HI Hostels Blog

A Brief History of Hostelling International

World’s First Youth Hostel

Richard Schirrmann

Hostelling has come a long way since the German schoolteacher Richard Schirrmann began the youth hostel movement in 1909. He saw the need for overnight accommodation that would allow school children the chance to travel and experience other parts of their country safely and affordably. As a result, the world’s first Jugendherberge (youth hostel) was opened in 1912 in the beautiful Altena Castle, located on the Lenne river valley, western Germany.

There is still a hostel within the castle grounds today and it is possible to visit the original rooms which were used by the very first youth hostellers. More and more hostels appeared and by 1919, Schirrmann had founded the nationwide German Youth Hostel Association. Visit our 100 Years of Hostelling page to read more about Richard.

International Youth Hostel Federation

Altena Castle
Altena Castle

As interest grew globally, Youth Hostel Associations began appearing within many countries from around the world, and it was in 1932 when representatives from 11 associations within Europe came to Amsterdam and founded the International Youth Hostel Federation (IYHF). Richard Schirrmann soon became the president of the organisation but he was forced to resign in 1936 by the new German government.

Youth hostels then were very different to as they are now. The idea of doing chores around the hostel during your stay was much the norm, so that hostellers helped out with reception duties, cleaning, cooking and general maintenance within the hostel for the welfare of everyone. That way, the hostel was maintained perfectly with a great community spirit.

Hostelling International

First Youth Hostel in Altena Castle
First Youth Hostel

Today, Hostelling International is the parent hostelling organisation and registered charity for more than 90 Youth Hostel Associations in over 90 countries around the world. We are and always have been a non-profit membership organisation so all our money is ploughed back into the company making the hostelling experience better for everyone. We also work closely with UNESCO with our Youth Hostelling for Peace and International Understanding campaign by helping to promote collaboration between nations and travellers through education, culture and communication.

Our Mission

To promote the education of all young people of all nations, but especially young people of limited means, by encouraging in them a greater knowledge, love and care of the countryside and an appreciation of the cultural values of towns and cities in all parts of the world, and as ancillary thereto, provide hostels or other accommodation in which there shall be no distinctions of race, nationality, colour, religion, sex, class or political opinions and thereby develop a better understanding of their fellow men at home and abroad.

Real Hostel Experience

We have over 100 years of hostelling experience; more than 4,000 hostels worldwide and 4 million hostelling international members globally. All of our hostels come with assured standards which guarantee good quality safe accommodation and affordable prices, no matter where you are travelling in the world.

For these reasons, and many more, we really do offer you the REAL Hostel Experience.

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