I’m a big fan of quirky hotels, and really want to stay in a former prison turned hotel. Where are the best places to get a hotel prison break?
I’ve stayed in hotels that were once monasteries, banks and even barns, so I’m not surprised to hear that it’s former jails that rock your boat… or should that be, rattle your chain?
Surprisingly, there are quite a few out there, starting with the old Crown Prison in Stockholm, which closed in 1975 and is now the Langholmen Hotel. The cells have been converted into bedrooms, but many original features remain, including the thick cell doors, although now they lock from the inside.
You can choose from a double or single cell, all with modern decor, clean lines, original high windows (without bars) and potted history on the walls about the prison and its inmates.
The hotel is on one of the city’s larger islands and just across Långholm’s Bridge from the centre of town. It has a prison museum, plus a pub and restaurant, and does a big spread for Sunday brunch. Double cells cost from around £140 a night but the website offers promotional rates from £100 a night if you go off-season. Find flights to Stockholm
Another European option is the Jailhotel Löwengraben in Lucerne, in Switzerland. It was built in 1862 and still took inmates up to 1998. The cells are available from £85 a night and all have toilet, sink and shower.
If you want to splash out, you can opt for one of the suites, including the former visitors’ room, library suite and jail warden’s office. At the other end of the scale, the “unplugged” rooms offer a real prison experience with shared shower room and bars on the windows. The hotel is a short walk from the railway station and has a lively bar on site. Find flights to Zurich
At the Lloyd Hotel in Amsterdam, the transformation was the other way round – the hotel became a prison during the second world war. These days you don’t have to commit a crime to get in – it reopened as a hotel in 2004 and has 117 bedrooms. The style is contemporary, and you can choose the grading of your room, from the hotel’s one to five star rating system.
The cheapest rooms are basic, but attractive, while the top-end rooms have unique features including a grand piano and fibre glass bath in the centre of one room.
The restaurant offers locally sourced food – so no gruel in sight, and there’s a shop selling food, gifts and homeware, a library of arty books and free events including art talks and exhibitions.
Rooms start from £80 a night and the hotel is in the Eastern Docklands area, a short walk from the station and city centre. Find flights to Amsterdam
If you’re really looking to push the boat out, there’s a hotel in Istanbul that has come a very long way from its correctional facility roots. The Four Seasons Istanbul was – would you believe it – a prison. It was built in the neo-classical period and is a striking courtyard building, painted mustard yellow, with just 65 bedrooms.
The location is unbeatable – just a few minutes’ walk from the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace. And as you’d expect from a Four Seasons, there’s a spa offering massage and facials, plus women and men’s saunas and gym. The restaurant is housed in a striking glass pavilion, although there are countless other dining options in Sultanahmet, including plenty of opportunity to try the excellent local meze dishes and of course, kebabs.
Rooms cost from around £250 a night, and you’ll be pleased to hear they bear little resemblance to their past use, with large, plush beds, luxurious fabrics, Turkish antiques, minibars, and CD and DVD players. Find flights to Istanbul
If those hotels are a step too far, there’s even one in the UK – the eighth hotel from the Malmaison chain was once the prison in central Oxford. The group is famed for its Gothic style and sultry décor, so it’s somewhat suited to the building’s history. Step out of the bedrooms in the A-wing, the former prison block, and the narrow metal walkways and stairs look like something straight out of the TV show, Porridge.
Inside though, it’s pure luxury – huge velvet or leather bedheads, roll-top baths and drench showers. There’s a popular bar and brasserie too – or it’s a five-minute walk into town if you want to wander among the dreaming spires. Rooms cost from £79 a night.
If you feel a little unsure of spending your night in a cell, there are lots of former jails around the world that you can see as a day visitor. Read Skyscanner’s round-up of Jail House Hotels, Hostels and Tours behind bars.
Answer by Ginny Light – TimesOnline travel editor
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