Last winter, I checked in at St. Christopher's Inn in Paris, overlooking the Canal Saint-Martin. Along with Generator hostels, St. Christopher's is an established chain of European hostels that straddle the line between party-oriented backpacker hostels and design hostels that cater to adults for whom the verb "to party" is usually used in the past tense.

At check-in, the Dutch woman at the desk alerted me to the fact that the hostel bar was open until rock-star hours, with a two-for-one happy hour that sounded more Portland than Paris. When I returned from drinks with friends early in the morning to find a pair of scowling bouncers herding tipsy clubbers away from the bar-meets-nightclub-meets-lobby, I confirmed my initial impression: While the St. Christopher gamely embraces the spirit of a design hostel, it falls a bit short on execution.

The bedrooms also straddled this divide. Privacy curtain? Check. Locker adjacent to the bed? Check, but it was a noisy metal cage. Bed made up with fresh linen? Check. (In traditional hostels, you make your own bed and the sheets and towels often cost extra.) But otherwise the sleeping quarters felt merely functional.

It was back to the bar — no bouncers this time — for the simple breakfast buffet. I queued up for baguettes, butter and coffee with bleary-eyed yet enthusiastic Japanese tourists who looked like they'd just straggled in from the clubs.

Would I stay here again? Sure, in a pinch. But St. Christopher's feels too vast to truly embody the boutique category: It just can't seem to lose that dormitory feel. Let's say that it's in the twilight of its adolescence (from 23 euros;