Best new UK hostels - Places to Visit - UK United Kingdom - Travel Article Selina, Birmingham What’s it like?
Without endorsing Insta-tourists, I challenge anyone not to share photos of Selina. Snaps of a weekend spent at its newest UK branch, in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, were met with heart-eye emojis and “that hotel looks beautiful!” comments. The fact it’s a hostel – with affordable pet-friendly suite rooms (plus dorms), a yoga studio, and a South American-style restaurant due to open in the summer was something I reveled in sharing.
It’s in a former Victorian gold and silverworks factory, with the red-brick exterior still featuring the names of the previous business. The maze of corridors (with cubby holes for reading) leads to a range of dorms and private rooms. Dusky pink, eggshell blue, and emerald green run throughout, with velvet chairs, bold murals, gold fixtures, and large plants. The largest room, The Loft, was a winner for my weekend for 2.5 guests (the half being a small dog). There are high ceilings and large windows, and it has a comfy seating area, desk, small kitchen, and bathroom. In the lounge bar downstairs, there are activities including drink-and-draw sessions with Cass Arts. On upper floors (above bedrooms) is a communal kitchen, living-dining area, cinema room, and yoga-and-wellness studio. What about breakfast and dinner?
The restaurant is due to open in the summer, serving breakfast followed by an all-day menu. Currently, a simple breakfast is included (toast, cereal, juice, and hot drinks). The bar serves cocktails, wine, and beer all day. If heading out, there are brunch spots towards the city center. Medicine Bakery and Gallery (15 minutes walk) is close to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and does mammoth plates of sourdough and rye, loaded with eggs – from masala-spiced and huevos rancheros, to scrambled with thick-cut smoked salmon and dill creme fraiche.The Loft room at the hostel
What’s on the doorstep?
Among the 500 or so retailers in the surrounding Jewellery Quarter – as well as the listed Victorian buildings and ghost signs are local foodie favorites including Otto (wood-fired pizza and homemade limoncello) and 1000 Trades , a pub serving local brews with a new foodie pop-up each month. The Digbeth area’s former factories are now home to venues: including art centers the Custard Factory and Eastside Projects . Digbeth Dining Club has taken over another space under the railway bridge and is hard to beat for fun after dark. It combines a rotating array of street food stalls and Mama Roux’s live music and performance venue. Just round the corner is Birmingham’s oldest pub, the black-and-white timber Old Crown , which opened in 1368, and now includes a huge beer garden. To blow away cobwebs the morning after, take a stroll around some of Birmingham’s canals. There are over a hundred miles flowing through the city – more than Amsterdam or Venice. Not just for boaters or fisherman, many are now enjoyed by cyclists and walkers, too, with towpaths being planted up to help create green space, and a “bee super-highway”. There are routes from the Jewellery Quarter into the central Gas Street Basin and to the crescent-shaped 19th-century Roundhouse , due to open this summer as a new center for exploring the canals, including boat tours and canoeing activities. How much?
Dorms from £15, double from £35, loft suite from £60.
What’s it like?
“Down here is the only part of the building left from the 1600s; I tend not to come down after dark,” one of the staff at the Court tells me as we head into a space in the basement. Layers of history are kept intact throughout this former courthouse and jail, most of which dates from the 19th century. Excavation has continued on the lower ground floor, uncovering older rooms and a staircase thought to have been used by judges to escape trouble. The basement is already used for beer tastings every evening and there are plans to open a whisky bar. The listed building has had many original features restored. The vast courtroom, housing the largest mixed-gender 24-pod-bed dorm, still has original paneling and a vaulted ceiling. There are 200 Japanese-style curtained pod beds across several dorms and 12 private rooms (some en suite) in the former cells, with bolted doors and tiny barred windows. The decor is plain, without being clinical: white walls, grey tartan details. Keep eyes peeled for the graffiti by former inmates on the walls of what were once holding cells, now knocked through to form the staircase; and the refurbished security gates in some corridors. The common room includes pews from the courthouse, with Scots Law pages as wallpaper.
What about breakfast and dinner?
Breakfast is included, with a buffet of fruit, yogurt, cereals, batter to use in the waffle-maker, along with ingredients for cheese toasties. No other meals are served but the kitchen is open for guests to use any time. Daily beer tastings cost £5 (six brews to try). What’s on the doorstep?
It’s in the Old Town, so there’s plenty nearby. For free live music, Stramash , in a converted church, is popular showcasing local bands, plus hosting cèilidh and other events. I also visited 12th-century St Giles’ Cathedral as part of the Burns & Beyond culture trail, an annual event opening up unusual venues for small gigs. The cathedral is open year-round. Holyrood Distillery is nearby and is the first single-malt distillery to open in the city for 100 years. It’s been welcoming visitors since July 2019 and offers tours with whisky and gin tastings and games in the interactive aroma room. The first official batch of the single malt will be available in 2023. After all that merriment, a hike up Arthur’s Seat will help shake-off hangovers, followed by lunch around the corner at The Outsider , serving soups, salads, and nutritious, seasonal food, or at Civerinos for its 20in stone-baked pizzas (slice from £3.95, pie from £19.75). It’s open until midnight at weekends. For culture, lesser-known galleries and museums in the vicinity include Stills for contemporary photography or gruesome anatomy artifacts at the Surgeons’ Hall Museums . How much?
Dorm pod beds from £11 B&B, private rooms from £40 B&B
• Rail travel from London provided by thetrainline.com
AW Newcastle Central YHA Hostel
What’s it like?
Opened in October 2019 – after a refurbishment of a hostel acquired by the YHA – Newcastle Central is part of the hostelling association’s move into city centers. On the site of a prison, the hostel is in part of the city’s former telephone exchange, built-in 1932. The ground floor is mostly taken up with a cafe where I was checked in. My private room was on the snug side and dominated by a huge flatscreen television but was cozily warm very welcome since it was freezing outside. There was enough space for a double bed (I slept like a log both nights), a small desk, and a couple of wireless phone-charging shelves. Clothes storage amounted to hangers on the wall, and one corner of the room had been sacrificed to a prefab en suite. You don’t come to a hostel to spend time in your room, though. I found it a good space to use as a base and for the rate, it’s exceptional value. There are suites, too, if room to spread out is needed, and traditional dorms if feeling sociable. What about breakfast and dinner?
Unlike many YHA hostels, there’s no kitchen for guests to cook their own meals. It is possible to bring cooked food in and staff is happy to supply crockery and cutlery. The hostel does, however, run a funky licensed cafe on the premises. At night, this has a bar feel, with its dimmed lights and industrial exposed-brick-and-girder aesthetic. In one corner, a wall is adorned with photos of the prisoner class of 1873, whose stay on this site was less pleasurable than my own.
Breakfast is what you might expect in a hostel: a buffet of cereal, yogurt (dairy and soy), toast, ham and cheese, and hot drinks and juices. The all-day menu features standard dishes, such as stone-baked pizzas, jacket potatoes, and burgers. However, the light bites section is more adventurous: panko squid strips and mock duck pancakes included! I opted for the Mediterranean vegetable and olive salad, a portion of fries, and a non-dairy strawberry and yuzu ice cream – all very palatable, as was the bill: £13. And should you stay the night and have children under 10 with you, they eat for free. What’s on the doorstep?
I came by train, so was pleased to find the hostel an uncomplicated 10-minute walk from the city’s mainline station. It’s a stone’s throw from Grainger Town: stuffed with listed buildings and where most of Newcastle’s shopping, eating, and drinking gets done. The area is also home to The Stand Comedy Club and the Theatre Royal . I went for an enriching (and free) self-devised art-and-lit walking tour: the traditional Laing Art Gallery , the contemporary Biscuit Factory (the UK’s largest independent art gallery) – both of which have great cafes, and finally, after a stroll along the River Tyne, the Lit and Phil , a gloriously fusty independent library where you can grab a coffee and read surrounded by 200,000 books. How much?
Bed in shared single-gender dorm for £15, private en suite for 2 or more from £25.
• yha.org.uk • Accommodation provided by YHA ; rail travel by LNER , which has singles from London to Newcastle from £21.50, if booked in advance
Dixe Wills Pub Love at the Rose and Crown, London Bridge
What’s it like?
The decline of the British pub is well documented but closures have slowed in the last few years, thanks to local campaigns, communities fighting back – and projects such as PubLove helping reinvigorate the scene. Since 2007, the company has been refurbishing pubs around London, modernizing while retaining the character and adding hostel rooms to the underused upper floors. A popular spot on a quiet corner near London Bridge, The Rose & Crown on Union Street opened in June 2019. It’s a mixture of modern bunk dorms with block color walls in emerald green and yellow, and shared bathrooms. There’s also a large modern double en suite in the loft, with weathered wood and white brick walls, geometric print carpet, and a huge bathroom. The common room is the buzzy pub itself. It had a great atmosphere on a Thursday night after an evening mooching around nearby Bermondsey. Interiors in the pub mix traditional elements such as wood paneling, green tiling, and a horseshoe bar, with modern touches of exposed brickwork, white walls, and velvet chairs. What about breakfast and dinner?
Brunch is served 9am-6pm – with options from toast with spreads (£2) to full veggie breakfast (£9) and shakshuka (£10). Noon to 10pm, there are also burgers (from £10) – including vegan ones – and loaded fries (from £5.50). The bar is available 24/7 for guests.
What’s on the doorstep?
A 10-minute walk east, Bermondsey has the Beer Mile a stretch of taprooms and indie bottle shops under old railway arches. It’s actually closer to two miles, and there are 18 stops to choose from over an afternoon, with Maltby Street market a good starting point for food from cheesy Venezuelan arepa buns to rich Ethiopian lentil wat .
Round the corner, Bermondsey Street’s Victorian terraces are now home to independent restaurants, boutique shops, basement bars, plus the Fashion and Textile Museum is here too. If visiting on the last Thursday of the month, the speakeasy-style Izakaya, in the basement of ramen restaurant Hakata , runs masterclass tasting evenings for free. Hosted by a different drinks supplier each time, it also includes nibbles, such as sticky gochugaru ribs and spicy edamame. Just opposite the hostel, Flat Iron Square street food market, is popular year-round with indoor and outdoor areas, open midday to midnight most days, with live music, DJs, sports screenings, and other events. The hostel is also well placed for exploring the South Bank, including Tate Modern , Shakespeare’s Globe , and the Shard . How much?
Dorms from £13, double en suite from £110.
AW Sleep Eat Love, Liverpool
Love Thy Neighbour cafe-restaurant. What’s it like?
As I’m checking in, Andy, at reception, is keen on sharing news of what lies ahead for this already impressive 96-room hostel on Hatton Garden – less than 10 minutes walk from Liverpool Lime Street station. His eagerness is borne of potential (25 more beds will be added by June) and adventure, as he and the Sleep Eat Love team are planning a fact-finding tour of Europe and UK hostels. The mission: to improve what Sleep Eat Love offers. For my part, one improvement would be the signposting, as my choice of stairs over lift means a circuitous route around this labyrinth-like former fire station. Still, that allows for fact-finding of my own as I pass hostel staples, such as a laundry room, lounge, games room, and kitchen areas.
My private en suite double is spacious and wants for nothing, save for television, though I don’t see that omission as onerous (wifi is free). There are industrial design touches in its lights and fittings, while a flourish-free bed, wardrobe, and mirror-frame have a woodchip effect. It’s all functional and sturdy – with brightness provided by a colorful mural but lacks an overall aesthetic, which explains the team’s search for ideas. The feel of the hostel (and communal spaces) is friendly and secure, aided by a reception staffed 24/7.
What about breakfast and dinner?
Sleep Eat Love’s star turn is its indie-owned veggie- and vegan-friendly cafe-restaurant, Love Thy Neighbour , which is in the same building – and open to all, though it offers 20% discount to hostel guests. Open 7am-6pm Sunday to Thursday and 7am to 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays, it serves healthy dishes and comfort food, including chickpea pancakes, and smoothie bowls (The Detox: pineapple, apple, spinach, kale, ginger, spirulina, chlorella, wheatgrass and barley grass, £7.80), along with fry-ups and burgers. For me, a late lunch means a substantial Sweet & Spicy “Buddha” bowl of sweet potato wedges, hummus, charred tender stem broccoli, coconut paprika chickpeas, coriander, toasted peanuts (£9.95); with breakfast a more straightforward, but equally accomplished, Eggs Benedict (£7.50). Love Thy Neighbour also offers vegan afternoon tea (£17.95).
What’s on the doorstep?
Liverpool’s compact center means a short stroll to everything, from shopping at Liverpool One (7 minutes) to the museums, Mersey ferry terminal, and waterfront grandeur of Pier Head and The Three Graces (Royal Liver Building, Cunard Building, and Port of Liverpool Building; 12 minutes). Closer still are the Cavern Club on Mathew Street and the World Museum and Walker Art Gallery , as well as my favorite: Central Library , featuring the Victorian Grade II-listed Picton Reading Room. With Love Thy Neighbour not open for dinner on the Sunday of my stay, I savored the small dishes and tiffin tins of Mowgli Street Food on Water Street and micro-distillery gins of Liverpool Gin Distillery (tastings and classes available) on Castle Street. How much?
Dorm beds for £15, private rooms for £30.
• Accommodation and meals were provided by Sleep Eat Love and Love Thy Neighbour Related: View articles on the best places to visit in the UK for your next trip here.