Alfama Patio Hostel, Lisbon, Portugal
Located in the most characteristic of Lisbon's neighborhoods, among winding streets and small cobbled squares, is Alfama Patio: a traditional house, where the living room and kitchen extend onto a grassy garden patio, with greenery climbing the walls and flowers spilling out over their pots. A few steps up, a deck terrace overlooks red-roofed buildings and the Tagus River, lying beneath Lisbon's trademark golden sunlight.
The patio - the heart of the house which, undoubtedly, contributed to the hostel's international "Best Atmosphere" award - is where it all happens: a delicious pancake breakfast every morning, a BBQ and DJ on Saturdays, film night on Mondays and a Latin fiesta on Wednesdays. It's in this setting, at once upbeat and laid-back, that nationalities intermingle and friendships are made.
But to discover the city, you must venture out beyond the front gate. Regular group outings lead you to some of the best of what Lisbon has to offer - a Brazilian music and dance party held locally on Tuesdays, an evening of live Portuguese fado music on Thursdays, and bar-hopping into the night in the Bairro Alto neighborhood on Fridays.
Some of Lisbon's most popular monuments are barely past the Hostel's doorstep, and others just a ride away on one of the city's yellow eléctricos (riding in one of these trams is a must-do for any visitor anyway). And because there's a lot worth a seeing outside Lisbon proper, groups of 5 or more can hop on the hostel's own van and be shuttled to nearby Cascais and Sintra or to one of several magnificent beaches close by.
If after all this you're still undecided, then it may help to know that Alfama Patio has won successive "Best Staff" awards. When you arrive and are welcomed with open arms, you'll understand why.
Escolas Gerais, 3, Patio dos Quintalinhos 1, Portugal.