Stay Overnight in a Prison-Turned-Hostel in Luzern, Switzerland (Beautiful Spaces)

by Gigi Griffis

Welcome back to Beautiful Spaces—a series of posts in which I talk about the apartments, hotels, hostels, & B&Bs we stay in all over the world. It all started in 2013 when I realized that my contentment on the road is directly connected to how much I love where I’m living…and so made a commitment to find beautiful spaces to call home along the way. This fabulously quirky experience was provided free in exchange for this review. Opinions are my own. 

If you know me, you know I love the unusual.

Give me an abandoned hotel, a train wreck-turned skate park, or the chance to overnight in an ancient farmhouse on an island and you’ve got my heart.

Which is why when I found out that there’s a new hostel in Luzern that’s housed in a former prison, I squealed out loud. Staying overnight in an old prison (built in 1862 and decommissioned in 1998)? That sounds like something tailor-made for my bucket list.

Charmingly, the hostel is named after a former prisoner: Barabas. He was a contentious objector and an artist imprisoned here and known for painting a fresco in his cell featuring all the things he missed from the outside world.

It all sounded so interesting, so I was thrilled when the hostel offered to host us for a couple nights. And off we went for a weekend in a former cell.


The hostel has 60 different cells, including singles, doubles, and dorms. Ours featured two very comfortable single beds, a barred window high above, a clean, simple shower and bathroom with semi-see-through walls, a fan, and a single wooden shelf along the heads of the beds. Internet was free and worked well inside the cell. We heard the pipes a few times and some muted voices, but overall the hostel was quiet.

Head downstairs from the cells and you’ll find even more prison touches. A casual, colorful reception area with old stone walls. A spacious dining room with a glass ceiling that looks up to the tiny barred cell windows and features walls hung with old bars. A breakfast buffet along an old stone wall. And an exterior that merges the somber feeling of an old prison with the giant, colorful painted name of the hostel.


Breakfast was a surprisingly diverse buffet of porridge, eggs, (very good) fresh bread, jams, and cereal/museli fixings, as well as juices and coffee drinks.

Other perks? The location is central (a two-minute walk from Luzern’s most famous bridge). Dogs are welcome. The front desk staff is very friendly. And the price is right for budget travelers. A bed in a shared room starts around 50 CHF (a steal in Switzerland).

Want to book a cell and stay in a prison yourself? You’ll find Barabas’ website here. Tell the ghosts of prisoners past I said hello.

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