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Prison Hotels

Lock yourself up for an unusual night

Locked Up  Forget what you think of prisons. Spending a night in the slammer is the newest (and sometimes cheapest) way to travel the world. Questionable karma aside, going willingly into the lock-up is just odd enough to make me want to try it. Shackles are not de rigueur.

Au-Violo, Switzerland

Prison For a Night Once a 12th-century cloister and then a prison for more than a hundred years, Au-Violo is an upgraded graceful respite for weary travelers. You can still get that jailhouse feeling, though - just ask for a room that looks over the courtyard. The rooms follow the cellblock plan and space is cozy (in other words, cramped).

Rooms that open onto the Altstadt are roomier and feature private baths and shower stalls.

Not up for an overnight stay? Enjoy classic French cuisine on the terraced garden.

Hotel Brasserie au violon
Im Lohnhof
4051 Basel
Phone: 0041-6126987-11

Langholmen, Sweden

Prison BunkerBuilt in 1724 as prison for "loose women," Langholmen Prison Hotel offers guests an inside view of life in the slammer. The last inmate was released in 1972 and in 1989 the building and grounds were transformed into a hostel/hotel.

Rooms are exactly what you'd expect: small, airless and sans windows. But if you're a single traveler, it offers a reasonable rate - 89 of the 102 rooms are single occupancy only.

Prison BunkerMost of the rooms have bathrooms and showers and all are furnished with iron-framed beds - in keeping with the lock-up feeling.

Step just outside the prison walls and you'll be in a popular tourist area with beaches, shopping and restaurants ready to welcome you back into civilization. And if you're only interested in a daytime visit, the inn beside the jail will be happy to put you for the night.

Box 9116
102 72 Stockholm
Phone: 08-720-85-00

HI-Ottawa Jail Hostel

It's the only jail hotel in North America, and it's haunted - or so guests say. It's more than 100 years old and if you're brave enough to visit the 8th floor you may just run into one of the inmates still serving time - for all eternity apparently.

HI-Ottawa sits in the center of Canada's capital and is less than a 5-minute walk from all the touristy stuff - the Parliament buildings, Byward Market and the Rideau Centre.

Still, it's a prison and reviews are mixed. If you're looking for more accommodating conditions for your 1-night incarceration, consider booking the Warden's Private Apartment. Back in the day, his family lived with him in prison and the facilities can easily accommodate a family of 4.

Think your kids are up to a night in an offbeat hotel? Are you?

HI-Ottawa Jail Hostel
75 Nicholas Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1N 7B9
Phone: 613-235-2595

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I love this idea. Bunk bed hostels night after night can definitely start to wear on you. Changing it up a bit with a cool location even for a few bucks extra would be a great change of pace.

Prison hotels are an interesting concept. There's actually a new jail-turned-hotel that opened in Boston recently, but it sounds like it's a bit more luxurious (and less "prison-like) compared to some of these. Here's a blog post I wrote on the topic: http://www.gobostoncard.com/blog

Hey Beth...so what was it like? I've always thought that Prison hotels would be pretty creepy at night.

Another jail-hotel you may wish to add to your list is the brand new Hotel Katajanokka in the heart of a beautiful trendy part of Helsinki near the harbour. Look at: http://www.bwkatajanokka.fi My husband stayed there with a heritage tour group in the summer and truly enjoyed the experience. See TripAdvisor website for his comments. Very comfortable and ultra-modern now. Beth in Barrie, Ontario

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