What kind of accommodation should you book for your trip to Europe? While the answer to that question was quite simple even just a decade ago, it’s recently become a bit of a pickle. With some luxury hostels being more enjoyable and regular hotels, and with short-term apartment rentals getting more traction than ever, not to mention couchsurfing and WOOFing, there’s a myriad of options as far as accommodation in Europe is concerned.
I’ve tested most options listed above over in my 8+ years of travel, but it all comes down to one question: what are you after? Is it price? Value? Space? Location? Amenities? Community? The only way to know what truly fits your need is to find out what they are first and foremost.
Here’s a quick guide on what you should expect from eight different types of accommodation, alternative or traditional.
Accommodation in Europe: What You Should Know
- Who is it for? Anyone who intends on paying top dollar to get a top experience.
- How much does it cost? Anywhere between $100 and $400 a night.
- What are the main takeaways? Hassle-free holiday in a central location, access to concierge services, might have a bar/restaurant on site, possible to accumulate points if you’re loyal to a brand.
The most traditional option is still very popular among travellers in Europe and elsewhere on the planet. The approach is pretty straightforward: a bed, a private bathroom, and a certain level of amenities (bellboy, room service, laundry service, in-room toiletries, daily housekeeping, etc.). Hotels do tend to be the most expensive option, especially for solo travellers, but you usually get immense value in return.
- Who is it for? Younger travellers that are no longer interested in dorms, but still concerned about value.
- How much does it cost? Private rooms can cost between $70 and $150 a night.
- What are the main takeaways? Private en-suite room, budget-friendly rates, often located in cool areas outside the city centre, easy access to a variety of social activities.
Hostels are probably the option that’s changed the most in the last few years. Gone are the times where dormitories were the rule; nowadays, stylish private rooms are what everyone talks about – at least judging by how many views my Luxury Hostels of Europe post keeps getting. They’re pretty much offering the advantages of both a hotel and a hostel, minus most of the respective downsides. And that’s totally fine by me, as you won’t see me booking a bunk bed anytime soon. This (only child) gal needs her space!
People booking luxury hostels tend to be concerned about the value of their stay first: they don’t mind paying a little more than the basic dorm price, but they want more in return, like a quirky design, free walking tours, and even shared facilities like kitchen and laundry.
Apartments / Airbnb
- Who is it for? Families and groups, or solo/couples staying for more than just a few nights.
- How much does it cost? Between $70 and $400 a night (split between the guests) depending on the size and location of the apartment.
- What are the main takeaways? Large spaces with plenty of bedrooms and living areas, access to private kitchen and laundry facilities, a more local experience.
I’ve tested many short-term rentals in Europe with Airbnb and every time I’ve been pleasantly surprised.
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend booking apartments for just a night or two since you will be paying for many extra amenities that you probably won’t get around to using anyway. But if you’re in town for 5, 10, 15 nights, then this is definitely the best option. Just think of how much you’ll save on breakfasts alone!
One thing to keep in mind is that apartment rentals are not necessarily cheaper than regular hotels, but you do get more bang for your buck, especially if you’re travelling with a group where everyone’s pitching in to cover the total costs.
And although it might sound silly, the feeling of being a local in a city, of having literal, physical keys to an apartment, even for just a few days, is incredibly powerful. Especially for someone like me who constantly daydreams about moving abroad!
Alternative accommodation in Europe
- Couchsurfing: Their slogan, “stay with locals for free”, says it all. Meet new friends, save money, but don’t expect too much in terms of amenities. You could either be very pleasantly surprised or terribly disappointed.
- WOOFING: The acronym stands for “Willing Workers on Organic Farms”. In return for volunteer help, WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation, and opportunities to learn about organic and sustainable lifestyles.
- Religious housing: A lot of functioning monasteries and convents throughout Europe (but mostly in predominantly Catholic countries, like France, Spain, and Italy) accept overnight guests for a small fee; remember, however, that amenities are minimal, that curfews are not unheard of, and that non-married couples are outright prohibited to bunk together.
- Academic housing: Ideal for budget travellers looking into long-term stays in the summer when university dorms are empty.
- Housesit: Discover the world rent-free by helping our members care for their pets and homes while they’re on holiday. My friends over at Hecktic Travels are basically the King and Queen of housesitting, and know everything there is to know about this alternative but increasingly popular way of travelling the world.
What’s your go-to option when your vacation in Europe?