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Unusual hostels worldwide

For young cost-conscious travelers worldwide, hostels are as much a staple as fold-up maps and books of foreign phrases. They have their roots in 1909, when German schoolteacher Richard Schirrmann arranged for his students to stay in barns and empty schoolhouses in the German countryside to broaden their horizons. Now Hostelling International, the organization Schirrmann founded, is nearing its 100th anniversary with more than 4,000 hostels in 89 countries. But hostels are more than cheap, convenient places to stay. You’ll find them in some interesting and unusual buildings — castles, Buddhist temples or former prisons. Here, some unusual hostels in the Hostelling International network. (Långholmen Hostel in Stockholm, Sweden)
Most try to avoid spending a night in a jail cell, but not at Langholmen Hostel in Stockholm, Sweden. It was built as a prison in the 1830s. Like a mini-Alcatraz, Langholmen sits on a small island in Malaren Lake. The hostel has a game where guests group up and try to “escape” from the prison. The jail break comes with a two-course dinner.

LANGHOLMEN YOUTH HOSTEL, Stockholm, Sweden; 011-46-8-7208500, Details: 272 beds; kitchen, family rooms, meals available; Internet access; 24 hours; close bus stop, train station. (Långholmen Hostel)
Lighthouses are often seen as fortresses of solitude -- not when they’re hostels, though. Established in 1875 as a fog signal station and still in operation today, Point Montara Lighthouse in Point Montara, Calif., now houses a 50-bed hostel. (Christopher Bauman)
Guests at the Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel stay in converted Coast Guard quarters on lighthouse grounds. Perched on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Northern California, Point Montara offers views and access to tide pools teeming with sea life.

POINT MONTARA LIGHTHOUSE, Montara, Calif.; (650) 728-7177, Details: 50 beds; single-sex dorms; kitchen, meals available; Internet access. (Christopher Bauman)
In Australia, you can roost in a treehouse in Clump Mountain National Park rain forest on the continent’s eastern coast. During the day, cassowaries, white cockatoos and wallabies roam the grounds around the hostel. After sunset, forest sounds fill the air. The hostel, built on stilts, also affords expansive views of the rain forest and even the coast on clear days.

TREEHOUSE YOUTH HOSTEL, Mission Beach, Australia; Details: 56 beds; meals available; close to bus stop, hostel courtesy bus available. (Treehouse Hostel)
China’s Qixian Hostel, located in the ancient city of Xian of terra-cotta-warrior fame, is in a community of traditional Chinese row houses. (Qixian Hostel)
The building housing the Qixian Hostel dates back to the early 1900s, and served as a post for revolutionary activities and a liaison office for China’s army.

QIXIAN YOUTH HOSTEL, Xian, China; 011-86-29-62296977, Details: 80 beds; open 24 hours; meals available; Internet access; close to bus stop, train station. (Qixian Hostel)
The nearly 1,000-year-old German castle in Colditz was built as a hunting lodge for the king of Saxony in the 11th century, destroyed in the 15th century, turned into a mental hospital in the 19th and served as a camp for prisoners during WWII. Some prominent people -- the nephews of Winston Churchill and King George VI -- were held there.

COLDITZ YOUTH HOSTEL, Colditz, Germany; 011-49-34381-45010, Details: 161 beds; open 24 hours; breakfast included in price; meals available; close to bus station. (Gerhard Doerner)
Moat? Check. Drawbridge? Check. You’ll find the real deal at Briavel’s Castle hostel in England, which dates to the 13th century, when it was a hunting lodge for King John. The rooms have a Gothic charm and in August, the hostel celebrates with medieval banquets.

ST. BRIAVEL’S CASTLE YOUTH HOSTEL, Lydney, England; 011-44-1594-530-272,

Details: 46 beds; meals available; close to bus stop, train station. (Paul Redhead)