Hostels are interesting places. They can be kind of hit and miss because a good hostel experience is made of a certain combination of the location, structure and decoration of the space, common areas, activities offered, amenities, and the random mix of whoever happens to be there at the time.
Hotel Hotel Hostel is a smaller international travelers’ hostel in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, and it seems like it falls on the positive end of the range of possibilities.
Because I’m a local (Washington residents aren’t allowed to stay because like all travelers’ hostels, they focus on providing space for visitors), I can’t get first-hand experience of what it’s like to stay here, but I was able to tour the place and I feel comfortable recommending it based on that experience (because if I was from out of town, I’d definitely consider staying here!).
Review of Hotel Hotel Hostel
The entrance to the hostel is decorated with mirrored glass pieces and a fantastic chandelier, reminding me that I’m in the artsy Fremont neighborhood. As I walk up the stairs I see a common area near reception and a guitar hanging on the wall (later I find out that you can borrow the guitar and other musical instruments for the impromptu jam sessions that Nancy, the owner, says they often have). The colored accent lights give a very cool feel to the retro-trendy hostel.
The hostel is very clean (in fact, I showed up during their scheduled daily cleaning time) and it’s obvious that everyone working there cares about making it look neat but inviting.
We visit the private rooms first, some with private bathrooms and some that share the individual bathrooms in the hallway. The rooms are nice, and each has a different feel. There’s a blend of history and art, definitely part of what I think makes independent hostels so cool!
One is a “family room” with toys, a bunk bed, and a table, and Nancy tells me that they offer a discount rate on this room if you’re bringing your family, because they understand that it’s difficult to find affordable places to stay in Seattle when you’re travelling with kids.
Another room has a wall with a partially uncovered sign painted on the brick, which says, “UNDERTAKER.” Nancy says that this is the original sign from what used to be the outside wall of an undertaker’s business. They uncovered it while doing a renovation, and since the formerly outdoor wall was now an indoor wall of the hostel, they could display it in a really cool way.
These kinds of decorations aren’t limited to the private rooms. Each of the rooms (private and dorms) has a mandala around the ceiling light. Painted by a local artist in white paint, it gives the room a lighter, more inviting feel when the light is on at night, because the rest of the color scheme is a dark gray which may otherwise look too heavy.
When we see the dorm rooms, I’m pleasantly surprised by the size and number of lockers available in each room. You can bring your own lock (I always recommend a flexible cable lock), or rent one for $2.
The beds are typical metal-frame bunk beds, so they wobble with a brief shake, so I’d probably prefer the bottom bunk in this case. All bedding’s provided (as in many hostels, you’re not allowed to use your own), but you can bring your own towel if you don’t want to rent one ($2).
Each room has plenty of outlets but not necessarily by each bed, so while you won’t be fighting anyone to plug in your devices, they may not be plugged in next to you (good to know in case you’re not comfortable leaving your things across the room – for me it would depend on how much I trust my roommates).
The rooms have a sink (super convenient to prevent waiting for a bathroom just to brush your teeth), and while there’s currently no lights above them, Nancy tells me that they’ll be adding them soon. This will definitely be an improvement, since turning on the room light while others sleep is bad form, and some of the lockers cast shadows on the sink area anyway.
Common areas and activities
The kitchen is small, with only two chairs and a tiny table, but would be comfortable for a few people to prepare food at the same time. It’s also well-stocked with shared ingredients and spices, and has a fridge to store your food.
One of the things I really appreciate is how much thought went into making the hostel a welcoming place, even down to the details like making sure there’s a dishwasher and enough mugs so no one feels that they have to handwash someone else’s dish (kind, but gross) just to enjoy the free coffee/tea.
Because both the kitchen and the common area are currently so small, the free breakfast is in the lobby near the reception desk. I wasn’t there during breakfast so I can’t say for sure, but I acknowledge that this could feel a bit awkward, as mentioned in some of the other reviews. I’m told, however, that people really enjoy mingling in the lobby at breakfast and it helps to encourage friendly interaction among guests and staff. There’s comfortable places to sit and talk (but not a lot of table area, so you might have to hold your plate, like you’re at a casual party at someone’s house).
Nancy tells me they make sure breakfast is displayed nicely (the receptionist is responsible with keeping it looking fresh) and everyone can access it easily (they try to minimize waiting in lines). Food offered includes cereal and milk, fresh fruits, toast and peanut butter, and coffee/tea.
(Note: There are plans to renovate and combine the kitchen and common area, so once this is complete, the breakfast location may change.)
Speaking of common areas and mingling, in addition to the musical instruments, the hostel also has board games, a take-a-book leave-a-book library, and a rotating list of activities every week.
They want to show people that Fremont and Seattle are great cultural places to visit, and to encourage guests to experience more than just the local bars (although there are several places in the neighborhood she’ll recommend). There’s a free hour-long walking tour of the Fremont neighborhood every Sunday, and other events like an outing to one of Seattle’s many parks, a free museum visit, and movie nights, among other events.
Final say: Recommended!
Based on my tour, I’d say Hotel Hotel Hostel is definitely a step above a typical hostel in cleanliness, looks, and community focus: not corporate or cold, but friendly, with great personality evident in the building, decorations, and the staff.
Have you stayed at Hotel Hotel Hostel? What was your experience?
Want a unique experience but hostels aren’t your thing? Try the Teeny Tiny Guesthouse in the same neighborhood!