During my short time in Ottawa, I decided to stay in the Hi-Ottawa Jail Hostel. The building was a jail prior to becoming a hostel and housed murderers, thieves and all kinds of other types of criminals. Throw public executions into the mix and no wonder the building is considered one of the most haunted places in Canada.
In terms of types of accommodations, there are a few types you can choose from – ranging from traditional hostel dormitories to staying in a jail cell. I decided to go for the full experience and booked a solitary confinement jail cell for one. The total cost was $105 CAD for two nights including taxes.
It was a lot bigger and roomier than I expected, but essentially, it was just large enough to fit a bed and give you some standing space. Inside the room/ cell, there was a mirror, a wall rack for storage and a wall plug (which by the way, is very high off the ground so bring very long cords). There were shared bathrooms and showers on each floor and they were surprisingly clean!
Breakfast was also included and consisted of bagels (delicious by the way!), toast and a variety of fruits (melons, oranges and grapefruit) and drinks ranging from coffee/ tea to juice and everything in between. It wasn’t an extravagant breakfast buffet or anything, but for a free breakfast, it was way better than expected and keeps you full for a day of exploring! Moreover, there was a free “jail” tour every day at 11 where the staff will give you a guided history tour around the hostel. If you’re not so brave, I would suggest doing this on your last day so that you don’t know the ghost stories ;).
The hostel was in a very convenient location. Since I arrived in Ottawa via VIA Rail from Toronto, I only had to take one of two buses (61 or 62) which took me a few minutes away from the hostel. The hostel was also right across from Rideau Centre mall, and was a 10 to 15-minute walk away from Parliament Hill, Byward Market (where all the food is!) and other tourist attractions which means that you save on public transit ($3.40 one way!).
Overall, I would say that the experience was worth it! I booked the jail cell because I was looking for privacy for a decent cost having been Airbnb-ing in a Toronto living room prior to arriving in Ottawa. The bed was comfortable, the bathrooms were clean and the breakfast was delicious. Considering the cost and the location, I would definitely recommend HI Ottawa Jail Hostel if you find yourself in Ottawa.