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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.
Phone: +44 (0)20 7183 9400
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A big thanks to Clink78 for making our stay possible. As always, all opinions are 100% our own.
This looks so cool! Will keep it in mind for the next chance I get to visit London.
I was going to stay here in London but for some reason didn’t. Looks like I missed out big time!
So interesting! I live in London and have never heard of this place – I’ll have to check it out. 🙂
Oh my goodness, this sounds insane!! I don’t know how I feel about sleeping in a prison cell, very ‘Orange is the new black’, but I love the hostel in general and will definitely check it out when I’m back in London. It has some really cool history, and at the end of the day, that’s what travel is all about! Thanks for sharing!
Agree with you 100% Emily, except we didn’t spot any Crazy Eyes there thankfully (; It was definitely a unique and fun experience – I’d recommend it!
I love the kitchy-ness of this hotel. I would stay here for sure! Although, the fact that there are no doorknobs on the inside would kind of freak me out too:)
Haha we felt silly for freaking out about that as soon as we found the button to open the door. We definitely had a good laugh at ourselves afterwards. 😀
Wow! Such an interesting post! I didn’t expect to stay in a prison room haha, but would love to try it. It’s just super cool!
I would recommend it! It was very unique and fun 🙂
haha that neon sign is so badass. and omg goodness I’d panic too if I felt those heavy doors lock behind me and see no doorknob! What an excellent idea for a hostel. I’ve stayed in a prison hostel in Christchurch sometime back and found the experience a little weird but overall very comfy.
Yes, this was probably the most comfortable “prison” you’ll find. I would love to check out the one in Christchurch one day!
OMG! This is so crazy and unique. I can honestly say I have never wanted to stay in a prison cell, but just for the funky experience, I would TOTALLY stay here! Thanks for putting this on my radar. I will look into it for a solo trip or a trip sans kid someday.
Haha I am with you 100% – I don’t plan on ever staying in a real prison, so this was perfect for me. Your kids might enjoy it! 🙂
Seriously loving the irony that a former attorney willingly spent the night in prison. I definitely cracked up when you and your boyfriend were freaking out that you couldn’t leave the cell only to realize that there was a release button from the inside! This seems like such a unique experience!! Thanks for sharing!
That is quite ironic, isn’t it 😀 We had a good laugh at ourselves after finding the release button too. All in all a really fun and memorable experience that I would recommend! 🙂
What an absolutely fantastic concept to turn a courthouse and cells in to modern day accommodation! I would just love to experience this and I would opt for the cell as well. We are heading to the UK next year and usually plan well in advance so reading this now is just perfect timing!
Great timing, Nicole! Would love to hear what you think if you end up staying here! Safe travels 🙂
What a cool idea the Clink 78 prison cell experience is! The location seems pretty good too, just 10 minutes from Kings Cross Station, this is a useful station for getting in and out of the city too. The bar area looks perfect for meeting other travelers and it’s good they encourage musicians to stay too.
It was a great location – so close to public transportation, and it was easy to walk around London and see the main sights from there too. It’s one of the few hostels I’ve come across that are so supportive of up and coming artists, and I really like that about Clink78!
I never knew this exist! I visited London couple times but missed this! Will def put it on my list. I love unique hostel like this.
Oh wow, I’ve never heard of this place, but it sounds so cool! Sounds like it was an amazing experience…!
Okay so I’ve never heard of this place but it sounds interesting, cool and so out of any concept I’ve ever heard of! Sounds like an experience tho!
This is kind of unbelievable! I like that the walls in the rooms are painted in light green color. I feel a bit claustrophobic about the rooms but I would not if I have a friend with me. The courtroom looks like a scene from a music video. It is kinda cool and I like seeing differents fonts used as a form of art.
I might want to visit this someday but I am not going to stay.
Wow! That sounds like a cool place to stay in London and a unique experience for sure. I don’t know if I would enjoy it that much though. I had a hard time spending a week in jail in Afghanistan not knowing what’s going on and starring at the prison wall day by day.
THIS IS SO COOL AND WEIRD AND INTERESTING AND AWESOME.
Never would have thought this as an option! So unique and thanks for sharing.
Haha yes, all of the above. Would highly recommend it. 🙂
Omg! This place is so unique! I’ve never heard of anything like it before. Not sure that I would want to stay there, because it would kind of freak me out, but it looks like it was a seriously fun night. 🙂
It was a really fun experience, and now I can say I’ve spent the night in a prison cell 😉 Bring a buddy and it won’t be scary at all! 🙂
I got a bit chuckle when I read the part it has cash bar with DJ, dance and music on the weekends, totally not a prison cell I was thinking of, but it was a fun experience to live there for the night. It reminded me of my stay at the Ottawa Jail Hostel that was reformed from the prison cell as well, but lack of entertainment, Do they have haunted tours in the prison to tell you the history and the stories in the past?
Haha that is pretty funny, isn’t it? Can you imagine a cash bar and DJ dance floor in a real prison? There were no haunted tours in the prison that I am aware of, but it was really neat for me, as a lawyer, to step foot inside the courtroom, knowing it was used as a courtroom for years and also used in The Clash trial. I haven’t heard of the Ottawa Jail Hostel but will have to look into that next time I’m in Ottawa!