Incarcer-Vacations: 11 Prisons-Turned-Hotels

Culture/History, Featured, Offbeat — By Rachel Greenberg on October 30, 2010 at 8:30 am
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Anyone with even a slight appreciation of irony would enjoy knowing that hellish prisons around the world, closed down because of overcrowding and human-rights abuse, have reopened as posh hotels and kitschy hostels.

Although it does merit a good chuckle, if you think about it the conversions totally make sense. Constructed as grand buildings intended to house lots of people, jails can easily be turned into hotels once the inmates leave and a construction crew makes a few necessary upgrades (Private bathrooms? Yes please!). It’s a wonderful way to preserve classic architecture in a city and honestly, who doesn’t love a well themed hotel bar. Meet you at Alibi– first round’s on us!

1. The Liberty Hotel – Boston, USA

Image: Ben+Sam/Flickr

Although The Liberty Hotel might have the gosh darn coolest design of any hotel on our list, it certainly wasn’t always that way. Back when The Liberty Hotel was the Charles Street Jail, the place was so overcrowded and nasty-gnarly, the US District Court ruled it was unconstitutional for even criminals to live there.

Image: liluinteriors

Constructed in 1851, the Charles Street Jail was designed by famed Boston architect Gridley James Fox Bryant, who created a massive granite structure with an octagonal rotunda, a 90-foot tall atrium, and 30 arched windows that measured 33 feet high. A mix between a Gothic cathedral and a fortress, the Charles Street Jail was once home to Malcolm X, Sacco and Vanzetti, and Boston mayor James Michael Curley.

Image:  The Liberty Hotel

After failing inspections, the Charles Street Jail was closed to inmates in 1990 and renovations began to turn it from an all-around dump into one of the swankiest hotels in Boston. The Liberty Hotel maintained the grand exterior and rotunda while totally refurbishing the jail cells into rooms considerably bigger than the original 7 x 10 foot floor plan.

Interested in rubbing shoulders with the “in” crowd without paying the big bucks to spend the night? Grab an appetizer at The Liberty Hotel’s restaurant Clink (teehee) or a drink at their bar, Alibi (haha), which has an impressive array of celebrity mug shots. Oh, The Liberty Hotel, you’re so clever.

Image: The Liberty Hotel

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Tags: Australia, Avignon, boston, Canada, Courthouse Hotel Kimpinski, england, finland, Four Seasons Hotel at Sultanahmet, france, Helsinki, Hi-Ottawa Jail Hostel, Hostel Celica, Hotel Katajanokka, Istanbul, Karosta Prison, Langholmen Hotel, latvia, Leipaja, Ljubljana, London, Malmaison Oxford, Mount Gambier, Ottawa, Oxford, Sainte-Anne Prison, Slovenia, Stockholm, Sweden, The Jail Backpackers, The Liberty Hotel, Turkey, UK

    16 Comments

  • some guy says:

    The Protea Hotel Breakwater Lodge in Capetown, South Africa is another one.

  • Zvi Greenberg says:

    Near Gravenhurst, Ontario, Canada there was a German prisoner of war camp during World War Two. Following the war, it was turned into the Gateway Hotel – a Jewish summer resort.

  • Vic says:

    My wife and I stayed at the Hostel Celica, Ljubljana, Slovenia, when backpacking around Europe!
    This is definitely a party hostel, close to the main train station and centre of town!
    A must see and stay!

  • susan frank says:

    I wouldnt mind staying at the 4 seasons prison in Turkey. looks great. Excellent article by the way, I recently found a you tube video of haunted houses that were turned in hotel rooms, http://www.onlyrooms.com

  • bvp says:

    gaol isn’t kooky canadian for anything- it’s another way of spelling jail, it comes from middle english and old french, and is the way jail is commonly spelled in the UK!

  • Alcatraz: the next Native American casino operation in partnership with the U.S. government and other gaming experts . . .

  • Thumprr says:

    Also, the jailhotel in Lucerne, Switzerland.

    http://www.jailhotel.ch/html_e/frame_e.html

  • The Peninsula Tokyo in Japan, rated as one of the world’s best hotels, allows you to soak indulgently in their luxurious comforts, which hints of Japanese heritage and culture combined with the latest in innovative technology. The hotel is one of the worlds best hotels and an ideal escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

  • Dave says:

    cool article and nice hotels huh. hmmm. we can do it ourselves in our homes though. try this site
    using: http://newtipsclutter.com/articles/

  • ted says:

    We stayed at the Protea Hotel Breakwater Lodge in Capetown, South Africa. Great place to stay considering the prices in Capetown.

  • andrwe says:

    Lloyd Hotel in Amsterdam was a juvenile detention center.

  • Anon says:

    Do you not know the difference between Stalin and Lenin?

  • Deacon says:

    I had planned to highlight the Old Goal Backpackers in Grahamstown but now I see they have been kicked out of their cells… http://www.oldgaol.com/

  • Marchije says:

    I second bcv’s comment: “Gaol” is actually a British variant of the word “jail”. We kooky Canadians may have used the term “gaol” in the 19th century, but we certainly don’t use that word today.

  • Artur says:

    Seems you forgot Unitas Pension in Prague. Sure it’s a hostel, not a hotel, but it has a ‘presidential’ cell since former president Vaclav Havel was incarcerated there. It’s a weird feeling to close those heavy metal doors on yourself, even though the many locks and tray hole are not functioning anymore.

    On a different subject, it’s likely that “gaol” is linked to the French “geôle”, our ancient word for prison. But I don’t know which language used it first.

  • Artur says:

    Oops, apparently they renovated everything since my stay in July 2006, but you can still have a look at the cells in the basement on their archived old website: http://www.unitas.cz/old/

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