Welcome to the TOC Hostel & Suites in Barcelona. If the word “hostel” calls to mind grubby bunk-beds and backpackers, think again.
After spending a couple of nights at the new hip hangout, it is as far away from the traditional style as its possible to get.
Right on the broad sweep of the Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, barely 15 minutes’ walk from La Rambla, TOC is right at the heart of this exciting city.
To the north, within a few blocks are all manner of restaurants, craft-beer pubs and bars. Head south and you’ll find shops and the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Almost all the main tourist attractions are within walking distance but the surprise is on the roof — an achingly cool pool and trendy terrace with beach-club style sofas and layouts.
There’s a clean, modern kitchen for those who want to whip up a snack and a well-stocked bar.
Downstairs, there’s a living room-style communal area, complete with a bookcase, pool table and giant projector screen for TV and games.
And while the lead-in rate of £19.70 for a bed in a six or eight-person dorm sounds great, the rooms themselves are a cut above the shabby chic you’d expect.
Forget creaky bunks — these are futuristic Japanese-style sleep pods with a large locker for all your stuff. There are also clean, communal shower and toilet facilities.
If you’re travelling with friends, a four-person room is just £120 — that’s £30 per night each and you’ll get your own ensuite. For £92, a couple can enjoy a private ensuite room.
The en-suite private rooms, though small, are simply and very tastefully decorated, clean, and many even boast their own Juliette balconies.
In fact, TOC manages to marry the laid-back atmosphere of a hostel with the comfort of a hotel. It’s also very safe.
On arrival, one of the staff members all of whom are friendly and speak fantastic English, will take your fingerprint, which you’ll use to lock and unlock the door of your room.
The wifi is fast, free and reliable, and the buffet breakfast, which includes scrambled eggs, bacon, bread and cereal, is also included in the price with private rooms.
The staff are just as adept at recommending a smart restaurant as they are at suggesting a cheap bar.
And proof of this pleasing split-personality can be seen in TOC’s mixed clientele, most of whom are students or travellers, but with a sprinkling of older holidaymakers.
Despite all these amenities, there’s no excuse for staying at TOC during the day.
Barely 30 seconds’ walk away is the Barcelona Beer Company, where you can order sandwiches, nachos or even octopus to accompany your samples of pilsner, pale ale and stout.
If you’re hungry, or just greedy (you are on holiday, after all) then head over to Atapa-It or Paco Meralgo for tapas.
And if you fancy an invigorating walk after all the tapas, then head east towards the Gothic Quarter, where labyrinthine streets evoke the city’s rich Roman and medieval history.
TOC has certainly changed my impression of a hostel — and I’ll be returning for more Barcelona budget fun soon.
GETTING THERE: EasyJet flies to Barcelona from a variety of UK airports from £25 one-way in October. See easyjet.com
STAYING THERE: A bed in an eight-bed dorm is from £19.84 per night, four-bed private ensuite room from £120 a night and from £92 for a private double room. See bit.ly/2ztQDBT
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