Get Locked Up: 8 Hotels You Would Never Guess Used to Be Prisons

See recent posts by Toby Orton

Cheeky decor at the cheekily named Clink78 in London

Cheeky decor at the cheekily named Clink78 in London

Hotels come in all shapes and sizes but the intriguing ones are often those with hidden (and not-so-hidden) former "lives." And what better makes a storied past than a former self as a prison? 

Let’s face it, there’s just something about the idea of spending the night in the slammer, especially when it’s comfortable and hip, and you can, you know, leave whenever you want -- which is the beauty of a prison-turned-hotel. From boutique-chic properties to historic castles, these eight awesome hotels make doing time a real treat.

1. Liberty Hotel, Boston

Rehabilitated from a prison to luxury lodging, Boston’s Liberty Hotel completely transformed its old incumbent. Featuring a
stunning lobby with 9a 0-foot atrium, which allows you to soak up the rich history
of the 298-room hotel, the Liberty is a unique building. The comfortable cells — pardon, rooms — come with spacious bathrooms with large showers and 24-hour room service.
There are two restaurants and two bars on-site where the food and drink is
a cut above the stuff you’d find behind bars.

2. Malmaison Oxford Castle, Oxford

If you’ve ever been curious about what it
might have been like to be “banged up” in a Victorian prison, then, well…this
might not be the authentic experience you’re looking for — which is a good
thing because Victorian prisons weren’t very nice places. As for the
architecture of the buildings the Victorians used for prisons, that’s another
matter. At Malmaison Oxford Castle, the thick stone walls of the medieval
castle will keep you safe and secure in the stylish former-prison-turned-boutique-hotel. Rooms each consist of three former cells with original
features.  You can breath the fresh
air of freedom from the rooftop bar while you take in the great views of the
historic city of Oxford.

3. Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy, Amsterdam

Located in the upmarket Eastern Docklands
area of Amsterdam, the Lloyd Hotel is a dramatic presence on the waterfront. From the outside, the building is ominous and foreboding — it was a prison for a
few decades in the 20th century, after all — but inside the design
takes a quirky, artistic direction. Each of the 120 rooms in the hotel is
unique and comes with an allocated number for the in-house rating system. With
zero -to five-star rooms available, the hotel attracts a diverse range of guests
and features a quaint library and an exhibition space showcasing rotating art

4. Clink78 Hostel, London

The punk prison hotel, Clink78 Hostel is a
fun, bold, street-art-inspired space for a budget stay. Taking over the austere
space of a former courthouse and its cells, the hostel juxtaposes attractive
original Victorian judicial features alongside neon signs, street art, and bold
block colors. From multiple occupancy dorms to private en-suite rooms, options range here: your pick of general population incarceration or
solitary confinement. Choose a bona fide Prison Cell for the authentic feel of being
locked up as you’re shut in for the night by the cell’s original heavy steel
door. For when you do break out, each stay comes with a free London Walking Tour.   

Hotel Katajanokka, Helsinki

Transformed from a no-frills prison (not that prisons ever have frills — except, maybe Martha Stewart’s) into a charming, modern hotel, Helsinki’s Hotel Katajanokka makes a big deal of the building’s former use. Guests can buy souvenirs of black-and-white striped inmate shirts and eat in the on-site Jailbird restaurant, where food comes served on metal plates for that extra authentic touch. Rooms deviate from the prison theme, decorated in charming, modern style with attractive bathrooms attached.   

6. Unitas Hotel, Prague

Located on a quiet street on the outskirts
of Prague’s Old Town, the Unitas Hotel is an upmarket 22-room boutique hotel. Practical
and unassuming, the hotel’s exterior may not be rich and fascinating, but its
history is. Built by the Jesuits in the 18th century, it later became
the headquarters and prison of the notorious secret police during the WWII, where the Czech dissident, writer, and president Vaclav Havel was one
of its most high-profile captives. A chic, minimally designed hotel, the Unitas
is a stylish Prague pick with fresh, modern rooms. An excellent free cooked
breakfast comes made to order — accompanied by complimentary sparkling

7. Jailhouse Inn, Rhode Island

Booking a stay at the historic Jailhouse
in Newport, Rhode Island is a far more sensible way to arrange a trip to
prison than opting to randomly break bad one day. The inn is close to the shops
and sights of downtown Newport and just a block from the harbor. Rooms may be
relatively basic but the historic details of the inn’s former life as a county jail
add character to the cozy decor.

8. Courthouse Hotel, London

Short of doing crime, the best way to book
a stay at Her Majesty’s Pleasure is with a visit to the Courthouse Hotel in
Soho, London. Back when the hotel was an operational courthouse,
complete with subterranean cells, the likes of John Lennon, Oscar Wilde, and
Mick Jagger all appeared in its dock before the judge. Luxurious suites here come
with whirlpool baths and open fireplaces and rooms are spacious and bright,
complete with marble bathrooms. Located in the heart of Soho, you’ll find a
wealth of culture and nightlife a few minutes from your door. But behave or you might have to face the judge as well!

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