Historic prisons are fascinating, tragic and often macabre places, which is why those that have been converted to modern hotels and hostels make such interesting accommodation options. With this in mind, Lonely Planet has rounded up 10 former prisons around the world that you won’t want to be released from after serving time there.
Have a drink at the Clink in Boston
The Liberty Hotel is an iconic National Historic Landmark Building that was formerly known as Charles Street Jail. Originally built in 1851, it was once home to some of Boston’s most notorious inmates, including James “Whitey” Bulger. The 298-room luxury hotel merges the past and the present, with features including replica jailer’s keys. Guests can peruse a gallery of historical images and tales from the previous 150 years, and dine at the aptly-named Clink restaurant.
Hold a block party with a difference in The Netherlands
If you fancy an unusual setting, a hotel in The Netherlands is located inside a prison dating back to 1863. Het Arresthuis (The Arrest House) hotel comes complete with barred windows, original cell doors and cast-iron staircases. The cells have been transformed into rooms and suites that open out to a lounge in the old prison hallway, and there are four luxury suites, named The Jailer, The Lawyer, The Director and The Judge. The hotel will also let you rent an entire cell block for parties of up to 200 people.
Get locked up inside the UK’s most haunted prison
Those with steady nerves can opt to spend a night locked up in an English prison reported to be the most haunted in the United Kingdom. The historic HM Shepton Mallet prison was built in 1610, and death sentences were performed on the site up until 1945. Famous former inmates include the notorious Kray twins. The prison closed in 2013, and now offers an experience where guests can spend a night there behind bars, including dinner and breakfast. They will get the opportunity to go on a tour after dark, and wander the wings alone at night to experience any strange goings-on.
You won’t want to escape this Slovenian hostel
Hostel Celica in Ljubljana was once a military barracks for the Austro-Hungarian army and served as a prison for over 100 years. First constructed in 1882, it has been transformed into a unique hostel, with 20 former prison cells available to rent as well as six multi-bedrooms. Each cell has its own specific story and concept and has prison bars on its windows and doors. The hostel also has a Museum of Solitary Confinement that shows former cells buried deep in the basement of the building.
Serve time at this former Turkish jailhouse
Located next to the city courthouse, Sultanahmet Cezaevi prison in Istanbul was built in 1918 and housed famous political dissidents and artists. Now the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet, the hotel has capitalised on the building’s dramatic neoclassical architecture with domes and towers in its luxurious makeover. You can still see elements of the prison structure throughout the hotel, including original wooden doors and arched hallways. The landscaped courtyard once served an exercise yard, and inmates’ names are carved on a marble pillar by former prisoners.
Sleep like an inmate in Switzerland
This historic central prison of Lucerne was built in 1862 and operated as a prison until 1998. It’s now a hotel called Barabas Luzern, named after a former inmate who was imprisoned until 1975 as a conscientious objector. Guests can see a fresco he created in his cell that captured everything he missed during his detention, such as women, money and wine. Barabas provides accommodation in former prison cells, and there are multi-bed rooms with a shared bathroom as well as private rooms. The library, offering a large number of crime novels, is also bookable as a hotel room.
Get detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure in England
Oxford Castle is a Norman medieval castle in England that became a local prison in the mid-17th century after most of it was destroyed in the English Civil War. It was renamed HM Prison Oxford in 1888 and served as a jail until 1996. It is now a luxury hotel, the Malmaison in Oxford, in which three cells have been converted to make each a hotel room filled with modern amenities. Guests can pop into the visitor attraction, Oxford Castle & Prison, and see the medieval remains of the castle, including St George's Tower and crypt.
Explore this Dutch hotel’s colourful past
In its former life, Lloyd Hotel in Amsterdam was used as a hotel for emigrants heading to South America, a shelter for Jewish refugees from Germany and a detention centre during World War II. After the war, it continued to function as an adult prison and later became a juvenile detention centre. In the ‘90s, artists’ studios occupied the building and it has been a hotel since 2004. All 117 bedrooms at Lloyd Hotel have different, eclectic designs and cover a range of budgets. Rooms are kept as a surprise until the guests arrive, but quirky features include swings and hammocks.
Spend time in solitary confinement in Ottawa
The HI Ottawa Jail Hostel was originally the Carleton County Gaol, more commonly known as Ottawa Jail. It was built in 1862 next door to the courthouse, and was connected by a tunnel. When the jail closed in 1972, it was converted to a hostel, which some say is haunted. Much of the structure has been left intact, including stone walls and iron doors, and guests can even sleep in solitary confinement cells. The top floor, which served as the jail's death row, has been restored to much of its original condition and free daily tours are conducted.
Enjoy a short stretch at this former Finnish prison
Hotel Katajanokka in Helsinki was a prison from 1837 to 2002. As the Helsinki County Prison, its former inmates include former Finnish president, Risto Ryti, and prime minister, Väinö Tanner, who were both incarcerated following the country’s war-responsibility trials. During its later years, it functioned as Helsinki Remand Prison. Following extensive renovations and conversion work, the prison was reborn into the high-class Hotel Katajanokka in 2007. Its main hallway, exterior and surrounding red brick walls remain to remind visitors of the colourful and often tragic stories of its past.