When I started traveling 7 years ago hostels got a bad rap. Dirty, sketchy, and a haven for drunk partiers. All while being crammed in a 10-person mixed dorm. But hostels have come along way since then and there are so many more options now.
In Madrid, I stayed in a luxury hostel that was more like a hotel.
In Nice, I was just metres away from the beach and pristine blue waters of the sea.
After two months of daily French classes, living and studying in Rouen and Provence I booked a couple of nights at Villa Saint Exupéry under the mediterranean sun of Nice. I met Jonathan, the manager, who used to work for a 5-star hotel in Belgium. He left that swanky part of the business but has done a pretty good job at dressing up this hostel. Here is why I recommend staying at the Villa Saint Exupéry in Nice.
You can opt for the typical hostel dorm room if you’re really tight on cash or want to meet new people but they also have spacious, private hotel-like rooms which are not that much more expensive than dorms. What Saint Exupery has that a lot of hostels don’t are en-suites – whether you book a dorm or private room you can get your own private bathroom. Which is nice because communal bathrooms are just not that sexy anymore.
On Wednesdays and Fridays you can tag on to a free walking tour of the city which is a common feature of most hostels these days. What’s not so common is the day trips to Monaco, Cannes, and Antibes or the adventure tours you can sign up for at a fraction of the price that you would pay through a tour operator. Take up hot yoga, French lessons, sailing, scuba diving, and wakeboarding in the summer. In the winter, they organize go skiing or snowboarding on the slopes of Auron, Isola 2000, or Valberg. For 53€ it includes a ride to the French Alps only two hours away, lift pass, and any gear you need. Essentially, you can land in Nice without an itinerary and still have so much to do.
Breakfast is free and on top of that they serve up lots of healthy options – whole grain cereals, toast with jam, fresh fruit, and juice. It helped me fuel up after my morning run. There’s a free self-serve coffee, tea and hot chocolate station open all day.
Every night is happy hour at the bar with €4 cocktails and €1 beers. Throw down €7 and you can drink while they do your dirty laundry! The live acoustics was a-mazing. Nothing beats Oasis cover songs.
The hostel is right on the coast of le Côte d’Azur. Just a few metres away you can roll out of bed onto the beach, watch the sun rise in the morning or set at night. It doesn’t get better than that! I especially loved staying here because I’m a runner and le Promenade Anglais was the perfect place for my morning running routine.
Place Masséna is around the corner with local cafes to sip coffee, watch people stroll by or the city tram when it runs through the square. It’s where Nice’s biggest festivals and cultural events happen. If you’re lucky enough to come here in February the biggest carnival in France is also here. At the bottom of the steps behind the naked man Apollo is the passageway to the Old Town and weekly markets (which is also the best area to eat in Nice).
I’m not much of a shopper but if you are, the hostel is across from Galerie LaFayette and a few blocks from Nice Etoile, the local mall.
The doors to the lobby are always locked and the only way to get in is with a plastic key card. Each room has compartments you can use to lock up valuables. My roommates were two Chinese students from Toulouse, a young Russian girl and this Canadian gal who spent hours sharing everything about our cultures and each of our parts of the world. They were super easy-going and we all hit it off well so none of us felt like we needed to hide anything. The front desk is manned 24/7 which means you can check-in or out anytime.
In most hotels and even some hostels, the bar is open to the public and anyone can walk in or out. Here, it’s closed to outsiders so only people staying at the hostel are allowed in. When I met Jonathan for a tour he told me they could open it up to the public to bring in more profits but they’re less interested in making money and more interested in giving travellers a safe and fun place to stay. It was great to see their passion for hostelling as an experience than just a business.
Free gym. Free Sauna. Enough said.
Who is this hostel for?
Saint Exupéry is not your typical hostel – it attracts both a hotel and backpacker clientele and most of them are between 20-35 years old (sometimes older). It’s for anyone who wants to save money (in a city that can be overly priced), stay right in the centre of town, and still have some of the comforts and amenities you might find in a hotel.
Other reasons to book
Free train station pick-up service.
Free beach mats.
Free walking tours with a picnic.
Free luggage storage and lockers.
Scuba diving – 45€ all year round.
Bikram Yoga – 9€ all year round
Sailing – 64€ (Spring – Autumn)
Canyoning – 55€ (Spring – Autumn)
Water Sports – from 20€ (Spring – Autumn)
Ask for the second floor room on the west side – you can get awesome street views from the rooftop.
It’s part of Europe’s Famous Hostels association which gives its stamp of approval to the best (independently-run) hostels for value and quality.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary stay courtesy of the Villa Hostels brand however, I was already planning to stay at their beach property before our agreement anyway. As always, opinions are entirely my own, and I would never recommend anything that I do not fully support.