Though Washington, D.C. lures many international visitors, Baltimore draws quite a respectable crowd, too—and they're looking for someplace cheap to stay.
College kids have long used hostels when traveling abroad, and this July, the Baltimore Hostel—an oasis of communal, transnational living tucked away on Mount Vernon's West Mulberry Street—reopened. On any given day, the place is full of heavily accented folks from far and wide.
Steps away from the Baltimore Basilica, the stately 1857 mansion at 17 West Mulberry Street—known as the Bennett Mansion, and once home to celebrated philanthropist Margaret J. Patterson Bennett—was transformed into a hostel in 1983.
In 1999, the hostel was shut down, its once-bustling rooms converted to apartments. Then, half of those rental units closed. What was left was a shell of the formerly grand mansion: century-old mirrors were broken, ornate fireplaces were crumbling, and the entire place was in disrepair, says manager Matt Warfield. "Basically, the place was stripped," he recalls. "It got pretty roughed up."
In response, Friends of the Baltimore Hostel, an all-volunteer group, stepped up to give the place some TLC. Three and a half years later, the mansion is restored (the rental units remain open) and the place is even modernized, with not only new outdoor decks but an expansive kitchen with granite counter tops. The hostel reopened its doors July 1, and it's been exceeding capacity goals every night since then, Warfield reports.
With cheap rooms ($25 per night for members of Hostelling International; $28 for non-members), free Wi-Fi, and major attractions at its doorstep, the hostel has no shortage of fans.
Joana Langenbrinck and Juliana Al-Bedawi, psychology undergrads from Germany, prefer staying in hostels not only because of the price tag, but because they can cook for themselves, get insider tips, and meet interesting people.
Their thoughts on Baltimore? "Everyone is so polite!" Langenbrinck says in disbelief. As for activities: The aquarium was too expensive, Al-Bedawi says, so they people-watched at the Inner Harbor instead.
Bargain travel at its finest.