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London's new prison hotel

travel Updated: Mar 14, 2012 14:19 IST
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Travelers in London will be able to get a taste of life inside one of the world's most notorious detention facilities this week, as an Alcatraz-themed hotel opens for a limited time only. 

The 'hotel' is based in London's Kings Cross and offers just four rooms, built as replicas of the cells in the famous US prison on Alcatraz Island in California.

Staffed by 'guards' who may lack some of the courtesy of traditional hotel receptionists (they demand to be called 'Sir', for a start), the 'Hotel Alcatraz' is set to place a premium on security, requiring mug shots on arrivals and asking inmates/guests to change their clothes for prison garb.

Rooms aren't luxurious, measuring 5' by 9' (1.5m by 2.75m) and containing just a mattress, two shelves and a prison-style sink and toilet, while food will be delivered by a nearby takeaway and served on metal food trays, drinking cups and uniforms sourced directly from the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy in San Francisco.

Apart from the takeaway part, the hotel is designed as a faithful replica of Alcatraz, which was one of the world's most notorious prisons before its closure in 1963, housing inmates including Al Capone and eventually inspiring a host of film and television stories.

The London pop-up hotel has been installed by TV channel Watch and to promote the launch of the new Alcatraz TV series in the UK, but it's only in place for a week through March 17, and sadly, all of the places have been taken.

All is not lost for those looking for the prison experience, however, as forking over cash to spend a night in jail isn't actually as uncommon -- or as unpleasant -- as it sounds.

The Karosta Naval Port Prison in Liepāja, Latvia, for instance, functioned as a prison for almost a decade, and now offers overnight stays for guests who are keen to experience the unpleasantness for themselves, with very few concessions made for comfort.

The Old Mount Gambier Gaol, in Mt Gambier, Australia, has made slightly more of an effort to welcome guests, covering up the peepholes on the doors of this former English jail and installing a sports bar and lounge.

At the luxury end of the scale is the Malmaison Oxford, a prison conversion in the heart of the British city which has resulted in a luxury hotel where queen-sized beds and ensuite bathrooms have replaced the doubles cells of the A-Wing.