hostels

A Night Behind Bars in Ljubljana - Checking in to Hostel Celica: Slovenia's Prison Turned Hostel

I never imagined I’d be spending the night in a Slovenian jail cell

I also never thought I’d be doing so willingly… that is, until I started planning our trip to Ljubljana and discovered that the city is home to Hostel Celica - an ex prison turned hostel. Then I was all like, “A night behind bars!? SIGN ME UP!!”

For a unique accommodation experience during your visit to Slovenia’s capital, you have to stay a night or two at Ljubljana’s former prison - Hostel Celica.

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History + Transformation

In the 1880’s, “Hostel Celica” was a prison…

…and it remained a prison for over 100 years.

In 1991, the building was abandoned, and local artists began trying to formally obtain the empty premises. They wanted to preserve the building, and, in doing so, to preserve a piece of Ljubljana’s history. These artists were strongly opposed by the local government who answered their attempts by trying to have the building demolished in 1993.

Nearly 10 years later, the city finally approved creative plans to transform the building into a youth hostel in 2001. For the next two years, more than 80 local and international artists collaborated to transform Hostel Celica into the beautiful, eclectic work of art that it is today.

In 2003, they welcomed their first guests, and, today, it is the most awarded hostel in Slovenia.

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Not Your Average Hostel

Yes, Hostel Celica does have your standard hostel common areas like a bar/cafe, and various lounges… but it also has an on site Art Gallery featuring monthly exhibits by local and international artists, a unique, spiritual room called the Point of Peace, and, in the basement, you’ll find the Museum of Confinement.

POINT OF PEACE

The Point of Peace is the only jail cell in Celica which has had the bars removed from windows and doors. This symbolizes openness and acceptance, a point that is further illustrated by what is actually in this spiritual room.

On their website, Celica says:

The Point of Peace represents the meeting point of all travelers who want to get in touch with their spiritual side or just give themselves a moment of peace and quiet. There are 6 niches where each represents a world religion – Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism. The sixth one is left empty and opened for any other religion, your own belief.

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MUSUEM OF CONFINEMENT

If you’re bold enough to wander downstairs to the Museum of Confinement, you’ll see the prison’s old solitary confinement cells and can learn more about Celica’s dark history. The location of this museum in relation to the point of Peace and third floor common room also has an interesting, symbolic meaning:

The solitary confinement cells, which are part of the museum, are located right under the Point of Peace, which rises up into the lightest point of the building, the common room. The vertical symbolizes how the old prison building opens itself from its darkest corner into its lightest point.

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Be sure to check out all of these spaces to learn more about the property’s history and evolution over time.

Read more now: Hostel Celica - More Than a Hostel

Room (aka cell) Options

Sold on a stay at Hostel Celica? GREAT!

…Now you’ve got a pretty wide variety of room options to choose from. Stay solo in a private room, or bunk up with a few cell mates in one of Celica’s dorms.

For the full experience, I recommend spending a night behind bars in one of their 20 cells.

These cells were transformed by artists during the prison’s transformation, and each one has its own unique story and concept.

We stayed in Cell 116, “The Eye”… which was pretty cool, but there’s one catch… you can’t choose your specific cell - and theres a meaning behind that too.

Guests are assigned the cells at the moment of booking and cannot choose them according their tastes or wishes… The same way the prisoners could not choose theirs back at the time - A nice element of surprise, completely free of charge.

Read more about Cell 116’s concept and check out the other cells here.

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Property Perks

Hostel Celica offers several property perks…

…in addition to all of the unique aspects mentioned previously.

Their check in desk is open 24-hours a day and the ground floor has a common space, cafe, and bar where you can pay small, reasonable prices for meals, drinks, and their buffet breakfast. Upstairs, you’ll find another lounge, a shared kitchen, and laundry area.

Hostel Celica also offers bike rental, city maps, and a variety of trips and tours.

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What’s in the Neighborhood?

To put it in short… a WHOLE lot of art.

The hostel is located right in the middle of Metelkova Mesto, an autonomous social centre in the centre of Ljubljana. Think Copenhagen’s Christiania Freetown… except smaller.

Before the renovation and transformation of Hostel Celica began, the abandoned barracks and prison were occupied by artists trying to preserve the area. Today it is arguably the most successful Urban Squat in Europe.

The entire area is filled with murals, quirky art installations, and museums. It’s pretty deserted in the day time… but once the sun goes down, Metelkova Mesto comes to life.

Read more about Metelkova here or visit their website to stay up to date on upcoming exhibitions and events.

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Booking

To check current rates or book your cell at Hostel Celica, use the search box below.

Booking.com

What’s the most unique hostel you’ve ever stayed at? Let me know in the comments below!

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Budapest’s Most Convenient Hostel - Pal's Hostel at St. Stephen's Basilica

On their website, Pal’s Hostel makes the bold claim that they are, “Not your average hostel.” After staying here myself, I can honestly say that this statement couldn’t be more accurate.

They say it’s because the hostel is actually a chain of dorms and apartments near St. Stephen’s Square… but I think their unique setup and prime location are just two of several defining characteristics that make Pal’s stand out from the rest.

If you’re travelling to Budapest (especially on a time limit), this is the best (and most budget friendly) place you could stay.

Here’s why.


Location

Voted 10th best large hostel worldwide in the 2018 Hoscar Awards, Pal’s is hands down the most conveniently located hostel I have ever stayed at… and I have crashed at my fair share hostels.

It is located so close to St. Stephen’s Basilica that you can literally see it from some of their properties. This is not an exaggeration.

This location puts the hostel a short walk away from Deák Ferenc tér - the metro station where Budapest’s three main lines intersect.

Staying in such a central location made it easy for us to make the most of our short time in Budapest and to see as much as we could.

Budapest's Most Convenient Hostel - Pal's Hostel | HallAroundtheWorld
Budapest's Most Convenient Hostel - Pal's Hostel | HallAroundtheWorld
Budapest's Most Convenient Hostel - Pal's Hostel | HallAroundtheWorld


privacy

In addition to its great location, Pal’s has a wide variety of room options ranging from mixed dorms and private rooms to ensuites and apartments. Thanks to their wide range of options, the hostel attracts a wide range of travellers. We saw families, older couples, backpackers, solo travellers and groups checking in and out.

Andrew and I opted for a private room in a shared apartment located in a building just across the street from the main reception building. Even though we were in the middle of the city (during the Christmas markets), our room was quiet and we had so much privacy.

It wasn’t just a place to sleep - I had a place to set up my classroom to teach online each morning, a kitchen to make our own meals, and, after a day of exploring, we could come back to chill and recharge, just the two of us.

There were a couple flights of stairs to get to the apartment - which isn’t exactly ideal for older, less mobile individuals (or for carrying our one shared suitcase - filled with lots of (my) winter clothes. Shout out to Andrew for carrying that sucker up).

The apartment had a living room, full kitchen, one other bedroom, and a shared bathroom. There were a couple of times that I had to pee or wanted to shower and had to wait because someone was in the bathroom… but this wasn’t a big issue.

It was a major upgrade from some hostel situations where the bathroom is either gross because it’s shared by too many people and not cleaned often enough, or you have to wait for ages. (Raise your hand if you’ve ever had to race for the shower while staying at a hostel. Not ideal. This was much better than that)


Social Atmosphere

Just because Pal’s offers guests more private room options doesn’t mean it isn’t a social hostel.

There are communal spaces located in the main building where you can get some work done or grab a free cup of coffee while mingling with your fellow travellers. They also host daily activities here like trivia nights, family dinners (featuring traditional Hungarian dishes), and even beer pong tournaments.

Budapest's Most Convenient Hostel - Pal's Hostel | HallAroundtheWorld
Budapest's Most Convenient Hostel - Pal's Hostel | HallAroundtheWorld

It definitely isn’t the most social hostel I’ve ever been to, since it’s so spread out… but, in my opinion, it’s nicer to have the option of attending events than to be bombarded by a loud party crowd when you just want some privacy or peace and quiet.

It was just the right amount of social… in that socializing was optional and not unavoidable… (I’m kind of a recluse sometimes… sue me).



Friendly Staff

Speaking of the social atmosphere, the people at Pal’s are pretty great, too… but I guess when you work at a place called “Pal’s,” you kinda have to be.

The staff was comprised of a fun and friendly group of people from all over the world. Many of them had been in Budapest for awhile, so they were able to give great advice on the best places to see in the neighborhood, around the city, and how to get there.

Budapest's Most Convenient Hostel - Pal's Hostel | HallAroundtheWorld

Fast Wifi

Since I work on the go, having a good wifi connection is crucial.

Some hostels are hit or miss when it comes to their high-speed internet, but in our apartment at Pal’s I had zero problems connecting and teaching my English classes online.



Clean and colorful

Some people may not care where they lay their head or what it looks like, but when I’m deciding on a hostel or hotel, I almost always make sure it meets these two bonus criteria.

Call me crazy, (extra, bougie, high-maintenance… whatever)… but there’s something special about staying in a place that’s visually appealing.

Pal’s is filled with colorful artwork and murals in its shared spaces… and when I say filled I mean these masterpieces literally cover the majority of the walls.

In my opinion, they could have done a little more with the interior decoration in the apartments… but they were clean, and that’s what matters most.

Budapest's Most Convenient Hostel - Pal's Hostel | HallAroundtheWorld
Budapest's Most Convenient Hostel - Pal's Hostel | HallAroundtheWorld



Affordability

As with anywhere, prices at Pal’s vary greatly depending on when you go, what type of room you choose, and how long you stay.

We visited at the start of December for the Christmas markets and found the costs to be significantly lower than comparable accommodations in the neighborhood.

Booking

Check current rates or book your room using the search box below.

Booking.com

Don’t forget to add your name to the wall!

Budapest's Most Convenient Hostel - Pal's Hostel | HallAroundtheWorld

What is the best hostel you’ve ever stayed at? Let me know in the comments below!

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Budapest's Most Convenient Hostel - Pal's Hostel | HallAroundtheWorld
Budapest's Most Convenient Hostel - Pal's Hostel | HallAroundtheWorld
Budapest's Most Convenient Hostel - Pal's Hostel | HallAroundtheWorld