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Boston’s Hostel Scene Comes of Age with 40Berkeley

40 Berkeley Street Boston
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Like many generations of student travelers, the first time I ever booked a night’s stay on my own was at a hostel, in 1999 at a hostel near London’s Leicester Square called “The Generator,” which greeted international visitors with blacklights and blaring techno and bright IKEA furniture…22 hours a day. My sister and I bunked in an 8-person dorm-style room with a shared bath, our roommates for the night hailing from Germany, Scotland, Lithuania, and Italy (if memory serves) and ranging in age from 15 to 35 (give or take). I think we paid 40 Euros for the night and left sketched out. It was a rite of passage.

During this global recession, however; “the credit crunch has changed the very demographic and decor of hostels around the world, turning from bleak to chic and from student backpackers to business people and families,” according to HostelWorld.com. “Hostels also offer a unique social experience unmatched by hotels.”

Much like the Olympics, hostels offer a connection to a friendly, international community with eccentric human interest stories — and nowadays, a chance to stay in style. In a global study released earlier this month, conducted jointly by HostelWorld.com and Lonely Planet, 94% of travelers going on vacation this summer said that they would consider hostel accommodation, in search of modern lodging for less than $100 per night.

Boston is lucky enough to have recently gotten its first new hostel in more than three decades with the opening of 40Berkeley, housed in the historic former YWCA residences on the corner of Berkeley and Appleton Streets in the South End. And, I’ve been lucky enough to get an extended insider tour of this hidden gem thanks to our monthly residency series of clothing swaps with The Swapaholics in the 40Berkeley courtyard.

More than any other hostel I’ve seen before, I’m drawn to 40Berkeley‘s romantic past: period mid-century modern details evoke the building’s history as a YWCA residence, housing a generation of young women who rebelliously flocked to Boston during the 1950s and ’60s to pursue degrees and careers, many as secretaries, before getting married, probably much to the chagrin of their mothers.

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40Berkeley_Boston_Hostel_Self_Catering_Apartment

With rates staring at just $70-74 per night for a “Standard Full” private single room with a full-sized bed (above, top) up to $293 per night for a luxury one-bedroom apartment that sleeps four, has a self-catering kitchen, and offers views of the Boston skyline (above, bottom), 40Berkeley is a chance to not only score one of the most affordable rooms in town but to immerse yourself in another time — even if only for a night out in Boston (with the Boston Ballet and Boston Center for the Arts, among other cultural venues, literally just around the corner).

Here are some more of my favorite Mad Men-like features that make 40Berkeley stand out from the hostels of my youth adventures:

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40Berkeley Phone Booth

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40Berkeley also boasts: a living room with floor-to-ceiling windows and rocking chairs looking out over the gorgeous courtyard, rimmed with an antique New England redbrick wall (below); pool tables and free Starbucks coffee in the “Adrenaline Cafe”; a private movie theatre with free popcorn (plus free frozen slushies in the summertime); an on-site laundromat and free Wi-Fi; free breakfast, including a DIY waffle bar (!!); plus hundreds of exclusive discounts and freebies for guests, from discount parking vouchers to passes for local attractions and free on-site events, like free yoga in the courtyard, an exclusive Olympics Traveler’s Night viewing party, and free admission to the monthly clothing swaps. (Events held in the courtyard, weather permitting).

If you need more (completely unbiased) proof, the Toronto Star also recently published a review in “24 Hours and $240 in Boston.”

Plus, Shoestring readers who book their stay by September 15th, 2012 and use code SHOE when booking at 40Berkeley.com will get 15% off, up to two nights!

Story: Copyright 2012, Shoestring LLC.
Photos: Courtesy of 40Berkeley & Melissa Massello.

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