When my boyfriend and I, both lawyers who have spent significant amounts of time in courthouses, discovered a 200-year-old courthouse in the center of London that now houses guests in former prison cells, we knew we had to check it out. From the outside, Clink78 looks like a historic courthouse. As soon as you step inside, however, this energetic youth hostel comes to life and exudes the funky, energetic attitude of the British punk rock band, The Clash, who stood trial in this courthouse in 1978 for shooting some expensive race pigeons. We opted to stay in one of the hostel’s six original prison cells for the most authentic and unique experience. While our experience can hardly be compared to that of an actual prisoner 200 years ago, we were able to get a sense of what it’s like to spend a night in a prison cell. We enjoyed this one-of-a-kind adventure and would recommend it to anyone looking for a memorable and affordable accommodation in London.
We arrived in London early in the morning and headed straight to Clink78 to drop off our bags before going out to explore for the day. The front desk staff gave us a keycard to access the storage room in the basement. Although the storage room did not contain individual lockers, there were cameras posted in every corner, so we felt comfortable leaving our bags there for the day.
Located a mere 10 minute walk from King’s Cross Station, Clink78 is the perfect starting point to explore the city. Rather than taking the tube, we ended up walking all the way to the Tower of London and took a boat along the Thames to Parliament. Walking is always our preferred method of transportation because it is free and provides us with a better feel for a new city. We loved having Clink78 as our base because it allowed us to walk to all the main sights.
Later that afternoon, we returned to check into our room. The young man who checked us in was a newer staff member and had a bit of a harder time with the check in process. We also ran into some issues with our keycard not working the first time, but this was quickly rectified and we were instructed not to leave our keycards too close to our cell phones in the future. We had gotten into full prison character before stepping into the building, so we didn’t mind these minor glitches at all. After all, what kind of prisoner should expect to be treated like royalty and have everything in prison to run smoothly? That day, we were after authenticity, not luxury.
Clink78 offers private rooms, dorms, and prison cells. There are six prison cells available, and they hold 1-2 people. The prison cells are the original prison cells used 200 years ago. Other than renovations to keep the rooms in livable condition, the cells remain their original size and more or less free of any additional frills.
All six prison cells are located in the same hallway. The room itself contains a small window, a bunk bed, a light switch, a coat hanger, and a trash bin. There is a bathroom at the end of the hallway for prisoners to share. I am doubtful that the original prison cell was as impeccably clean as ours, but it probably contained about the same amount of amenities.
We both panicked a bit when we closed the door to our room and realized there was no doorknob on the inside of the door. Despite placing ourselves in character as prisoners for the night, we were not prepared to actually be locked in for the night. There was even a fire escape map posted on the door, but what good is that when we’re locked inside our room? Luckily, it did not take us long to notice the button on the wall next to the door that allowed us to escape our cell and have a good laugh at ourselves for panicking in the first place.
The center of the main floor of the hostel contains the actual courtroom, complete with pews, pulpits, and a jury box. What was once a chamber for criminal procedure, is now a common area for hostel guests to read, work, or watch movies on a projector screen. We even observed someone taking a nap (heard them snoring) on one of the pews.
Inspired by The Clash and their 1978 trial in this building, ClashBAR is the place to be if you are looking for cold beers, new friends, and a good time. Even prisoners can have fun sometimes!
On weekends, you’ll find Clink78’s resident DJs on deck at ClashBAR with lots of dancing and high energy socializing. During the week, you can participate in pool competitions, karaoke, quiz nights, and find great drink deals at ClashBAR. If you’re a musician, be sure to check out Clink78’s Stay & Play program, which offers budding musicians two nights’ complimentary stay and the chance to perform at ClashBAR.
Although we’ll never know what it was like to spend a night in a prison cell in London as a petty criminal 200 years ago, we do know what it’s like to spend a night in a prison cell at Clink78. We would recommend it to anyone looking for a unique and affordable accommodation in London. We found the social aspect of the hostel to be excellent, the drinks affordable, and activities plentiful. Don’t miss your chance to stay at Clink78 on your next visit to London. Click here to book online now.
A big thanks to Clink78 for making our stay possible. As always, all opinions are 100% our own.
Author: Diana Chen
Recently left my job as an attorney to pursue the work-from-anywhere/travel-everywhere life. I blog about traveling the world with a full time job, confronting your travel addiction, and pursuing your passions without going broke. Traveled to 21 countries on 4 continents since March 2017 and 48 countries total. Next big adventure is hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro in February 2018.
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