Your Cell is Waiting at Saintlo Ottawa Jail Hostel

Cell block rooms, Saintlo Ottawa Jail Hostel, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Would you sleep in a cell at Saintlo Ottawa Jail Hostel?

Do you think a regular hotel is too boring? Want the chance to see a ghost?

Then if you’re visiting Ottawa, Canada’s national capital, you might want to book a stay in a jail cell — in a former jail turned boutique hostel, that is.

Here’s the scoop on the Saintlo Ottawa Jail Hostel:

Saintlo Ottawa Jail Hostel, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

The building housing Saintlo Ottawa Jail Hostel dates to the 1800s.

Previously operated under the Hostels International banner, Ottawa’s Jail Hostel reopened in May, 2023, as part of Saintlo — a non-profit association of hostels along the St. Lawrence River in Quebec and Ontario. Its name, Saintlo, is short for Auberges de jeunesse du Saint-Laurent, or St. Lawrence youth hostels.

The 19th-century building got a refresh, with new beds and some modern amenities. The hostel has standard dorm rooms with four, six, or eight beds, but the more interesting places to stay are in the cells, which are now tiny guest rooms.

Cell hallway, Saintlo Ottawa Jail Hostel, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

A cell block hallway at Ottawa’s Jail Hostel

Most cells are designed for one person, just wide enough for a single bed, although if you’d prefer to be locked up with a companion, there are a few cells with a double bed as well.

The cells have Wi-Fi, tiny reading lights with a shelf for your phone by the bed, hooks and a mirror by the door, and an outlet to plug in your electronics. The only space to store your belongings is under the bed, with about enough room for a carry-on size bag. Jail isn’t the place to bring a lot of gear.

The original heavy steel doors are still on the cells, with bars at the top and a small space at the bottom that lets in some air. Light sleepers should note that the openings also let in a lot of sound. Even if you’re careful in closing the steel doors, they tend to clang and sometimes clang loudly. If you’re talking on the phone or doing anything else in your cell, everyone in the nearby rooms will hear you. Earplugs are recommended.

Cell, Saintlo Ottawa Jail Hostel, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

How big are the cells? Have a look inside…

Next to each cell is a sign with the name of a former inmate, the date that they were imprisoned, and the crime for which they were incarcerated. My cell apparently once belonged to J.N. Julian, imprisoned in 1886 for the “crime” of insanity.

Shared bathrooms are located on each floor, with toilet/sink rooms and separate individual locking shower stalls.

There’s a small seating area in the lobby (which was still being finished during my stay) and a spacious room on the lower level that serves as a breakfast room and a place to hang out. Rates include a help-yourself breakfast buffet, with fresh fruit, yogurt, breads, eggs, and more, along with coffee and tea.

Breakfast room, Saintlo Ottawa Jail Hostel, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Breakfast behind bars

The Saintlo Ottawa Jail Hostel has a fantastic location, around the corner from the modern Ottawa Art Gallery, near the ByWard Market district full of restaurants, cafes, and bars, and a short walk from Parliament Hill and several of the national museums.

Guests can take a free tour of the jail to learn more about its history and about the spirits that supposedly still walk the halls.

Did I hear sounds of a ghost during my stay?

Not unless it was clanging the cell door at 3am on its way to the bathroom.

Once a Jail, Now a Hostel: Saintlo Ottawa Jail Hostel, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

The jail was converted to a hostel in the 1970s.


Compared to other Ottawa accommodations, rates at the Saintlo Ottawa Jail Hostel can be a good value, though they vary depending on the type of accommodation. Dorm beds start at CAD$32-40, single cells at CAD$80-85, and double cells at CAD$125-135. Parking is available in a lot adjacent to the building for CAD$20/night. You can also check rates and book your stay through or Expedia.

A former jail may not be the most restful place to sleep, but it’s definitely a novelty.

There’s no extra charge if you see a ghost.


Want a bit more comfort for your Ottawa stay? Check out our reviews of these mid-range accommodations: Alt Hotel Ottawa, Sonder The O’Connor, Swiss Hotel

Hotel feature by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller. Photos © Carolyn B. Heller.

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