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Imperator in jail!

7 December 2012 Europe, Switzerland No comment

Lucerne: Hotel Lowen Graben

Well, among the tens of luxurious hotels or cheap guest houses I sleped in across the world, at one moment I spent a few days …In, well, in jail…! Don’t you believe that they arrested me, caught me trespassing the borders without a visa, it’s simply that I chose to stay at a hotel in Lucerne, Switzerland which is opened in the former jail house of the city!

June 2008 – Switzerlandwas organizing the European Football Championship. Romania managed to qualify after 8 years and I hadn’t attended a final tournament in 10 years (the last I did attend was the 1998 Coupe de Monde in France), so I decided to go to the Championship…but because Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in Europe, how was I to arrange my voyage so I could get off with less money spent? I know that many Romanian supporters went there by car and slept in camping places, very popular in Switzerland, but I didn’t have the time for long voyages on Europe’s highways. So ten minutes after I found out where Romania will be playing (Zurich and Bern), I bought a plain ticket with EasyJet towards Milan. From there, I was about to take the train to Zurich in the morning of the match. Zurich was the location where Romania had to play the first match in the group against France. What is helped was UEFA had signed an agreement with the Swiss Railway so that the ticket holders at the matches could travel free of charge in the day of the game and half of the next day on the Swiss railways. So I took care of travel plans, but where should I stay? In Zurich or Bern, it was out of question, as all the hotels, from hostels to the 5 star ones were totally full and had enormous prices… So I decided to stay in the charming Lucerne, maybe my favorite city in Switzerland, a medieval city like in the stories with Willhelm Tell… more than that, Luzern (as it is called in the local German language) had one more advantage – it was located at about 1 hour train ride both to Zurich and to Bern!

After reading my Lonely Planet and surfing the net a bit, I decided – I will stay in one of the most original hotels in Switzerland – Lowen Graben Hotel, the former Lucerne jail house! Built in 1862 and used as a prison until recently, that is until 1998 (the first time I was in Luzern in 1992 and I definitely took a walk in front of it!), Lowen Graben seemed to me too original not to choose it. And last but not least, the reasonable price (for Switzerland and for Euro 2008 period) won me over – 82 euros a double room.

It wasn’t the first time when I slept in a former jail house. In 2004, I slept in another hostel, in Ljubljana that used to be an army barrack and a jail. There also, the “cell” was luxurious even. More than that, I knew stories heard from people I shared hostels bunks about the secret of a free accommodation in the 80’s in the much too expensive Sweden – if you slapped a police officer on the streets you got about 10 hours of jail… So lots of backpackers were in search of a law defender in the evening, slapped him, got arrested, received a dinner, a comfortable bed and a pretty fulfilling breakfast and they didn’t have to pay the ridiculous amount of money required by the Scandinavian  accommodation units… Obviously, the fun stopped in the moment when the law changed at the requests of the police syndicates that asked that the punishment be changed into a fine (oops, a fine in Scandinavia! Bummer!!! ), or into imprisonment for a few days, not just 10 hours…

Well, I will proceed to the hotel…What’s fun, the theme of the jail house is everywhere…the halls look exactly like in the original jail house, the rooms are small (former cells) with a private bathroom (could they have been in the old days?), well, a super ok hotel.  The breakfast was plentiful and at night you could drink a beer at the bar called how else than …Alcatraz! Regarding the accommodation types, I could choose between 3 room types: “Unplugged” (proper, original cells) at 82 euros the double room, “Most wanted” (cells, but with a nicer arrangement) at 100 euros the double room and the 4 suites (“Director’s” – where the director of the jail house used to stay, “Falling waters” – the former visit room, “Library” – the library, where you still  have tones of books to choose from and “Barabas” – where the inmates played cards, the kinds with hearts and truffles) at 150 -187 euros.

Overall, it wasn’t bad. The hotel was located at two steps away from the downtown and 20 minutes walking from the train station, it was warm (although I went there in June, during the rainy days, it was quite cold), all the perks you wanted… Maybe if you are a bit claustrophobic it won’t be your place I would recommend staying at, why not, it is an experience…

For more information, you can check the hotel site:


Pictures of Lucerne:

 Lucerne: Hotel Lowen Graben

Hotel Lowen Graben

Lucerne: Hotel Lowen Graben

Lucerne: The hallway

The hallway

Lucerne: The hallway

Lucerne: The door

The door – one enters with the help of a code!



The room

Lucerne: The bath – to the right :)

The bath – to the right :)

Lucerne: Pilatus Mountain

Luzern and the Pilatus Mountain






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