Everyone’s been on a vacation they wish could last forever, but we doubt any traveller would wish to stay anywhere indefinitely or without choice.While they may now be renovated, luxurious escapes, these hotels put properties to use that otherwise would have been raised, demolished, or deserted — namely, jails and mental institutions.
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Some of these hotels honour the building’s former identity by naming rooms or dishes after it, some simply rebuild where an institution once stood, a few chillingly remind you of the inmates (not guests) that came before, and still others try to forget it all together.
San Clemente Palace Hotel and Resort, a five-star luxury retreat on a private island off of Venice, offers the old-world charm and serenity that vacation-goers seek in Italy. But beneath the exclusive lagoon-front exterior lays its history as a women’s mental hospital. And while Oxford may be better known as home to one of the most prestigious universities in the world, the swanky town hotel Malmaison was once home to inmates rather than intellectuals in the Victorian era.
If spending a night in jail seems like a novel adventure, then Karosta Prison in Liepaja, Latvia, is the place to get scared stiff (plus, it’s better than actually getting arrested). This former KGB lock up served as an incarcerating institution for regiment-breaching Soviet soldiers and has maintained its hard edge even after the prison became inactive in 1997. Visitors can opt for one of four levels of scariness during their stay — ranging from getting shouted at by hotel staffers to full-on solitary confinement.
Whether you decide to shack up in Boston’s Liberty Hotel or at Mount Gambier in southern Australia, the hotels that once kept residents at their wits’ end, today ensure a restful stay for all. While this may seem spooky, these hotels are meant to provide comfort and hospitality to their guests — unless otherwise noted.
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Just a short boat ride from St. Mark's Square, the San Clemente Palace Hotel and Resort is a private island retreat off the canals of Venice.
The island once hosted a hospital for pilgrims returning from the Middle East and later a convent was built to house a quarantine station. Soon after, it was turned into Europe's first all-female mental hospital, which operated until 1992.
The hotel now boasts high Venetian ceilings, three sumptuous restaurants, two Old World style bars, a glistening pool, and spa treatments to make you feel like you're living la dolce vita, but it's strange to think that anything this sprawling could have once been so confining.
It's hard to imagine that The Liberty Hotel was once a jail declared unfit and in violation of inmates' constitutional rights.
But in 1973, after 120 years of housing some of Boston's most disreputable criminals, the inmates of the Charles Street Jail revolted and, as a result, were all relocated to the Suffolk County Jail by 1990. And thus the property was left empty and waiting for -- what else -- a lavish hotel.
Even though the renovations were sweeping and deluxe, some of the historic facets remain from the granite exterior to the trademark windows and the preserved jail cells that sit within the hotel's restaurant, Clink.
Forget Revolutionary War reenactments -- this is way more extreme. History buffs and Cold War fanatics will rejoice when they hear they can relive USSR military imprisonment at the Karosta Prison in Liepaja, Latvia.
Serving as a penitentiary from 1900 to 1997, it was home to deserters, dissenters, rebels, and enemies of Stalin and the Soviet Army. Today, you can pay to be arrested outside the hotel and brought back for a sparse lunch in the prison canteen.
And though most of the Soviet prisoners only survived this jail's conditions for three days at most -- they limit your stay to just one night of torture.
A penal colony for women until 1975, this Swedish retreat on Langholmen Island has upped the ante for its visitors by transforming itself from inhospitable badlands to a modern oasis.
The rocky terrain once cultivated by inmates has been replaced by blooming gardens. Whether you choose to stay in the renovated jail cell hostel or generously outfitted hotel rooms, this historic Stockholm site is one you won't want to miss.
It's only too bad the former convicts couldn't enjoy the hotel pub's Sunday brunch or book a wedding in one of the hotel's banquet rooms.
This four-cell jail-turned-bed-and-breakfast in Taylors Falls, Minn., has a unique back-story. Built next to a saloon in 1884, it served as the town lockup until 1923, but has since been repurposed as an icehouse, a shoe repair shop, and even a garage. In 1981, the former jail was restored and became Minnesota's first licensed B&B. Not only does this inn have historical importance, but it also boasts delicious home-style breakfasts, suites with wood-burning fireplaces, an array of sweets and popcorn for guests, and great views of the St. Croix River.
A backpacker's haven in southern Australia, this refurbished jail offers simple, modern accommodations.
Operating as a prison until 1995, The Mount Gambier Gaol has since updated its penitentiary décor, although they maintained some of its macabre charm -- even restoring a cell where three prisoners spent their last hours before hanging in the 1800s.
Opt for twin shares and doubles in former cells or three bed dorms in the jailer's residence, make use of the old prison's chapel (now a library and lounge), cook in the hotel's communal kitchens, and marvel in the striking surroundings of the infamous Blue Lake.
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