jail hostel Ottawa

You can now sleep overnight in what was once Canada's most notorious prison

What is now the HI Ottawa Jail Hostel was formerly known as the Carleton County Gaol jail and Ottawa’s main detention center for over 100 years. 

Opened in 1862 next to the city courthouse, this model prison was later closed in 1972 due to inhuman practices. It was terribly overcrowded and up to 150 prisoners would be forced to share about 30-60 tiny cells.

Also, men were mixed with women and children and those arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct would often be forced to share a cell with murderers or the mentally ill. 

After sitting abandoned for a year, the building was bought and reopened as a youth hostel by Hostelling International in 1973. 

Guests can stay in shared dorm rooms or deluxe private suites, all of which come with free WiFi and continental breakfast in the morning.

The most popular option for accommodation however, is the authentic single jail cell.

These confinement cells are completely unaltered from their original conditions. The tiny 27 square foot spaces come with just enough room for a narrow bed behind the barred door. 

The experience is far from what you'll get at any other average backpacker’s hostel, but the unique opportunity to sleep in a cell is the draw for most of the visitors who find refuge at this historic landmark. 

There are rumours that the halls of this building are haunted due to the inhuman practices, sentenced deaths, as well as the many deaths by illnesses that occurred here during its prison days. 

Whether that's true or not, it certainly makes staying here even more of an adventure for travellers who love a good ghost story. 

There are also areas that are still set up as they were when prisoners occupied the jail.

The top floor of the building, which used to be the prison's death row, has also been restored to its original conditions and is open daily for free tours.

Located downtown and right next to the Ottawa Convention Centre and Rideau Centre Mall, the hostel is within walking distance from the Parliament Buildings, Byward Market and National Gallery of Canada.

Lead photo by

hiottawajail


Join the conversation Load comments

Latest in Travel

Canada is getting a massive new resort that pays homage to Indigenous culture

Burnaby Mountain park in Canada is home to the Playground of the Gods

The Big Muddy Badlands in Saskatchewan are a slice of the Wild West

Mingan Archipelago national park reserve is home to the largest group of monoliths in Canada

Ouimet Canyon has breathtaking fall colours and an unreal lookout bridge

This tiny Scandinavian cottage in the Canadian forest is the ultimate getaway

The Parkhurst Ghost Town is an old logging outpost hidden deep in the Canadian forest

The Eastern Townships in Quebec look absolutely breathtaking in the fall