Prison Breaks: The top 5 ex-jails transformed into hotels around the world

SPENDING time behind bars is usually reserved for a specific sector of the community – criminals.

But what if you could serve jail time on your terms and check-in and out when you wanted and without a criminal record?

Welcome to the world of ex-prison hotels.

Hotel reservation website www.booked.net has selected the top five ex-jails people can stay in without first committing a crime.

1. The Old Mount Gambier Gaol – Mount Gambier, South Australia, Australia.

Opened as an English-style gaol in 1866, The Old Mount Gambier Gaol closed as a functioning prison in 1995.

Located about 450km south of the South Australian capital Adelaide it has retained the razor-wire enclosed recreation yards and the seclusion of an antipodean prison and combined those with modern comforts.

This caters to all travelers, from backpacker-style 10-bed rooms through to double rooms at a maximum price of about US$80.

While all cells’ have been refurbished, all the elements that made them a cell have been retained. Each is equipped with their own prison-style toilet and hand basin and the heavy cell doors have been retained – albeit with covered peep holes to ensure guest privacy.

2. Liberty Hotel – Boston, Massachusetts, United States.

The contrast between number one on our list and number two couldn’t be starker. Converting from the home of some of Boston’s most notorious criminals, the 1851 Charles Street Jail, into a luxurious four-star hotel needs to be applauded both for its’ audacity and ultimately its’ success.

The jail’s central atrium was beautifully preserved and forms the reception and hub of life in the hotel. It features the historic catwalks, while jail cells have been preserved in the hotel restaurant and wrought-iron bars remain on many of the windows.

Turned into a luxurious hotel in 2007, its waterfront location was to prevent the possible escape of prisoners, but nowadays it serves for stunning views of Boston and the water.

Rack rates start at about $286 for a double.

3. Malmaison Oxford Castle – Oxford, United Kingdom.

Would you prefer to stay in A Wing or C Wing? ‘Yes…there’s a bit of a wow factor here’ says Claire Pollock, the hotel’s deputy manager.

Doing time at the ‘Mal’ means choosing a prison cell rather than a room, the Malmaison Oxford Castle bills itself as the “UK’s most talked about hotel” and it is possibly true.

Offering luxury in what is a faithful refurbishment of the original jail infrastructure doesn’t prevent you from staying with a full package of modern comforts.

Possibly what makes this place even cooler is the fact that the hotel is the third incarnation of this building. Originally built by William the Conqueror in 1071, after the English Civil War in the 17th century it became a prison and was variously added to right until the late 19th century. The prison closed in 1996.

4. Four Seasons Istanbul At Sutanahmet – Istanbul, Turkey.

At number four on the list this hotel earned its place because of the fact where the rest look, unsurprisingly, like jails, this former prison is actually a beautiful building.

Noted as being significance in terms of history of art and architecture, it was built in 1918 and 1919 and was the first jailhouse in the capital of the Ottoman Empire.

The building was designed in Turkish neoclassical style in the beginning of the period called “First National Architecture” with an emphasis on pointed arches, ornate tiles, dramatic domes and towers.

Renovated and opened in 1996 as a deluxe hotel of the Toronto-based Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts chain.

Its beauty gives few hints to its’ past.

5. Alcatraz Hotel, Kaiserslautern, Germany.

This hotel might have figured higher on our list, for some the “theme-park” like element of this hotel might be a selling point, for others it might be a turn-off.

However if a simulated prison experience is what you are after, this could be the right choice.

Opened in 2007, Alcatraz Hotel is housed a former prison from 1867 and offers a total of 57 rooms, some with original beds, lattice bars and pass-throughs for meals in the heavy steel doors.

Visitors can opt to be treated as real prisoners – wear striped pyjamas, have prison breakfast delivered through the pass-through and see glimpses of the world through the barred windows of their ‘cell’.

* This blog post was previously released as a press release here and has been used in media including here.

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