Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hotel Review: Jailhotel Löwengraben (Luzern)

For most leisure travelers, the ideal hotel combines both a certain standard of quality and affordability (more of both at once being optimal). In this writer's opinion, if neither can be had, a hotel should have convenience, nostalgic value, or some other je ne sais quois to compensate for the inadequacy. With its unabashedly steep prices, Switzerland may well represent the best place to explore these impalpable qualities which make a deficient hotel bearable.

The town of Lucerne in central Switzerland is a favorite stop among tourists, so it goes without saying that the prices are Matterhorn-steep here as well. If you are hoping to avoid sleeping dormitory-style and would like place in town with some character, you're already pushing 200 USD. So, we tried the cheap yet pleasantly kitschy option: Jailhotel Löwengraben, a recently converted hotel located right downtown.

Enthusiasm for our accommodations probably peaked while we were checking in, standing in the dimly lit and heavily fortified hallway. The paint colors and mirrors were almost trendy. The big heavy doors and exposed brick entryway reminded us criminals, possibly even dangerous ones, had stayed here not so very long ago. We looked forward to exploring the rest of our "hostile" (or should I just say hostel?) lodgings.

Three flights of stairs later, we were standing in front of room 310 with our laminated "key," that is, the door lock combination. (If it weren't for the fortress-like entry to the building, we agreed we might have felt uncomfortable about this arrangement.) The door to our room was indeed the most impressive aspect of our stay in the jail -- complete with a reverse peephole, giant bolt, ancient lock, and pass-through (through which many a meal surely must have been shoved over the years).

The rest was, as was duly pointed out to us in numerous guidebooks, a bit too reminiscent of staying in a real jail. Actually, there was a photo on the wall in our room, to show us what it had looked like when it was used as a cell. The room would have housed one inmate, with a table, TV, and clean-looking white (albeit open-air) toliet. The irony that it had been nicer as a jail was not lost on us.

Our bunk beds weren't anything to complain about and, though the bright orange toilet seat was a bit too gas station to seem humorous to me, everything was clean and satisfactory. Frühstück was included, as usual, making the price (under 150 USD) pretty reasonable (relatively speaking, of course).

Jailhotel: Contrary to marketing, not the first jail I didn't want to leave

Price: €
Rating: ★
Bottom Line: Interesting and clean enough for a one-night stay.


jenicrob said...

Wow, I should present this concept to some developers here in Chicago. Talk about a minimal investment conversion with high return! I never realized a developer could be a slumlord.

CresceNet said...
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Linda/Mom said...

While the concept is a great one, I don't think there are an abundance of empty prisons here in the U.S. to convert into hotels. Perhaps the reverse could work though--empty hotels might be our newest solution to overcrowded jails! Maybe some could even accommodate both--tourists on the top floors and prisoners on the lower ones. And, if you should have a loved one "doing time" -- you could stay in the same place--convenient!

Madelia said...

Interesting to know.