High up in the hills, with breathtaking views across the entire city, bay and harbour sits what, in my opinion is one of the best backpacker hostels in Europe – Madeira Happy Hostel.
Owner Elisabeth is originally from Venezuela, but with the political unrest there, and holding dual citizenship with Portugal, a move to Madeira seemed an obvious choice. Having had no experience in hostel management, and in fact not having ever stayed in one before makes it all the more remarkable that she has done such an amazing job. Nestled high up on the hillside overlooking Funchal, it is a 15 minute bus ride from the centre of the city, but well worth the extra effort to get there.
The Hostel could almost be called ‘boutique’ with just 18 beds, including one double room, which is, not surprisingly, almost fully booked all year round. The rooms hold a maximum of six super comfortable beds, with quality memory foam mattresses. There are ample power points in the rooms, which are light, spacious and airy. The bathrooms are spotlessly clean and well equipped, with a wide range of complimentary toiletries on offer.
A large common room stretches almost the entire length of the three storied house on the second level, equipped with excellent WiFi and a large cable TV showing programmes in English, Portuguese and German. This provides the perfect spot to gather over a glass of local wine which can be purchased in house. It creates a great atmosphere for guests to meet and compare the days adventures and excursions in the evenings. Elisabeth is always on hand with friendly advice and recommendations for car hire, tours, and excursions, many of which can be booked from the hostel. From 7am, a complimentary continental breakfast is served, including espresso coffee or a wide choice of teas and the fully equipped kitchen is available to cook meals at anytime of day.
‘I knew I wanted to start something in tourism,’ Elisabeth tells me, whilst we’re sitting on the balcony admiring the sensational ever-changing views which spread across the entire city of Funchal and harbour out to the wide blue Atlantic Ocean. ‘At the time there were only two hostels in Madeira, so it seemed there was a market for budget accommodation. At the exact time I started looking, there were 10 houses available and this was the first I looked at. Immediately I could picture how I wanted it to look, and I knew this was the one, especially because of this view!’
Being slightly out of the city centre means the surroundings are extremely quiet and tranquil. The bus to the city departs 20m from the front door at a cost of €1.95, with a regular timetable throughout the day. At night the 10 minute taxi ride will cost you €12 from the centre, and with prices starting from just €10 per night, it has to be the best value for money of anywhere in Europe. Transfers are also available from the airport and can be added when booking your accommodation.