10 historical hostels with unique pasts

Former prisons, renovated brothels, converted convents; sometimes, you get more than just a cheap bed when choosing a hostel. In fact, with a little research you can find yourself relaxing in the same room a king once did, or dining in a kitchen where soldiers from WWII slept during the war. To help make your next trip a bit more historical, here are ten hostels from around the world with unique pasts.

Hostel Celica
Ljubljana, Slovenia

While Hostel Celica is currently a cultural and creative hostel that features an art gallery, debate forum, inspirational workshops, concerts, and special events, the accommodation is actually a former military prison. Its use dates back to 1882, when the jail was within the military barracks of Metelkova Street. It wasn’t until Solvenia gained independence and the barracks were no longer necessary that the space was converted into what it is today. While there are no longer prisoners of war here, guests can still spend the night in a jail cell. Moreover, symbols of peace, like prayer rooms with alters for the world’s five major religions and a “Point of Peace” meditation space, celebrate the positive transition of the building.Bluehostel Rome
Rome, Italy

The Bluehostel Rome is not only well-situated near historical sites like the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, it’s also a historical site in itself. Once a 17th century convent, the basement of the hostel has been renovated from a 1st century Roman dwelling. Today, guests can still enjoy this unique past through old-world decor and the 150-year-old traditional wooden ceilings, which were recently discovered during a renovation in May of 2010.

Clink 78
London, United Kingdom

Located in central London is a trendy backpacker hostel that is actually a renovated 200-year-old courthouse. There are also seven original prison cells which guests can sleep in. Some fun facts about the hostel: The Clash once stood trial in what is now the TV lounge, and the current internet space, which was also once a courtroom, gave Charles Dickens his inspiration for “Oliver Twist.” With all of this history, it’s not surprising that Clink 78 is on the official National Heritage List for England.

Ethic étapes Cannes Jeunesse
Cannes, France

Located on a protected and nearly deserted island in the Mediterranean, this hostel is a historic fort from the 17th century. Built by architect Marquis de Vauban, well-known for advising Louis XIV on how to condense France’s borders, it was later made famous by the movie “The Man in the Iron Mask” as the place where the prisoner was held captive.

Belford Hostel
Edinburgh, Scotland

When visiting a Gothic city like Edinburgh, it would only be right to stay in an accommodation that reflects its rich history. Belford Hostel is actually a historic church building from the 19th century that has retained its features over the decades. High ceilings, stained glass windows, details and decor from the original building help take travelers back in time and to feel as if they are living in old-world Scotland.

Historical Ryokan Hostel K’s House Ito Onsen Accommodation
Higashimatsubara-cho, Japan

This historical building is over 100 years old and is the only hostel registered as a cultural property in Japan. Because of this, guests are metaphorically taken into the past as the property has changed very little in terms of structure and decor. What guests of this property enjoy more than anything is the 100% natural age-old hot springs with relaxation and healing properties, making it one of the most historical as well as luxurious hostels in the world.

Back of Chapel Backpacker
Melbourne, Australia

While the name of the hostel sounds happy and light, this newly renovated hostel has a bit of a seedy past. Over 100 years ago, the building was actually a brothel used by politicians and ministers, and a stay here will allow you to see firsthand the hidden escape door these men would sneak out through during police raids. You can actually read about the old brothel in the novel “My Brother Jack.” Today, this social hostel takes on a more moral air and features modern amenities to help backpackers feel comfortable and safe.

Jailhouse Accommodation

Christchurch, New Zealand

Jailhouse Accommodation has everything a backpacker could want: comfortable beds, TV lounges, a communal kitchen, a fun game room, and prison-style accommodation. The thick concrete walls of the building held not only a jail, but also a military camp and women’s prison. Although the prison was shut down in 1999, it wasn’t until 2006 that a couple transformed the building from a gloomy jailhouse to a friendly backpacker destination. Today, you can still experience the Gothic architecture from 1874 as well as sleep in a prison cell for yourself (they even have prisoner outfits that you can wear for photos). Jailhouse Accommodation is also listed as a New Zealand Historic Places Trust Heritage Building.

Old Firestation Backpackers
Fremantle, Australia

This fun and social destination is well-known for offering an array of free amenities, such as WiFi, video games, linens, lockers, an outdoor cinema, and a game lounge. According to the Australian Heritage Database, Old Firestation Backpackers is a restored heritage building from 1908 and was originally planned to house four horse-drawn carriages including an ambulance. Another interesting tidbit is that during WWII, the firemen were evacuated so the U.S. Marines could move in. Today, guests can still experience the history of the building, as little has been changed inside, from high ceilings to a fireman’s pole.

Hostelling International- Ottawa Jail Hostel
Ottawa, Canada

Located in downtown Ottawa, this hostel was once the Carleton County Gaol (Jail), and a stay here will allow you to sleep in a prison hospital room or a renovated jail cell with barred doors and arched ceilings. You can also take a Haunted Walking Tour of the jail, which will give you a spooky look into the history of the building. If your appetite for history still isn’t satiated, you can head over to nearby sites like Parliament Hill, the Museum of Civilization, the Canadian War Museum, or the National Gallery of Canada.