Travel List

6 Fantastic Former Prisons Turned Luxury Hotels

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder or at least that’s how the saying goes. For a few people, beauty is a bit more relative the people perceive it. Someone might consider an abstract painting horrific, while the other might find it simply enchanting. However there’s something truly magical about something that, we can all agree upon, bridges the barrier between grotesque and serene.

A prison is a symbol of entrapment, torture and suffering. A hotel is mostly associated with comfort, relaxation and escape. Put the two face to face and you’ll find little, to no similarities, however by combining them you can achieve a certain level of beauty and bliss, that surfaces only in the weirdest of places. I mean think about it. Hotel + Prison, Prison + Hotel. I guess inmates would love to serve their time in hotel, but about travel guests lodging in a prison? Here’s 3 of the world’s weirdest, but at the same time beautiful, prisons converted into hotels.

1. Four Season Hotel – Istanbul, Turkey

Maybe the most famous jail house turned luxury hotel is the 65-room Four Seasons Istanbul, which up until 1969 was the Sultanahmet Jail, a detention center for writers, journalists, artists and dissident intellectuals awaiting trial at a nearby courthouse in central Istanbul.

The building’s exterior of Turkish neo-classic architecture was maintained, while contemporary glass additions were created to connect the series of buildings that frame an open courtyard, adding natural light to the hotel’s interior. This hotel offers an atmosphere of personal attention and ease that is unprecedented in Istanbul.

2. Breakwater Lodge – Cape Town, South Africa

Once a 19th century prison, the South African former notorious correctional facility Breakwater Lodge, is now a vibrant tourist location. This 1859-built structure with castle-like ramparts on the glitzy Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in the heart of Cape Town, is the country’s first jail-turned-hotel.

3. Malmaison – Oxford, UK

If an inmate of Her Majesty’s Prison in Oxford were to pay a return visit to his former clink today, he might come away wishing he’d committed his crime 40 years later. The castle-like walls, built for William the Conqueror in 1071, remain; as do the three-inch-thick steel doors in the cell blocks. But the prison’s name has been changed to the Malmaison and conditions have improved dramatically. The House of Correction gym features has state-of-the-art exercise equipment, and high tea, not corporeal punishment, is served up in the visitor’s room.

Back in 2005 the famous Malmaison hotel chain turned the oldest prison in Britain into one of the classiest boutique hotels in the county. Quite a makeover. Instead of changing the old look, the designers created a jail house theme by keeping the wrought iron stairwell and many of the original jail bars and bare brick walls. Of course, the designers also added a modern touch and vibe to the retro, creepy theme. A soft mood lighting and original pieces of art are just a few additions. The dining area is now a chic brasserie with a menu featuring steak tartare and fillet of sea bass, and the old cells feature plasma TVs, heated slate-stone bathrooms, plush velvet curtains and fully stocked mini-bars.



See also: The World’s Nine Weirdest Hotels


4. Liberty Hotel – Boston, USA

Oh, the irony. The Charles Street Jail, in Boston, was one of the countries most infamous prisons, dating from the middle of the 19th century. It started it slow decay as prison, in the mid 20th century, before finally closing its doors at the beginning of the 1990’s. But from the ashes, a gorgeous new 298-room hotel was raised. Opened in September 2007 after a $150 million renovation, 18 of its rooms are set within the high granite walls of the 1851-built main prison, which has as its centerpiece a towering light-filled 90-foot-high lobby rotunda.


5. Hotel Katajanokka – Helsinki, Finland

To find one of Europe’s classiest prison hotels, you must cross the Baltic to Helsinki, Finland, and check into Hotel Katajanokka, a tall red-brick structure on a narrow peninsula close to the domed Uspenski Cathedral in the center of the city. This was the Helsinki county prison for 150 years until it closed down in 2002; it’s now a 102-room boutique inn run by Best Western, with a swish bare-brick restaurant called Jailbird. Which room to book? Ask for the private cell where former Finnish president Risto Ryti was jailed by the Soviets at the end of World War Two.


6. Hotel Loewengraben – Lucerne, Switzerland

[digg-reddit-me]The Jail Hotel Loewengraben in old town Lucerne, Switzerland, functioned as a prison right up until 1998. Right about the same year it re-opened as a small, clean, unfussy boutique hotel. The rooms have bars on the windows, the doors tiny slots to push food through, and the communal areas are decorated with prison memorabilia. And just in case you missed the joke, the hotel bar is called Alcatraz. Not exactly four seasons material, but fun enough to get welcomed in the list.

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  1. 1

    In your comments on Malmaison, you wrote, “high tea, not corporeal punishment, is served up..”

    I rather think that incorporeal punishment would attract a lot of visitors!

  2. 4

    Totally captivating. Who’s behind the bars now? What happens if you don’t pay the bill? Do you get locked up?
    Nice article. Thanks. The Baldchemist

  3. 5

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