How to have an Orange Is the New Black sleepover (and other jails you can actually visit)

If you're drawn to dramas set in cells, here's how to take that obsession one step further and experience the places where notorious outlaws were once locked up...

The third series of Orange is the New Black has arrived – Litchfield Penitentiary has opened its gates once again for series three and plenty more turf wars, back stabbing, affairs and killer scriptwriting. But if you’ve ever been curious about the chill that inmates feel when their cell door slams shut for the first time, or wondered about the grizzly goings-on when hundreds of convicts are put in a room together, take a trip to one of these former prisons, fully open to the public…


Hostel Celica, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Dress up in prison overalls like Piper Chapman, Tasha, Red and Crazy Eyes and spend a night behind bars at a former military prison. Hostel Celica has transformed a former detention centre into 20 dorms, each of which sleep up to 12 honorary inmates. No two cells are the same either – they’ve been creatively worked over by different architects – however, each one comes complete with its original prison bars on the doors and windows. 

Clink78, London, UK
Housed in the former Clerkenwell Magistrates’ Court, famous former prisoners here include The Clash, who were fined for shooting expensive racing pigeons and inspired the name of the hostel’s late-night bar: Clashbar. Guests can also choose to sleep in a bunk bed in one of the original prison cells, complete with heavy metal door, barred windows and steel toilet (no longer in use). However, the building isn’t as drab as it used to be – cells now have lots of colour and humour and the hotel also boasts former courtrooms which double as a TV, film lounge and computer room, complete with the judge’s podium and witness stands. 

The unimposing Het Arresthuis is located in the picturesque Dutch town of Roermond, close to the German border. Little do many tourists know, this was a house of detention and a state prison until it was opened as a hotel in 2011. Former cells are now a fancy affair, prison walls have been knocked through to create bigger rooms, and while there may still be original bars on the windows, guests will find flat screen televisions, rain showers and comfy dressing gowns and slippers in their rooms. Well-behaved prisoners can also request flowers, chocolate or Rituals beauty products for special occasions.

Malmaison, Oxford, UK
First a medieval castle, this property was converted into the HM Prison Oxford before it was finally turned into a boutique hotel in 1996. Those wanting a kooky experience can book a room in the House of Correction building, where there are double cells and superior double cells. Don’t fear, you’ll not find excrement on the walls or be bunked up with a terrifying inmate here – these room have power showers, mood lighting, toiletries and 24-hour room service. The hotel’s eateries would make Orange is the New Black’s chef Red proud – they serve generous portions of fresh, local and classic food.

The Liberty, Boston, USA
There’s nothing terrifying about staying at the luxury Liberty hotel, apart from the fact it used to be the Charles Street Jail. Famous inmates include Malcolm X and prisoners of war who had to sleep in cells that were 80 square feet in size. Now the 298 ‘rooms’ have been transformed into beautiful 400 to 800 square feet furnished spaces, with mahogany woods and touches of stainless steel. The CLINK restaurant still honours the building’s eerie original features; here guests can sit in parts of the original cells while tucking in to some American grub.

Tower of London, UK

Built by William the Conqueror in 1078, this grand, eerie castle sits in the centre of London, and is famously known as a former site of torture and execution. You can’t stay in the Tower, but visitors can get up close to a cruel device known as a torture rack, used to cause excruciating pain as it stretched prisoners. Inmates had their ankles and their wrists tied to a flat board while it was cranked by a warden. It’s believed that Guy Fawkes was tortured here, while other prisoners over the years include Anne Boleyn, William Wallace and east London gangster duo The Krays.

Visit the Tower of London with Radio Times Travel, see here for more details

Old Melbourne Gaol, Melbourne, Australia
Some of Australia’s most famous felons were locked up and executed at the Old Melbourne Gaol, including murderer Frederick Bailey Deeming and bushranger Ned Kelly. Exhibitions include the death masks used to execute criminals between 1845 and 1924, plus the scene of 133 hangings. As well as daily tours, the former prison also doubles as a wacky wedding venue.

Best Western Premier Katajanokka, Helsinki, Finland
Previously the Helsinki Country Prison, pre-trial criminals from Southern Finland were locked up here between 1837 and 2002. After a whopping €15 million refurb, it’s now a fancy themed hotel. Sets of two or three cells have been joined to create spacious queen rooms to junior suites, accessible only by the original prison corridor. Naturally, the Jailbird Restaurant is prison-themed too – with barred windows and Medieval-style chairs, it serves Scandinavian specialities.

Alcatraz, San Francisco, USA
This unsavoury penitentiary held notorious criminals including mob boss Al ‘Scarface’ Capone, the last Great American Train Robber Roy Gardener and George “Machine Gun” Kelly. Although the island is now a lot more pleasant – it’s a hot spot for rare flowers, plants and marine wildlife – visitors can’t stay. Instead, they can tour the cells, dining hall and even sit on the revolting toilets once used by prisoners, all while listening to horror stories, courtesy of a guide. The brave can also enrol in a night tour, carried out by ex-prisoners of Alcatraz.


Visit San Francisco with Radio Times Travel, see here for more details