Latvia’s Karosta Prison was used as a Nazi and Soviet military prison for most of the 20th century. Hundreds of prisoners are said to have died here, many of them shot in the head. Nowadays the nightmarish facility has been transformed in a prison-themed hotel where guests can sign an agreement to be treated like actual inmates.
Located in the city of Liepaja, Karosta Prison is one of Latvia’s most unique tourist attractions. Visitors can take tours of the old prison facility and learn the gruesome history of this place, visit the prison museum and even book a stay in one of the old cells. Karosta is certainly not the only prison converted to a hotel in the world, but it sets itself apart by allowing visitors to experience authentic prison life in Communist Era conditions. It might sound like a gimmick to attract tourists, but a stay at Karosta Prison is actually no walk in the park. To make sure there are no complaints, the hotel requires guests to sign an agreement acknowledging they are to be treated like prisoners by the trained staff. That includes sleeping in a cell on an old mattress laid over wooden boards, eating prison food served through the barred doors, getting verbally abused by the guards and following orders to the letter. Failure to comply to the strict code of conduct is punished through physical exercise and cleaning work around the prison.
The Karosta Prison website reminds wannabe prisoners that going through this experience can be considered brutal, but that it is entirely their choice. And if the treatment they are subjected to isn’t enough to scare guests away, the staff is more than happy to tell them stories about paranormal activity on the prison grounds. Light bulbs screwing out of their sockets, cell doors opening by themselves, the sound of chains echoing from the halls and the disturbing cold of a presence not of this earth are just some of the things guards talk about during tours. Karosta Prison was actually featured on an episode of the SciFi Channel’s Ghost Hunters International, and they claimed it was one of the most active locations they had ever visited. If such things as ghosts actually exist, you’d find few better places to look for them than Karosta. Originally built as an infirmary in 1900, this place was used as a military prison by both the Soviet and Nazi regimes. During World War II, the Nazis sentenced Latvian deserters to death here, and executed them in the yard. To give you an idea of how the inmates felt about this place, the solitary confinement room features a cryptic message above the door: ‘izeja no elles’, Latvian for ‘exit from hell’. Enjoy your stay!
The Karosta Prison Hotel is open every year, from May 1st to October 30th. For out of season tours, visitors have to call in advance.