ALTENA YOUTH HOSTEL
Altena, Germany; 011-49-2352-23522, www.hihostels.com/dba/hostel022064.en.htm.
Details: 60 beds, meals available. Close to train and bus transport.
Wow factor:Opened by Schirrmann in 1912, Altena is said to be the world's first youth hostel, and it's housed in a 12th century castle. Highlights: Some original rooms are on display, views of the city, and there is a castle museum.
COLDITZ YOUTH HOSTEL
Colditz, Germany; 011-49-34381-45010, www.hihostels.com/dba/hostel022641.en.htm.
Details: 161 beds; open 24 hours; breakfast included in price; meals available; close to bus station.
Wow factor: The nearly 1,000-year-old German castle 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.
LANGHOLMEN YOUTH HOSTEL
Stockholm, Sweden; 011-46-8-7208500, www.langholmen.com.
Details: 272 beds; kitchen, family rooms, meals available; Internet access; 24 hours; close bus stop, train station.
Wow factor: Most try to avoid spending a night in a jail cell, but not at Langholmen, 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.
LUA CHEIA YOUTH HOSTEL
Praia de Ponta Negra, Natal, Brazil; 011-55-84-32363696, www.luacheia.com.br/ingles/index1.htm.
Details: 49 beds, open 24 hours, meals available, close to bus stop.
Wow factor: Europe is teeming with castles, but not so much Brazil. The Lua Cheia hostel looks like a medieval fortress along the country's Atlantic coast. Though the castle isn't the real deal, it has a drawbridge, tavern and a dungeon.
PETER PAN YOUTH HOSTEL
Pomezia, Italy; 011-39-06-9190-0051; www.hostelbooking.com/dba/hostel031142.en.htm.