From the budget-friendly to the luxurious, here is our roundup of former prisons you can now stay in.
Långholmen Hotel, Stockholm, Sweden
Långholmen island was once home to one of the country’s largest prisons with over 500 cells. The prison that dates back to 1724 was closed in the 1970s and is now a tourist attraction. Cells converted into comfortable rooms for at the Långholmen hotel, and there’s even a youth hostel and museum showcasing the prison’s 250-year-old past.
Photograph: Långholmen’s Hotel
The Setai Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv, Israel
Built as a fortress in the 12th-century, this five-star hotel provides picturesque views as it overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and the ancient Jaffa Port. The fortress was the city’s main prison during Ottoman rule, and has been transformed into a 120-room luxury property using an interesting mix of modernity and heritage. There’s a Turkish Hamam Spa and an infinity pool on the rooftop that gives a breathtaking view of the Tel Aviv skyline.
Photograph: The Setai Tel Aviv
Malmaison Oxford, Oxford, England
Over the centuries, the medieval Oxford Castle and fortress has often been used as a penitentiary. The prison closed in 1996 and it was then renovated by Malmaison hospitality into a boutique hotel. Some prison cells have been converted into spacious rooms with plenty of modern amenities, while others form on-site dining rooms. A popular wedding venue, the hotel has integrated elements of the building’s murky past into the décor. Think imposing iron doors, lots of leather, and vaulted ceilings.
Photograph: Malmaison Oxford / Instagram
Sofitel Luang Prabang, Luang Prabang, Laos
For decades, the building housing this luxury five-star hotel served as the city’s prison. The hotel has a laid-back air, offering guests an opulent and relaxing retreat surrounded by rich architecture, lush nature, and gilded temples all in the heart of Southeast Asia. You’d be hard pressed to imagine the hotel as a prison, unless someone pointed out the few indicators that still remain, like the corner watchtowers, used to keep a close eye on prisoners.
Photograph: Sofitel Luang Prabang
Four Seasons Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey
Looking at it, you wouldn’t think that this luxurious hotel was actually the first jail of its kind in Istanbul. Construction started in 1918 and the prison was located next to the city courthouse. The prison was designed by Mimar Kemaleddin Bey, a prominent architect, and features elements of Turkish neoclassical architecture including dramatic domes, ornate tiles, towers, and pointed arches. Glimpses of the original prison structure can still be seen throughout the hotel in its marble pillar that feature carvings by inmates,original wooden doors, and the courtyard that was once an exercise yard.
Photograph: Four Seasons Sultanahmet
The Liberty Hotel, Boston, USA
This granite building was once the Charles Street Jail, which operated for more than a century. Opened in 1851, the prison closed in 1990 after housing famous inmates like Malcolm X. It is now a lavish 298-room hotel, with 19 rooms in the former cellblock. The prison’s 90-foot-high octagonal rotunda now functions as the hotel’s lobby and the prison yard is now the hotel’s garden.
Photograph: The Liberty Hotel
Hotel Katajanokka, Helsinki, Finland
The hotel is located on the premises of the former Helsinki county prison and pre-trial detention centre. The prison was closed in 2002 and the modern hotel came up in its place in 2007. Some parts of the hotel date back to 1837 and the red brick outer walls and open central hallway are reminders of the building’s past.
Photograph: neyamaria / Instagram
Caro Short Stay Main Bridewell, Liverpool, England
The building housing the hotel was once the city’s main prison from 1859 onwards. It was created as a police station and a courts complex that finally closed in 1997. It is now a Grade II listed hotel where you can experience a night locked up in a cell, but with modern amenities like a private bathroom and free WiFi.
Photograph: Caro Short Stay Main Bridewell
Karosta Prison, Liepaja, Latvia
Those seeking the most authentic ‘prison experience’ should head to Karosta Prison in Latvia. This building was once a prison for the Tsarist navy and then for the KGB. Visitors get to live the prison experience by being treated like inmates, going through the prison drill, sleeping on iron beds, and eating prison meals. The hotel even has escape room experiences and is open from May to November.
Photograph: Karosta Prison
The Old Mount Gambier Goal, Mount Gambier, Australia
Across the 18th and 19th centuries Britain exiled over 160,000 convicts to penal colonies in Australia. The Old Mount Gambier Gaol was one such prison that was in use for over 150 years and is now a refurbished family-run hotel. Most of the rooms are cells converted into small comfortable rooms with minimal décor, in an effort to stay true to the prison experience. Also available are ‘family dorm rooms’ and cottages.
Photograph: The Old Mount Gambier Goal