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The founders of the German YMCA in London

About the German YMCA

In spring 1859 a young German, Ernst Klemm came to London to broaden his education in the world of commerce. Staying at the YMCA in Aldersgate Street London he joined a conversational Bible class.

Friendships were formed and a German branch of the YMCA was established the following year. 

With an overriding calling to help those less fortunate than themselves they embarked on a mission to raise the funds to have their own dedicated premises.

The German YMCA went onto provide accommodation for those struggling to find somewhere to live whilst in low paid work.


The German YMCA has been situated in no less than 11 locations across London since its inception. Many of these properties were dediciated hostels. For example, the Home for German Artisans and Bakers was located in Great Eastern Street between 1887 and 1889 along with the the Home for waiters on Charlotte Street between 1892 and 1904.

The magnificent City House hotel and hostel on City Road in east London funded and built by the GYMCA operated between 1910 and 1920 before being requistioned during WW1 and still stands today albeit under different ownership. 

After the world wars the German YMCA regrouped and sought to resume its charitable endeavours and re-establish a permanent home.


German YMCA on City Road East London around 1910
The site of Kensington Gardens Hostel in the 1960s

A site in West London was identified and several properties were purchased in the 1950s on the same street.

This continued into the 1960s and culminated in the development of the Lancaster Hall Hotel which opened in 1973, with an adjoining youth hostel.

The profits of the hotel helped fund charitable causes, and the youth hostel has since welcomed thousands of groups over the past 50 years, with young people from far and wide enjoying the central location for a variety of educational programmes, exchanges and sightseeing trips.

The youth hostel has always been closely aligned with the Lancaster Hall Hotel but in 2020 the decision was made to re-brand it with it's own separate identity as the Kensington Gardens Hostel.

In 2021 Room for Opportunity was lauched with a mission for the hostel to expand beyond providing good value accommodation to school and youth groups, by making it available to those who simply cannot afford a trip to our great capital city. 

Whilst the German YMCA's history is very much aligned to the Christian faith and the assistance of German nationals in London, it is open to all nationalities and faiths.

Room for Opportunity very much embodies the founding values and objectives of the German YMCA
 by helping those less fortunate within a contemporary context.


Entrance to Kensington Gardens Hostel
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