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Retrospective and outlook 2024

100 Years of Swiss Youth Hostels

Adelboden Youth Hostel
1943, SJH Archive

In 2024, the Swiss Youth Hostels are celebrating their 100th anniversary.

At the beginning of the 20th century, travelling was a privilege of just a few, generally well-to-do people. Industrialisation made a lasting change to humanity’s living environment. The youth in particular increasingly suffered poor living and working conditions in the industrial world. To escape the confined, less than satisfying living conditions, more and more young people began to hike and travel in their rare free time at the beginning of the 20th century. On the one hand, they wanted to experience nature in contrast to city life, and on the other, hiking was an expression of a self-defined, youth-oriented lifestyle.

The association “Wandervogel” was founded in 1901 in Germany, an amalgamation of young people who loved hiking. A few years later, the Wandervogel concept took hold in Switzerland. Other youth organisations also increasingly discovered hiking as an opportunity for shared experiences. The problem for all these groups, on hikes lasting several days, was affordable accommodation.

Our journey began on 28 April 1924, in the hall of the Mädchenklub Gartenhof (Girls’ Club Gartenhof) in Zurich, when the “Cooperative for Youth Hostels Zurich” was founded by several youth organisations. When it was founded, the outlook was that hostels could be set up in existing holiday homes belonging to the youth organisations. There, the names of the hosts could also be found, whose addresses had up to then been exchanged between the hiking groups. The first Swiss directory with 12 youth hostels and four accommodation options was published on loose sheets on 21 July 1924. By the end of the year, it was already 40.

Switzerland was the second country after Germany to set up a network of youth hostels. Other European countries followed and in October 1932, the international association Hostelling International was founded in Amsterdam by eleven European associations.

Within the youth hostel movement, the focus was always on collective experiences, responsible use of resources, getting to know people and foreign cultures, building friendships, meaningful leisure activity and sharing a joy of life.

People’s needs have changed over the past 100 years. And Swiss Youth Hostels have, too. Our organisation has masterfully succeeded in constantly adapting to the current needs of society and the current contextual framework, but without losing sight of the core objectives of civil society: Then as now, the Swiss Youth Hostels, together with the members of Hostelling International, provide people with limited budgets affordable accommodation and catering facilities all over the world. In doing so, we promote interaction, joint activities and experiences outside the familiar environment beyond national borders, especially for young people, school classes, families and people with disabilities. These play a role in shaping a society where solidarity, responsibility and a love of life prevail.

Interested persons who would like to find out more about the history of the Swiss Youth Hostels can discover fascinating insights in the exhibition in the Burgdorf Castle Museum up to the end of the year. You can find more details on the exhibition and diverse information on the history of the Swiss Youth Hostels on our website.

We look forward once again in 2024 to offering sustainable travel experiences and enriching encounters in Switzerland’s most beautiful locations to as many people as possible. See you soon in one of our youth hostels!

April 2024

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