- Lloyd Hotel
As crime rates continue to fall, countries around the world are realizing their abandoned jails and prisons could be better served to house a different kind of resident: tourists.
Some facilities have been so transformed as to be unrecognizable, while others preserve some of the original aesthetic.
From Boston’s chic Liberty Hotel to the spooky iron-clad corridors of the Jail Hotel in Switzerland, here are some of the most drastic transformations from prison to hotel.
Talia Avakian contributed to an earlier version of this article.
Alcatraz Hotel: Kaiserslautern, Germany
The Alcatraz hotel in Germany was a prison from 1867 to 2002, when it was refurbished to include 56 rooms for guests.
You have the option of sleeping in the newly-renovated rooms or in one of their “cell rooms,” where you’ll find three levels of original cells from the prison including barred windows, shared toilets, and even what they consider to be a traditional prison breakfast of pumpernickel bread and jam.
Best Western Premier Hotel Katajanokka: Helsinki, Finland
- Premier Hotel Katajanokka
Hotel Katajanokka was a former county prison where prisoners would await trial. It is said to have hosted Risto Ryti, Finland’s fifth president.
Today, the Best Western hotel still houses its original brick walls and includes the Restaurant Jailbird, where you can see original inscriptions from inmates along the walls. The rooms, designed with a minimalistic style, were made by combining two to three of the former cells and offer luxurious amenities like saunas in the larger suites.
Four Seasons Sultanahmet: Istanbul, Turkey
- Four Seasons Sultanahmet
You’ll barely be able to tell that the Four Seasons in Sultanahmet used to be a jail in 1918, until you take a closer look at its details.
The old wooden doors that lead to the lobby are from the original jail and engravings from an inmate in 1938 detailing the names of former inmates can be found on a marble pillar inside.
The hotel offers a luxurious stay, converting the former exercise courtyard into a beautiful outdoor dining area and the watchtowers into elevator shafts. Plus, it’s close to some of the area’s best sightseeing stops like the Hagia Sophia Museum and the Topkapi Palace.
Het Arresthuis Hotel: Roermond, Netherlands
- Het Arresthuis
Het Arresthuis was known as one of the most intimidating jails after it opened in 1862. Today, the 105 prison cells have been transformed into around 40 large-sized rooms.
The chic redesign of the rooms don’t resemble the hotel’s past, but its original cell doors do. You can relax in the hotel’s sauna and gym, stroll outside its patio and herb garden, or take a tour to learn more about its history.
Ottawa Jail Hostel: Ottawa, Canada
Canada’s Ottawa Jail Hostel used to be the Carleton County jail from 1962 through 1972. The jail was notorious for being home to inhumane treatment of prisoners, with up to 150 people living in tiny cells lacking heat and plumbing.
The upstairs of the jail used to be the execution center, with some claiming to have witnessed haunting ghosts of former prisoners during their stay. A large majority of the building remains in its original condition, including gallows, cell bars, and stone walls.
Hostel Celica: Ljubljana, Slovenia
A former military prison, the Hostel Celica is now a hip hostel.
Each of the cells has been redesigned by artists and architects to offer playful designs with bold colors and prints. Though they might not look like the original cells after a new paint job, the rooms still maintain their original bars, windows, and doors.
Hotel de la Paix Luang Prabang: Luang Prabang, Laos
A hip contemporary hotel located near the center of Luang Prabang, the Hotel de La Paix used to be the town prison. Now, the hotel has been renovated to include 23 spacious suites with private gardens, including some that have pools.
You can still see a few of the prison’s original watchtowers. The hotel is beloved for offering a private and serene environment where guests can walk through its gardens or take a dip in its large outdoor pool.
Jail Hotel: Lucerne, Switzerland
Built in 1862, this hotel was a prison from the 19th century up until 1998.
You can spend the night in one of the actual eerie prison cells orsleep in what was once the director’s office, now converted into a luxury suite. The library has original books that were once read by the prisoners.
Thanks to its buzzing bar, the hotel has become a favorite for backpackers.
Karosta Prison hotel: Liepaja, Latvia
If you’re feeling brave, head to the Karosta. The hotel was once a jail that used to house inmates for the Tsarist navy and the KGB, and it intentionally maintained many of its original elements to feel like an authentic prison.
From sleeping on an actual prison bunk to getting your mug shot taken, the hotel works to make you feel like you’re actually in prison. There’s even barbed wire fencing.
Långholmen: Stockholm, Sweden
When the State acquired the residence in 1724, it was used as a penal institution for women, expanding over the next 250 years as a prison until it closed in 1975.
Today it’s a youth hostel that still retains its original metal doors, barred windows, and ladders connecting inmate bunks. There is also an on-site museum where you can learn about the building’s history by reading engravings along the walls.
Malmaison Oxford: Oxford, United Kingdom
- Malmaison Oxford
Nearly 1,000 years old, the Malmaison Oxford used to be a castle before it was turned into Her Majesty’s Prison Oxford. It remained a prison until 1996, before being converted into one of the most luxurious prison hotels available.
Today you’d never know that this boutique hotel was once a prison.
The Liberty Hotel: Boston, Massachusetts
- The Liberty Hotel
Boston’s Liberty Hotel used to be the Charles Street Jail, housing prisoners for around 140 years before its renovation into an ultra-chic hotel.
The outer appearance of the prison remains unchanged with its iconic brick walls, but inside is a hip, modern hotel that has sleek decor and modern design. Head to the Alibi bar, which used to be the location of some of the jail’s cells, or check out the CLINK restaurant where you can dine in the nooks of the other remaining cells.
The Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy: Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Lloyd Hotel
The Lloyd Hotel has a rich history, serving as an accommodation for immigrants, a shelter for Jewish refugees during the Nazi regime, a prison from the beginning of the Second World War until 1963, and finally a juvenile detention center.
Now, the hotel has 117 rooms designed by Dutch artists to offer a contemporary feel and eclectic features like swings hanging from wooden beams and spiral staircases. The hotel also has rooms with beds that can sleep up to eight people at a time. It hosts four different mezzanines, a large terrace, a restaurant, and a bar.
The Old Mount Gambier Gaol: Mount Gambier, South Australia
It’s not luxurious, as a large majority of the complex still maintains the prison’s rusted and bolted rooms, though there are some non-cell rooms to sleep in. That’s why it is mainly known as a budget accommodation for backpackers. You can also dine in the original mess hall of the prison.
Unitas Hotel: Prague, Czech Republic
Czech freedom fighter and former president Vaclav Havel was housed in the prison that stands today as the Unitas hotel, an accommodation for budget travelers and backpackers.
The Secret Police had used the property years ago to set up cells in the basement, until it was shut down in 1989. The rooms of the hotel were constructed in the original convent cells and offer simple but cozy spaces that leave behind resemblances of their haunted past.
Bridewell Hotel: Liverpool, England
When it opened in 1867, the main Bridewell prison in Cheapside featured 60-90 cells measuring 7 feet by 7 feet and brick walls three-feet thick.
Today, the renovated prison retains its brick-heavy interior but outfits the 85 rooms with full ensuite bathrooms, LED Smart TVs, and a glass-enclosed lounge space that once served as the recreation yard.