Dispelling the myths of Youth Hostels: WellnessHostel 4000 Saas Fee
What comes to mind when you think about a youth hostel? Do you think back to your life as a young adult, and picture large rooms filled with rows of snoring and drunk backpackers in bunkbeds?
For many adults with a family, a youth hostel would not even be on your list of possibilities when selecting overnight accommodation, no matter how desperate you might be for a good deal. I get that. But there I was—searching the internet and chatting to my sister-in-law about budget-friendly accommodations. “Youth hostel” was not part of the criteria. And then, my sister-in-law uttered the magic word. “Spa.”
“What? A youth hostel with a spa???” My sister-in-law’s mother tongue is not English, and although I can certainly hold up my own when speaking Swiss German with her, there are certainly little misunderstandings that naturally occur. I had to ask her twice whether she really meant that there was a “SPA,” a real spa, in this place.
She continued to explain (re-explain) that the Saas Fee Youth Hostel , WellnessHostel 4000 in Saas Fee had recently been refurbished and even had a spa - and that was it for me. I knew we would have to go and at least check it out. I wanted to see if the new rebrand could expel those grungy memories of my late teens.
I’m pleased to report that my preconceived notions were totally and completely wrong.
Our Traveling Party
This time we were a large group, with 6 adults and 7 kids ranging in ages from 2 to 14. As you would expect, youth hostels are tailored to large group accommodations. Unlike hotels, there are no worries about rooms having maximum capacity of 2 or 3 people. Nope—we’re in the big league now.
The Wellness Hostel 4000 is located in the car free village of Saas Fee, conveniently located a short stroll from the car park and directly in front of the bus station. The village of Saas Fee is located in southern Wallis at an altitude of 1798 meters above sea level.
I’m pleased to announce that immediately upon arrival those memories from my late teens quickly evaporated into the fresh mountain air. The Hostel is at once new, modern and welcoming and it is clear that families were a major consideration in the hostel redesign. Considerate touches such as a little play area which is set up in the dining area quickly grabbed the attention of our two year old and allowed us to have a peaceful meal. And after our 5 hour-long drive, we were not only able to check in, but we could store our valuables in lockers and the rest of our luggage in a room until our sleeping rooms were ready for us to use.
Our rooms were available at 3pm and we were greeted with a clean, well organised space with plenty of built-in shelving that could accommodate all of our hiking gear. Our family got a room with four beds, comprised of a double bed and a bunk bed. A portable cot was added to the room for our 2 year old (free of charge!). We didn’t need to bring sleeping bags as linen was provided - but we had to make the beds (and undress them at the end) ourselves. The room was quite comfortable and we all slept very well. Check out this view from our bedroom window—it was breathtaking.
The lunch service was still running when we arrived so we stopped by the dining area and enjoyed Swiss-style chicken curry and rice (Riz Casimir). The hostel’s restaurant focuses on fresh and regional food and is completely self-service, which also includes cleaning the tables up after yourself once you have finished. They serve one lunch and dinner menu per day, and dinner requires a reservation. The prices for a meal were very reasonable by Swiss standards at 17.50chf for adults and children 14.50chf (6-12 years) and 8.50 (2-5 years). Included in our overnight stay was a continental breakfast buffet. Bichermüseli, fresh bread, cheese, fruit, yogurts and cereals filled our tummies ready for a hiking adventure. On Sunday we all enjoyed Zopf, the traditional Swiss Sunday bread.
To the side of reception was a little cafe/bar where we enjoyed an after dinner drink. The area was full of families with kids doing exactly the same thing as us! Isn’t it refreshing to be in a place where you don’t have to tell your kids to quiet down every 30 seconds?
During our short visit of 2 nights, the dads and kids enjoyed the indoor (open to the public) swimming pool that is attached through a walkway from the hostel and included in the overnight price. Unfortunately our days were filled to the brim and we didn’t even get to visit the spa (for an extra cost), but it definitely looked inviting. Next time, for sure!
Included in the price of our stay (during the Summer season) is the Saas Fee Bürgerpass which enabled us to use the buses and most gondolas in the Saas area free of charge.
Our 2 night stay at the WellnessHostel 4000 cost CHF 577 for 2 adults and 3 children (aged 11, 8 and 2) which included the mandatory purchase of a Swiss Youth Hostel Family annual membership card at CHF 44. This membership enables us to stay at any of the 52 hostels in Switzerland (or over 4000 around the world.) As mentioned, breakfast was included in the overnight accommodation fee, as was the Saas Fee Bürgerpass and entry into the swimming pool. Wellness entry is an extra charge.
I am so glad I put aside my preconceived notions of what a youth hostel was and ventured out of my comfort zone to give the Wellness Hostel 4000 a chance. Not surprisingly I am now eyeing off other hostels around Switzerland. Three that have caught my eye are hostels in Scoul, Davos and the new Crans Montana Hostel opening in June. Watch this space!
Have you stayed in a youth hostel with your family? Share your favourites with us! We may just check it out and blog about it!