A captivating stay without robbing the bank
Bear with the cheesy headline – the history of Långholmen Hotel and Hostel makes it mandatory. After all, Långholmen housed Sweden’s most important prison for centuries. Today, Sweden’s Alcatraz offers an affordable stay in green, quiet surroundings, a stone’s throw away from popular Hornstull. My impression after staying in a hostel bunk bed is excellent value for money with a hard-to-beat hostel breakfast.
All opinions are my own. I paid for this stay in full and had checked out before revealing that I wanted to review it. If you book your stay through a link in this review, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you.
First impressions of Långholmen Hotel and Hostel
After having stayed at Sweden’s Alcatraz for a night, I can see why it is so popular. It is refreshing to find a place that has soul and isn’t designed to death. Staying at any hostel means accepting a lower standard. Here, the dormitory’s ascetic look felt part of the charm. That said, the former cell was still far more luxurious then it used to be…
For those uninterested in history, Långholmen may be nothing more than a quirky and cheap hostel. However, if you are a bit of a history geek like me, you can delight in the small prison museum, which is free for guests.
Långholmen housed correction facilities and a prison from the 18th century until 1975. During this time, Långholmen prison
hosted Swedish celebrities such as future prime minister Hjalmar Branting
, artist Isaac Grünewald
, and journalist and author Jan Guillou
. But let’s not to forget the wealth of more ordinary criminals. How about gangsters with nicknames such as ”Beautiful Bengtsson” or ”Tumba-Tarzan”? Then we have the more sinister clientele, such as Johan Alfred Ander
. After his conviction for robbery and murder in 1910, he was the last man in Sweden to be executed – by guillotine, at that.
Nowadays, the place attracts a just as diverse but far more cheery clientele… The group of giggly American ladies buying wine because “we needed a party in our dorm.” The Aussie backpacker ticking Sweden off the list. The Swedish group of friends on a shopping spree. While they were all free to leave the former prison whenever they want to, my fellow guests all seemed to regret their stay coming to an end.
The Location – a central oasis
Despite the island Långholmen’s location between Södermalm and Kungsholmen, it is easy to forget that you are in the city. A secret meadow-like garden, lush allotments, jogging tracks, cafés, and kayaks to rent are all nearby. Not to mention the beach, which you’ll find 50 meters from the entrance to the hotel. While Långholmen Hotel and Hostel is open around the year, you’ll find a lot more to do on Långholmen in the warmer months.
Långholmen Hotel and Hostel is a ten-minute walk away from Hornstull subway station on Södermalm. At Hornstull, you’ll find a host of interesting shops, cafés, and restaurants.
If you want a central yet green and peaceful location, this could be the perfect option. Do you want to avoid public transport and be within easy walking distance of the top tourist sights? In that case, an even more central option might be preferable.
The reception – a genuinely friendly welcome
I was almost taken aback by the genuine friendliness of the reception. None of the forced hospitality-friendliness, but thoughtful and upbeat. I got spotted and helped right away despite a lively gang clutching striped prisoner outfits crowding the reception area.
The reception is open 24/7 and has a small shop with toiletries and other necessities such as SL travel cards. You can also buy alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, snacks and sandwiches. Yes, even cinnamon buns (though I wasn’t enamored with the one I tried). For those looking to explore the area, there are bikes to rent. The closest dining option is Långholmens Värdshus next door, which is open during the summer and also offers a Christmas smorgasbord certain days during the winter. In the summertime, there’s also a café in the former exercise yard.
Check in was from 15:00, and check out was 10:00 for hostel guests and 12:00 for hotel guests. The hostel check out time felt early, but you can still access the communal areas after checking out.
The Room – authentic cell-stay with bunk beds
So, what can you expect from staying in a former cell? I booked a four-bed shared dormitory for women, 250 SEK, bed linen and towel 100 SEK, cleaning 35 SEK, staying 5th-6th June 2018. My room was inside the small museum area, which is full of curious information, images, and items from the prison days. The room was spacious enough to fit in a table with chairs without feeling cramped. The rest of the decor is spartan but fitting – no TV, but a framed copy of the hard daily schedule of the unfortunate inmates. The large lockers worked well with the prison-cell style (you won’t need your own padlock for them, as they include a key).
The space felt clean, despite there already being two other guests in the room when I arrived. As a hostel guest, you make your own bed, and can either rent or bring bedlinen your sheets and towel. The pillow was comfortable, and the rented sheets were well pressed.
All in all, this was a quiet room. However, it was difficult to avoid making noises when entering the bed and opening or closing the locker, as they were both a bit squeaky. Also, now and then I could hear the pipes run when the WC next door flushed. If you’re staying in a dormitory, you’re probably bringing earplugs to be on the safe side anyway.
The windows are high up and are most accessible from the top bed. Also, you darken the room by covering the windows with a heavy metal shutter. If you’re short or not very mobile, you might need help to do this.
Sleeping in one of the top beds, I missed having a shelf nearby for personal items. If you book a bed in a dormitory, my tip is to use a small bag to hang on the bedpost for things you want within easy reach. An electrical socket next to the bed would also improve the room further. I felt conscious about charging the phone a few meters away, as it would wake up the entire room before I could turn off the alarm. That said, it is an old prison cell, so I am aware of the constraints.
Despite some rooms for improvements, I had a comfortable and enjoyable stay. If bunk bed living doesn’t suit you, Långholmen Hotel and Hostel offers other types of more traditional hostel and hotel rooms, still in former cells. Other rooms have private bathrooms as well as TV, safety box, and other comforts.
The Facilities – high standards throughout
The impression of the facilities and communal areas is that they are of a generally high standard for a hostel. For example, the fittings and the tiles of the WCs looked high quality and robust. The refurbishing is tasteful, and while there are constant nods to the prison theme, it isn’t overdone. I especially appreciated the remaining original (or original-looking) details.
Some of the WCs featured towels for drying your hands, which could have felt unhygienic in a shared space, but here cleaners changed them often.
The shower offered soap and both overhead and handheld showerheads. The bathroom felt fresh and recently cleaned, although the person before me left hairs in the drain.
Guests are free to use the guest kitchen and get a dedicated fridge space. Next to the kitchen, I found a seating area with board games and some chatty and welcoming fellow guests.
There are several spaces in the building where you can sit and read or relax. The communal areas close to the reception had plenty of tables and chairs, a chess table, and some standing-height tables. Wifi was steady throughout all areas that I tested (the room, the breakfast area, and by the tall tables)
The Breakfast – the most generous hostel breakfast in Stockholm?
On warmer days you can enjoy your breakfast in the large outdoor seating area.
The generous breakfast buffet included options such as homemade bread, scrambled eggs and bacon, and cereals and granola. Alternatively, how about ordering one of three types of porridge, fresh from the kitchen? Many products were organic, and there were plenty of allergy-friendly options, including milk and yogurt of soy or oat. As a finishing touch: cute little croissants.
Hungry? Great. I wasn’t and regretted it. Despite that, I enjoyed the homemade granola mix as well as Långholmen’s own bread. The coffee impressed by being rich and strong despite coming from a machine. The croissant was surprisingly good for a buffet.
The breakfast buffet is the same for hotel and hostel guests, but it is complimentary for hotel guests. Hostel guests pay 98 SEK or 45 SEK for children 6-12 years old. Considering the high standard, Långholmen Hotel and Hostel has the best value-for-money hostel breakfast I’ve seen in Stockholm. I just wished I had been hungrier…
Who should stay at Långholmen Hotel and Hostel?
The high standard and affordable price attract travelers of all kinds. Depending on your needs and budget, you can choose from former cells housing traditional hostel and hotel rooms or more spartan bunk bed dormitories. If you’re looking to keep the cost down as much as possible, then clean the room yourself and bring your own sheets and towels. Members of the Swedish tourist association, STF, also get a discount.
A mere ten-minute walk from subway station Hornstull, Långholmen Hotel and Hostel would be best for travelers who are looking to explore Södermalm and those who intend to get a travel card (SL) or enjoy walking. You can comfortably walk to attractions such as Gamla Stan and the Royal Palace, but it will take approximately 40 minutes.
The dormitory stay at Långholmen Hotel and Hostel remains one of the highest value-for-money budget stays I have had in Stockholm. The high standard of the buffet makes it stand out a mile from hostel breakfasts with similar prices.