Historic prisons are fascinating, tragic and often gruesome places, which is why those that have been converted into modern hotels and hostels are such great accommodation options. With that 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 building in national history that was once 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 like replica jailer’s keys. You can browse a gallery of historical images and stories from the past 150 years and dine at the aptly named Clink Restaurant.
Host 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 from 1863. The Het Arresthuis (The Arrest House) has barred windows, wooden doors. original cell and cast iron stairs. The cells have been transformed into rooms and suites that open onto a living room in the old prison corridor, and there are four luxury suites, named Le Jailer, L’Avocat, Le Directeur and Le Juge. The hotel will also allow you to rent an entire cell block for parties of up to 200 people.
Lock yourself up in the UK’s most haunted prison
Those with strong nerves may choose to spend a night locked in an English prison considered to be the UK’s most haunted. The historic HM Shepton Mallet Prison was built in 1610, and death sentences were carried out on the site until 1945. Famous former inmates include the famous Kray twins. The prison closed in 2013 and now offers an experience where guests can spend a night behind bars, including dinner and breakfast. They will have the opportunity to make a visit after dark and to walk alone in the wings at night to experience strange events.
You won’t want to escape this Slovenian hostel
The Celica hostel in Ljubljana was once a military barracks for the Austro-Hungarian army and served as a prison for over 100 years. First built in 1882, it has been transformed into a unique inn, with 20 former prison cells available for rent as well as six multi-bedrooms. Each cell has its own story and concept and has prison bars on its windows and doors. The hostel also has an isolation museum which shows old cells buried deep in the basement of the building.
serve his sentence in this former Turkish prison
Located next to the city’s courthouse, Istanbul’s Sultanahmet Cezaevi Prison was built in 1918 and housed political dissidents and famous artists. Now the Four Seasons Istanbul Hotel Sultanahmet, the hotel capitalized on the building’s spectacular neoclassical architecture with domes and towers in its luxurious makeover. You can still see elements of the prison structure throughout the hotel, including the original wooden doors and arched hallways. The landscaped courtyard once served as an exercise yard, and the names of inmates are carved on a marble pillar by former prisoners.
Sleep like a prisoner in Switzerland
This historic Lucerne central prison was built in 1862 and functioned as a prison until 1998. It is now a hotel called Barabas Lucerne, named after a former detainee imprisoned until 1975 as a conscientious objector. Guests can see a mural he created in his cell that captured everything he missed while in detention, such as women, money, and wine. Barabas offers accommodation in former prison cells, and there are multi-bed rooms with shared bathroom facilities as well as private rooms. The library, offering a large number of detective novels, can also be booked in hotel rooms.
Be detained at the pleasure of Her Majesty in England
Oxford Castle is a medieval Norman castle in England that became a local prison in the mid-17th century after most of it was destroyed during the English Civil War. It was renamed HM Prison Oxford in 1888 and served as a prison until 1996. It is now a luxury hotel, the Bad house in Oxford, in which three cells have been converted to make each a hotel room with modern amenities. Guests can tour the tourist attraction, Oxford Castle and Prison, and see the medieval remains of the castle, including St George’s Tower and Crypt.
Explore the colorful past of this Dutch hotel
In its former life, the 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 center during WWII. After the war it continued to function as an adult prison and later became a juvenile detention center. In the 90s, artists’ studios occupied the building and it has been a hotel since 2004. The 117 rooms of the Lloyd Hotel have different and eclectic designs and cover a range of budgets. Rooms are kept as a surprise until guests arrive, but original features include swings and hammocks.
Spending time in isolation in Ottawa
the HI Ottawa Prison Inn was originally the Carleton County Jail, better known as the Ottawa Jail. It was built in 1862 next to the courthouse and was connected by a tunnel. When the prison closed in 1972, it was converted into an inn, which some say haunted. Much of the structure has been left intact, including stone walls and iron doors, and guests can even sleep in solitary confinement. The top floor, which served as the prison death row, has been restored to much of its original state and free daily tours are organized.
Enjoy a short ride to this former Finnish prison
The Katajanokka Hotel in Helsinki was a prison from 1837 to 2002. As a Helsinki County Prison, its former inmates include the former Finnish President, Risto Ryti, and the Prime Minister, VÃ¤inÃ¶ Tanner, both of whom were incarcerated following the trials for responsibility for the country’s war. During its last years, it functioned as the Helsinki Remand Center. After extensive renovation and conversion work, the prison is reborn in the chic district Hotel Katajanokka in 2007. Its main hallway, exterior and surrounding red brick walls remind visitors of the colorful and often tragic stories of its past.
Get more travel inspiration, tips and exclusive offers straight to your inbox with our weekly bulletin.