Friday, December 02, 2005

Guide: Hostels in Berlin

As part of our slowly increasing guide to the city, I decided today to focus on those bastions of smelly socks and snorers, the Berlin hostels. I would love to write about the city's five star hotels, but unless they're going to invite me I'll have to stick to what I know.

For what it's worth, here are my favourite hostels in Berlin - great for cheap sleeps if you are coming to visit us here, or for locals somewhere to stick your buddys when they come to stay...

The Circus Hostels
(Weinbergsweg 1a - U8 Rosenthaler Platz, and also at Rosa-Luxemburg-Strasse 39-41 - U2 Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz)

The Circus Hostels, both in the north of Mitte close to the border with Prenzlauer Berg are pretty well known in the European backpacking scene for being of a super high standard, clean, and with immensely knowledgeable staff. The newer version at Weinbergsweg is a bit more lively, with a street cafe and a bar in the basement. Rosa-Luxemburg-Strasse is quieter, more cosy, with a small kitchen and an intimate atmosphere.

Oh, and a good tip for visiting parents: The Circus Weinbergsweg has attic apartments with kitchens and en suite bathrooms that would please the most picky of elder relatives.

The Circus Website

The Heart of Gold Hostel
(Johannisstrasse 11 - S-Bahn Oranienburger Strasse, close to Friedrichstrasse also)

The Heart of Gold is named after a space ship in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, and runs on the reassuring motto of 'Don't Panic'. It looks like no other hostel I have even seen, with a futuristic reception and bar area with a pool table and occasional live music in the evenings. Like at the Circus the rooms are spacious for backpackers dorms - unlike most hostels in Europe, the Berlin ones seem a bit more concerned with their guests comfort as opposed to cramming as many bunk beds into a room as possible.

Oh, and they also have private rooms for those that have grown out of sleeping with strangers - or perhaps need more privacy to do just that.

Heart of Gold Website

The Helter Skelter Hostel
(Kalkscheunenstrasse 4-5 - S-Bahn Oranienburger Strasse or U6 Oranienburger Tor)

Around the corner from the Heart of Gold is the Helter Skelter, located in the Kalkscheune, a popular venue for gigs and club nights. This can mean the courtyard gets a little noisy, but if you are more of an old-school backpacker then this is the place for you. Indeed, the motto of the Helter Skelter is 'Back to the Roots' and prides itself on being a 'real hostel'...there might be no bar but there are cheap beers from the fridge, a kitchen to cook dinner and a pool table to challenge strangers to a game.

Although the two hostel above have more style, as well as more facilities, in a sense, the Helter Skelter has more soul.

Helter Skelter Website

The Generator
(Storkower Strasse 160 - S-Bahn Landsberger Allee)

If you ever wanted to stay in a genuine DDR Plattenbau you can fulfil your ostalgic desires at the Generator. It is a bit further out of town that then others, but it's close to transport, and perhaps because of it's location and it's size (huge by the way) it has an impressive array of facilities. There's a bar, a place to get dinner, lounges, an internet room, washing facilities as well as the chance to buy tickets for events and a free walking tour that leaves from the reception.

Word of warning: you have to be OK with neon blue lights. Apparently that's the Generator 'thing'. A bit too impersonal for my tastes but the bar can get lively as long as the hostel is not full of school classes (which is unfortunately quiet frequent). It's size makes it a good fall-back solution.

Generator Website

Other Hostels we like...

I've been around quite a few hostels in Berlin, and there are plenty of good ones out there...for some reason the standard in the city seems a lot higher than in other European cities. Some other fine places that I have seen include the Odyssee, within spitting distance of the Karl Marx Allee in hip Friedrichshain. It is attached to a bar that it fast becoming known as a great venue to catch local live bands.

The EastSeven is in Prenzlauer Berg is new, small, and has a great intimate atmosphere that the bigger hostels will never be able to achieve. Although I have never been there, I have also heard good things about the small Lette'm Sleep, also in Prenzlauer Berg.

You can also get an overview of independent hostels in Berlin and Germany on the website of the German Backpacker Network, or hostels in Europe in general at GOMIO.COM.

(Note: I will probably add more reviews to this page as time goes by. At the moment I decided not to write about the bad hostels in Berlin, and there are a few...but that might change on a day when I am not in such a good mood ;-)

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