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Background history and principles

The Youth Hostel concept was born in Germany at the beginning of 20th century. Richard SCHIRRMANN, a teacher, used to take his students on excursions on a regular basis. These hikes would often last several days and the children stayed in farms they came across along the route.

On 26 August 1909, the group was caught in an unexpected storm. They finally took refuge in a school. The headmaster allowed them to use a classroom and a farmer gave them straw to sleep on and milk for their dinner. The storm raged throughout the night. So while the boys slept, Schirrmann lay awake. This is when the idea came to him…

As he saw it, German schools could provide the perfect accommodation during the holidays. Villages could have comfortable hostels located a day’s walk between them to welcome young hikers.

In 1912, the first real Youth Hostel opened its doors. It was opened in the old castle of Altena, in western Germany. According to Schirrmann’s wishes, the castle was equipped with two dormitories with bunk beds, a kitchen, washrooms and a bathroom with showers.

The concept was an immediate success. The movement developed quickly in Germany and throughout Europe. While the first Youth Hostel opened its doors in 1912, by 1931 there were already some 2,600 other hostels in 12 countries across Europe, that means a new hostel opened every 2-3 days !

At the beginning, the associations of the various countries had little contact with each other. But that changed in 1932 at the first international conference that took place in Amsterdam. Soon after, a federation came into being…You can find more information on this subject here.

So today, what is a Youth Hostel ? Obviously, quite a lot has changed in 100 years…The hostels have consistently adapted to changes in society and have become increasingly more modern. You will find the majority of hostels equipped as follows :

-  Fully-fitted bathroom, private or shared washrooms ;
-  Bed linen available ;
-  Catering service and dining room ;
-  Fully-equipped kitchen available for guests ;
-  Common room/lounge ;
-  Meeting rooms ;
-  Bar ;
-  Laundry room ;
-  Etc.


They are usually open throughout the year and boast state-of-the-art facilities and equipment. Long gone are the makeshift dormitories in schools during the summer holidays !

Of course, each national Youth Hostel association has its own infrastructure. To find out more about our association in particular, follow this link !

Youth Hostels are open to all : backpackers, groups of friends, everyone is welcome, no matter how old you are !

If you would like to join our association, visit this page.




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