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 There's no sign whatsoever that Lub d (Thai for "sleep well") was formerly a slapdash office space. Its bright-yellow lobby is tricked out with Robert Indiana–inspired LOVE tables and a banner that reads HAPPY TO SEE YOU. Thanks to Bangkok-based P49 Deesign—known for creating such swanky resorts as the oceanfront Trisara in Phuket—even the shared bathrooms are stylish. Deft touches include poured-concrete island-style sinks and black-tiled showers with soap and shampoo dispensers labeled head to toe.
Sleeping arrangements Of the hostel's four floors, two are communal, with both coed and women-only quarters (with three to five bunk beds per room and a locker for each person). Or you can step it up with a $40 Railway Twin, a private room for two with a bunk bed. Better yet, shell out $10 more for one of the eight private doubles, which have queen-size beds, flat-screen TVs, and their own bathrooms.
The 'hood Lub d is on busy Decho Road, in the Silom district. The surrounding grid of retail streets buzzes with activity into the early morning hours, which is great for night owls. One of Bangkok's largest evening food and shopping bazaars, Patpong Night Market, is just around the corner. To help guests get acquainted with the area, the hostel's manager leads a walking tour every Thursday afternoon.
Unexpected extras Lub d has its own movie theater, with beanbag chairs in lieu of seats for lie-down viewing. Get your free popcorn at the self-service Yellow Donut Café and Bar in the lobby, which also offers breakfast. Information: 011-66/2-634-7999, lubd.com, private rooms from $40.
Photos 1 of 1 —Gisela Williams
SCHIPHOL AIRPORT, AMSTERDAM
The setup From the outside, the 230-room citizenM looks like any other boxy airport hotel. But swing through the red-glass front doors and there's a surprise around every bend. Even registering is an adventure: Guests check themselves in at a row of monitors set against a wall-size bookshelf. A project of the Dutch design team Concrete, citizenM's interior was largely preassembled at a factory. That cost-cutting approach left funds for frills, such as the enormous Frank Gehry puffy-cloud chandelier that illuminates the lobby.
Sleeping arrangements All of the quarters are private and come with either a custom-made XL bed (even bigger than a California king) or a pair of twins. That Jetsons-like cylinder in the middle of the room is actually the shower, with overhead LED lighting that changes colors (opposite). But the toy techies really love? Touch-screen mood pads that control the temperature, blinds, and even the alarm clock. Attention, airplane spotters: West-facing rooms have views of the runways.
The 'hood CitizenM is located directly across from the main terminal at Schiphol Airport. Express trains operate several times an hour between the airport and central Amsterdam—about a 20-minute ride—around the clock.
Unexpected extras CanteenM, a 24-hour café in the lobby, serves smoothies, sandwiches, sushi bento boxes, and house martinis with names like Vespa and Mobile. In April, a second citizenM opens in Amsterdam's business district. Information: citizenmamsterdamairport.com (Internet-only reservations), private rooms from $90.
Photos 1 of 3 —Gisela Williams
Living Lounge Hostel
The setup A chandelier constructed from crystal shot glasses, a century-old barber's chair reinvented as a chaise, a dining table that gets hoisted to the ceiling to make room for dancing. These are but a few of the surprising furnishings at Living Lounge, in the Baixa section of Lisbon, a new 23-room hostel owned and operated by four design-minded friends: a painter, an architect, and two photographers.
Sleeping arrangements Seventeen artists were each given a space or two to transform, ensuring that none of the rooms are even remotely alike. Take the dorm decorated by graffiti artist Dirty Cop: The walls are painted with black trees evocative of Edgar Allan Poe. Regardless of where you slumber—one of the 4 singles, 12 doubles, or 7 dorms—you'll have to shower in the shared bathrooms on each floor.
The 'hood Living Lounge is in a quiet corner of the historic business and shopping district, where the cobblestoned streets are named after the craftsmen who first set up shop here in the 18th century. The local look is neoclassical, from the National Theater of Dona Maria II to the dozens of pastry shops that sell trouxas de ovos, thick crepes drizzled with syrup.
Unexpected extras "Our friends want to come over for dinner every night," says part owner Inês Caetano. She's talking about the 8:30 p.m. meal served in the dining room—a four-course feast for $10. Chef Antonio Cardoso is also the resident tour guide; his morning walks through the city end with a wine tasting back at the hostel. Information: 011-351/2-1346-1078, lisbonloungehostel.com, private rooms from $40.
Photos 1 of 3 —Gisela Williams