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When Was The First Hostel Founded


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Timi Rome



When it comes to traveling, accommodations play a crucial role in ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable experience. While luxury hotels and resorts are popular choices for many, there is another option that provides a unique and budget-friendly way to stay: hostels.


Hostels have become increasingly popular among travelers, especially those who are looking for affordable options without compromising on the opportunity to meet fellow adventurers and immerse themselves in the local culture. In recent years, hostels have gained a reputation for being more than just a place to sleep – they have become vibrant and social hubs that foster connections and create unforgettable experiences.


In this article, we will explore the origins of hostels, looking back on their historical roots, the rise of youth hostels, and the founding of the first official hostel. Understanding the origins of hostels will not only give us insight into the evolution of accommodations but also help us appreciate the unique benefits and experiences they offer.


Definition of Hostel

Before delving into the historical context, it’s important to understand what exactly a hostel is. A hostel is a budget-friendly accommodation option that typically offers shared dormitory-style rooms, communal facilities, and a social atmosphere. Unlike hotels, where guests typically have their own private rooms and amenities, hostels emphasize social interaction and shared experiences among travelers.


Hostels usually provide amenities such as communal kitchens, common areas, and often offer services like free Wi-Fi, laundry facilities, and organized social activities. The layout of hostels encourages guests to connect with each other, share stories, experiences, and even travel tips. The shared spaces and communal facilities make hostels an ideal choice for solo travelers or those looking to meet like-minded individuals from around the world.


It’s important to note that hostels come in various forms and sizes. While the traditional image of a hostel may be a large, bustling property, there are also smaller and more intimate hostels that cater to specific niches or themes. Some hostels even offer private rooms for those who prefer more privacy while still enjoying the social aspect of a hostel environment.


Overall, the defining characteristic of a hostel is its emphasis on affordability, communal living, and the opportunity to connect with fellow travelers. Hostels provide a unique and inclusive atmosphere that encourages cultural exchange and the creation of lifelong memories.


Historical Context

To fully understand the origins of hostels, it’s important to explore the historical context in which they emerged. The concept of shared accommodations has a long history that dates back centuries.


In ancient times, communal lodging was prevalent in places such as monasteries, inns, and even army barracks. These spaces offered a place for travelers to rest and rejuvenate during their journeys. However, the modern concept of hostels as we know them today began to take shape in the early 20th century.


The rise of industrialization and advancements in transportation opened up opportunities for people to travel more extensively. As more individuals set out to explore the world, the need for affordable accommodations became evident. This led to the development of hostels, providing a cost-effective solution for accommodating travelers on a budget.


Furthermore, the rise of the youth travel movement in the mid-20th century played a significant role in shaping the concept of hostels. Young backpackers and adventurers sought inexpensive and communal accommodations that would enable them to explore different cultures and create connections with fellow travelers. This desire for affordable travel experiences and a sense of community paved the way for the establishment of dedicated youth hostels.


The historical context surrounding the emergence of hostels highlights the evolving nature of travel and the changing preferences of travelers. The need for affordable and social accommodations has always been present, but it was during this period that hostels began to thrive as an alternative to traditional hotels.


Today, the popularity of hostels continues to grow, catering to a wide range of travelers seeking unique experiences and connections during their journeys. The historical context reminds us that hostels are not just a recent phenomenon but have deep roots in the evolution of travel and accommodation options.


The Origins of Hostels

The origins of hostels can be traced back to various cultures and time periods throughout history. The concept of communal lodging has been present in different forms, depending on the cultural traditions and societal needs of each era.


One early example of communal lodging can be found in ancient Rome, where travelers could stay in the “hospitium.” These were establishments where travelers could find shelter, food, and sometimes even medical care. The hospitium was often provided by generous individuals or religious institutions as a form of hospitality.


In Europe during the Middle Ages, pilgrims traveling to religious sites often sought accommodations in hospices or pilgrim hostels. These establishments, often run by religious orders, provided a safe and welcoming place for pilgrims to rest during their spiritual journey. These early hostels offered a communal experience, where travelers could share stories and obtain valuable information about their pilgrimage.


However, the modern concept of hostels began to gain prominence in the early 20th century. One significant influence on the development of hostels was the social movements that emerged during this time, which aimed to make travel accessible to all.


One notable pioneer of the hostel movement was Richard Schirrmann. In 1909, Schirrmann, a German schoolteacher, opened the first youth hostel in Altena, Germany. The hostel provided affordable accommodations and aimed to promote educational and cultural exchange among young people. This pioneering effort laid the foundation for what would become a global movement of youth hostels.


Furthermore, the establishment of the International Youth Hostel Federation (IYHF) in 1932 helped formalize and organize the network of youth hostels around the world. The IYHF set standards and provided support for the development of hostels, fostering a sense of community and cooperation among hostel operators.


Today, the origins of hostels still influence their fundamental purpose – to provide affordable accommodations that foster cultural exchange and community. While the concept has evolved over time to meet the needs and preferences of modern travelers, the roots of communal lodging and the desire for shared experiences continue to shape the essence of hostels.


The Rise of Youth Hostels

One of the most significant developments in the evolution of hostels was the rise of youth hostels. The concept of youth hostels emerged in the early 20th century and quickly gained popularity, particularly among young travelers seeking affordable accommodations and a sense of community.


The youth hostel movement was propelled by the desire to make travel accessible to young people and promote cultural exchange and understanding. The idea was to provide budget-friendly accommodations for young travelers, enabling them to explore the world and connect with like-minded individuals.


One of the key figures in the rise of youth hostels was Richard Schirrmann, who pioneered the establishment of the first youth hostel in 1909. His vision of creating safe and affordable accommodations for young people inspired others to follow suit, leading to the establishment of youth hostels in various countries.


During the early years, youth hostels primarily catered to young adventurers and backpackers. They offered basic yet comfortable accommodations, often in shared dormitory-style rooms. The emphasis was on affordability, communal living, and creating an environment that fostered social interactions and cultural exchange.


The popularity of youth hostels continued to grow throughout the 20th century, fueled by the increasing desire of young people to explore the world and immerse themselves in different cultures. Hostelling International (HI), formerly known as the International Youth Hostel Federation (IYHF), played a significant role in coordinating and supporting the development of youth hostels worldwide.


With the rise of technology and the advent of online booking platforms, the accessibility and visibility of youth hostels expanded even further. Travelers could easily find and book hostels, browse reviews from fellow travelers, and connect with potential travel companions.


As the popularity of youth hostels grew, so did the diversity of the facilities and services they offered. Many hostels now feature a wide range of amenities, including private rooms, en-suite bathrooms, communal kitchens, social spaces, organized activities, and more. This evolution has allowed hostels to cater to a broader audience, including families, older travelers, and those seeking a unique and community-driven travel experience.


Today, youth hostels continue to thrive as a popular choice for budget-conscious travelers. They provide a welcoming and inclusive environment that encourages social interaction, cultural exchange, and the creation of lifelong memories. The rise of youth hostels has left an indelible mark on the world of travel, offering a unique alternative to traditional accommodations and promoting a spirit of adventure and camaraderie among travelers from all walks of life.


The First Official Hostel

While the concept of communal accommodations and early forms of hostels can be traced back through history, the establishment of the first official hostel marked a significant milestone in the evolution of hosteling. The first recognized hostel, often referred to as the “Mother hostel,” holds a special place in the history of hostels.


The honor of being recognized as the first official hostel goes to the YHA (Youth Hostels Association) in the United Kingdom. In 1930, the YHA opened its first hostel in Alnmouth, Northumberland. This marked the beginning of a network of hostels across the country and laid the foundation for the global hosteling movement.


The Alnmouth hostel, set in a picturesque location near the beautiful Northumberland coast, aimed to provide affordable accommodations for young travelers. It offered dormitory-style rooms, communal spaces, and shared facilities. The hostel quickly became popular among young adventurers who were drawn to its affordability and the opportunity to connect with fellow travelers.


The success of the Alnmouth hostel sparked the rapid expansion of the YHA network across the United Kingdom. Recognizing the need for standardized facilities and services, the YHA set guidelines and criteria for hostels to ensure quality standards were met. The organization provided support for the development and management of hostels, facilitating an environment that catered to the needs of young travelers.


The YHA’s pioneering efforts inspired the establishment of similar organizations and hostel networks worldwide. The International Youth Hostel Federation (IYHF) played a crucial role in coordinating and connecting these organizations, promoting the growth of the global hosteling community.


Since the opening of the first official hostel, hostels have evolved significantly. Today, hostels can be found in various countries, offering diverse accommodations and amenities that cater to a wide range of travelers. From beachside retreats to city-center hubs, hostels continue to provide an affordable and sociable option for those seeking a unique travel experience.


The establishment of the first official hostel was a pivotal moment in the history of hostels. It marked the formalization and recognition of the hostel concept and set the stage for the global hosteling movement to thrive. The legacy of the first official hostel lives on in the countless hostels around the world, each offering its own unique charm, shared experiences, and opportunities for cultural exchange.



The evolution of hostels has come a long way, from ancient hospices and communal lodging to the vibrant and social accommodations we know today. Hostels provide a unique travel experience that combines affordability, social interaction, and cultural immersion.


Understanding the origins of hostels helps us appreciate their significance in the travel industry. From the early hospices and pilgrim hostels to the establishment of the first official hostel, each milestone has shaped the concept of hostels and influenced their development.


The rise of youth hostels, pioneered by Richard Schirrmann and the Youth Hostels Association, brought the concept of communal living and affordable accommodations to the forefront. These hostels became hubs for young travelers to connect, share stories, and create lasting friendships.


Today, hostels continue to evolve, offering a range of amenities and catering to diverse traveler needs. From backpackers and solo adventurers to families and older travelers, hostels provide an inclusive environment for people from all walks of life.


Hostels have become more than just a place to sleep; they have become a way of life for many travelers. The sense of community, cultural exchange, and shared experiences that hostels foster create memories that last a lifetime.


So, the next time you plan your travels, consider staying in a hostel. Embrace the opportunity to meet fellow adventurers, immerse yourself in the local culture, and enjoy the unique experiences that hostels offer. Whether you choose a small boutique hostel or a bustling international chain, you’ll be part of a global community united by a love for exploration and connection.


Hostels truly embody the spirit of travel – affordable, diverse, and full of limitless possibilities. So pack your bags, book your stay, and prepare for an unforgettable journey in the world of hostels.