1 / 6Freehand (Chicago, Illinois)When Freehand launched in Miami at the end of 2012, it was a welcome alternative to the city’s glitzy hotel scene. The retro summer camp–style hotel/hostel is housed in a 1930s building outfitted with vintage furnishings and wood paneling by New York design firm Roman and Williams. Laid-back activities (art classes, yoga) encourage mingling; the Broken Shaker cocktail lounge has become a local hangout and earned two nominations for James Beard Awards. In June of 2015, the second Freehand opened, this one in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, and the brand plans to expand to Los Angeles and New York City. From $25 for a shared room in Chicago; from $79 for a private room.
Plan Your Trip: Chicago
Courtesy of Freehand Chicago
2 / 6Oddsson (Reykjavik, Iceland)Created by Icelandic design studio Döölur, the Oddsson opened in May of 2016, occupying the fourth and fifth floors of a warehouse building that also houses the Reykjavík School of Visual Arts. Interiors mix such industrial touches as repurposed factory pipes and blueprints with custom furnishings by Eero Saarinen and other iconic names in design. The hostel offers a fun mix of high and low: suites with ocean views, caviar on the to-go menu, and a soundproof karaoke room right in the middle of a fine dining restaurant. Döölur plans to expand with more properties in 2018. From $37 for a private single with shared bath; from $107 for a private room.
Plan Your Trip: ReykjavikCourtesy of Oddsson
3 / 6Generator (Rome, Italy)Launched in London in 2007, Generator has grown at a steady clip, expanding into 11 European cities. The focus is on prime locations (Canal St. Martin in Paris, for instance), inspired design (300 lanterns hang from the ceiling of the bar in the Generator Barcelona), and inviting spaces that are part of the social life of the neighborhood (a late-night speakeasy in Amsterdam). The latest addition: the 75-room Generator Rome, whose rooftop terrace offers panoramic views of the city. The first Generator in the United States will open in Miami later this year. From $22 for a shared room in Rome; $83 for a private room.
Plan Your Trip: RomeCourtesy of Generator Rome
4 / 6Society Hotel (Portland, Oregon)A former lodging house for sailors has been reimagined as the Society Hotel, located inside an 1881 cast-iron front building in Portland’s Old Town Chinatown. Guest rooms, with their exposed brick walls and framed vintage newspaper clippings, range from bunk rooms to suites with private bathrooms. Guests can mingle at the Society Café, which serves wine from Oregon’s Willamette Valley and coffee from local micro-roasters. Bunks from $35; private rooms from $75; suites from $119.
Plan Your Trip: PortlandCourtesy of Society Hotel
5 / 6Valencia Lounge Hostel (Valencia, Spain)Spanish designer Masquespacio is behind the bright aesthetic of Valencia Lounge Hostel in the city’s historic center. Vintage tiles and plaster-mold ceilings play off geometric designs on the walls and contemporary furnishings. The 11 guest rooms, each with a private balcony and its own bold and colorful design, range from triples and quads good for groups or families to junior suites; they share four bathrooms and common living areas, including a kitchen where guests can make their own meals. From $53; suites from $95.
Plan Your Trip: ValenciaCourtesy of Valencia Lounge Hostel
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Fredrik Korallus, the CEO of lifestyle-focused Generator, offers a primer for first-time guests.
What makes Generator different from a traditional hostel?
What most people think of when they think of hostels is small spaces for students on a budget. Ever since 2007, when the first Generator opened in London, we’ve emphasized the lifestyle experience. We recently put a stronger focus on restaurants and bars that bring locals in. We opened a nightclub in Amsterdam and a rooftop restaurant in Paris, an ice bar in Copenhagen, and a freestanding restaurant next to Generator Stockholm. At all of our properties, you’re going to get a brilliant cup of coffee for the same price as you’d pay at a local coffee shop, and our dining concepts are more akin to street food than to gourmet.
What’s it like to sleep at a Generator hostel?
We typically have 70 percent shared rooms and 30 percent private rooms. We also have rooms for women only. In the shared rooms, each of the beds has a USB plug, a locker underneath, and privacy lights so you can read at night.
Who is your typical guest?
The average age of our customers is 24, but we also have older travelers and even business travelers from creative industries, such as music or software or fashion. And these aren’t necessarily cheap travelers—they just have different priorities for how they spend their money. It’s funny: At the Generator in Copenhagen, a city with some of the most acclaimed restaurants in the world, we have people stay with us very affordably, and then they go off and eat in a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
What’s the vibe like at your properties?
One of the first things you’ll notice is that you make new friends quickly. In normal hotels, it’s harder to meet people because you’ve got your own private space, and everybody does their own thing at breakfast. When you come to Generator, you’re meeting people all the time in shared spaces. You’ll also find that guests are quite nomadic in how the travel. When they’re in Paris, they make new friends, and off they go to London with people they just met. It’s a highly sociable, highly mobile, highly impulsive group of people just out to discover the world.
Here are our favorite next-generation hostels around the world:
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