Jails becoming luxury hotels



The exterior of Boston’s Liberty Hotel.


We’ve seen former courtrooms and banks transformed into hotels, so why not stay in a jail? These buildings are given character by their heritage, and convert beautifully into luxury hotels, with their grand entrances, and rooms set around a spacious atrium. Here’s our pick of the most intriguing and attractive hotels in which you can “do time.”


the Liberty Hotel

Where: Boston, Mass.

Web: www.libertyhotel.com

Rates: $275-$550 US/night

The prison: Charles Street Jail was built in 1851 and closed in 1990 when a new prison was built to replace it.

The hotel: The luxurious Liberty Hotel opened late last year. The exterior of this unusual building on the banks of the Charles River in Beacon Hill remains largely unchanged as does the interior structure with its vast atrium and walkways. The cells may still have heavy doors and bars on the windows, but they have otherwise been transformed into 300 comfortable bedrooms and 10 suites with river views, each with phones, mini bars, safes, LCD TVs and Wifi. Tongue-in-cheek references to the building’s former function include Alibi — a bar inside the jail’s former “drunk tank” — and in the CLINK restaurants, where wait staff wear uniforms with prison numbers.

Malmaison Oxford

Where: Oxford, England

Web: www.malmaison-oxford.com

Rates: From 133 euros/night

The prison: Built by William the Conqueror in 1071; closed in 1966.

The hotel: The first prison in the U.K. to be made into a hotel, this striking building looks like a comic book jail from the outside. But on the inside, there’s no mistaking it’s a luxury hotel, with sumptuous rooms complete with plasma TVs and DVDs, free Internet, heated slate floors, mood lighting and roll-top baths. The hotel is divided into three: A Wing (the main building); C Wing (where the suites are); and the Governor’s House (with mezzanine rooms complete with their own mini-cinemas). Original prison features, including lead doors and barred windows, are integrated into the interior scheme. If you’re feeling naughty, stay in one of the original cells and self-impose a lockdown.

the Four Seasons

Where: Istanbul, Turkey

Web: www.fourseasons.com/istanbul

Rates: $390-$3,500/night

The prison: The Sultanahmet Prison is a perfect example of late Ottoman/early Turkish architecture. It was built in the late 19th-century and was restored before it became a hotel in 1996.

The hotel: Moments from both the Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace, this prison has been transformed into a fabulous upmarket hotel, with 65 generous rooms set around the spacious courtyard. Located right in the heart of the Old Town, the mustard-coloured hotel with its spacious and dramatic communal areas is the perfect place to unwind after a day of sightseeing.

the Jail Hotel Loewengraben

Where: Lucerne, Switzerland

Web: www.jailhotel.ch

Rates: From 80 euros/night

The prison: The Loewengraben was a prison from 1862 until 1998, when it opened as a hotel.

The hotel: The cells in this centrally located hotel offer three standards of accommodation, each with its original heavy wood cell door with a slot for food, bars on the windows and embellished with prison memorabilia. Choose from suites — set in what used to be the director’s office, library or visitor’s room — or the most wanted category. If you’re serious about experiencing life behind bars, opt for an unplugged cell, carefully refurbished to resemble the original cell, where you can spend the night marinating over your sins. When the lockdown is over, go for a snack at the Alcatraz Bar.

the Långholmen

Where: Stockholm, Sweden

Web: www.langholmen.com

Rates: From $235/night

The prison: The Crown Prison was built on one of Stockholm’s biggest islands in the 1840s. The last prisoner was discharged in 1975; the hotel opened in 1989.

The hotel: The cell doors are still there, but otherwise only the attractive parts of the prison remain, including the gallery dating from 1866, which now forms an atrium at the heart of the hotel. Choose from one of 102 stylish cells, 10 of which have facilities for the disabled, or get a more authentic experience by opting for bunkbeds in a cell in the Långholmen Youth Hostel.