Everybody knows the word „hostel“– it describes a simple and low-budget accommodation for travellers. One can however differentiate between two hostel categories. On the one hand, there are Youth Hostels which are members of “Hostelling International” (HI), a non-profit organisation based in the UK that encourages the cultural exchange between young people as well as outdoor activities. These are mostly financed by the government. Youth Hostels developed as part of the youth movement of the 20th century in Germany and serve as accommodation for school groups, youth groups and young people in general.
On the other hand, there are independently operated hostels, which are especially targeted at independent travellers and backpackers from all over the world. The first independent hostels opened in Australia in the 60s, because Australia was one of the first countries to host huge amounts of international backpackers. Afterwards, hostels opened in the UK, in France and in the Netherlands and finally, the first independent German hostel opened in 1991 in the alternative scene of Lübeck.
As our Industriepalast is not part of Hostelling International, it belongs to the category of independent hostels. However, we specialise in hosting school groups and big groups as well as individual travellers and backpackers and, thus, are actually a mix of both hostel categories.
The first youth hostel was opened in Germany by teacher Richard Schirrmann in 1911 in a school in Altena. Already in 1921, there were about 1,300 youth hostels and a bit later, already 2,200 youth hostels existed. Typical youth hostels consisted of many big dormitories and a few smaller rooms for the teachers. As our Industriepalast Hostel has many spacious dormitories (four-, six- and eight-bed dormitories) as well as some private single and double rooms with hotel standards, it theoretically fits the category of HI youth hostels.
Because young people got more eager to travel during the 20th century, many youth hostels opened also outside Germany. There are over 4,000 youth hostels worldwide today which belong to the organisation Hostelling International. The aim of youth hostels is to support the travelling of young people and to facilitate for the exchange of youth in order to support peace and international understanding. Private hostels also bring people from all over the world together, but are privately financed instead and primary attract individual travellers. They started being built during the 60s when the alternative scene of backpacking was growing fast.
About the interior
Besides big dormitories, youth hostels normally also include a dining room for all guests, a cafeteria, sports facilities and a lounge. Also, youth hostels from the HI are also targeted at families and therefore offer courses and workshops especially for families. Those accommodations aim to support the interaction between their guests which they do for instance by offering public BBQ areas. Also hostels, like our Industriepalast, want to bring people from all over the world together. Instead of a cafeteria, we for instance have a cheap hostel bar and a guest kitchen where guests can meet, chat and enjoy food and drinks. We also have a cosy lobby with games, TV and sofas where you can relax and instead of sporting facilities, we offer you a very short distance to Berlin’s nightlife where you can “exercise” like crazy while clubbing.
In contrast to Industriepalast Hostel, most HI youth hostels have a closing time during the night, where the building is being cleaned. Also, in order to stay in a youth hostel, you have to be a member of Hostelling International and pay a membership fee. In hostels, you can get in and out all around the clock, because they are primary attracting young and party-loving travellers who don’t to go to bed at 10 p.m. You don’t have to be a member in any organisation to stay at independently operated hostels which makes it easy for international tourists to book a room spontaneously.
As you can see, the words “Youth Hostel” and “Independent Hostel” have very specific meanings and can only be used for certain accommodations. According to the definitions for both terms, our Industriepalast clearly belongs to the category of independent hostels. However, as many people just use the term Youth Hostel for any cheap accommodation and as we are specialising on big groups and school groups amongst others, our hostel is often also called youth hostel.
More about Youth Hostels and group tours will follow soon in our next article!
is Berliner by choice and a passionate backpacker himself. As a receptionist he knows the real hostel life; as a blogger he's been writing for Industriepalast Hostel's Berlin blog since 2014.