Uncovering Europe's best budget hotels since 2001.
Mention lounges decked out with designs by the likes of Moooi and Tom Dixon, and you’d probably picture yourself inside a budget-busting hotel or restaurant. But they’re just a couple of the impressive pieces you’ll find in London’s far more wallet-friendly Generator Hostel, which has just undertaken a £8 million revamp.
The London Generator was the first in a chain that now includes hostels Venice, Barcelona, and coming soon in Paris and Rome, each with the same emphasis on contemporary design and style and, sixteen years after its original opening, the London branch was felt to be looking a little tired compared to its newer counterparts.
In terms of looks, the makeover is pretty impressive. There’s a London theme throughout, from the Mind The Gap signs to the huge red double decker bus in the bar used by DJs on club nights. In the café area, the comfy seating and the wingback chairs make it a more attractive place to hang out and check your emails than many other London cafes.
What’s even more appealing is that the design has been done with a sense of fun. Each floor is devoted to a different famous fictional Brit, ranging from the sublime, in the examples of Alice in Wonderland or Mary Poppins, to the more ridiculous Ali G and Austin Powers.
However, when it comes to the rooms the revamp has, unfortunately, had to be a little more limited. As the hostel is housed in a listed historic building that once provided accommodation for the local police it means they haven’t been able to make any structural changes to address the complaints about small rooms that frequently crop up in online reviews. The only rooms with ensuite facilities remain the twin rooms. Furthermore, each room has been given a colorful paint job to make it feel a bit brighter and clever under-bed lockable storage helps maximize the space.
Another possibly divisive factor is that the hostel contains no self-catering facilities for its 870 guests. There’s a full café and bar menu, with appetizing sounding dishes such as bacon, leek and Stilton tart with a watercress salad or a toasted flatbread with hummus and roasted red peppers, goats cheese and rocket at competitive but not bargain basement prices. Perhaps more indicatively there’s also an extensive reasonably priced menu of cocktails and shooters.
To its credit, London’s Generator is trying to keep the sociable aspect of hostel staying alive, with nightly DJs, film screenings and events such as quizzes. There’s music playing throughout the reception area too, making for a lively feel—perhaps too lively for some. In fact, comments about the noise remain the most common complaint in online reviews.
The care and attention to detail that have been put into the revamp definitely make it worth checking out, that is if the idea of staying in a large, buzzy and irrepressibly lively hostel appeals. For a more sedate time, you might be better looking at a smaller hotel, even if the chairs aren’t quite so handsome.
Read our full review of the hostel here, along with dozens of other affordable London hotel options.