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Book ’em, Danno! Historic Hotels That Used to Be Prisons!

Written by Gabby Teaman

When you think of staying at a swanky hotel, a former prison wouldn’t necessarily come to mind at first. But, a new trend is turning former corrections facilities into dream vacation destinations. Hotels that once served as jails are popping up all over the world, many of which feature luxurious options. These unique accommodations will offer you access to places that most tourists would never even begin to imagine.

Additionally, hotels that were once prisons feature unique designs and architecture, juxtaposing the imposing stature of a corrections facility with sleek, high-end amenities. So if you’re looking for a unusual hotel stay while still enjoying a traditional vacation experience, this is the trip for you. Check out our picks for the best hotels that used to house prisoners.

Hotel Katajanokka — Helsinki, Finland


[Above image “Helsinki_March_2014 041” by Alan Samuel – licensed under CC by 2.0]

Katajanokka Prison was once one of Finland’s most well-known corrections facilities, but it closed in 2002. The now-hotel was formerly home to almost 40 percent of the country’s inmates at certain points of their incarceration. Then the Hotel Katajanokka opened in 2007 after undergoing a massive renovation that took five years to complete. Sporting a chic, minimalist style, the hotel caters to travelers with a love of Nordic simplicity and modern sensibilities.

Like most prisons-turned-hotels, Hotel Katajanokka features small rooms with bars on the windows. Additionally, the hotel’s prison past is starkly evident by the brick wall that surrounds the building. But once you’re inside, it’s luxury all the way. When you book last minute hotel deals to Hotel Katajnoka, you’ll only be a quick 20-minute ride from Helsinki’s city center. Sample some specialty drinks and fine Scandinavian cuisine at the hotel’s on-site pub and restaurant.

Langholmen Hotel — Stockholm, Sweden

The Langholmen Hotel in Stockholm served as a prison from 1874 until it was converted into a hostel and hotel in the 1980s. During its tenure as a prison, Langholmen gained infamy as the location of Sweden’s final execution in 1921. As a hotel, Langholmen offers countless amenities for tourists. The hotel sits on an island that’s ideal for an afternoon of kayaking. You can then troll through the gardens that surround the hotel, a lush paradise in the region’s otherwise spare surroundings.

While the hotel’s features are enough to satiate the tastes of even the pickiest traveler, several components of its former jailhouse past remain at the location. Bars that once kept inmates inside have been turned into decorative designs of the hotel’s windows. Plus, its hospital wing now serves as a high-end restaurant.

Related: 7 Haunted Hotels With Ghost Tours That Will Give You Goosebumps

Malmaison Oxford — Oxford, England

Malmaison Oxford used to house prisoners during the Victorian Era. Now, it’s a boutique hotel that’s luxurious enough to make you forget all about its colorful history. The prison closed in 1996 and was subsequently purchased by the Malmaison Hotel company, which turned the building into a hotel with luxury accommodations while still leaving subtle hints of its past.

Featuring hardwood floors and crystal chandeliers, each room consists of three former cells. Upon entering your room, you’ll quickly forget that your luxury suite once served as a prison cell — until you spot the barred windows and iron doors. Among the most interesting parts of staying at the Malmaison Oxford is the Chez Mal Brasserie, one of the hotel’s restaurants, located in the prison’s former solitary confinement wing.

Four Seasons Sultanahmet — Istanbul

The Four Seasons Sultanahmet just might be the swankiest former prison in the world. Having once served as Turkey’s first modern prison, the Four Seasons Sultanahmet rests in Istanbul’s famed Old City. You’ll be just a short walk away from the historic Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Don’t forget to enjoy the fantastic views of the Bosphorus Strait and the Sea of Marmara that you’ll have from your room.

While most traces of the former corrections facility have long since been removed, a watchtower remains in one of the courtyards along with heavy wooden doors in the hotel’s lobby. The building’s neoclassical architecture might persuade you to stay in your room forever. But, you won’t want to miss out on the dozens of wonderful walking tours available to you. Lastly, shop ’til you drop at the famed Grand Bazaar.

Back Bay Hotel — Boston

The Back Bay Hotel in Boston

Boston’s Back Bay Hotel once served as the headquarters of the Boston Police Department from 1920 to 1997. The building features Italian Renaissance revival style and is located between two of Boston’s most vital and desirable neighborhoods, the eponymous Back Bay and the South End. What makes the Back Bay Hotel so convenient is its proximity to many of Boston’s chief attractions, such as Copley Square, the Boston Public Garden, and the city’s famed and verdant Charles River Esplanade. Nearby public transportation will also provide you with easy access to other important destinations in the city, although many visitors choose to travel this famously walkable city on foot.

Rooms of the Back Bay Hotel mostly embrace a modern style while still paying homage to the neighborhood’s sophisticated, urban tone. Today, the hotel continues to honor Boston’s finest with the Precinct Kitchen + Bar, a restaurant featuring countless photographs of the police officers who once called this hotel home.

What’s the most interesting converted hotel that you’ve ever stayed in? Tell us all about it below!

About the author

Gabby Teaman

Gabby Teaman is a content writer who loves writing (of course!), editing, food, and the Oxford comma. When she’s not writing for Fareportal, she can be found Snapchatting videos of her puppy, blasting show tunes, or watching Netflix, all while trying to read everything in sight.

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