Anyone with the slightest appreciation of irony would smirk knowing that many prisons around the world that were closed down because of overcrowding and human-rights abuses have reopened as posh hotels and kitschy hostels.
Although it does merit a good chuckle, the conversions totally make sense, if you think about it. Constructed as grand buildings intended to house lots of people, jails can easily be turned into hotels once the inmates leave and a construction crew makes a few necessary upgrades (Private bathrooms? Yes please!). It’s a wonderful way to preserve classic architecture in a city, and honestly, who doesn’t love a well-themed hotel bar. Meet you at Alibi—first round’s on us!
1. The Liberty Hotel, Boston
Photo source: Ben+Sam 
Although The Liberty Hotel  might have the coolest design of any hotel on our list, it certainly wasn’t always that way. Back when the Liberty Hotel was the Charles Street Jail, the place was so overcrowded and nasty-gnarly that the U.S. District Court ruled it was unconstitutional for even criminals to live there.
Constructed in 1851, the Charles Street Jail was designed by famed Boston architect Gridley James Fox Bryant, who created a massive granite structure with an octagonal rotunda, a ninety-foot-tall atrium, and thirty arched windows that measured thirty-three feet high. A mix between a Gothic cathedral and a fortress, the Charles Street Jail was once home to Malcolm X, Sacco and Vanzetti , and Boston mayor James Michael Curley.
After failing inspections, the Charles Street Jail was closed to inmates in 1990; renovations soon began to turn it from an all-around dump into one of the swankiest hotels in Boston. The Liberty Hotel maintained the grand exterior and rotunda while totally refurbishing the jail cells into rooms considerably bigger than the original seven-by-ten-foot floor plan.
Interested in rubbing shoulders with the in crowd without paying the big bucks to spend the night? Grab an appetizer at the Liberty Hotel’s restaurant, Clink (teehee), or grab a drink at their bar, Alibi (haha), which has an impressive array of celebrity mug shots. Oh, Liberty Hotel, you’re so clever.
2. Jail Backpackers, Mount Gambier, Australia
Photo source:avlxyz 
Some former jails go through massive renovations led by world-renowned architects and top-notch designers. Others kick the prisoners out and open their doors to patrons the next day. The Jail Backpackers  (website under construction) falls into the second category. Don’t expect witty jailhouse names or tongue-in-cheek references here … don’t even expect a private bathroom. The cells haven’t changed much since the prisoners left—except now the doors lock from the inside and the former chapel is used as a common room. The hostel is owned by Gary and Patricia Adams, who seem to be an “if it ’aint broke, don’t fix it” kind of couple.
If you’re dying to see more, take the $3.30 grand tour of the property, in which a tour guide takes patrons around to the solitary confinement cells, a mural painted by the inmates, the old kitchen, and much more.
3. Karosta Prison, Liepaja, Latvia
Photo source:Liepaja Turisms 
There are prison hotels, and there are Prison Hotels. Karosta Prison is the latter. Although it’s no longer in government use, guests pay money to stay in this former prison that treats patrons like they are, well, in prison. Yep. People pay for the chance to experience the joys of being abused as if they had been incarcerated in a Latvian KGB prison circa 1986.
Whether you think Karosta Prison is the cutting edge of reality tourism or can’t really understand the draw of being barked at in Latvian with a Stalin poster hanging in the background, one thing’s for sure … Karosta is NOT playing around. After check-in with a large, surly guard, “prisoners” are stripped of all their luggage (save a toothbrush), berated with rules, and then forced to squat, hands behind their head, in a dark, musty corridor. After more verbal abuse and a medical exam, patrons are photographed and given a “prison passport.” Screw up any part of this initial process and you’ll find yourself in solitary confinement for a whole five minutes.
After the warm welcome, guests are then fed a delicious meal of stale rye bread, a pickle, and sweet Russian tea before they are forced to haul a heavy pallet into a communal cell and make their bed according to army codes. Then it’s four minutes of free time, usually involving a trip to the three dirty holes in the ground used as a toilet and using a dripping faucet for toothbrushing. After that, lights out and enforced silence, unless of course the staff decides to wake their guests up for a little manual labor. At 7:30 the next morning, guests are promptly kicked out, without breakfast. Sounds fun!!
Although it’s hard to believe, the prison has garnered a small cult following from Latvian bachelor parties and corporate “team-building.” At least they only charge £7 (US $10) a night, making it a pretty good deal as far as youth hostels go. If you only want to endure a few hours of this torture, Karosta offers two-hour “experiences” in addition to their “extreme package,” which involves the overnight stay.
4. Malmaison Oxford, Oxford, England
Photo source:Rose Robinson 
Built in 1870, this Victorian prison seems like it was made to be a hip hotel. With three tiers of cells in the central galley illuminated by massive windows, the original Oxford Prison was considered to be a real five-star place, as far as prisons go, when it was originally built. But after years of overcrowding, the building was put up for sale.
The only caveat? The integrity of the original structure had to be completely maintained. Although it was a tall order, we think they did a pretty amazing job modernizing the building with only a few changes (like putting in safety glass, expanding the cells, and upgrading to top-of-the-line en-suite amenities).
5. Four Seasons Hotel at Sultanahmet , Istanbul, Turkey
Photo source:rougetete 
A former Ottoman prison isn’t exactly where you would expect a Four Seasons Hotel, but the ultra-luxe chain decided it was the perfect spot for their Turkish boutique. Built in 1918, Sultanahmet Jail was the first prison constructed in Istanbul. It housed intellectual dissidents, artists, and writers who opposed Ottoman rule—yikes! After serving for years as a political jail, it was then turned into a military prison and was ultimately abandoned in 1969.
The Four Seasons took over in 1992 and spent four years renovating the heck out of this building with a pretty unpleasant past. All Turkish Delight jokes aside, they left a few adorable prison-y touches—like a large marble pillar with the etchings of a former inmate—but for the most part completely redid the interior of the building in a lush, Four Seasons–worthy design.
Need another reason to visit this hotel aside from its stunning interior, history-laden exterior, and superb service? You could pretty much throw a baseball from Sultanahmet, which is located in the center of Istanbul’s old city, and hit either the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, or the Hippodrome (editor’s note: we suggest just walking to all three).
6. Hostel Celica, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Taken from “11 Cool Hotel Bars Around the World ”:
Photo source:trepancrafts 
“It can only be assumed the original occupants of this Slovenian prison weren’t exactly treated with the warmest hospitality. Initially the barracks housed prisoners of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and later on the Yugoslavian Federal Army. After Slovenia claimed its independence in 1991, the future of the building was uncertain: the city wanted to tear it down, but artists, who recognized the prison’s cultural history, squatted in the building and ultimately saved it from destruction. After ten years and huge amounts of work, Hostel Celica opened its doors to travelers in 2003 with the downright heartwarming vision of welcoming strangers into a building that used to confine prisoners, but is now full of art and culture.
While Hostel Celica was being renovated, more then eighty local and international artists were invited to decorate the prison cells–turned–hostel rooms, and graffiti artists, muralists, and sculptors have covered most of the exterior with art. Even though many of the surfaces have been covered, a few remnants of the original architecture remain, including cell bars on the doors to the all the hostel rooms and two former solitary confinement cells.”
Slovenia is still more or less on the backpacker’s trail, so check out Hostel Celica’s Bar and Restaurant if you’re feeling lonesome and want to meet some fellow travelers. It’s located in an atrium in the center of the hostel and is open from 7 a.m. to midnight weekly; it serves local and imported beer, wine, absinthe, and an array of mixed cocktails and shooters. The bar also has a weekly schedule of cute-as-a-button cultural events that happen at night, including dancing workshops, jam sessions, and folk music performances.
7. Langholmen Hotel, Stockholm, Sweden
Leave it to the Swedes to turn what was once a twin of Alcatraz into a lush, family-friendly haven. Located in central Stockholm, the island of Langholmen was the site of a penal colony for women in the 1700s and was rocky and barren. It was then turned into the largest prison in Sweden in the 1800s. But instead of its inmates lazing around, petting pigeons like they did on Alcatraz, those industrious Swedish prisoners were instead put to work collecting mud and soil to make their rocky prison-island just a tad homier. With fertile soil covering the whole island, seeds from merchant vessels easily took root on Langholmen, and a floral paradise bloomed after a few years.
Flash forward to 1975, when the prisoners were moved off the island, and as a result families began pouring in to take advantage of the gorgeous coastline and beautiful gardens. Naturally, the prison was put to good use, becoming the Langholmen. Classy, sweet, and design conscious, the Langholmen pretty much encapsulates Swedish living. It even has a few hostel rooms (multiple occupancy) and a tiny prison museum. So cute.
Originally published on NileGuide