Lola A. Åkerström introduces you to the historic prison turned lodging – Långholmen.
You can book yourself into a minimalist-style prison cell in Stockholm’s Långholmen Hostel/Hotel located on the city’s seventh largest island of the same name. With a seedy past as a 19th century 500-cell jail previously home to Sweden’s most notorious prisoners and prostitutes which closed in 1975, today’s Långholmen welcomes you to an eco-friendly property which uses low-flush water-conserving toilets, low-energy light bulbs, and biodegradable soap without skimping out on signature Swedish contemporary décor – all housed within a unique prison structure.
Reminiscent of San Francisco’s Alcatraz, it is located on its very own island a short walk across Långholmsbron (bridge) from the edgy bohemian island of Södermalm; treating you to your own private green retreat within the city, yet away from Stockholm’s bustling core. You can stay in one of 100+ renovated cells, each with its own jail door, bars, and large cell number written in black ink above the doors. Rooms are sparsely decorated with modern IKEA-style furniture and some old jail details like bars and chains as headboards which add to its ambiance.
Right outside the hotel, you’ll find a beach and jogging trails if you need some exercise outdoors. You’ll also find a prison museum on site, From Crime to Chains, which chronicles the hotel’s transformation from sleazy prison to novelty lodging. Långholmen’s restaurant is located in the Alstavik manor house. It uses lots of fresh and organic ingredients and the menu changes every season. It also serves Sunday brunch (smörgåsbord-style), and every Christmas season, serves a large “Julbord”; a Christmas smörgåsbord.
The hotel organizes group and tours, beer and wine tasting, kayaking and boat paddling, as well as a slew of team building activities. The Old Prison entrance hall was converted to the reception area which also has a little cafeteria which is open 24 hours a day. The novelty of staying in a former prison is usually reserved for travelers who flock to Långholmen for its ambiance. It’s also used as a prime wedding location and conference/meeting spot for business travelers.
Here is Lånhgholm’s official history:
As the name suggests, Långholmen is a long and narrow island. In older times, it consisted of lean pastures situated amongst bare rocks. On the island, there are traces of ancient dwellings dating back to the 10th century. In the 19th century, a silver hoard of German coins minted in the 10th century was found here. The island was first mentioned in historical documents in 1435. These medieval documents relate that Sweden’s Council of State held a meeting in Långholmen.
Another historic event was that Gustav Vasa stationed his troops on the island before occupying the city in 1523. Långholmen belonged to the Crown until 1647 when Queen Christina donated the island to Stockholm City.
The first settlement
In 1622, a marine customs house was set up on the island. It operated until 1857. Moored by the customs house were fast sailing yachts that could chase and bring back vessels that “forgot” to go through customs. The great expansion of shipping on Lake Mälaren in Sweden’s Age of Greatness prompted the establishment of a shipyard for building small craft at Pålsundet (the channel between Söder Mälarstrand and Långholmen) in 1685.
In 1649, the wealthy brewer Jochum Ahlstedt rented parts of the island and began cultivating them. He built a majestic residence, Alstavik. The residence was acquired by the State in 1724 and converted into a spinning house, i.e. a penal institution for women.
The prison operations were expanded afterwards and came to dominate the island for 250 years. During the prison epoch, some large private buildings were also erected on the island. The waterfront to Mälaren was embellished during the latter half of the 19th century. Large quantities of soil were laid on the rock and 3000 trees were planted by the prisoners. Thanks to this, the island is a green oasis. At the beginning of the 20th century, the City planned to make a park on the eastern side of the island, and some paths and planted areas were laid out. It is now that the island lived up to its reputation – the green island in the heart of Stockholm. The prison was closed down in 1975.
A new era
For a while, the prison buildings were falling into decay and quite a lot had to be demolished later. In 1989 opened Långholmen’s Hotel and Youth Hostel with inn and conference space. A new era starts and now everyone can enjoy the beautiful island with its captivating history.