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Switzerland: a country that takes pride in being completely unaffordable for anyone from outside of it. Edit – a country that did take pride in being completely unaffordable. For this summer, we have seen the emergence of a New Switzerland – one that pities us, one that wants us to come stay without having to remortgage our house, one that suddenly wants to thrust budget accommodation at us. Not you’re your standard crappy budget digs, of course; no, the New Switzerland is a place of hip ‘hostels’ that other countries would class as nice hotels.
Of course, you already know it’s a trendy kind of place – it was clearly named to be a hipster magnet, after all – but listen to what it actually has. It has a pool (and separate children’s pool). It has a spa with saunas, a herbal steam bath, hydromassage showers, and a ‘gorge balcony’ (presumably it looks over a gorgeous, rather than being especially gorgeous). It offers a hotel-level massage list. And all this stuff comes with humungous windows overlooking the mountain landscape.
Known for a hotel scene that bears a burden on the budget traveler, Santa Barbara's newest hotel, which is actually a hostel, looks to fill that void. Opened this week in the Funk Zone neighborhood, The Wayfarer is a 31-room hostel that offers both private and shared accommodations.
The opening of the Wayfarer is especially interesting given its location in the Funk Zone. An "artsy" neighborhood filled with murals, a surf museum, wine tasting rooms, breweries, a distillery, and small restaurants, it displayed a touch of grit in its early days that Santa Barbara had always lacked. But as its popularity has grown, so have the price tags on its restaurants and urban wineries.
Last year, our bro Jaunted noted that the local media was concerned that the growing gentrification of the neighborhood would ultimately be what killed it as higher-end concepts and projects, including hotels, looked to capitalize.
When it comes to the price of lodging, it doesn't get much cheaper than Hanoi, especially if you're a backpacker and are doing the hostel thing You can find shared rooms for as low as a few dollars a night, and rates for private rooms around the city start in the teens and usually include a free breakfast.
On our recent trip to Vietnam's capital, we "splurged" on a "high-end" budget hotel called the Art Trendy Hotel, located in the heart of the Old Quarter, renting a room for $39 a night. In the States, that kind of money won't get you very far, barely enough for a room at the Motel 6. But in Hanoi, $39 a night went a long way. The name might need work, but the Art Trendy delivered big bang for the buck.
Ah, Switzerland. Beautiful. Peaceful. Friendly. Easily navigable…
Expensive as *&$k.
Luckily, for those of us who’ve been put off visiting because we don’t earn the world’s highest minimum wage, Switzerland has a plan.
It involves a hostel, but don’t stress. This is no ordinary hostel. It’s a posh hostel (surely someone’s coined “poshtel” by now).
The Gstaad Saanenland Youth Hostel is, as the name suggests, in pricey Gstaad – the village of Saanen, to be precise. It opened a few weeks ago, and it’s eco-friendly. Most importantly (because who cares about the environment when facing the prospect of sharing a room with strangers) it has ensuite double and single rooms as well as its shared rooms (no giant dorms here – four or six beds are your options). A buffet breakfast and locally sourced, three-course dinner is available in the dining room, and there’s a sunny/snowy terrace, depending on the season, to soak up the views.
Let’s be honest, this is no Kex Hostel – rooms are Ikea-basic, with wooden floors, bedframes and shelving the fanciest thing about them. But this is hearty Switzerland, where it’s all about the views – almost all the rooms face the Swiss Alps, giving you megabucks panoramas for a fraction of normal Gstaad prices.
The Freehand Miami won over HotelChatter contributor JetSetCD last year with their "funky fresh" hostel rooms and amenities, all at a very reasonable rate ($21 a night for a shared bunk room when JetSetCD was there) And it looks like other folks have been equally impressed because the Freehand just expanded its property.
The hostel acquired the building next door and has opened it up as the "Guest House" with nine Private King Rooms, five King Suites (a new room type) and one private Bungalow which can sleep four.
The Guest House is accessible through the existing Freehand courtyard so the lobby, the Broken Shaker bar and the pool aren't very far away at all. It's also across from the building that will house the Freehand's restaurant, which still hasn't opened but we're hearing it should debut later this year.
Rooms in the Guest House start this weekend at $60 for a dorm room and $224 for a private king room.
[Top Photo: Freehand Miami; Gallery Photos: Cynthia Drescher for HotelChatter]
We've written about the Generator hybrid hostel/hotel brand before, particularly when looking for affordable places to stay in big European cities. But now we might get our very own Generator here in the states in New York City.
A while ago we heard whispers of a Generator for Manhattan and when we reached out to the hotel's PR reps they told us that yes, an NYC property is very much in the works. Elaborating, the rep said, "The team is exploring a few different options around the city."
That is good news for anyone who's trying to find a decent night's stay for around $100 in the Big Apple (and not just when it's freezing cold out.) And the Generator NYC will probably go under $50 or less than that for a shared room. But aside from being a doable price point, Generator puts a lot of emphasis on design, technology and socializing, a combination you don't always get when you're looking for an affordable stay.
Most Generators, like the recently opened Generator Berlin Mitte, features a bar that's open nightly, a library & cafe where breakfast and snacks are served, thoughtful room design and decor touches, free WiFi and lots of colorful in-house local art. Yes, it's the perfect spot for Millennials but we'd totally crash here for a night or two. In a private room, of course.
Have you stayed at a Generator hostel before? Let us know what you thought in comments below!
[Photo: Generator Hostels]
It's been a while since we've heard of hotelier Klaus Ortlieb, the man behind several hip NYC hotels like Cooper Square-now-Standard East Village Hotel, the excellent LES spot, THOR and even the super skinny Gotham Hotel on 46th Street. But at last we've got some new chatter on KO.
We've learned he's taken his hotel magic to Reykjavik in Iceland for the Hlemmur Square Hotel.
The hotel is described as "affordable yet stylish hostel accommodations" but the joint also promises "luxurious hotel rooms" under the same roof. Bu-bu-but how can that possibly be? Well, it just simply is. The hotel explains on their website:
To us it makes perfect sense, we are able to bring a little luxury to the world of hosteling and a bit of that “get to know your fellow man and buy him a drink” feeling to an upscale hotel. Iceland is the best place for it, always willing to experiment with pushing boundaries.
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Inside an 8-bed room
No one ever got anywhere by calling something a "revolutionary concept." That phrase is played out right along with "funky fresh." Instead let us say this: if Freehand Miami plays its cards right and doesn't get too big for its britches (double idiom sentence!), it has the real potential to be crazy awesome and quickly multiply to conquer cities beyond Miami. Oh wait, that's exactly their plan (for 10 properties!), so what you're about to read is the future, baby.
The Freehand is a hostel with some private rooms and it's not trying to hide that fact. It is, however, a fancy hostel with an interior by Roman & Williams, staff uniforms designed by Timo Weiland, artwork by local Miami artists, and cocktails by Bar Lab.
Shared bunk rooms start at $21 a night (per person), while private rooms begin at $109 (per room). Beyond the rooms (8-bunk, 4-bunk, private king) the Freehand benefits from an inviting lobby, a bar (The Broken Shaker), back garden courtyard, a lovely pool, a side garden of table tennis and other yard games and, eventually, there'll even be a restaurant.
We stayed for three nights at the beginning of Art Basel, the week of their debut, paying a total of $122 for two people in the coed 8-bed room. We were however "upgraded" to a 4-bed room as the 8-beds weren't totally ready.
Just the other week, we called out Tribeca Blu in
Chinatown uh, Tribeca as an affordable option in downtown at a time when NYC hotels are regularly asking, and receiving, $300 a night for an average-looking room.
We did forewarn any interested guests by saying that the spot is more like an "upmarket hostel" with no restaurant, no bar, no business center, no refrigerators and no fitness center. However, WiFi is included. And the recent reviews on TripAdvisor were pretty decent.
But a FOH (Friend of HotelChatter) who checked into the Tribeca Blu promptly checked out after getting up to his room. (And it wasn't just because of the cramped space. That photo above is pretty much the entire hotel room, minus the bathroom.) The bad experience actually started from the moment he walked into the hotel.
If you want to talk about one NYC neighborhood finally getting the development love it deserves, then it's gotta be the north end of Long Island City. Fresh highrises have sprouted up in just the last year, including the Z Hotel, and there are other we're eyeing daily for an answer on if they'll be hotels or condos. Add to this the addition of JetBlue's headquarters to the area (in a building with a history as an old Rolls Royce plant) and it's plain that the area around both the Queensboro Plaza and Queens Plaza subway stops is hot stuff.
So, it really comes as no surprise that the 3-story former bank building at Queens Plaza Northnext to a newly completed pedestrian park plaza and bike path and just down from a site that once had plans for an Aloft Hotelis about to enter a new era as a budget hotel/hostel.
It doesn't have a name quite yet, but we've spotted bunkbed frames in the rooms and small chandeliers on the ceilings. An online registry only gives the operation company as "2909 Queens Plaza North Hostel Management Inc," but it shouldn't be too much longer until the flashy color-changing exterior lights are paired with a sign. And don't worrywe'll keep you updated as to when that happens and how much opening rates will be.
Reykjavik is getting a new place to stay, and for once it won't cost you every crown of your vacation budget. The Kex Hostel, set to open this April, will offer 138 beds on three floors, as well as private rooms with en suite bathrooms that make this an appealing place to stay even if you've given up your Rough Guide.
The name Kex is Icelandic for cookie, a fitting name for a place set in a retired cookie factory on the Saebraut waterfront. A release has more:
The owners, including Icelandic football stars Hermann Hreidarsson, a Portsmouth FC player and Eidur Gudjonssen, a Fulham FC player, aim to retain many of the factory's original features while adding a contemporary touch. Much of the hostel is even styled from original fixtures, with the furniture created from salvaged materials and objects.
Kex will offer more than just a bed, with a café and bar, breakfast buffet, lounge area, heated outdoor patio, laundry room, kitchenettes, free Wifi and a gym.
Let’s start with a New York analogy, shall we? Finding a hotel for $100 a night in Manhattan is like… trying to hail a taxi during rush hour in the rain. Elusive, but not impossible.
We picked a weekend – July 24–25 – and did some sleuthing to see what we could find for a Benjamin (and change). The highlights were off-the-radar rooftops and newfound Euro-backpacker friends; the lowlights were shared bathrooms and ghastly floral bedspreads.