You don’t have to stay in the same old chain hotels when you travel. If you have an adventurous spirit, you may want to give prison life a try. Old jails and prisons have been transformed into these unique hotels. Many have kept at least a little of the original features, while others have been completely changed on the interior. They range from youth hostels to full service luxury hotels. It may seem a little creepy, but it will give you a great story to tell and people will actually like seeing your vacation photos on Facebook and Twitter.
1 The Four Seasons (Turkey)
The Four Seasons hotel brand has a reputation for luxury and this location is no exception. The interesting difference is that this hotel resides in the building that was previously the Sultanahmet Prison, housing mostly men but including everyone from women and juveniles to political prisoners. The building itself is a gorgeous example of Turkish neocloassical architecture, with stunning towers and domes and exquisite tiles and woodwork. The beautiful courtyard was once the prison exercise yard but now boasts lush landscaping. Original elements include marble pillars, wooden doors and arches, and hand painted tiles. Suites start at “just” $3400 a night.
Langholmen is situated on a long narrow island in the middle of Stockholm, Sweden, just minutes from the city center by rail. Originally used as a spinnhaus, or women’s prison in the 18th century, the hotel is now a chic modern hotel and hostel specializing in weddings and large events. The old Crown Prison originally mostly housed women who were unemployed and homeless and had neither husband nor property, as this was a crime at the time. At its peak, the prison was home to well over 500 prisoners. Later, the female population was moved and it housed men, becoming the site of the last execution in Sweden before capital punishment was abolished in 1921.
3 Ottawa Jail Hostel
This Ottawa hostel is within walking distance of most of the downtown attractions, offers free breakfast and wifi, and caters to friendly young people looking for a cheap place to stay. The similarities to other hostels end there. The building, originally the Carleton County Gaol, housed maximum security prisoners for well over 100 years and was the site of public executions. Many of the prisoners who died remain buried onsite, perhaps contributing to its reputation as one of the most haunted buildings in Canada and in the top 10 spookies buildings in the world. The cells have been converted to rooms and some still have their bars intact. Other original features guests may come across include secret tunnels, the gallows, and death row.
Formerly a prison, Celica is a youth hostel located in Ljubljana, Slovenia. This abandoned prison was restored over a 10 year period with an artistic vision in mind, even incorporating an art gallery featuring themes of diversity and cooperation. Celica, the world’s first eco-certified hostel, offers affordable lodging and a great location. Its guests skew young and budget conscious, but the hostel takes pride in its inclusiveness. The hostel has kept the solitary confinement cells, located in the basement, and incorporated them in its Museum of Confinement.
5 Liberty Boston Hotel
Built in 1851, this former Charles Street Jail was lovingly restored in cooperation with various historic preservation organizations to retain its historic value while being adapted for new use. The jail was considered a very progressive undertaking when it was designed, incorporating extraordinary light into the octagonal space. Times change, and, in 1973, a prisoner revolt led to the conditions being declared unconstitutional. The interior hasn’t been changed much structurally – 4 wings radiate from the center atrium and large windows fill the space with light. This Beacon Hill landmark has preserved the original catwalks and original wrought ironwork remains on the windows. You can see the original jail cells in its restaurant.
6 The Lloyd Hotel
The LLoyd Hotel in Amsterdam, Netherlands has come full circle. The building opened in 1920 as a 900+ bed hotel, built by the Royal Dutch Lloyd shipping company and catering to incoming emigrants. After the company was bankrupted and abandoned the site, it was used as a juvenile detention center. In 1996, the city held a competition to redesign the hotel in the newly chic Eastern Docklands area. The hotel is billed as a hotel and Cultural Embassy, embracing and preserving its history and encouraging cultural outreach.
7 Het Arresthuis
This Dutch boutique hotel, located in the historic center of Roermond, Netherlands, is the novel result of the restoration of a nineteenth century prison that originally had 105 cells. These have been renovated into 40 rooms and suites with upscale modern design touches. The rooms boast their original prison doors and the catwalks remain in place of hallways, but wood floors and exposed brick together with high end fixtures and linens give a warmer, luxury feel. Guests are invited to attend a penitentiary dinner with communal dining and a slideshow highlighting the hotel’s past as a prison.
8 Hotel Katajanokka
The Best Western chain has converted this one-time remand prison in Helsinki Finland into a sort of themed hotel. The original Katajanokka Prison operated from 1837 to 2002, when it was decommissioned because it no longer met standards. The building was renovated but certain features remain. The interior catwalks keep the prison feel. The rooms have been renovated for modern comfort, but the thick walls can block WiFi signals and you’ll have to stand on your toes to see out the windows. The hotel plays up its prison history, specializing in themed bachelor and bachelorette (hen and stag) parties. The breakfast buffet utilizes tin trays and cups and you can grab a beer or meal at the Jailhouse Bar & Restaurant or the Jailyard Cafe.
9 Oxford Malmaison Hotel
Built as prison in a Norman fortress in the 11th century, the Malmaison Hotel in Oxford has preserved its heritage while reinventing itself as a chic modern hotel with full amenities. A state of the art gymnasium has been installed in the lower level of the prison. If you want the complete experience, book a room in the A wing. These rooms have been created from three prison cells and retain their iron doors and barred windows. Catwalks remain throughout, reminding you of the hotel’s previous life. Darker, more sinister areas of the castle prison remain and you can view some of the remnants of its history of terror and torture. Oxford Castle is reputed to be the most haunted bulding in Britain and it’s claimed that the castle is cursed because the history of death and violence. The hotel embraces this folklore, with scheduled “ghost hunts.”
You might not normally brag that you spent the night in jail, but a stay in one of these prisons converted to hotels may be the exception. These “captivating” renovations offer great modern amenities and comforts with a tantalizing history.