a law requiring mothers to inform their partners if their children were fathered by another man, Justice Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday.

Gallery
Germans race bulls too, but with a difference
Photo: DPA

The most important sporting events only happen every four years: the World Cup, the Olympics, and of course the Münsing ox race.

Attempted murder charge for Isis teen who stabbed cop
A police officer stands on a train platform at Hannover main station. Photo: DPA

German federal prosecutors said Monday they had brought charges against a 16-year-old girl who allegedly stabbed a policeman in February in an operation for Isis.

Nearly 9,000 refugee children reported missing: report
Refugee children in Hamburg. Photo: DPA.

German media reported on Monday that the number of refugee children reported as missing has doubled to reach nearly 9,000.

EU nations must not refuse Muslim migrants: Merkel
Photo: DPA

The refusal of some EU countries to accept Muslim refugees is "unacceptable", Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday as Germany called for quotas to divide the influx throughout the bloc.

Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
File photo: DPA

When a man swimming naked in a Bavarian lake felt a strange pain in his nether regions, he looked up to see a fisherman on the shore. "Don’t pull!" he shouted.

Study finds rival Rhineland beers 'actually taste the same'
Left: Altbier. Right: Kölsch. Or can you even tell? Photos: DPA.

Cologne and Düsseldorf have a long established rivalry, not least over who has the better home brew. So the results of a new study might be more than they can swallow.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
Lifestyle
What's on in Germany: events for August 2016
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
7,431
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd