Here are 5 of the coolest jailhouse stays. These fun former prisons-turned-hotels are definitely more glamour and less slammer!
Jailhouse Stays

My self-proclaimed hilarious dad would dole out allowance to my brother and I every week with the same line: “Here you go, you little criminals.”

We weren’t particularly villainous as far as sullen teenagers go, but I can’t help thinking of my dad’s joke as I investigate a particular niche in accommodations and lodging: former prisons.

How happy would he be knowing that his little criminals could spend a night with our families at a place that used to house notorious felons?  These former grey bar hotels are now just regular hotels, with some of them retaining more than a hint of their previous penal purpose. What do you think, would you spend a night in the clink?

Hotel Jail

Colonial Era Guards’ Cottages at Freemantle Prison have been restored and are available for rent

Fremantle Prison and Cottages, Freemantle, Australia: There are two places to stay at the Fremantle Prison in Western Australia. The YHA Hostel-Freemantle Prison is a traditional backpackers hostel with dorm accommodations and private rooms available, shared kitchen and (mostly) shared bathroom facilities. Located in the women’s block of the 19th century prison, visitors have the option to stay in a converted cell for an “authentic” experience. Be warned, spirits are said to still walk the halls! If “haunted jail” seems a little outside of what you usually look for in lodgings, but you are intrigued nonetheless, the colonial era guards’ cottages have recently been converted into two bedroom self-contained guesthouses just outside the walls of the former prison.

The delightful garden at the Four Seasons Sultanahmet in Istanbul used to "the yard" of the prison.

The delightful garden at the Four Seasons Istanbul at Sultanahmet used to be “the yard” of the prison. Image courtesy of The Four Seasons

Four Seasons Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey: Tell people you are going to stay in a Turkish prison, and guaranteed the posh Four Seasons in the funky Sultanahmet neighbourhood is not what they have in mind! Aside from the heavy wooden doors and watchtowers overlooking the pampered guests, the building’s history has been effectively wiped clean. You can take a stroll through the beautifully appointed gardens that used to be the prison exercise yard, and if you ask the concierge, he will point out where inmates carved into the stately marble pillars. Instead of doing hard time, those staying within the walls of the former Sultanahmet Cezaevi have a hard time leaving. [See? I can make dad jokes of my own!]


HI-Ottawa Jail Hostel mikecphoto /

HI-Ottawa Jail Hostel, Ottawa, Canada: With the somewhat macabre tagline “The best place to hang!” the hostel was previously the Carleton County Gaol, and yes, the site of gallows, which goes towards lending the place the somewhat dubious honour of “Most Haunted Buildings in Canada.” Guests are invited on a 30 minute tour of the facility daily to learn a little more of the history in what is one of the most unique properties in the Capital Region. The location itself is hard to beat, near the happening Byward Market and walking distance to Parliament Hill and The National Gallery of Canada.

A 90 foot rotunda in the centre of the Liberty Hotel

A 90 foot rotunda in the centre of the Liberty Hotel. image courtesy of Starwood Hotels

The Liberty Hotel, Boston, USA: The former Charles Street Jail retains little of its past life, as the hotel has been luxuriously redone to suit the taste of today’s high end travellers, rather than the less exacting standards of 19th prison warders. The hotel has lots of fun playing with the theme, The Charles Street Jail was notorious for riots…nowadays I think the only time a riot is threatened is when guests can’t decide between the onsite restaurants: Alibi, Clink or Scampo.

An ominous hallway in the Jail Hotel that one guest described as "straight out of Silent Hill."

An ominous hallway in the Jail Hotel that one guest described as “straight out of Silent Hill.”

Hotel Löwengraben (Hotel Jail), Luzern, Switzerland: Rooms in this hotel (which served as a prison until 1998) range from jailhouse austere—think bunk beds and shared bathroom facilities, to decidedly upscale. When the Lucerne prison moved to a facility on the outskirts of town almost 20 years ago, the central location (formerly bordered by a moat), was thought to be the perfect spot for an hotel. The library still contains the books last perused by inmates being rewarded for good behavior, and the once director’s office is now a high end suite. Check out the Barabas Suite, a cell that housed prisoner-of-conscience and artist Barabas whose art is still on display. He and other former prisoners still meet occasionally in the hotel bar.