Tower of London (credit: Randy Yagi)
For people thinking of visiting the United Kingdom on a limited budget, a hostel has been a low cost option for travelers for several decades. Today, visitors can choose from hundreds of affordable hostel accommodations, particularly in the capital cities of each of the four countries that comprise the U.K — London, England, Edinburgh, Scotland, Belfast, Northern Ireland and Cardiff, Wales. What’s more, many of the best rated hostels are far more upscale and appearance and offering far more amenities and services than ever before. Here is a brief look at five of the very best hostels to consider for a backpacker’s trip through the U.K., all of which rank among the best in the world.
71 Belgrave Road, London SW1V 2BG, United Kingdom
+44 20 7834 3077
It’s easy to understand why Astor Victoria was named last year’s most popular hostel in London. It’s reasonably priced for dorm beds, starting at about $23.50 to $65 for a single room and has a number of outstanding services. Occupying space within two conjoined townhouses, the hostel is the largest of the four Astor properties in the city and offers free high speed Wi-Fi, large areas for the fully equipped kitchen, dining room and common area and a 24-hour laundry facility. Astor Victoria is located in a prime location between the River Thames and Victoria Station. The closest Underground station is Pimlico a short walk away and major attractions like Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben are just over one mile away.
15 Johnston Terrace
Edinburgh, EH1 2PW, United Kingdom
+44 131 225 9666
Situated just footsteps from Edinburgh Castle, Castle Rock Hostel is consistently named one of Scotland’s best hostels and in the entire U.K. The multi-award winning hostel is housed within a classic 19th-century building and offers dorm style and private overnight accommodations as well as some nice amenities like free Wi-Fi, a self-catered kitchen and a gorgeous study room replete with antique furniture and an elegant grand piano. Castle Rock is prominently located in the heart of the Old Town section of Edinburgh and within walking distance of many local attractions such as the Scottish National Gallery, the Greater Grassmarket and Holyrood Palace — the official residence of the Queen of Scotland — in addition to the famous Edinburgh Castle, which dates back to the 12th century. Known for having excellent service, Castle Rock Hostel is just a short walk from the Edinburgh Waverly train station and prices start at just £11 ($14.25) and a private room from £45 ($58.31).
7 Dock St.
London E1 8LL, United Kingdom
+44 20 7680 7600
A part of the Wombat City Hostel collection widely known for excellent service and clean and spacious rooms and facilities, Wombats London was recently named the best hostel in the city and in all of England by Hostelworld. Located in the historic White Chapel neighborhood, this acclaimed hostel offers dorm rooms that start at about $25 per night but private rooms for up to two people run close to $100. But it’s quite clear Wombats London is an exceptional hostel and well worth a few night’s stay, with a contemporary design and furnishings and outstanding amenities like a fully equipped guest kitchen, free breakfast buffet, modern elevators and its famous “womBar.” Although Wombats London is a fairly new and hip hostel in the U.K.’s largest city, its history as a hostel dates back to the Victorian age when it was a hostel for 19th century seamen. Not far from the River Thames, it’s also a short stroll from the legendary Tower of London, as well as the Tower Hill Underground station and Tower Gateway train station.
59 Fitzhamon Embankment
Cardiff CF11 6AN, United Kingdom
+44 2920 399 810
For backpackers looking for extraordinary lodging in Cardiff, the clear choice is the River House. Situated along the River Taft in the center of the capital and largest city of Wales, River House is a bed and breakfast style hostel that has been named the best hostel in Wales for eight of the last nine years. A 120-year-old Victorian townhouse is the quiet setting for this popular hostel and offers four or six bed dorms, including one for females only and which can be made respectively into a private room for a group of three or five guests. Prices average about $22 in a six bed mixed dorm and about $1 more for a four bed female or mixed dorm. In addition to nice amenities like free Wi-Fi, self-catering facilities and an outdoor terrace, River House is also acclaimed for its exceptional collection of complimentary breakfast items, including fresh croissants, traditional Welsh cakes, yogurt, fruit and five types of cereal. About an eight-minute walk from the train station, River House is close many of Cardiff’s top attractions, such as the National Museum of Cardiff, Principality Stadium and the 11th century Cardiff Castle.
9 University Road, Belfast BT7 1NA, United Kingdom
+44 28 9023 3017
Conveniently located within a short walking distance of the center of Belfast, Vagabonds is considered the top hostel in Northern Ireland, as well as one of the finest in the U.K. The latest addition to the capital and largest city’s assortment of hostels, Vagabonds features 10 bedrooms ranging from dorm beds starting at £13 ($16.80) to twins or doubles from £40 ($51.67) and includes a female-only dorm. As expected, the hostel has free Wi-Fi and breakfast, as well as laundry facilities, a common room and an outdoor terrace. Top attractions like the heralded Ulster Museum, Queen’s University and the stately Grand Opera House are all nearby, as is the Botanic train station near the Botanic Gardens. Just a few years ago, Vagabonds Belfast was named the second best small hostel in the world by Hostelworld.