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The stomping ground of backpackers since time immemorial, hostels are the hub of the modern budget traveller. Much more than just a bunkbed for less, these sorts of stays have revolutionised the way people move around the globe. They're now bona fide social clubs, offering common rooms and beer bars and even fully-fledged tour services to all who pass their way. The most affordable rooms start with dormitories and it's not uncommon for bed counts to clock up beyond the 20 mark in those. However, most hostels also now cater to couples and travelling duos, touting private doubles and twins that are clean, comfy and – perhaps above all – easy on the wallet.

Don't go thinking that hostels are just a shoestring alternative to hotels, though. Far from it. These rambunctious, energetic stays are a hive of activity. Hostels in Lisbon have won awards for their pub crawls and buzzing atmosphere. Hostels in Berlin channel the bohemian edge of the German capital with Bauhaus interiors and raucous underground bars where you can meet, mingle and raise Bavarian beers in the company of fellow travellers until the early hours. Of course, price does come into it. Take the wealth of hostels in London, which pepper happening districts like Soho and Camden with beds for just a fraction of the price charged by nearby hotels.

You'll be able to spot the edgy, new look of hostel stays in the acclaimed Hub Lisbon Patio Hostel. With creative common spaces dotted communal tables and swinging hammocks, it can feel more like a boutique resort at times. Then you see the price tag or spend an evening sharing tales of backpacking adventures with like-minded globetrotters over a frothy beer and you realise it is a hostel after all. Generator London is another example of a hostel that goes above and beyond. Its lobbies are laden with art. Its interiors are plush with exposed brick walls and industrial-chic dashes of steel and concrete. Even the shared bathrooms channel something of the Pop Art era with their bright colour schemes and metro-tiled walls.

There are countless reasons why you might want to opt for a hostel stay. To stash more euros and pounds for the museums is the obvious one. But how about to network with backpackers and make new friends, while enjoying cool designs and buzzing on-site bars?