The New Boutique Hostel
Forget everything you thought you knew about hostels. These six new spots come with designer credits, private and shared rooms, restaurants, and some of the coolest furniture on the planet.
The setup Partners Cyril Aouizerate and Serge Trigano (his family cofounded Club Med) purchased a graffiti-covered parking garage in Paris's 20th arrondissement and unleashed Philippe Starck in the space. With orders to create a combo hotel and hostel, Starck went whimsical, covering curtains with photographs of Parisians and scrawling random thoughts on the ceilings (sample: "How lucky we are to have windows!"). Starck also added homey details, such as a cabinet stocked with bread and Nutella for late-night sandwich making.
Sleeping arrangements All 172 of the rooms are private, from the singles to the Mama Suite, whose terrace overlooks Père-Lachaise Cemetery. Even the smallest quarters have kitchenettes, iMacs, and shower-only bathrooms. Starck custom designed the graffiti-patterned carpeting and hung an illuminated Halloween mask next to each bed as a night-light.
The 'hood A working-class enclave on the Right Bank, the 20th is one of Paris's most up-and-coming areas. The popular indie-rock bar La Flèche d'Or is across the street from Mama Shelter, and for a taste of old Paris, the Edith Piaf Museum is just on the other side of the cemetery.
Unexpected extras Star chef Alain Senderens presides over Mama Shelter's restaurant, where diners can opt to eat their moules frites at a communal table with TVs embedded in its surface. You may be tempted to make use of the photo booth in the lobby, but be warned that its images are beamed onto a row of plasma TVs by the bar. Information: 011-33/1-43-48-48-48, mamashelter.com, private singles from $100.
Photos 1 of 3 —Ellise Pierce
ASCHAU IM CHIEMGAU, GERMANY
The setup When German furniture designer Nils Holger Moormann bought some land in southern Bavaria with an abandoned bakery on it, his plan was to use the grounds for storage. But that winter, inspiration struck: His bakery would make the ultimate gemütlich hostel—one furnished with his own witty designs. Three years (and an astonishing amount of custom carpentry) later, Moormann opened Berge.
Sleeping arrangements All 13 of the rooms are private and have double or queen-size beds, except for the Bergebude (mountain dorm), which has three bunks built into the walls. Although he's constantly adding features and moving furniture around, Moormann resolutely keeps the hostel TV-free.
The 'hood Aschau is a medieval hamlet located 90 minutes by train from Munich and 45 minutes by car from Salzburg, Austria. There's first-rate skiing and snowboarding at the Chiemgau resort, within walking distance of Berge. Come spring, guests can hike through Alpine forests and cycle around Chiem Lake. In the village, the restaurant options range from neighborhood pubs to Residenz Heinz Winkler, a Michelin-starred restaurant with a 25,000-bottle wine cellar.
Unexpected extras A bookworm, Moormann has planted 1,000-plus volumes throughout Berge. In the library, you can try out his top-selling Bookinist chair, with built-in shelves and a big wheel beneath the seat (right). "I made it when my back was giving me trouble, so I could just roll myself from place to place," he says. Information: 011-49/8052-904-560, moormannberge.de, private rooms from $100.
Photos 1 of 3 —Gisela Williams
The setup Occupying three floors of the 81-year-old Cecil Hotel, Stay is a mod take on the backpacker special. "Having traveled through Europe in my twenties, I knew exactly what I didn't want," says designer Catherine Coan, whose credits include the high-service Belamar Hotel in Manhattan Beach, Calif. What she and partner Amy Price did want: an eye-popping palette, an in-house art gallery, a computer nook with 20-inch Macs, and a tuned-in clientele of all ages.
Sleeping arrangements Although they tend to book weeks in advance, try to nab one of the 13 private rooms that come with a queen-size pillow-top bed, Eames-style reading lamps, and its own bathroom. The 12 shared quarters have from one to four bunk beds. Regardless of where you land, you will find playful details, such as polka-dotted sheets and bright-orange hand-shaped chairs.
The 'hood Once-sketchy Main Street is currently on the upswing (Johnny Depp and Katherine Heigl both have lofts nearby), but the area can be desolate at night. Within walking distance: Little Tokyo, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Frank Gehry–designed Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Unexpected extras Stay's concierge lends out Xbox consoles and games to play on the 42-inch TV in the common area. Tuck, a comfort-food restaurant, opens in April and will deliver meat loaf and milkshakes to your room. Next up: Nip, a lobby bar scheduled to debut this summer. Information: 866/935-7829, stay-hotels.net, private rooms from $65.
Photos 1 of 2 —Monica Corcoran