Synonymous with backpacking through Europe is hunkering down in dirt-cheap hostels. Their dorm setting, the events planned by hostel staff members and a never-ending stream of new faces make a few days there feel like your first month of college, only without dull lectures and weepy phone calls from Mom. In other words, hostels can be insanely fun.
Still, many people have terrible misconceptions of hostels, thanks to even more terrible B-horror movies and horror stories by friends who made ill-informed decisions when they sorted out their accommodations.
Truth is, if you do your homework, you'll find certain hostels are even more comfortable than some reputable hotels. There's also no better place than a hostel dorm or common area to meet laid-back, like-minded travelers in their 20s and early 30s.
To get you started, in no particular order, we've compiled a list of the best European hostels to meet fellow backpackers and get a restful night of sleep:
Flying Pig Hostel: With so many sketchy options, randomly choosing a hostel in Amsterdam is not a very smart idea. Lucky for you, the safest choice also happens to be one of the best hostels in Europe. The Flying Pig, despite its slightly higher price tag, is consistently booked for months in advance, because of the prime location, well-furnished spaces and friendly guests.
Barcelona, Granada & Seville, Spain
Kabul (Barcelona): Spend any time hostel-hopping in Europe and you'll surely come across travelers with ribald tales of debauchery involving the name Kabul. This Barcelona hostel is notorious for being THE social backpackers hub in Spain. Its location has a lot to do its reputation. Kabul is smack dab in the middle of the city's main bar/club drag, Plaza Real. Of all the hostels on this list, Kabul might be the only one where you'll need to bring earplugs.
Oasis Granada: Of all the great hostels in the uber-hip town of Granada, Spain, this one takes the cake. Huge, mouthwatering dinners cooked on the outdoor grill become giant social affairs. Later, the party continues with almost daily evening activities, like tapas crawls and flamenco nights. The roof terrace might also be the most relaxing hang-out spot of any hostel in the continent.
Oasis Seville: It may seem unfair to include another Oasis hostel, but it would be an injustice not to mention the Oasis Seville. Recently built and converted from an old Seville home, it's almost as homey as its Granada counterpart and offers many of the same great perks. What this hostel offers that the other doesn't is ice-cold air-conditioning -- a boon to any summer traveler to sweltering Seville.
Berlin & Munich, Germany
Circus Hostel (Berlin): On the off-chance you can't make friends with your dorm-mates at Circus in Berlin, you can always hang around the hostel's front desk. The friendly (and attractive) employees will welcome you whether you're checking in or stumbling back from the nearby bars. The same folks also ensure that you go to bed in spotless, plush dorms when you crash for the night.
Wombat's (Munich): Ultra-modern and half a block from the train station, Wombat's has no equal among hostels in Munich and very few on the continent. The staff is ridiculously peppy and helpful, while the excellent bar downstairs is the perfect place to meet more travelers. Forget a towel, condom or T-shirt? The vending machines in the lobby have what you need. Told you it was ultra-modern.
Balmer's Herberge: Interlaken is an extreme-sports fanatic's dream. And Balmer's Herberge is where extreme-sports fanatics on a budget stay. The joint is always buzzing with action, both inside with its incredibly popular bar and outside with the list of sports and activities that the hostel sets up for its guests. When night falls, you can choose between unexpectedly comfy tents or plush dorm beds on which to rest once the extreme sports wear you down.
Flamingo Hostel: While there are tons of games, movies and TV channels to choose from in the common room at Flamingo Hostel, guests here don't even get the chance to pass Go or watch Anderson Cooper do his 360 thing. That's because Flamingo's central location gives them an ideal starting point for hitting every activity in Krakow. Upon your return from a day of sightseeing, its super-clean rooms and soft beds will have you snoozing in no time.
Easy Hostel (Rua de Sao Nicolau 13, 4d): Lisbon's Easy Hostel consistently draws a fantastic crowd from all over the world. Along with its ultra-cozy bedrooms, this hostel feels like a familiar apartment with roommates that you've had for years. Added plus: the Easy's mouthwatering breakfasts, made fresh for you every day.
Palmers Lodge: Ever wonder how it would feel like to live in a super-swank orphanage? Well, here's your chance. Palmer's Lodge, just from its appearance, is a converted Victorian building that's decked out in creaky, old woods and it plays host to backpackers from all over the world. Catch some z's on the sturdy, yet comfy, bunks or check your e-mail in the museum-like atmosphere of the common room. Oliver Twist never had it so good.
Centre International BVJ (44 Rue des Bernardins): Quality hostels in Paris can be extremely tough to find. Many are rundown, far from any major attraction and have sketchy folks passing through its doors. Centre International BVJ bucks the local trend and offers clean, modern accommodations to those under 35. Best of all, it's a hop, skip and jump from the Louvre.
Funny Palace Hostel: Despite the name, Funny Palace Hostel is serious about making its guests as comfortable as possible. While your wish may be their command, you'll find that figuring out just what to wish for is a chore. Everything is top-notch in Rome's best hostel -- spiffy rooms, pristine bathrooms, fantastic location and very chill crowd.