Do Time Without the Crime: 4 Luxury Hotels in Former Prisons

Do Time Without the Crime: 4 Luxury Hotels in Former Prisons

Check in — and out! — of these cool spaces with unique history.

By Karen Gardiner

After 11-and-a-half months in the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut, we can think of one person (cough, Teresa Giudice) who will not be checking into one of these prisons-turned-luxury hotels any day soon... and that's perfectly understandable. But, we’ve got some good reasons for why you should: These cool lodging options in spaces that formerly housed jails have tons of eclectic appeal, not to mention posh amenities.

1. The Liberty, Boston

We wonder what former inmates, which include Malcolm X and Frank Abagnale Jr. (the high-flying con artist played by Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can), would think of this: The site of their incarceration, Boston’s former Charles Street Jail, was (ironically) renamed The Liberty. The hotel by that name opened in the building in 2007 and is part of Starwood Hotels’ Luxury Collection. Original 19th century details remain intact — including jail cell bars in the wittily named restaurant The Clink — and are married to modern design details with, ahem, captivating effect.

2. Malmaison Oxford, U.K.

Ladies of London love weekend breaks in the storied university town of Oxford. If you are visiting soon, we recommend a stay at the chic Malmaison, which has the added historical appeal of being housed in a medieval castle-turned-prison-turned-hotel. What were once spartan dark cells have been transformed into nattily decorated guest rooms — though some retain their iron cell doors. Split-level suites have the added bonus of outdoor balconies overlooking the castle mound, while the hotel’s bar and brasserie are slinky spots for a cocktail or two. The hotel’s pun-happy website really delights in the prison theme, announcing: “Once you've visited Malmaison Oxford, we suspect you'll become a repeat offender!”

3. Four Seasons, Istanbul

Although its former residents would not have had the opportunity to appreciate its prime location, this sunflower-colored early 20th century prison-turned-luxury hotel places you just around the corner from two of Istanbul’s most famous attractions, the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. Original arched doorways and tiled floors remain in place, and delicious Turkish cuisine is served in the former exercise yard, now a glass-enclosed courtyard. Several rooms offer jaw-dropping views of the city, but the cream of the bunch is the heavenly Marmara Suite with three private terraces overlooking the Sea of Marmara and the Princess Islands.

4. Het Arresthuis

Former jailbirds like Teresa will probably want to avoid Het Arresthuis, which maintains its jailhouse feel just a little too authentically. Guests of the hotel in Roermond, two hours south of Amsterdam, sleep in converted cells that open out onto a long hallway left over from the building’s not-too-distant past life (it functioned as a prison until 2007). Bigger deluxe standard rooms occupy former recreation rooms while the top-tier room, the Director Suite was once the comparatively sweet living quarters of the prison director, and has its own Jacuzzi.

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