youth hostels in South Europe

Youth Hostel Culture in South Europe: A Guide for the Modern Traveler

Exploring South Europe through its youth hostels offers a unique lens into the vibrant culture, breathtaking landscapes, and the timeless charm that this region holds. Youth hostels have long been the go-to choice for budget-conscious travelers, but their appeal extends far beyond just affordability.

Nowadays, Hostels are communities. You can meet new friends, and cook with people from around the world. It is an absolute social hub – besides saving money on accommodation.

However, while all that sounds lovely, youth hostels are not for everyone. This guide will navigate you through what to expect, what not to expect, prices, and help you decide if the youth hostel experience aligns with your travel style. I will try to keep the focus more on the youth hostel culture in South Europe; including the “main destinations” like Portugal, Spain,Italy, and Greece.

What to Expect in Youth Hostels

Communal Living: The essence of hostel culture is sharing. From dormitory-style bedrooms to shared kitchens and common areas, hostels are designed to foster interaction and exchange. You’ll meet fellow travelers from around the globe, share stories, and perhaps even explore together.

For instance, the famous Sant Jordi Hostels in Barcelona offer communal events like pub crawls and city tours, enhancing the social vibe. No wonder I see Barcelona as one of the best cities in Europe for Party Hostels.

Cultural Exchange: Many hostels organize local tours, language exchange evenings, and community events, offering a deeper dive into the local culture.

Example? Tasso Hostel in Florence, Italy, doubles as an art hub, hosting exhibitions and performances that showcase local talent.

Affordability: Prices vary by location, season, and the type of accommodation chosen (private vs. dormitory), but they generally range from €15 to €40 per night. In cities like Lisbon, you can find hostels like Lisbon Destination Hostel, which offers beds in a dorm room starting at around €20 per night, including amenities like free Wi-Fi, breakfast, and walking tours. Lisbon is also among the cheapest cities in Europe for backpacker.

Eco-Friendly Options: The Green Nest Hostel Uba Aterpetxea in San Sebastián, Spain, exemplifies the eco-friendly movement in hostel culture, with its commitment to sustainability without sacrificing comfort.

High Standard in some Countries: Generically speaking, Portugal has a very high standard of quality when it comes to hostels. Youth hostels in Porto, Portugal, is just one example.

Hostels like the Passenger Hostel and Gallery Hostel stand out. This gem offers an immersive experience with its art-themed decor, showcasing local artists and hosting regular cultural events, making it a perfect example of how hostels can offer more than just a budget stay but a truly enriching travel experience.

What Not to Expect

Luxury: While some hostels offer private rooms, they don’t match the privacy and amenities of a hotel. Hostels are about community and affordability, not luxury.

24/7 Quiet: Hostels are social hubs, and while there are quiet hours, expect some level of noise from communal areas, especially in the evenings.

Personal Space: In dormitory settings, space is limited. Storage for personal belongings might be a small locker, and bathrooms are shared.

Prices at Youth Hostels – are they really cheap?

As mentioned, hostel prices in South Europe can vary widely. Portugal and Spain might offer dorm beds from €15 to €30, while in more expensive destinations like the French Riviera, prices might start at €25 and go up to €40 or more during peak season. Always check for hidden costs like towel rentals, lockers, or breakfast options.

Youth hostels are IDEAL for you when…

Solo Travelers: Hostels are perfect for those traveling alone who want to meet people and make new friends.

Budget Travelers: If you’re looking to stretch your euros, hostels offer the best bang for your buck.

Cultural Enthusiasts: Travelers who want to immerse themselves in the local scene will find hostels as gateways to cultural experiences.

Youth hostels are NOT for you when…

Those Seeking Privacy: If you value solitude and privacy, the communal nature of hostels might be challenging.

Families: While some hostels are family-friendly, the open environment and shared facilities might not suit those with young children.

Luxury Seekers: If your heart is set on plush amenities and serene environments, a traditional hotel or boutique accommodation might be more your style.


Youth hostels in South Europe offer more than just a place to sleep; they are a passport to cultural immersion, adventure, and the chance to meet like-minded travelers. While they may not offer the privacy and luxury of a hotel, the experiences and memories forged within their walls are priceless. Whether you’re a solo adventurer, a cultural enthusiast, or a budget traveler, the youth hostel culture in South Europe awaits with open doors. Just remember to align your expectations with the nature of hostel living, and you’re all set for an unforgettable journey.

Matt Kiefer is the founder of, the premium network of 5 Star Hostels worldwide. Hostelnerds is the b2b area with information for hostel managers and owners to take your hostel a step further.