Youth hostel in London?
July 9, 2009 6:39 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to London for a week in August. Can you recommend a good hostel for a young traveler type who wants to meet other travelers and have a good time?

Just wondering if anyone had a sweet hostel in London for a young traveler that they could recommend unequivocally.

My only hostel experience before was staying at the Green Tortoise in San Francisco, and it was pretty ideal: cheap rooms, a common dining/party area where you could bring beer or liquor in and hang out, talk to other people staying there, even smoke pot as long as you were somewhat discreet. The hostel organized pub crawls down the street on Wednesdays, and even had internet connected computers for everyone to use. I thought it was an ideal place to stay, and I'm looking for something like this in London.

It seems there are a lot of hostels in London, but looking through listings it's hard to tell what kind of a place a certain hostel is, whether it's a straight-laced hotelish type place, or if it's more of a traveler's hostel, and some reviews of places I've seen have depicted certain places as crapholes.

I'm looking to just rent a bed in a dorm room, I've never done that before and want to see what it's like. I was curious, what can I do with my backpack (that'll be my only luggage) if I want to say, go to a pub or something. Any chance a hostel would have lockers or something? Or should I get one at say, a train station? Is there really a secure way to store my backpack for a few hours or maybe a day at the most at a time? I mean, when I'm out seeing the sights and taking pictures and whatnot, I won't mind carrying the backpack, but sometimes I'll want to just leave it behind somewhere. Previously, I'd just leave it in the room I'm staying in, but if I'm just staying on a bed in a communal room, what should I do with it?

Does anyone know of a specific hostel in London that sounds like what I described above, or is just generally a fun place for a 23 year old guy in London by himself for a week? Thanks!
posted by malapropist to Travel & Transportation around London, England (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This was over 10 years ago, but when I was a fresh out of college youth, I had a great time staying at the Victoria Hostel. Met lots of people my age, and even met some folks to travel around the UK with.

I think all the rooms are shared. Not luxurious or private by any means, but super cheap and good location.
posted by delladlux at 6:54 PM on July 9, 2009

The last time I was in London (2004) I stayed at Picadilly Backpackers Hostel for a week. We rented four beds in an 8-bed room, and got to meet some pretty interesting people for the night or two that they were there. I don't remember what kind of internet access they had, but I do remember a big common area that always had at least a handful of people in it watching tv or whatever. The breakfast was a good time to interact with tons of people too. All in all it seemed like a big, busy, travelers' hostel.

The time before that (2002) I stayed at Bayswater International Youth Hostel for five days. I was in a room with a group of folks who all appeared to have been living there for at least a month; they were all pretty interesting too. Bayswater is a lot quieter than Piccadilly Circus obviously, and this hostel was a little more barebones and casual but still accommodating. Internet access was, as I remember, coin- or token-operated.

hope this helps out a bit!
posted by xbonesgt at 7:04 PM on July 9, 2009

I've heard excellent things about YHA London Central. It's reviewed pretty thoroughly in this New York Times piece too. I'm supposed to stay there soon with friends from around the UK who are coming down for a few days, so I have no first-hand experience of it just yet.
posted by jaffacakerhubarb at 7:11 PM on July 9, 2009

it's hard to tell what kind of a place a certain hostel is, whether it's a straight-laced hotelish type place, or if it's more of a traveler's hostel

Places like Generator and St. Christopher's advertise themselves as 'party hostels', which is a fairly big clue to the atmosphere. Don't expect an undisturbed night's sleep. Others, like Piccadilly Backpackers, which xbonesgt mentions, are a slight step down from the extremes of the hardcore party venues. I slept there a year ago and, apart from being propositioned by the guy in the bunk above me, managed a decent night's kip.

some reviews of places I've seen have depicted certain places as crapholes.

That's because they generally are. Combining cheap, crowded rooms (in one of the most expensive cities on earth) with large numbers of young people looking to party is not a recipe for high standards of comfort and hygiene. You're going to be roughing it a bit, which is part of the point.

what can I do with my backpack (that'll be my only luggage) if I want to say, go to a pub or something. Any chance a hostel would have lockers or something? Or should I get one at say, a train station?

The hostels have lockers in the rooms and generally you supply your own padlock. They also have left-luggage facilities for the day you check-out. Train and bus stations generally lack left luggage facilities for security reasons, but there are still a few - I believe Victoria Coach station still has one.

smoke pot as long as you were somewhat discreet

Your choice, but why not save that for Amsterdam? There are enough adventures to be had without crossing the line into illegality in a foreign land.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 7:17 PM on July 9, 2009

The Generator. It's in a nice location (in a former police station) that is convenient to transportation and walkable to a couple notable spots. I had a friend that lived near Covent Garden and I walked over to visit. Plus the Picadilly Line over at Russell Square links to most trains you'd want and to Heathrow, if you're coming in that way (I was).

They have their own lounge, bar, and restaurant inside and encourage interaction through a series of events every week. There's usually something going on every night to bring groups together (karaoke night, movie night, food and drink specials) and other stuff planned throughout the week.

It attracts a really diverse group of people, as you might guess. I met a girl from Africa who was actually living there during her school term, some Aussies, Germans, some other Americans, and others.

As far as luggage goes, I stayed in a 16-person (!) mixed-gender dorm and we each got our own personal locker in the room, as well as access to a safety strongbox down on the first floor for valuables like my passport. The lockers were a nice size too. I brought one of those little rolling suitcases in a carryon size as well as a messenger bag and both fit easily with room to spare.
posted by cmgonzalez at 7:17 PM on July 9, 2009

In contrast to what Busy Old Fool said, I found my stay at the Generator came with quiet nights and undisturbed sleep, even with 15 other people in there (and I'm a fairly light sleeper), and no trouble at all. It was quite pleasant and I'd stay there again in a second.
posted by cmgonzalez at 7:20 PM on July 9, 2009

if you're interested in meeting people and hanging out with the local yokels, why not couchsurf? it's free and you can look at everyone's profile to see if they're mad party animals. some of my favorite travel times have been couchsurfing.

a lot of folks host couchsurfers with their whole houses or do completely open doors, like whoever asks can come on over - i.e. my boyfriend and his five roommates used to host in birmingham routinely, we stayed with a gentleman in krakow with (15) other couchsurfers!

however, i lived with friends while i was in london, but i've heard the same things about the generator as above.
posted by chickadee at 7:47 PM on July 9, 2009

I've also had a decent night in the Generator (and will probably stay there again next month due to its proximity to KX and my ability to sleep through anything), but I've heard enough similar stories both in person and online (1, 2, 3, 4) to be confident that my experience and that of cmgonzalez is not universal.

Anyway, the point is that malapropist's stated priorities are 'to meet other travelers and have a good time' so my description of Generator was meant as a hearty recommendation!
posted by Busy Old Fool at 7:57 PM on July 9, 2009

I stayed at the Ace Hostel in Kensington when I was in London 3 years ago. It was clean, quiet and close to a tube stop. There are some shops nearby; I bought groceries and ate at the hostel, rather than eating out. People hung around in the TV room at night, but there wasn't a noisy party scene.
posted by lemonwheel at 9:53 PM on July 9, 2009

I stayed at the St. Christopher's in Camden and found the location was reasonable (wasn't too far from everything, and we walked just about everywhere) and it was a nice place. Bar/restaurant downstairs, free breakfast, and pretty inexpensive. They've got a lot of locations, I'd recommend looking into them.
posted by nonmerci at 12:01 PM on July 10, 2009

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