• Germany's news in English
 

Bunking down in Berlin’s best hostels

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.

“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
Satire and reality blur in parody party's strife
Martin Sonneborn. Photo: DPA

Satire and reality blur in parody party's strife

After winning a seat in the European Parliament last year on a commitment to 'milking Brussels,' satirical party Die Partei broke new ground. Now a 'Nazi Putsch' threatens to split the party asunder. READ  

Pelicans with wanderlust escape German zoo
These feathered fugitives took flight from the zoo to get a birds-eye view of the world. Photo: DPA.

Pelicans with wanderlust escape German zoo

A pair of pelicans with a serious case of wanderlust flew the coop from Osnabrück Zoo last week, only to find their way back days later. READ  

Fake plastic surgeon sentenced to 4 years
Christian B. sits in court where he was sentenced to four years and three months in prison for falsely presenting himself as a doctor. Photo: DPA.

Fake plastic surgeon sentenced to 4 years

A man who performed cosmetic surgery on more than 50 different patients using fake medical certificates was sentenced to four years and three months in prison on Monday. READ  

Doctor on trial after woman wakes in morgue
Photo: DPA

Doctor on trial after woman wakes in morgue

A doctor from North Rhine-Westphalia will face charges for negligence and bodily harm, authorities said on Tuesday – after accidentally sending a living woman to the morgue. READ  

'Straw hat' robbers leave flowers as calling card
Photo: DPA

'Straw hat' robbers leave flowers as calling card

Brandenburg police are searching for two men who held up a goldsmiths' shop, leaving a pistol at the scene - as well as a bunch of sunflowers. READ  

Small town family disappears without trace
Photo: Winsen and Harburg police.

Small town family disappears without trace

No one has seen husband and wife Sylvia and Marco Schulze or their daughter, 12-year-old Miriam, since Thursday. Helicopters and search dogs have failed to find any trace of the family, leading local media and police to wonder: Where are the Schulzes? READ  

German army takes over Mali mission
Ursula von der Leyen in Mali on Monday. Photo: DPA

German army takes over Mali mission

Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen visited Mali on Tuesday on the day that the Bundeswehr (German army) takes over control of the EU-training mission in the troubled west African state. READ  

Somalia suicide bomber was German: reports
The blast in Mogadishu killed 15 people. Photo: DPA

Somalia suicide bomber was German: reports

Information from security circles in Mogadishu suggests the suicide bomber who blew up a five-star hotel in the Somali capital on Sunday killing 15 people was a dual-national German from Bonn. READ  

Ex-minister: Merkel's Greece policy is 'fatal'
Former German vice-chancellor and foreign minister Joschka Fischer. Photo: DPA.

Ex-minister: Merkel's Greece policy is 'fatal'

Joschka Fischer, former German vice-chancellor and foreign minister between 1998 and 2005, unleashed an uncompromising attack on Chancellor Angela Merkel over her Greek policy in an article published by newpspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung on Monday. READ  

Two court cases to test criminal links to Isis
Photo: DPA

Two court cases to test criminal links to Isis

Islamic State members in Germany have turned to petty crime and selling stolen artifacts to fund the extremist group's war efforts, reports Der Westen. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Sponsored Article
Outsourcing drives Apreel's Europe growth
Society
Police bust kinky Bavarian couple over painful love-making
Politics
Merkel brings Palestinian girl to tears
National
Could Merkel learn a lesson in love from this doppelganger?
Hamburg
Amateur archaeologist finds Nazi gold hoard
Travel
Why you should stay in Germany for the summer holidays
Sport
German press tell Schweinsteiger 'good riddance'
National
Hamburg gets a bouncing 100kg baby girl
Society
In North Germany, money sometimes DOES grow on trees
National
Hero mechanics stop Bavaria shooting spree
International
Denmark says that border controls are coming
National
Did hackers take control of German missile battery?
Politics
Munich gives gay pride green light
Business & Money
Berlin rent controls hit prices hard
National
Fighting to breastfeed in public without shame
Society
Ice cream for dogs 'gobbled up in one gulp'
Education
Are hotpants a feminist issue?
Rhineland
Lion cub reunited with mother
National
How the heatwave is cracking Germany's Autobahns
International
Why the French are more sympathetic to Greece than the Germans
Sponsored Article
Crans-Montana: International expat hub
Gallery
Police seize pensioner's WW2 heavy weapons haul
National
How to survive the Europe-wide heatwave
Sport
Is Schweini already out of the door at Bayern?
Politics
How German media shaped the Greece crisis
National
Car assembly robot crushes worker at Volkswagen
Rhineland
Weathermen red-faced over heatwave snow warning
Society
An eye for an eye? Mum protects child in playground with pepperspray
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's final day in Germany
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's second day in Germany
National
Queen Elizabeth II's first day in Germany - as it happened
National
Bus passengers tell fake racists where to get off
Politics
What's really in the Queen's handbag?
National
Germans say USA doesn't respect freedom
National
Yes, you CAN buy adult e-books before 10pm in Germany
VIDEO: Watch a 93-metre turbine crash to earth in slow motion
Gallery
Who's got a shot at the German Film Awards
Rhineland
Anger over 'child-free' beer garden
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

7,098
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd