The Generator Hostel, London
- Review by Kiernan Maletsky
"It's like a student union," says a 20-year old New York native occupying one of Generator Hostel's 800-something beds on a cold and wet March night. She's right – Generator is like a student union, sort of. It's got a restaurant and bar and a lounge and a computer lab and a bare-essentials store where you can buy the things you forgot or things to help you remember. But there's no shadow of academia here, just bacchanalia by the glow of coloured lights and beds to fall into, surrounded by your new multi-national friends.
Generator is one of London's biggest and highest-profile hostels. It, like its smaller counterparts, is tailor made for students, with cheap beds and communal living and no one to lift a nose if you don't come home until the sun is rising. There are some outliers – the occasional open-minded, closed-wallet-ed 40-something reading Kerouac on a quiet couch. But for the most part the clientele are, if not hard-partying youths, at least youths, budget-conscious youths who nevertheless found their way to one of the most expensive cities in the world.
Polite society tends to frown on the same things that this student-aged set holds as its highest values, which is what makes hostels fit so cozily into their niche. Generator is more entertaining and more consumerist than most – you could theoretically spend your whole trip in its labyrinthine confines. But of course that would defeat the purpose of coming; Generator is mostly just presenting options. They make only a passing attempt at dinner with overpriced food they surely don't expect many people to stick around for, and they've found a couple of free walking tours to get you through the London essentials.
With a city as sprawling as London, there's no best location. Generator is situated just a few tube stops north of Big Ben and Covent Garden, between Russell Square and the hub at King's Cross St. Pancras stations. It's as good as anything in the outer band of central London – you won't be able to stumble to your bed from a night out in Soho but you're only a short ride away on the city's wonderful public transport system. And unlike many hostels, Generator offers you the truly rare chance to drink cheaply (happy-hour pints start at UKP1.50). If nothing else it's a fine way to close the evening, once the pubs and tube have shut down.
Hostels do not afford patrons much alone time – although Generator does have some private rooms (singles and twin-bedded) most guests stay in dormitory style bunk-bedded rooms and communal-style washrooms. Valuables can be placed in safes or in-room lockers.
There's no doubt that a shortage of disposable income is the prime motivation for choosing to spend your holiday in a hostel, but because it's true of nearly everyone there, side benefits of camaraderie are born. And the general rumour that hostels are little more than cesspools for discomfort and dirtiness is emphatically false. The worst you can expect is to finally have some holiday stories people actually want to hear.
- Kiernan Maletsky
The long-established Generator can sometimes be booked out days or weeks in advance, so either plan well-ahead and book early or choose from the wide selection of alternative London Hostels we've chosen.