Incarcer-Vacations: 11 Prisons-Turned-Hotels

Culture/History, Featured, Offbeat — By Rachel Greenberg on October 30, 2010 at 8:30 am

3. Karosta Prison – Liepaja, Latvia

Image: Yves B./Flickr

There are prison hotels, and there are Prison Hotels. Karosta Prison is the later. Although it’s no longer in government use, guests pay money to stay in this former prison that treats patrons like they are, well, in prison. Yep. People pay for the chance to experience the joys of being abused as if they had been incarcerated in a Latvian KGB prison circa 1986.

Image: Liepaja Turisms/Flickr

Whether you think Karosta Prison is the cutting edge of reality tourism or can’t really understand the draw of being barked at in Latvian with a Stalin poster hanging in the background, one thing’s for sure… Karosta is NOT playing around. After “check in” with a large, surly guard, “prisoners” are stripped of all their luggage (save a toothbrush), and are berated with rules and then forced to squat, hands behind their head, in a dark, musty corridor. After more verbal abuse and a medical exam, patrons are photographed and given a “prison passport”. Screw any part of this initial process up and you’ll find yourself in solitary confinement for a whole 5 minutes.

Image: Liepaja Turisms/Flickr

Image: Liepaja Turisms/Flickr

After the warm welcome, guests are then fed a delicious meal of stale rye bread, a pickle, and sweet Russian tea before being forced to haul a heavy pallet into a communal cell and make their bed according to army codes. Then it’s 4 minutes of free time, usually involving a trip to the three dirty holes in the ground used as a toilet and using a dripping faucet for teeth brushing. After that, lights out and enforced silence, unless of course the staff decides to walk their guests up for a little manual labor. At 7:30 the next morning guests are promptly kicked out, without breakfast. Sounds fun!!

Image: Karostascieturns/Flickr

Although it’s hard to believe, the prison has garnered a small cult following from Latvian bachelor parties and corporate “team-building”. At least they only charge £7 a night, making it a pretty good deal as far as youth hostels go. If you only want to endure a few hours of this torture, Karosta offers two hour “experiences” in addition to their “extreme package” which involves the overnight stay.

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


  • 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,

  • 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!

  • Orest Stelmach says:

    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.

  • sell timeshare says:

    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

  • 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…

  • 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:


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