Prisons becoming holiday camps as government sells off empty jails

Amsterdam’s Bijlmerbajes became an asylum seekers’ centre. Photo: Mig de Jong via Wikimedia Commons

They used to be known as places where residents never saw the sun, but today former Dutch prisons are being given a second lease of life as hotels, offices, paintballing venues and even beaches.

In the last 10 years the government has been selling off corrective facilities as the prison population has dropped from more than 50,000 to around 40,000 in 2015, NOS reports.

In Utrecht, the Wolvenplein jail, which dates from 1856, was shut in 2014 and has since become a cafe and office space for freelance workers. Last year a pop-up museum was opened in the building and in the summer months sun seekers can soak up the rays on a temporary beach laid on a former exercise yard.




The Blokhuispoort in the centre of Leeuwarden, which was a prison for more than 400 years, closed in 2007. Part of it was converted into a hotel while other areas have become artists’ studios and next year it will become the home of the city’s new central library.

In Amsterdam, the six towers of the Bijlmerbajes have been used as an asylum seekers’ centre and temporary hotel, though they will eventually be bulldozed to make way for new homes.

Part of Rotterdam’s former prison has been turned into homes, work spaces and an escape room, while Haarlem’s Koepelgevangenis is due to become a university college facility and the Lunette jail in Zutphen was briefly a paintballing venue before being demolished.