Celica Hostel: My night in a former Yugoslavian prison

My night in a Yugoslavian prison

For 100 years, the thick-stoned building on Metelkova Street was known as the political prison in Ljubljana; an imposing hell designed to imprison people according to different opinions and believes. The prison shows a darker side of Ljubljana’s history, but it has grown into a social center and a melting pot of art, culture and positive vibes.

It has transformed into a hostel.


Celica hostel was my first stop in the Balkans and I was more than excited to spend a night in an old Yugoslavian prison. I’ve stayed in alternative hostels before, but this one – a former prison – it HAD to be the coolest one so far. At least Lonely Planet think so because they’ve named it the number 1 hippest hostel in the world.

The prison features 20 cells that have been redesigned by 80 local and international artists. Each cell has its own design and story to tell,  but they all have one essential feature in common: prison bars on windows and doors.


My night in a Yugoslavian prison

Celica means “cell” in Slovene

Celica hostel, Ljubljana

Celica Hostel opened its doors in 2003

My night in a Yugoslavian prison

Each cell features a name tag of the designer and prisoner


I stayed in cell 107, which is a russian cell. The wall was painted blue with little crosses that represents how many days the prisoner had been incarcerated.

One of the things I really liked about Celica hostel is how – ironically – it feels like a home. Everything about the hostel is created with a goal of inclusivity in mind and I felt it straight away when I arrived. The design is bright and colorful, the atmosphere is inviting and lively, and the staff is like the friendliest, ever. You might think that the building would feel haunted or have a bad vibe, but this is not the case at all. On the contrary, everyone is happy and there’s a welcoming atmosphere.

Celica hostel, Ljubljana

This was my cell for the night

Celica hostel

The Western Cafe


During the day, people hang out in the dining area or in the garden, which is also a popular place after dark. The hostel often hosts events such as concerts, cultural happenings, BBQ and cocktail night. The events are free for hostel guests, and visitors have to pay a small entrance fee.

Celica hostel, Slovenia

The garden and outside dining area

My night in a Yugoslavian prison

The Oriental Room

My night in a Yugoslavian prison

1st floor art

Celica hostel, Ljubljana

The Oriental Cafe room


One of the fascinating aspects of Celica hostel is the Point of Peace; a former cell that has been converted into a prayer and meditation room. It has alters for the five major world religions, and an empty one for any other religion or for those who aren’t religious. The hostel created this tranquil space to ensure that no one ever feels alienated here again.

As I walked through the first floor, I suddenly found myself entering an art gallery with contemporary art exhibitions. It’s open all day, and workshops, cultural events, seminars and debates often takes place here.

In the basement, there are two untouched former solitary confinement cells. It only took me a few seconds to find out that there is no natural lightning downstairs, but with my flashlight I could see the prisoners’ inscriptions on the wall.

Celica hostel, Ljubljana

A tour around the hostel


A great thing about Celica is the location. Not only is it located in Metelkova, which is the coolest place in Ljubljana. It is also only 10 minutes walk from the city center and from the bus & train station.

Celica hostel is not your typical youth hostel; it’s a historic hostel that offers you a unique experience with a surrounding art scene both inside and outside the building. That, and it’s genuinely homely and welcoming.

Personally, this is the coolest and most memorable place I’ve stayed. I mean, in how many hostels can you spend a night behind bars?

Metelkova, Slovenia

Weird art in Metelkova

Metelkova, Ljubljana

Many thanks to Celica Hostel for generously hosting me and welcoming me to Ljubljana. As always, all opinions and thoughts are my own.

What’s the coolest hostel or hotel you’ve stayed at?

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My night in a former Yugoslavian prison, Slovenia


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  1. Rajiv Verma July 8, 2015 at 1:12 pm - Reply


    This looks so very colorfully wonderful!
    It must have been a wonderful experience!


    • Miriam July 8, 2015 at 1:15 pm - Reply

      Thanks Rajiv, it’s BY FAR the coolest hostel I’ve stayed at. I loved the history, atmosphere and design. Highly recommend it if you’re ever in Slovenia.

  2. hassan July 9, 2015 at 7:56 am - Reply


  3. Janez July 9, 2015 at 5:06 pm - Reply

    Just to set the record straight, this was not really a prison for political prisoners. While young men served in the army, they could end up in there for transgressions like being drunk, getting into a fight or something like that.

    • Miriam July 9, 2015 at 11:36 pm - Reply

      Hi Janez, I’ve only heard it referenced as a military prison, so thanks for adding the information!

  4. Zorica July 10, 2015 at 1:05 pm - Reply

    Too bad I’ve heard about this hostel after my Ljubljana trip. Would have loved to stay here! 🙂

    • Miriam July 10, 2015 at 1:57 pm - Reply

      Now you have a reason to go back 🙂 It’s definitely worth the trip.

  5. Amy July 11, 2015 at 11:21 am - Reply

    What a cosy cell! We are planning to visit Ljubljana early next year but were looking at AirB&B places; perhaps we’ll give this hostel a go instead, it looks lovely.

    • Miriam July 11, 2015 at 1:11 pm - Reply

      Definitely go here, Amy! It’s such a memorable experience with lots of history. I highly recommend.

  6. Ali Shevlin July 13, 2015 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    Definitely a hostel with a difference! It looks so welcoming and friendly, and nothing like a former prison! Apart from the bars, of course…. :). One to consider if I ever make it back to Slovenia :).

    • Miriam July 13, 2015 at 11:03 pm - Reply

      Ironically enough, this is one of the most welcoming hostels, I’ve been to. It has soul and that’s what I really like about it. I hope you get to visit some day 🙂

  7. Camille July 14, 2015 at 1:20 pm - Reply

    It looks just awesome! I also stayed in a converted prison turned hostel in Christchurch, New Zealand, and I recently visited the abandoned Patarei Prison in Estonia, so that sounds like a good follow-up for me… I’m really impressed at how great they’ve made it look!

    • Miriam July 14, 2015 at 2:57 pm - Reply

      How cool! Would love to visit the prison in Estonia – I bet it has lots of history. If you ever find yourself in Ljubljana, I highly recommend spending a night at Celica hostel. I think you’ll like it!

  8. Jasmin Charlotte July 19, 2015 at 10:46 pm - Reply

    This looks amazing! What an awesome place to stay – I’d totally be interested in it. Glad it wasn’t scary like I would imagine an old prison! x

    Jasmin Charlotte

    • Miriam July 19, 2015 at 10:51 pm - Reply

      I was really surprised by how cosy it was. It felt nothing like an old prison and there were no bad vibes at all. They have done a great job transforming it into a postive place.

  9. Tania July 22, 2015 at 1:14 pm - Reply

    This looks so good! I had never heard of this place before. I hope to visit it someday!

    • Miriam July 22, 2015 at 3:09 pm - Reply

      Thanks for commenting, Tania. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area!

  10. Stephen Garone August 29, 2015 at 2:58 am - Reply

    What an arresting story! Thanks for sharing — that had to be a truly unique experience.

    • Miriam August 29, 2015 at 7:20 pm - Reply

      Haha, love the word play! And yes, it was truly unique 🙂

  11. Debbie May 16, 2016 at 1:51 pm - Reply

    Myriam this is SO cool! I am heading to Ljubliana in two weeks so i won’t miss that for nothing!

    • Miriam May 17, 2016 at 9:26 pm - Reply

      Oh, you’ll love Ljubljana! It’s SUCH a lovely town and so is Celica. The people there are super nice.

  12. Johan February 27, 2018 at 10:47 am - Reply

    Thanks for this awesome post and nice photographs they are really very cool.. Great article. Looks like a great place to enjoy there.

    • Miriam February 27, 2018 at 10:02 pm - Reply

      Thanks! I’m glad you liked it.

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