To be honest I wouldn’t normally consider staying in a hostel. After all, my student days are long behind me. I have been a young professional for quite a while now and wouldn’t consider slipping back into the backpacker style of life.
Our usual port of call is a three or four-star hotel or bed and breakfast. Not too expensive, but with a lower price limit that ensures a certain amount of quality and a restful night.
Unfortunately, these types of hotels are hard to come by in London. You will find plentiful good quality boutique hotels. But they also come at a price. If you are looking for an affordable stay in the centre of London, you will be hard pressed finding it among the usual plethora of hotels.
This is where clink 78 comes into play. Hostel Clink 78 definitely isn’t your usual kind of Hostel. Set in a two-hundred-year-old courthouse in the vibrant area of King’s Cross, Clink78 mixes elegant Victorian architecture with unique and colourful interior design. Many of the original features remain. The old magistrates’ courtrooms now house communal lounge areas, guests sit at pews in the TV room and some bedrooms occupy former cells. Staff are quick to point out that Charles Dickens – one of Britain’s most famous authors – once worked here as a court scribe. No one, however has been trialled in the building since 1998.
No Clink 78 is not your everyday hostel. It has character, history and charm. And this clearly sets it apart from any other hostel I have stayed at.
CHECK-IN AT HOSTEL CLINK 78
The first thing you will notice when you walk up the front steps to Clink Hostel 78, is the original mosaic depicting the Metropolitan Police – a nice throwback to the buildings history. The hostel takes its security seriously. To enter you need a key-card. But if you knock, the friendly bouncer will open the door for you. The reception is located in the Grand Hall, which retains many of its original courthouse feature. A bright lick of paint and the funky reception desk however bring the design right up to date. The reception desk seems to be busy at all hours with eager backpackers keen to check-in. Check-in was relatively painless – or would have been if I hadn’t forgotten to bring my ID. Apart from this minor hick-up, check-in at clink hostel 78 only lasted a couple of minutes. After we were logged in, we were each handed a room key-card, along with a handy map and a schedule for Clash Bar – the hostels lively basement bar. The rules were explained briefly and we were told to check out at 10am the next day. A smile wouldn’t have come amiss, but overall we were happy with the efficient service.
OUR PRIVATE PRISON CELL AT CLINK 78
Aside from offering private, single-sex and mixed facilities, Clink78 gives you the chance to bring your experience a step further and sleep in an authentic prison cell. The English Heritage listed prison cells have been refurbished (bright pastel colours give these scary rooms some much needed warmth) but are still adorned with many of the original features – including grilled windows, a caged light, a bench, a steel toilet and a heavy industrial metal doors with feeding hatch and steel plated peep-hole. Keen to have a memorable experience in a quirky room, but determine to still enjoy a moderate amount of privacy, my partner in crime and I volunteered to be locked up in one of the cells for the night. The cells can be unlocked with a key card. One of the advantages of spending a night at Clink Hostel 78 rather than in a real prison, is that the door unlocks from both sides. As would be expected from a cell room, the allotted space is tight and slightly claustrophobic. A bunk bed is wedged tightly against the wall and the remaining space isn’t wide enough to swing a cat – never mind a ball and chain. Although the room is compact, its inhabitants are provided with all the necessary goods. A quilt and towel are folded up neatly on each bed. The available storage space is not quite large enough for a big suitcase but decent enough for a backpack. Each bed has a light and the room is equipped with two plug sockets. Fellow female travellers will be pleased to hear that the wall is adorned with a small mirror, perfect for your morning make-up routine. The cell room is equipped with a heater and I personally didn’t feel cold throughout the night. It was another story altogether however for my boyfriend, so you might want to wrap up warm when visiting Clink Hostel 78 in winter. Sleeping in a prison cell was a very unique experience. Although the walls have been slathered in rainbow shades and populated with adorable graffiti inmates, they still confine you in the same they would have all the prisoners who used to live within them. It is hard to imagine what it must feel like, being trapped in a small cell day after day.
THE ROOMS OF CLINK 78
A converted prison cell is not your only option of accommodation when staying at Hostel Clink 78. With space for over 500 guests, clink 78 is one of the largest hostels in London and offers a large variety of rooms and several options for girls. From private en-suite rooms, to private cells, female dorms and mixed dorms, this hostel has it all.
Vividly painted dorms contain four to sixteen beds. They are definitely the most affordable option. Perfect for a group of friends who want to stay together and party! The beds are lined up parallel to one another, creating a series of sleeping pods rather than bunk beds. Each “pod” is equipped with dividing panels with lend the occupier a bit of privacy and personal space. Try to grab one of the bottom bunks. Each bottom bunk is equipped not only with a light but also a small locker. You will need to bring you own padlock or alternatively buy one of the heavy duty locks for just £3 in the travel shop at reception. A number of dorms are reserved for female guests only. These vary in size and occupancy. The larger female dorms are aptly named Bird’s Nest dorms. Spacious and serene, the Bird;s Nest Dorms are equipped with little extras that will make your stay a little more luxurious.
Clink Hostel offers a number of private rooms. These are quite basic and devoid of any notable or enticing feature – in contrast to the private prison cells. On the other hand some of the private rooms come equipped with their own bathroom, which might please more squeamish guests. If you are planning to stay in one of the private en-suite rooms, you will be pleased to find crisp sheets and a squeaky clean bathroom with a bunch of adorable toiletries. Travellers with more extravagant expectations could however end up disappointed.
SHARED BATHROOMS AT CLINK 78
In contrast to the private rooms, the prison cells do not come with an en-suite bathroom. So the pay-off for a little character is sharing a communal bath with the entire floor. To be honest this is the part about staying in a hostel that I was really dreading. Turns out I didn’t need to worry. There are multiple bathrooms and showers on each floor of Clink Hostel 78 so you’ll never have to wander far to use the facilities. The showers are set into cubicles and hot water is in plentiful supply. I was also pleased to find out that the showers and toilets get cleaned regularly – at least six times a day.
THE FACILITIES AT CLINK 78
Now this is where Clink78 came into its own. The common rooms are located in the old court rooms of the courthouse and maintain many of their original features. They are also open at all hours.
CLINK 78 – INTERNET & PC LOUNGE
One of the old courtrooms has been converted into a 24 hour accessible Internet and PC Lounge and it is a great place to get online. Who wouldn’t want to check their emails from a trial bench, once sat on by members of The Clash? Or perhaps you’d rather sit in the judge’s chair or the witness stand. The choice is yours! As a travel blogger, Wifi is my life line. Internet at Clink 78 is free. In fact, you will be given your Wifi Code upon check-in. Unfortunately, the Wifi signal doesn’t reach the bedrooms. So if you want to surf the web you’ll need to head into the common areas on the ground floor or the Clash Bar in the basement. For us this wasn’t hugely problematic. But I could imagine that this would be a little frustrating for a foreign backpacker.
CLINK 78 – TV & FILM LOUNGE
Maybe you would rather snuggle up and watch a move. The other wood-panelled courtroom has therefore been converted into a TV & Film Lounge, complete with comfortable sofas and a large projector. You can ask for a DVD at the reception. Now you just need to find someone to enjoy the movie with.
CLINK 78 – CLASHBAR
The ClashBAR is the social hub of Clink78 – a lively and a fun place for meeting people. This late license bar is aptly named Clash Bar in homage to the punk rockers “The Clash” who stood trial in this courthouse in 1978. It is here, down in the depth of the dungeon of the old courthouse, that lively backpackers come to party their socks off. You can either strut your stuff on the dance floor or simply chill out on the sofas and watch the flirting from afar. The drinks on offer are relatively cheap (e.g. £3.50 a pint), compared to the usual London standard. Furthermore, the social calendar of the bar is packed with upcoming events – including Beerpong, Pool Tournaments, Reggae Aerobics, Blues Night and a Quiz Night. This must be partly due to Clink Hostel 78 ‘Stay and Play’ policy, whereby young up and coming band touring the UK can play Clash Bar and get a bed for the night in payment.
CLINK 78 – FREE BREAKFAST IN THE DINING HALL
In the morning the Clash Bar transforms into the breakfast hall. Breakfast at Clink 78 is basic but filling – and FREE! What’s on offer? Toast, cereal, juice, coffee and tea. Breakfast certainly seemed popular with the young backpackers. The hall was packed and it could even be a little difficult to find a seat. Alternatively, if you fancy something more elaborate, you could head –like we did – to St Pancreas Station, where there is a large variety of breakfast on offer.
CLINK 78 SELF-CATERING KITCHEN
There are plenty of great local restaurants in the surrounding area of Clink Hostel 78. In fact, we enjoyed a great meal at a highly awarded Indian restaurant. I will add the address of the restaurant below. But if you are on a tight budget, you can always cook up a delicious dinner in the self-catering kitchen o the hostel. The large modern and well-equipped kitchen is open on a daily basis from 12 pm to midnight.
CLINK 78 – LAUNDRY ROOM
If you have been living out of a small backpack for a while you might appreciate the available laundry room. It is geared up with washing machines and dryers and you can even borrow an iron. A wash and dry will set you back £5.50, but you can fit in quite a lot in these huge machines.
CLINK 78 – TRAVELSHOP
Did you forget something at home? Your toothbrush or lock? You will probably find what you need in the Travelshop of Clink Hostel 78. You can even buy discounted tickets to top London attractions, such as the London Eye.
CLINK 78 – LOCKERS
Clink Hostel 78 has safes dotted throughout its communal areas. Most of them require a padlock, so don’t forget to bring yours if you want to avoid additional costs. Alternatively there are a couple of electronic safes that will set you back £2.50 for 24 hours. You will also find a certain amount of lockers in the communal dorms. Although from what I have read on the web these are mainly allocated to the bottom bunks. If on the other hand you are staying in a prison cell or private room, you’ll probably won’t need a safe. I felt pretty safe leaving my camera in the room, while we grabbed a bite to eat.
CLINK 78 – THE APP
Clink Hostel 78 has its very own app. A cross between Twitter and Instagram, it will alow you to socialise with other guests at the Hostel. It is also filled with useful information: upcoming events at the clash bar, location of local restaurants, London video guides, staff top tips, a wifi enabled map and London news.
THE STAFF OF CLINK 78
To keep costs down, Clink78 runs what seems to be a skeleton staff and supports a self-service approach. Although we did receive a rather frosty welcome at reception, the rest of the team members in attendance seemed friendly, enthusiastic and energetic. Staff are happy to help you out and answer all of your questions about the city and the hostel. The staff of Clink Hostel 78 is pretty internationally. They come from all over the world and speak many languages. This means you will almost certainly find someone who can communicate with you in your native language! One of the great advantage of staying at Clink 78 is that the reception is open 24/7. You can even check-in until 4am. A 24 hour reception is certainly most welcome in a city like London. It is also a great advantage when you are travelling the world and gives you a little more flexibility when booking your flights.
SAFETY AT CLINK 78
Safety at Clink 78 is brilliant. You will receive a key card when you first check-in. Keep it safe! It’s the key to your room and your passport in the hostel. Security staff guard the door and will ask you for your hostel card as soon as you enter the hall. The fact that the hostel even had security staff is surprising and very reassuring.
CLEANLINESS OF CLINK 78
You expect cleanliness of a Hotel. I don’t know about you, but I tend to be a little more pessimistic when it comes to hostels. But I was pleasantly surprised and proven wrong about my theory. Indeed, I was really impressed with the cleanliness of the whole hostel. Bathrooms get cleaned at least 6 times a day and there always seemed to be cleaning staff about. Full points for cleanliness at Clink 78!
A PEACEFUL NIGHT SLEEP AT CLINK HOSTEL 78?
The older I get the more defensive I become about my right to have a restful night. In my experience hostels tend to have a party atmosphere. This is great if you are a young backpacker looking to party all night, but not so much if you would rather head to bed a little earlier in preparation for a day filled with sightseeing. I was dreading sleeping at a hostel for the first time in years. All sorts of horror stories were passing through my head. For all intense and purposes, I was braced for a night with little shut eye. I really shouldn’t have worried. The prison cells are located in close proximity to the entrance hall. Music was blaring through from reception, but the rhythmic techno grunge actually helped me all asleep. I only woke up briefly, when our neighbour mistook our prison cell door for his. All in all I had a pretty restful night and certainly enough energy for our London Walk the next morning.
COST OF CLINK 78
You really can’t beat the cost of a Hostel. If you’re travelling to London on a budget, then I would recommend Clink78 in a heartbeat! Link any good hostel of this size Clink 78 offers a large choice in accommodation and you will definitely find something that suits your purse strings. Dorm prices start at £13.00 per bed and private/cell rooms from £50.00 per room (breakfast included), which is a bargain if you ask me, especially considering this hostel’s central location. You will certainly be hard pressed finding a hotel that offers equal value for money in the heart of the city.
LOCATION OF HOSTEL CLINK 78
You really couldn’t get more central than Kings Cross Station. Most trains from Europe and the UK will terminate either in St Pancreas or King Cross Station. Kings Cross is also one of the main hubs for public transport within London and you will therefore enjoy a very short journey to most London locations. It will take you five minutes to get to Oxford Circus from here, and just a little over that to get to Tower Hill. The hostel itself is located on the corner of two main roads in a quieter part of town – about 5 to 10 minutes’ walk from the station. A little unassuming, this location nontheless offers everything a backpacker needs. There is a late night convenience store across the road and night buses drive past Clink78 hostel long after the underground closes, making it the perfect location for a night out. The location of the Hostel alone certainly makes Clink 78 a great base if you’re intend to explore London. Add the great value for money on top of that and you would be silly not to stay here if you are a budget traveller.
My night’s stay with Clink78 was provided by the hostel on the basis of me providing this review in return. As always all expressed opinions are my own and a genuine reflection of my feelings. I do not cast these lightly. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me or post them down below in the comment section.