Staying Overnight at Karosta Prison in Liepaja Latvia
I could think of many different ways to land myself in prison. But then, all those things I had in mind were more likely to get me sentenced for life than just one night in prison. All I wanted was to experience it for one night. So, I had to figure out another way.
While preparing for my Euro trip in October 2018, I did some online research on places to visit in Latvia, and stumbled upon a gem: located about 200 kilometers from Riga, facing the Baltic Sea, is a military port called Karosta that used to serve as a secret naval base for the Russian empire and the Soviet Union.
One of the main highlights of this place is its prison. Built in 1905, it still retains its original architecture but is now a museum by day and a ‘hotel’ by night. It is the only military prison in Europe that is open to tourists.
Online reviewers wrote of their “full-prisoner experience” in this prison hotel, which involved prisoner garb, physical punishments, verbal abuse, death threats, and warning gunshots. Actors were hired to act as prison guards and execute these punishments.
Also, rumor has it that the prison is haunted. All guests have to sign a waiver form to acknowledge that they know what they are getting themselves into.
Well, they seem to have a very dark sense of humor. I could barely contain my excitement. I guess I do have a masochistic streak in me after all.
June, July & August: Daily, 9:00 – 19:00
April, May & September: Daily, 10:00 – 18:00
1st October – 31st March: Saturdays & Sundays, 12:00 – 16:00
Services & Activities
– Tourism information about Karosta and Liepaja
– Tour guide services for Karosta and Liepaja
– Bicycle rental and cycling tours around Karosta
– Prison tour
– “Buffetchitza” (Soviet-style buffet meal)
– Souvenir shop
– Night’s lodging
– “Escape from the USSR” Spy Game
– Escape room
– “Behind Bars: The Show” (a historical interactive reality show involving audience)
– Airsoft (a military simulation game in Karosta prison and fortress)
How to Book an Overnight Stay at the Karosta Prison
The overnight stay in Karosta Prison is available by reservation only. However, it is not currently listed on Booking.com or any other online booking platforms. You can only make a reservation for your stay by contacting them directly via email, phone call, or Facebook page. The current rate is EUR 24 per person (I paid only EUR 15).
Phone: +371 26369470
How to Get to the Karosta Prison
Karosta Prison is located at Invalīdu iela 4, Karosta, Liepāja. From Riga International Bus Terminal, take a bus to Liepaja, and from Liepaja, take bus #3 or #4 to Karosta.
Tell the bus driver that you’re going to Karosta Prison and he’d know where to drop you off. From the bus stop on the main street, it’s only a 15-minute walk to the prison.
The first thing that struck me about the place was how dreary it was. Mist hovered all around me despite the wind. Gray clouds hung low. Cars were few, and there was scarcely anyone around.
The ones that I did encounter all walked in a hurry, with hands in their pockets, faces half hidden in their scarves, heads bent down or looking gloomily ahead. I was starting to doubt my decision of coming here. I felt like I had stepped into a post-apocalyptic world.
I asked the lady if they would be open again that night. She shook her head. I told her I had already made a reservation and proceeded to show her the confirmation email. Shaking her head again, she told me in broken English to call the number on the gate. And then she left me standing there, alone and bewildered.
The day was approaching dusk. There was a bench by the roadside, but I didn’t want to sit there all alone in the dark, and in front of a haunted prison, no less. So, I walked back towards the main road where there were streetlights. My offline map showed there were a few cafes nearby, but upon finding them, I discovered they were all closed.
I did, however, find a grocery store that would stay open till 10. That eased my worry a little, because if the prison didn’t re-open by 9, at least I knew I had someone to go to for help. In a worst-case scenario — if I couldn’t get a bus or a taxi back to Liepaja — I was hoping that the storekeeper might take pity on me and invite me to her house. Apart from that, I didn’t have any other backup plan.
Checking In at Karosta Prison
The hours moved really slowly, but at long last, it was 8.45 p.m. — time for me to go and check if the prison was open. I was praying that I would see some lights coming from it, but was disappointed to find that it was just as dark as when I had left it several hours ago.
However, when I walked a little closer, my heart filled with relief to see that the gate was unlocked. I pushed it open and peered inside. Sitting on a bench was a teenage boy who promptly stood up to greet me. He introduced himself as William. It seemed a little strange to see a young boy in such a place, but that didn’t matter to me in the least. I was really just glad to see another human being, especially one that spoke my language.
William, as it turned out, could speak English very fluently. He told me his mother worked in the prison and he occasionally helped out when he wasn’t busy with school.
The Karosta Prison Tour
An hour later, the pair — Alberto and Alessia — arrived. They were a young Italian couple who had been hitchhiking from Estonia. They too, chose the planks (great minds think alike). After they had both prepared their beds, William took us on a tour to the second floor of the prison.
Unlike the first floor, the interior of the second floor had remained unchanged since the soviet era. We could see wall carvings and doodles left by the prisoners of an era long gone.
William showed us the prisoners’ bathroom (only two squat toilets to be shared among the hundreds of prisoners), and the solitary confinement cell.
The prison guard’s room had been transformed into a gallery to display their uniforms, books, guns and other memorabilia from WWII.
William, Alberto, Alessia and I were the only 4 people in the whole prison complex that night. Unfortunately, there were no fake prison guards to give us punishments. I assumed that maybe they only did that during the summer when there were more visitors.
The "White Lady" at Karosta Prison
Karosta Prison’s claim to fame is that during its time, it was a prison that nobody ever escaped from. In present days, it has been dubbed one of the most haunted places in the world.
Before we went to bed, William decided that that was the perfect time to tell us the story about the “White Lady”. In 1944 – 1945, he said, hundreds of prisoners were executed within the prison walls, mostly over trivial crimes.
One of the victims was a young man who was going to get married real soon. On the day of their supposed wedding, his bride went looking for him, and upon finding out that he had been shot to death, she killed herself in the prison. And her spirit had stayed there ever since. Some people claimed to have seen her lurking around the cells.
A Miserable Ending
The next morning, I woke up at 8 so that I could catch a 9 a.m. bus back to Riga. After taking a few pictures with William in front of the prison, I said goodbye to him, paid him the 15 euros and went on my way. It was a beautiful morning. Much lovelier weather than the day before.
As I was walking away, my jacket had somehow gotten tangled with my bag strap and I struggled to fix it. Then I slipped my hand into one of its pockets to retrieve my phone so that I could look at the map.
It wasn’t there.
My phone wasn’t in my pocket. And I was pretty sure I had put it in there after taking photos less than a minute earlier.
As devastating as the situation was, something good did come out of it in the end. Click here to find out the 10 things I learned when I lost my phone while traveling.
What do you think of Karosta Prison? Would you want to spend a night there? Comment below.
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Wowwww… i wonder, if u saw any ghost there..
It has been said that a prison is a very cold and eerie place and if you are unfortunate you might get stalked. Yikes!
Yah, despite my skepticism about ghosts and spirits, i daren’t switch off the lights that night 🙈
Scary nya….prison museum kat sini pun belum pernah masuk lagi. Tapi ni real rasa scary.
Prison museum kat sini saya pun belum pernah pergi. Tp kalau ada buat konsep hotel mcm ni, saya nak try! 😁
Seronok baca pengalaman Ummi semasa di sana. Kalau akaklah.. fikir berkali juga nak bermalam di sana. Luar negara pula tu.
Saya bila first time dpt tau psl Karosta prison ni, tak fikir dua kali dah, terus book. Sebab rasanya tak byk negara lain yg ada buat mcm ni. Entah bila lg dpt peluang kan?
This place looks so creepy don’t think it’s for a faint-hearted person like me but interesting at the same time,
I was scared shitless too, actually. Had to go to the toilet in the middle of the night, and also the place for charging the phone was in a dark corner at a deserted end of the prison. 😫
i have never think to visit prison whenever i travel. you are really something.. so cool.. and what an ending. what an experience kan.. good u back all safe
Haha yah what an experience, indeed! I love trying weird and obscure things. They simply attract me. And they always make great stories too! 😄
seriusla..tak seram ke. tengok macam seram je kan..wah..pengalaman baru tu dapat check in situ. cabar diri sendiri kan..hahaha
Seram weh. Tapi tu la curious punya pasal, redah jugak. Memang suka betul cabar diri sendiri.
It must so thrilling to experience in the prison. I was expecting some twist at the end that your phone will be found but it really lost.
No, unfortunately there was no twist to this story. If it was fiction, I would have happily chosen a better ending. 😄
The fact, I learnt from your travel story, is to remain alert all the way, during journey period and when you are with someone. You took very tough decision and not having sufficient rest to reset your brain and health. But I must say, your writing is so good, so informative, you deserve best compliment from us. Some one wrote about fonts etc, is just stupid thought of that man. Infact, you are just fantastic writer. Your languages words and presentation is just so nice to me. Mobile lost story was so painful…. may be Allah has given you to alert others. Example me. I noted you point in my mind so seriously, believe me. Good writing, and keep going. Me firstname.lastname@example.org. A senior well wisher of you. Bye
Thank you so much for your comment and for your kind words, Fayezur Rahman. It’s indeed a challenging experience to travel without a phone when you’re alone in a place you’ve never been to before. I hope this will serve as a reminder to myself and hopefully to my readers to remain alert at all times, as you said. Thank you again, and I wish you all the best. 🙂
Wow. what an experience. I don’t think I would like to overnight in a prison. Visiting it during the day, okay, but sleeping in it.
Well, you never know, Cosette! I think it might be a fun experience if you do it with a group of friends. 🙂
Erkkkk… you ask me want or not to stay here? Belum sempat jawab, i dah lari dulu hahaha takut kena paksa.. pengalaman yang misteri laa Ummi… kamu sangat berani, tu je Sis nak kata!!
Hahaha memang misteri, tapi best, sis! Kalau boleh saya nak repeat stay lagi sekali kat Karosta prison ni sebab kebanyakan gambar dan video yg saya ambil dulu dah hilang.
wow, what a unique experience staying at Karosta Prison! You are so brave! I do not think I can stay there for long time
Thank you, Rane. I don’t think I can stay in Karosta Prison for a long time either. One night was enough 😆
Baca ni puj seram.. Seronok baca pengalaman orang ni. Memang mendebarkan ye.. Siapa yang tak takut nak pergi tpilet waktu malam.
Memang. Nak pergi toilet malam2 kat tempat yg kita tak biasa pun mmg dah menyeramkan. Inikan pulak di Karosta prison yang mana mmg sejarahnya menjadi tempat pembunuhan kejam suatu masa dulu. 😫
what a great experience you had. can’t imagine traveling solo and staying here on my own :/
Thank you, Grace! It was a great experience indeed at Karosta Prison. I would love to repeat it again to take proper photos and videos this time 🙂
Beraninya awak.. Respek giler. Kalau i la, mau x lena tidur. Tp bagus juga ada pendedahan gini. At least sape2 yg nak buat jahat tu pikir banyak kali la… 😅
Hahaha kan.. jadi pengajaran kepada sesiapa yg rasa nak jd penjenayah. Tapi kat Karosta prison ni dulu kebanyakan banduannya buat salah kecik je. Terus dihukum bunuh. Zaman Soviet kan.
Looks like a creepy place but I’ll be so excited to get in. Hihi. It’s great you have a chance to visit place like this!
Yes, gurrlll! It seems like we share the same affinity for the bizarre things in life 😆
This is so cool! But I don’t think I dare, there’s a lot of stories in prison, I think I will die first! Haha!
Hahaha true, but perhaps if you go with friends, it won’t be so scary. Might even be fun! 😃
Wah…beraninya akak puji hbs sbb berani bermalam di Karosta prison, satu pengalam berharga, baca pun dah rasa seram, macam baca novel.
Terima kasih, kak Halimah! Memang pengalaman berharga bermalam di Karosta prison ni. Walaupun menyeramkan, kalau boleh saya nak ulang sekali lagi. Sebab tak puas hati gambar2 semua hilang 😆
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aduhh..seram pula baca pengalaman ummi ni.. dah la sisyat sejenis penakut benda2 tu..tp pengalaman tu mahal kan? 🙂
Betul tu, sisyat. Pengalaman tu mahal. Saya pun sebenarnya seram juga, tapi kalau diberi peluang, nak je saya repeat sekali lagi. 🙂
Other than losing your phone this sounds like a really cool experience. So creepy. I loved my time in Latvia and especially found it interesting learning of the soviet history. I’m not sure how brave I would be spending a night here on my own but it’s cheap enough for the experience
Yes, Emma. It was very cheap for this kind of once-in-a-lifetime experience. If I hadn’t lost my phone, it would have been an overall amazing experience — one that I wouldn’t mind repeating. 🙂
That does look quite scary to be honest, Ummi. I think I personally wouldn’t be able to stay there, but it sounds like an interesting experience for sure. Losing your phone on a holiday abroad can be so challenging, glad you still had your camera with you.
Thank you, Charu! Staying at the Soviet Prison was an interesting (but quite scary) experience. I’d love to repeat it if I get the chance.
WOW! I didn’t know we could spend a night at a Soviet prison – I love your post and how detailed it is. I love visiting places that tell us the story of each place, even on the dark side, since they carry a strong part of culture and history. Great post and I will definitely keep this in mind.
Thank you so much, Paula! Yes, I enjoy dark tourism as well, but here, they portray it with a good sense of humor (check out the activities they offer). I hope you’ll get to experience this someday Paula, if you go to Latvia. You’d love it! 🙂
Wow. What an experience you had! I don’t think I’d have the guts to stay overnight in a prison! You are so brave.
Thanks, Alaine! There were times during that experience when I was starting to regret it. But now I want to do it all over again.
Interesting experience. I’m not sure I could handle it, but thanks for sharing so that at least I get an idea of how it was spending a night in a Soviet prison.
You’re welcome, Elina. You wouldn’t know till you try it yourself 😉
I’m sorry you lost your phone, but the rest of this sounds AMAZING! Maybe I’m a weirdo, but I would love to do this
Then, you’re my kind of weirdo, Carol! I think it’s only a special breed of people who would jump at the idea of doing something like this. Haha. Hope you’ll get to experience it someday. 🙂
Crazy! What an experience. I’d love to stay in such a unique accommodation! Thanks for sharing 🙂
You’re welcome, Carley! Hope you’ll get to experience it someday. 🙂
When I read the title of this post the first thing I thought was, why on earth would she going to a soviet prison. I see now how interesting the visit must have been and I may in a far future consider experience it myself. Thanks for sharing such great visit!
You’re welcome, Jenn! It was an amazing experience that I would definitely recommend to everyone. I hope you’ll get to experience it too in the future. 🙂
Lol it must be one of the very few prisons in the world that are so much harder to get into than out of! The bleakness of it sounds pretty much like the bleakness of life in the Soviet Union. Gives me shivers just thinking about it. Defiantly a night to remember.
I agree, Rita — this must be one of the few prisons in the world that’s harder to get into than out of, and you even have to pay for it! On a more serious note, the bleakness of it was a sobering experience. It was indeed a night to remember.
Woah this is such a cool experience to read about! I stayed at one in Ottawa, Canada for a night but it was nothing compared to this one!
Oh wow, I must check out the one in Ottawa. I’m all for unusual accommodations like this. Thanks for sharing, Krista.
Oh my gosh, what an experience! This is totally something I would do. So sorry your phone was lost/ stolen. Thanks for sharing about this – saving it for when I *someday* can visit myself 🙂
You’re welcome, Susan. Hope that someday will come soon enough!
I may be crazy, but this sure sounds like a bucket list experience to me! And the prices are so cheap, how exciting!
Well, a little craziness is necessary in life, no? Haha. Don’t forget to bookmark this page for when it’s safe to travel, Arabela! 🙂 I hope you’ll get to experience Karosta Prison soon.
Such a unique experience! I knew you could spend the night in prison, but I had never heard about this one, I didn’t think it’d be so cheap.
Yes, Lyne. For only 15 euros, it was more than worth it! 🙂
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