Hostel Celica, Ljubljana: My night at a former military prison
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Well, I finally did it. I managed to land myself in prison and you know what? I loved every second of it.
On my first Slovenia trip stop – Ljubljana – I decided to stay at Hostel Celica, a former prison and no.1 hippiest hotel in the world according to Lonely Planet.
Originally, the building, which was built in 1882 by the Austro-Hungarian army, served as the military prison in Ljubljana for more than 100 years. Later after Slovenia achieved independence and the Yugoslav National Army left the premises, local artists fought with authority for its premises for about 12 years. In the end, the building was saved from demolition and transformed into a youth hostel.
The transformation process from former prison to a hostel that we see now involved around 80 local and international artists. What you can clearly feel when you enter the hostel, is the welcoming atmosphere which artists wanted to achieve initially.
It’s amazing how the place that once used to divide and categorize people for their believes and opinions, has transformed into a colourful and such lively place for all kinds of ideas. Ironically, I felt very much at home when I stayed at Celica hostel and it was obvious that the whole staff and people in the hostel are incredibly open, warm and positive individuals.
The hostel has 6 standard 4-bedded and 5-bedded rooms with bathroom ensuite, 7-bedded and 12-bedded dorms and, my favourites, 20 former prison cells that are transformed into private rooms suitable for 2 or 3 people.
Hostel Celica is located in Metelkova, an alternative and more artsy part of Ljubljana. Something similar to Christiania in Copenhagen, Denmark but on a bit smaller lever. The whole area is covered in graffiti and in more unusual installations that I found super cool. Also, Metelkova is a heart of art galleries, studios and gatherings of artistic youth in the evenings. It’s the place to be if you enjoy a good nightlife!
Most importantly, the hostel is situated in a perfect location. Only 10-15 minutes away from the main city square and 10 minutes away from train and bus stations. This gives a great opportunity to explore the city on foot which I always prefer.
One of the coolest things about this hostel is that you can stay in an actual cell! The hostel has 20 former prison cells that have been renovated into private rooms by different local and international artists. So each cell has a different design and story behind it. The cool feature about cells is preserved bars on the windows and doors. But somehow they are not creepy at all!
At the moment, when booking guests cannot choose which cell they will be staying at, hostel assigns them according to availability and a bit of randomization. This is a nice touch of surprise in my mind. It’s the same way prisoners couldn’t choose their cell when they were imprisoned.
I stayed at Room 107 which is a Russian cell designed by Maxim Isaajev. One of the walls was painted in the blue coloured mural with tiny little crosses all over it that represented the countdown until the day the prisoner was supposed to be released. Every little detail was so intriguing to me and each time I looked at the mural, I noticed a new different symbol or detail.
There were two twin beds in the cell and to reach one of them you had to climb the wooden ladder that was built a bit unevenly intentionally. The top bed didn’t have any safety bar or anything, so for those who fear height, I wouldn’t suggest climbing up there or even sleeping in the top bunk. That’s why I took the lower bed and made my friend sleep on the top one (don’t think she minded though).
The room was very light and airy during the day and quite spacy if I say so. It doesn’t make you feel trapped or anything which you might expect from a former prison. In fact, I felt very comfortable and at ease in the room. The artists really did great to ensure the feeling of security and inclusiveness when designing the rooms.
The cells don’t have their own bathrooms (standard rooms and dorms do), so you have to paddle to the end of the hall to reach bathrooms. There are separate ones for men and women, each has a couple of showers and toilet stands. I found them very clean and I never had to worry about queues because there simply were none. What more do you need in a hostel?
The hostel has quite a few common areas for travellers to explore and relax. I especially loved the Oriental Cafe that is situated on the first floor of the hostel. The place is perfect for a cup of tea in the morning or simply for a nice relaxation after a long day exploring the city. The design of the cafe is inspired by the Oriental style, as you might have already guessed from the name of it. Also, there is a sign saying to take off your shoes before entering the cafe that I found a very nice touch to the whole concept of the cafe.
There is also Western Cafe in which you can have breakfast with a lovely view to the terrace as the whole wall is made out of windows. Also, during a warmer season, you can lie down in a hammock and relax from the city buzz with a nice cup of tea or coffee. If I ever find myself back in Ljubljana during summer, I’ll definitely take advantage of those hammocks, haha.
For those who would like to stay in dorms and make your own cooked meal, there is a common kitchen on the 2nd floor that has all the basic utilities that you may need. There is also a cosy area near the kitchen where I wouldn’t mind spending a day or two simply reading a book or writing.
As we were wandering around the hostel, on the first floor we found stairs to the dark basement that we just had to check out. Apparently, the hostel preserved a few original solitary confinement cells in the basement and the stairs led exactly to them. It’s pitch dark down there but nothing a little flashlight can’t fix. There are a few historical facts about the hostel on the walls as you walk down the stairs that I would recommend to check out.
Overall, Hostel Celica is a unique place to stay when visiting Ljubljana for all types of travellers. Even though it is situated in Meltelkova, the heart of the nightlife, it was relatively quiet and calm during our stay. The beds were comfortable and all the facilities were clean and easy to use. Also, the hostel gives you the linen and towels which is a great bonus for all backpackers or those who like to travel light.
I would definitely recommend staying at the hostel as it is a totally different experience. How cool is it to be able to experience living in a cell and have a pleasant time while at it? Also, even if you don’t have an opportunity to stay in the cell (due to budget or availability), other rooms or dorms are great options as well. In my experience, this is the most welcoming and most interesting hostel I have ever stayed at.
If you’re interested in booking a stay in Hostel Celica, click one of the links below:
Hostelworld – BOOK HERE
Booking.com – BOOK HERE
Would you stay at Hostel Celica? What is the coolest place you have ever stayed at?
Disclaimer: My stay at Hostel Celica was complimentary but all my thoughts expressed and opinions are my own. I value transparency between me and my audience. This post contains affiliate links which earn me a small commision but at no cost to you.