French former prison transformed into a hotel

Tourists can spend the night in a former prison cell in this newly-inaugurated hotel in the south of France

An architect’s plans for the main hallway
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Architects had to saw through one-metre stone walls to make windows in a town centre former prison, now converted into a hotel.

Cells in the prison in Béziers, built in 1850 and shut in 2006, were limited to a small window, with iron bars across, meaning prisoners did not get to benefit from a view over the town to the river Orb.

The prisoners also did not have to pay cash for their beds in 13m2 cells, but their successors in Hotel La Prison will pay between €70 and €215 a night, with the higher prices for larger rooms made by knocking down walls between cells.

Pic: Hotel La Prison

The hotel welcomed its first guests in June.

Vanessa Bonet, of A+ Architecture, which was in charge of the conversion, said: “We have kept some of the original prison layout, and things like the iron walkways, but it is fair to say that things are much more luxurious now.”

She told The Connexion the job was complicated for the architects by the fact that the prison was built next to the city’s cathedral, which is a listed building.

“From the outside, we had to keep the look of the prison, while at the same time changing it into a warm, happy hotel,” she said.

Pic: Hotel La Prison

“The only new buildings we added were a restaurant and seminar rooms, which are built in the space that was once the recreation area for the prisoners.

“There was a lot of barbed wire to remove first.”

Safety requirements meant that new staircases had to be installed as fire escapes, as well as a smoke evacuation system.

The complex now also has a swimming pool.

Around 20 people will work in the new hotel, which cost around €8million, including a grant from Tourisme Occitanie.

A former prison in Grasse (Alpes-Maritimes), built in 1845, is set to be transformed into student accommodation by the end of next year. Two cells will be combined to create studios of 14-23m2.

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