Jail and Prison Backpacker Hostels Around The World

Travelled by Brucini on 1 April 2009 | 2 Comments

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Brucini Brucini

Brucini started seriously travelling after attempting to move to Queenstown, New Zealand, in 1996.Inspired by drunkenly meeting a world of travelers on a Kiwi Experience bus, he changed his plans and roamed the world for a year. ...Find out more!

Jail and Prison Backpacker Hostels Around The World
Jail and Prison Backpacker Hostels Around The World

De-commissioned jails and prisons when renovated seem to make fine backpacker hostels. There’s an increasing number of them around the world.

Jail/Prison hostels are attractive because the combination of imposing architecture, penal history, and renovated aesthetic combines in these places to offer an insight into a specific aspect of the country’s culture.

It’s great to see former places of suffering flourishing as art centres, places of learning and new expression for a youth culture. The owners/managers of these properties are invariably caretakers of a historic legacy. The hostel automatically has a focus that a new purpose-built hostel can only foster. Although they are invariably old structures the facilities in these  hostels are modern and comfortable alike any other.

This is the most comprehensive list of prison and jail backpacker hostels in the world:

The Jail, Mt Gambier, Australia

If you are travelling between Melbourne and Adelaide, Mt Gambier is about mid-way if you are following the coastal route. An original 1864 jaol has been renovated into this small boutique hostel. There are still functioning tours of the old jail and a restaurant offering guest meals of “$10 for 3 courses”. Deal.


Celica Prison Hostel

Celica Prison Hostel

Cell Block Backpackers, Bundaberg, Australia

Cell Block is Bundaberg’s biggest hostel with 155 beds.  Special “prison issued linen is provided” and there is a choice of “jail cells originally used for solitary confinement (perfect for couples). Tasty.


Jailhouse Accommodation, Christchurch, New Zealand

If awards are any measure of a hostel’s quality then this would be your first pick. The property has only been run as a hostel since 2006, and the former prison only closed in 1999. The hostel’s tagline sums things up: ‘Accommodating people for over 130 years!’.


Napier Prison Backpackers, Napier, New Zealand

This former prison also still has a functioning tour of the premises seperate to the accommodation. The building was the site of NZ’s oldest prison. Ironically the Centennial Gardens built from the quarry mined by the prisoners is a scenic legacy of the misery of their time there.


The Clink, London, England

The Clink claims to be “the Tate Modern of hostels”. This is more an expression of the re-born 200 year old courthouse and cells than claiming to have wallls dripping with artworks. Opened in 2008 it looks to be a really interesting mix of style and vintage fittings.


Langholmen Hostel, Stockholm, Sweden

Langholmen is an island in central Stockholm. Its history of settlement dates from prehistoric times with penal settlement from 1724 slowly evolving into being the largest prison complex in Sweden. Now you’ll find a mix of hotel and hostel accommodation as well as conferenceand museum  facilities, a gallery and a pub.


Ottawa Jail Hostel, Ottawa, Canada

Ottawa Jail Hostel, Ottawa, Canada

Ottawa Jail Hostel, Ottawa, Canada

This is the only hostel in North America that is a former prison. There seems to be some excellent documented history attached to the property. There’s also a reputed ghostly ambience to the place, said to be the last man hung at the prison. Charming.


Hostel Celica, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Slovenia is a hip place to visit at present and Hostel Celica in the Slovenian capital was apparently voted the ‘hippest hostel in the world’. The hostel is a convergence of grim prison past and renovation by artists. The hostel describes the process thus: “Through art wich is not artificial even military debris can become a piece of art and a piece of peace. The sharpness of aesthetics and the deepness of ethics can turn the cells of prison to the cells of life.”

Napier Prison Hostel

Napier Prison Hostel


Art Prison Hostel, Prague, Czech Republic

Location is everything when you stay in Prague. This former medieval convent is located in the Old Town. During the years of Communist government the convent was turned into a a Secret Police building. Its rooms were turned into cells and no longer was there rejoicing until the backpackers moved in.


Karostas Prison Hostel, Liepaja, Latvia

This place looks seriously scary. Part of the attraction, I guess. I believe them when they proudly claim the history from Russian revolution via Nazi occupation to Soviet Russian times found here is “more impressive than Alcatraz”. Surely a dubious honour. I’m not sure if the Extreme Night of cold showers, actual prison bedding, living the conditions of a prisoner is for me. Finally something to separate the tourists from the travellers.


Your Turn:

Have you stayed at one of these prison/jail hostels? What was your experience?

If you’ve stayed at a prison/jail hostel not mentioned on this list, let us know.

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