Some American travelers are wary of hostels these days. Maybe it’s the Hostel horror movie series that instills in us a fear of cheap rooms in unfamiliar places, or it could be that we find the idea of a communal bathroom to be just unthinkable. But we should be giving hostels a chance; after all, they’re cheap, usually relatively clean, and full of travelers from all over the world who are open to adventure and looking to meet new people.
Plus, every now and then you come across a hostel that serves some of the best food in town. We’re not kidding. Hostel food has come a long way since your parents backpacked through Europe, and hostel owners are increasingly looking for ways to appeal to their foodie guests.
We admit that no hostel meal can come close to Michelin-starred dining or compare to the breakfast buffet at the St. Regis (although one reviewer on our list did say her meal tasted like it came from a five-star restaurant). However, the quality of hostel food is improving as hostels realize the value of feeding guests delicious, local fare. Some establishments offer famous regional specialties like barbecue, ceviche, or poutine; and these are just a sampling of some of the excellent offerings found in hostel dining rooms around the world. "Having good-quality dishes at an affordable price means our guests will always be happy," says Jordi Sinclair, head of marketing for PLUS Hostels. "To us that’s the most important thing, and we like to think that will keep them coming back."
So what makes a hostel’s food stand above the rest? "Food is part of the cultural experience you get when you visit a foreign country," explains Andres Poveda Solano, co-owner of Hostel Pangea in Costa Rica. Lyle Kent of Green Tortoise Hostel in San Francisco adds, "We believe that good food and budget travel are essential partners in discovering the world."
Good food at a hostel can make a huge difference in backpackers’ experience in a new city. One of the charms of staying in a hostel is the opportunity it offers to meet people from all over the world, and for these hostels, the dining room is one place where the magic happens. Whether you’re enjoying a hearty breakfast on a terrace overlooking the scenic French countryside or participating in a free tour of a Spanish city’s tapas bars with fellow travelers, the food at these 20 hostels will create memories you won’t soon forget.
Yes! Lisbon Hostel, Lisbon
One Hostelworld reviewer said that this hostel’s 10 Euro Portuguese dinners “taste like a 5-star restaurant.” They even offer vegetarian options.
Hostel One Paralelo, Barcelona
You won’t find a restaurant with menus in this rave-reviewed hostel, but the food gets five-star testimonies from guests who said the complementary Spanish and Italian style meals were “some of the best” they’d ever seen.
Emily Alford is a special contributor to The Daily Meal.