• Germany edition
 
Bunking down in Berlin’s best hostels
A photo from the Wombat hostel's website.

Bunking down in Berlin’s best hostels

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

“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)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

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
Stakes rise in Oracle-SAP copyright fight
Photo: DPA

Stakes rise in Oracle-SAP copyright fight

US appeals court on Friday ruled that Oracle be given a choice between $356.7 million or a new trial for its copyright lawsuit against German rival SAP. READ  

Court rules against child porn suspect Edathy
Former SPD MP Sebastian Edathy photographed at a press conference in February. Photo: DPA

Court rules against child porn suspect Edathy

The Constitutional Court on Friday rejected an attempt by former Social Democratic (SPD) MP Sebastian Edathy to have evidence against him thrown out in his trial for possession of child pornography. READ  

Student busted in case of misdelivered hash
Photo: DPA

Student busted in case of misdelivered hash

A Bavarian student expecting a cannabis delivery was collared by "Commissioner Fluke" after acting surprised in front of policemen when he saw his letter box was empty. READ  

Security fears block Germany-Israel match
German and Israeli fans cheer in the stands during a friendly in Leipzig in 2012. Photo: DPA

Security fears block Germany-Israel match

A friendly soccer match against Israel marking 50 years of diplomatic ties has been called off amid security concerns and the escalation of the Middle East conflict, the German Football Federation (DFB) said on Friday. READ  

Germany's brain drain is Europe's gain
Inside the terminal at the Frankfurt International Airport. Photo: Shutterstock

Germany's brain drain is Europe's gain

Figures from the European Union show that while many German professionals are able to find work abroad with their well-recognised qualifications, Germany doesn't always extend the same courtesy to foreigners. READ  

S-Bahn arson in support of refugees, group claims
Passengers at Berlin's Ostkreuz station yesterday as information screens relay news of the disruption. Photo: DPA

S-Bahn arson in support of refugees, group claims

A radical left-wing group claimed responsibility on Friday for an arson attack that cut power to several S-Bahn lines and caused transport chaos in Berlin, saying it was intended to awaken people to the plight of refugees. READ  

Pilots' strike over, but disruption continues
Passengers in Hannover check departure boards showing cancelled Germanwings flights. Photo: DPA

Pilots' strike over, but disruption continues

UPDATE: Germanwings pilots have ended their six-hour strike which grounded 116 flights and up to 15,000 passengers of Lufthansa subsidiary Germanwings on Friday. READ  

Man narrowly escapes unwelcome drop-in
Emergency services use a crane to lift the fallen crane in Cologne. Photo: DPA

Man narrowly escapes unwelcome drop-in

A Cologne resident was pinned to his bed after a 40-metre construction crane toppled onto his home early on Friday. READ  

'Further sanctions' could hit Russia, says Merkel
Merkel looking grave at Thursday's West Balkan conference in Berlin. Photo: DPA

'Further sanctions' could hit Russia, says Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday that European leaders will discuss the worsening Ukraine crisis and possible further sanctions against Russia at a weekend summit. READ  

UK-Germany rivalries live again in Champs League
Bayern Munich captain Philipp Lahm with fellow World Cup champion Bastian Schweinsteiger. Photo: DPA

UK-Germany rivalries live again in Champs League

The 2014-15 Champions League draw yesterday brought déjà-vu for English and German clubs as old opponents found themselves facing off once again. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: Shutterstock
Gallery
Ten of the oddest things found by German border control
Photo: Gerkan, Marg and Partners/Tegel Projekt GmbH/J. Mayer
Berlin
How will Berlin look in five years' time?
Photo: DPA
Culture
Sprechen Sie Deutsch? 10 reasons why you should
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The best of Berlin's mayor Klaus Wowereit in 14 pictures
Photo: DPA
Politics
Germany sends burgers and sausages to Kurds
Photo: Matthias Kock
National
Tribes, ties and a movie: A German's Afghan life
Photo: DPA
Gallery
10 things to do before summer in Germany is really over
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The mysteries of Berlin's abandoned theme park
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,480
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd