It's every traveler's worst nightmare: you're in a foreign country with unfamiliar laws and no access to your hometown lawyer. You party a little TOO hard, stumble upon an off-limits location, or break a law you didn't even know existed. Before you can even say "not guilty," you're escorted behind bars and locked up by cops who don't even speak your language. Yikes!
Believe it or not, tourists of all kinds are actually choosing to have this experience–minus the criminal activity–to get locked up in complete luxury. Think roomy cells, fabulous food, and prison-themed activities that give you a glimpse of life on the wild side. With plenty of authentic-looking photo ops, these prison-turned-hotels also make it easy to freak out your Facebook friends and fam.
If this whole idea still sounds insane to you, we don't blame you at all. Paying to have a vacation within a jail cell does sound like the kind of thing someone who really belongs in a straight jacket might do. But jails have made great tourist attractions for years and years, so why not check them out for an overnight stay or two?
They’re nothing if not exciting, especially when you have a safe and comfortable cell to retreat to with someone you love. Send this article to that person and see whether you're compatible enough to survive a stay in a prison hotel! We've researched a grand total of 25 for you to check out. Here they are from least to most tempting:
25 The Old Vermilion Jailhouse: Ohio, USA
Technically, The Old Vermilion Jailhouse is a Bed and Breakfast, not a full-service hotel. From the outside you might expect to get your jailbird fantasy on, but within the barred windows, it's just a sweet and simple BnB.
The building itself used to be both a jailhouse and a town library. It has a lot of history to offer its guests, but not too much of the original decor has been maintained. This might be a good choice if you're passing through Ohio with a history buff who is into small town charm and reliably quaint hospitality, not a daring traveler seeking the thrills of sleeping behind bars.
It boasts the status as Vermilion's ultimate proposal spot, so romantic vibes are flowing heavy within its 19th century walls. And you're guaranteed privacy—the bed and breakfast only serves four guests at a time. Bring your partner or just your closest friends and you'll have full run of the space from the European-inspired bedrooms to the sunny patio deck. It's an okay place to sip on sangria but without authentic jail details or attractions that relate to the prison experience, The Old Vermilion Jailhouse slides into the very last place on our list.
24 Dorchester Jail: New Brunswick, Canada
Practically the polar opposite to The Old Vermilion is the Dorchester in New Brunswick, Canada. If you can't already tell by the picture, the Dorchester is about as real as you can get when it comes to prison accommodations.
If you're looking for the real feelings of solitude, quiet, and bleakness that come from life inside a cell, this hotel might be your best choice. Do you deserve that experience? Have you done something awful that you want to be punished for? We won't judge you, but honestly, that might be the only reason anyone would be motivated to lock themselves in for a night at the Dorchester.
"It's all original," owner Bill Steele tells the CBC. "This is an opportunity to maybe take some quiet time for yourself and have a good sleep and think about things."
The prison itself has a long history stretching past the 1930's, when it housed prisoners waiting to be executed for terrible crimes. You can actually sleep where they slept, right on death row! We hope it's the only time death row has a cell with your name on it.
This jail is a bit too realistic in the boring prison paperwork and bare-bones rooms kind of way. That's what gives it our second-to-last place ranking.
23 Rarus Motel Ponta Negra: Natal, Brazil
This is the only hotel on our list that's located in sunny South America. If you take a tropical vacation down in vibrant Brazil, consider staying at the Rarus Motel Ponta Negra. It's built on a building that was once a prison, with cells now serving as rooms you can rent at bargain prices.
If you're concerned about the safety of your belongings (this part of Brazil has a lot of crime), a prison hotel/motel offers hidden benefits. It's so useful that thick walls, a secluded location, and windowless rooms limit your chances of losing some of your belongings while you're there. The secluded aspect can also be a point against these accommodations, though, as no good sites are walking distance from your room. Ponta Negra beach is beautiful, but you'll need to use a taxi or your own rental car to get there from the Rarus Motel Ponta Negra.
These factors do contribute to the realistic feeling of being locked up, if that's what you're into. At least you'll be locked up in comfort here. Room service food is delivered through small windows directly into the rooms, and unfortunately, the beds are rumored to be as uncomfortable as prison beds might be. But hey, you can't go wrong with Brazilian weather! This property's proximity to other fun South American destinations (a day trip away from some major sites in Brazil) and passable hospitality edged it onto the low end of our list.
22 Faengslet Prison: Horsens, Denmark
Ever been to a Danish prison? This one is endlessly historic and dark—the kind of place Shakespeare's Hamlet might have ended up in if he didn't end it all himself. Faengslet Prison doesn't try to hide its dark past. Photo exhibitions and museum installations illustrate how life was for prisoners that stayed at Faengslet in its early years. The details are gruesome—videos and photographs of crime and punishment in action.
If you check in here, expect to gain a real perspective on prison life through the ages. Your room will be a slightly-refurbished cell space, complete with authentic prisoner graffiti on the walls.
If you go with children, you don't need to worry that the educational information will creep them out or go over their heads. The hotel offers access to kid-friendly materials and exhibits that can educate without intimidating. If you can believe it, this old, rustic prison makes for a pretty pleasant vacation for the whole family.
Despite the prison's interiors, Horsens is not all doom and gloom. If you book your stay here at the right time, you'll get to enjoy one of Horsens' famous street festivals. Stay in August to add to your authentic historic experience, as this is when the city hosts a Medieval Festival that is to die for.
21 1a Parliament Square: Edinburgh, UK
This prison hotel is going to be amazing. Unfortunately, it's not yet finished, which lands it this far down on our list of best prison hotels to spend the night in. Still under construction as of May 2018, 1a Parliament Square is a capsule hotel that's been a long time in the making. Because the building is a historic property, it took owners several tries at jumping through the hoops and bylaws to finally start getting this thing made. Its prime location in Edinburgh's Royal Mile, the street that leads up to the spectacular Edinburgh Castle, was part of the issue. But you can't get more rich and authentic history anywhere else!
In its place on the iconic Royal Mile, this hotel's existing Georgian building pattern will be kept as is, with the original features and the character of the courthouse and cells slightly altered to create the feel of a jail-themed boutique hotel. Rooms will essentially be cells but branded as 'capsules' for the comfort of international clientele. We've also heard that the hotel's interiors will be decorated with five-star furnishings and regal ambiance fit for the royals in the castle up the street.
What guests will lack in room square footage, the hotel can make up for with a prime location that will keep them busy late into the night. The Edinburgh Tattoo, Fringe Festival, and more all happen right on 1a Parliament Square's doorstep, offering exceptional experiences to travelers and then a simple bed to rest in between their adventures.
20 Jailhouse Inn: Newport, USA
The United States has the most prisons per capita in the world, and plenty of empty prisons left from before many mega prisons were built to serve several counties at once. Ye old county jail is a thing of the past, so many old small jail buildings are converted into hotels or haunted houses instead of being torn down completely.
That's the case for the Jailhouse Inn in Newport, Rhode Island. A lovely little hotel on America's east coast, these days,
the Jailhouse Inn offers mild prison-ish appeal with major comfort. It's got some barred doorways from its original jail days which mostly make for funny couples' pictures now. The Newport Inn is a popular honeymoon spot for those who are up for a laugh and a unique newlywed experience.
When it was an active jail, the Newport had a reputation for seriously loose security. That's not exactly what you would look for in a community jailhouse (unless you were one of its inmates), but the lax security apparently lasted for many years. Prisoners were known to escape rather easily all the way from its opening in 1772 to its conversion to a hotel in 1986. You could try your luck at escaping if your partner in crime doesn't live up to your wedding night expectations.
19 Karosta Prison: Liepaja, Latvia
Newport might be notoriously easy to escape from (especially since you'll always have a room key as a paying guest, duh!), but Karosta Prison takes the 'prison break' idea to an exciting new level. It's got a real escape room on site!
Besides just one room that offers you a heightened emotional experience, Karosta will treat you like a prisoner from the moment you walk through its doors until you check out. This hotel goes further than any that we've listed so far to provide a real, and sometimes scary, behind-bars experience to its guests. While you stay here, your time is not your own. You need to adhere to the prison's schedule, which includes mandatory physical exercise. So much for a relaxing holiday.
"The agreement in staying at the Karosta Prison includes rules like that you should follow their orders and allowing to be insulted and be treated like a prisoner within your stay," reads the hotel website. "Disobey their orders, they will force you to do physical exercise or do the cleaning works."
You're in for the real thing at this high-security prison hotel, but is that what you're really after? Keep reading for options that are more comfortable and don't have staff that yell insults in your face and monitor your activity around the clock.
18 Stay Central The Bridewell: Liverpool, UK
This Bridewell prison opened in 1867. It was the main jail in Liverpool for over 130 years, hence its current name, Stay Central The Bridewell. You can tell by the infrastructure that this prison has a lot of genuine history. It has a secret tunnel leading underground to the Magistrate's Courthouse where prisoners were taken to await trial. Its main atrium has spikes on the walls that used to prevent prisoners from trying to escape by climbing the drain pipes. These kinds of details help Stay Central earn its place within our top 20 best prison hotel destinations.
Rooms are converted cells, but their interiors are completely chic and modern. Enjoy cushy bedspreads and artistic wall hangings along with a desk and closet, all without feeling squished. The cells once accommodated several prisoners at once, but now they're all set to be enjoyed just by you alone or by you and your significant other.
Liverpool stands alone as a popular tourist destination, so you won't be short on things to do if you check yourself into its biggest and oldest prison hotel. Beatles fans will know that the musicians' old haunts are just footsteps away. 'Let it be' with a vacation to their hometown and a stay at the Stay Central.
17 Sook Station: Bangkok, Thailand
Classy and jail-themed to a T, Sook Station gives you the bragging rights of spending the night in Thai lockup without actually having to spend the night in a real Thai lockup. It's the epitome of comfort with prison interior accents and all the cheesy photo ops you need to remember your once-in-a-lifetime Thai prison stay.
We're talking a wall with a height chart for you to pose in front of like you're part of a suspect lineup, striped pyjamas for sale in the hotel gift shop, and bunk beds that'll remind you of any good prison movie scene.
“If we can make this experience here, then people don’t have to be charged with a crime to experience prison life,” says the hotel's owner, an optimist if we ever heard one.
Some of the rooms at Sook Station have authentic sliding bar doors, while two of the rooms have the heavy metal door used to keep prisoners in solitary confinement, complete with peep holes and a food slot. You can look out through a tiny barred window into the hall or the busy Bangkok streets below. Kick up your feet and count your blessings that you've chosen to stay in a cell instead of being confined to one in this exotic foreign country.
16 Alcatraz Hotel: Kaiserslautern, Germany
Have you heard of Alcatraz? It's a prison off the coast of San Francisco that may someday become a prison hotel. But for now, this German namesake offers a hauntingly realistic option to curious travelers.
Walk past the intimidating front gate and the creepy sites begin with an old rundown car 'parked' in the prison parking lot with an old mannequin posed at the wheel. Next to it is an authentic old prison bus. When you get to reception, you need to reach through the bars to get your room key. Your room is actually a cell, as basic as a standard single dorm room complete with little double bed. This might not be ideal for couples, but we'll leave that decision up to you.
In your cell, you get no wardrobes, just a couple of metal cabinets and a sink. If you need to use the washroom, hop over to the shared facilities down the hallway where you'll find toilets right in the middle of an open room.
If this is too much for you, head down to the bar and take the edge off with a G&T that you pay for, again, by reaching through bars where the bartender works his or her magic. In the morning, breakfast is included for everyone who survives the night. Choose this prison hotel if you're daring and up for a cinematic adventure of your own.
15 The Old Mount Gambier Gaol: Mount Gambier, Australia
The Old Mount Gambier Gaol is a great option for anyone looking for a cool old prison experience on a backpacker's budget. If you find yourself traversing Australia's beautiful Limestone Coast, stop in here for a cheap and memorable night in an authentic Aussie cell block.
It stopped functioning as a prison in 1994 and then sat decaying on the coastline until a family bought it and converted it into a hostel accommodations in 2010. The family kept a lot of the prison's old charm, including a wall mural painted by real inmates and decades-old gun turrets. It's near Blue Lake, so if you ever feel too confined during your stay, then you can run out and dive into its open waters. This hostel space really has everything you could want for just a few bucks and a good sense of humor.
Staying in a small jail cell sounds pretty great compared to the shared hostel rooms that travelers come to expect when backpacking across rural regions. Privacy and solitude are in store at the Old Mount Gambier Gaol. No room service or fancy spa here, but if you're lucky, you will catch an art exhibition or festival that uses the hostel's historic property as a venue.
14 Carrigeen Castle Jail: Cahir, Ireland
It's a castle and a jail and a hotel all in one! Only in the fairytale green hills of historic Ireland could you find such a unique spot. Carrigeen Castle offers former jail cells as surprisingly clean and cozy rooms, full of antique furniture and art pieces. Guests who spend the night can enjoy an all-included Irish breakfast of sausage, eggs, bread, bacon, tomato, cereal, and yogurt.
Because the castle has all of its original construction, spiral staircases, and small doorways make it feel all the more authentic but all the less accessible for people with wheelchairs, strollers, or mobility issues. Even bulky luggage could cause you problems when navigating the space. But it can all be worth it if you're looking for prison-inspired digs in all their centuries-old glory.
Another bonus to Carrigeen Castle Jail is its proximity to the thriving downtown business core of Cahir county. For the best that modern Ireland has to offer mixed with the charm and history of its storied past, look no further than this must-see vacation spot.
The staff is also extremely knowledgeable about local Irish history, according to Carrigeen Castle's overwhelmingly positive TripAdvisor reviews. Check it out for yourself and tell us what you think.
13 Hotel Liberty: Offenburg, Germany
This hotel's name means freedom, but its original use as a prison stood for anything but. It dates all the way back from 1840 with vaulted ceilings and brick walls true to their original form as prisoner-holding cells. These days, this old German jail is now a stylish hotel in prime downtown location.
Industrial-chic rooms with open-concept bathrooms have free-standing tubs and even a library in an upgraded option. If you stay here and take advantage of the WiFi, flat-screen TVs, and a communal lounge, you might forget that you're walking on grounds where criminals were kept for over a century.
Learn about the military history of the town and its law enforcement at exhibits just five minutes down the road from Hotel Liberty at Museum Ritterhaus. If the learning gets too intense, take it easy with a visit to Freizeitbad Stegermatt spa, part of Hotel Liberty's luxury amenities.
Trendy restaurants abound in the area including one within the prison hotel itself that has a vaulted sandstone wine cellar for you to explore. It's called Wasser&Brot as a nod to the former inmates' diet of water and bread. But don't worry, the food is actually gourmet and delicious.
12 Jailhotel Loewengraben: Luzern, Switzerland
This is Switzerland's first and oldest prison hotel. It's got a bunch of different kinds of rooms, so you can choose which style suits you and your budget best. The cheapest rooms are labelled "unplugged," with bare essentials including a bunk bed and sink. There are larger "most wanted" rooms with a bit more space and then three cool themed suites—The Prison Governor, Falling Water, The Library, and Barabas.
This is a great place to really sink into the illusion of a European prison stay. Imagine you're in Swiss lockup, stripped to the very basics of life and forced to come head to head with your wrongdoings. Would you try to dig your way out? Would you make prison gang alliances? Would you accept your fate and dive into the prison library books? Would you write a book of your own? The solitude and genuine jail atmosphere is ideal for deep thinking and solitude, if you check in alone.
If you come as part of a couple, privacy isn't an issue at this hotel. Thick walls, heavy doors, and barred windows ensure that once you're in for the night, nothing will disturb you.
And you won't disturb anybody either. Downstairs from the lobby is a bar and club that you can enjoy until late in the evening, and the neighboring area is full of additional bistros and boutiques for you to peruse at your heart's content. Lockup never looked this good!
11 Celica Prison Hotel: Ljubljana, Slovenia
Celica used to be a fully-functioning military prison, not a chic urban hotel/hostel. Inside its walls today, you'll find a perfect balance of authentic jail features and furnishings and clean, relaxing living quarters with one-of-a-kind art installations and decor. You won't have any objections to getting behind these bars.
It's ranked as the best place to stay in Ljubljana, not just among themed accommodations but all accommodations in general. It's in the heart of Slovenia, so if you ever find yourself travelling through this culturally rich and historic country, be sure to stop at Celica. Its name is even easy to remember—Celica is the Slovenian word for cell.
You can decide to check into a private cell or a shared space (two or three beds to a room) for a cheaper price. Whatever you choose, you won't be able to overlook the amazing art installations throughout the space. According to reports, one cell has Leonard Cohen poetry on the walls, and one has clay figures posed under its glass floor. One has furnishings bought from local artisans, and one is designed to symbolize the human eye. It's all thanks to the expert artists they've hired at Celica.
10 Clink78: London, UK
Clink78 used to be the very official Clerkenwell Magistrates' Court, serving law-abiding citizens of central London. In its time as a courthouse and jail, it happened to have briefly contained the band The Clash, who had been arrested for shooting pigeons. As they admit, they fought the law, but the law won.
Now this building is newly redone as an upscale hostel. As a homage to its past, its basement runs the late night hotspot Clashbar, where you can rock the casbah well past midnight. In a main part of the hostel, former courtrooms now serve as a media lounge featuring TVs, computers for guest use, an old judge's podium, witness stands, and a bright neon sign broadcasting 'Guilty' over the whole space. This hostel definitely serves you the satirical side of prison life in London.
Visitors here can sleep in the original jail cells which can accommodate up to two people on bunk beds. They still feature original elements like barred windows, heavy metal doors, and steel toilets that are now just for decoration. The rooms are surprisingly colorful for a prison-themed accommodation, so this is a great option for anyone into site gags and funny Instagram opportunities. Also, don't for get that London is a destination jam-packed with sites to see and things to do. You'll find everything you need (plus a jail joke or two) in this utterly English destination.
9 Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam is known around the world for being a place where people go to to let loose and dabble in activities that could be considered illegal in their home countries. Think pot cafes, absinthe bars, and a red light district that makes Vegas look like Disneyland. If you manage to take it all in without actually getting arrested, why not give thanks by checking yourself into the Lloyd Hotel.
Like everything else on our list, Lloyd Hotel runs out of a former prison. What sets it apart is its unique approach to room booking. If that sounds boring, then believe us, this is something you actually want to get into.
Lloyd is the first ever boutique/design hotel offering one-to-five star accommodations. That means it offers small bare-bones one-star cell rooms at tiny prices, but also deluxe five-star suites with grand pianos and chandeliers. Rooms in between feature swings, hammocks, and bespoke decor designed by over 50 local artists and interior design pros.
Every room is completely unique. Depending on how much you have left in your wallet at the end of a wild night in Amsterdam, you can book yourself into a space you can afford AND brag about spending a night in a Dutch jail and living to tell the tale. Wake up to one of the hotel's frequent cultural events or artists' markets and enjoy blooming tulips in the hotel gardens. No hard labor here.
8 Best Western Premier Katajanokka: Helsinki, Finland
Nordic aesthetics are known for being clean, sleek, and minimalist, and that's what you'll find at this prison hotel. You'll be getting the ultimate luxury experience that this Helsinki prison's former inmates did not—almost 40% of Finland's prisoners are reported to have stayed in this county prison and detention center before it was closed nearly 20 years ago.
Because the prison served such a huge inmate population, the hotel is massive. It's got four gigantic wings featuring 106 rooms, which each are made up of two to three connecting cells. The rooms are refreshingly spacious for a prison hotel. Suites feature strong accent colors, contrasting a basic black and white furniture scheme and beds that will have you dreaming of your own personal great escape.
But don't get too carried away. Any attempts to actually escape from your room (and your bill) will be cut short at the tall and towering red brick wall that marks the entire perimeter of the prison property. Former prisoners know that climbing this wall is a very bad idea. It's a long way down, but these days you should be most concerned about breaking bricks—the wall is protected by Finland's National Board of Antiquities. Historic holidays for the win!
7 HI-Ottawa Jail Hostel: Ottawa, Canada
HI-Ottawa Jail Hostel may have closed as a prison in 1972, but it still feels like a jail inside. This could be due to a 150-year-old history as Carleton County Jail, a ghoulish clandestine graveyard, or even its supposedly haunted death row. Get a taste of prison life in Canada's capital city if you're brave enough to withstand this prison hotel's dark and heavy vibes.
You can choose to book a cell with basic bunk beds or a slightly-upgraded double bed room. But since it's a hostel, you're likely to be rubbing shoulders with international travelers in the tight common spaces no matter what. This is a good thing, though! If you're looking for the true feel of a night in prison, the HI-Ottawa jail hostel has you covered.
Take advantage of the well-regarded hospitality staff and have a guided tour of the jail's historic and preserved upper level. The top floor once held death row inmates including Patrick J. Whelan, who was hung there in 1869. Fans of the paranormal and occult have claimed to have seen Whelan's ghost wandering the premises around where he was executed. Whether or not you're a believer, the authentic gallows and original death row cells are sure to send shivers down your spine.
6 Courthouse Hotel Shoreditch: London, UK
Shoreditch is one of London's most hip and swanky boroughs, and it shows on the interiors of its own high-class prison hotel. The mosaic floor and delicate chandeliers suggest both history and civility, and the refurbished detention cell rooms offer state-of-the-art comforts. No prisoner had access to flatscreen TVs and spectacular city views here when the courthouse also served as a jail house, but you will if you choose to be a guest in this cool contemporary property.
If the city views inspire you, it's easy to explore Shoreditch with one of the cell rooms as your home base. Old Street tube station and Old Spitalfields Market are just steps away from this hotel's front door. You have plenty to occupy you within the hotel, however. There's a movie screening room, a bowling alley, a spa, an indoor gym (never used by actual inmates), an indoor pool, and three bars. One of the bars is even located on the rooftop for the best views of all.
Rooms are spacious and suites have high ceilings and warm decor. You can opt into having breakfast served in the hotel's elegant restaurant and chat with hospitality staff about the courthouse's rich local history as a jail and detention center serving Shoreditch for decades.