A notorious Siberian prison from which nobody ever escaped and where thousands of enemies of the state were executed has been turned into a hostel.

Tobolsk prison castle was constructed under Tsarist rule at the turn of the 18th century. Many Decembrists – revolutionaries who tried to lead a revolt against Tsar Nicholas I in 1825 – were sent to this white-walled, maximum security jail. Fyodor Dostoyevsky – the writer of Crime and Punishment, The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov – was held at Tobolsk for around 10 days in 1850 before he was transferred to Omsk for four years of exile with hard labour.

After the Revolution in 1917, the Bolsheviks took it over and imprisoned Tsar Nicholas II and his family there for a while, before transferring them to Yekaterinburg where they were executed. The Great Purge of 1937-38 saw thousands of enemies of the state summarily executed. Some 2,500 political prisoners were shot against a wall at Tobolsk prison castle and buried in a mass grave.

The prison was closed in 1989, and has recently reopened to tourists. In addition to a museum providing information about the lives and deaths of prisoners in Siberian gulags, there's a hostel at which travellers can stay in what used to be solitary confinement punishment cells known as sweat boxes. (If you do fancy the idea of staying here, you probably won't do much sweating and you'd better wrap up warm – the average temperature in January is -18.5C.)

Tobolsk Prison Castle
Gates leading to the inner yard and cell block #3Alexander Aksakov/Getty Images
Tobolsk Prison Castle
An underground tunnel that was used to move prisoners to their work places and to other blocks of cellsAlexander Aksakov/Getty Images
Tobolsk Prison Castle
A door leads to a maximum security cell in the former prisonAlexander Aksakov/Getty Images
Tobolsk Prison Castle
A portrait of a prisoner is seen on a door in the hallway of the hostelAlexander Aksakov/Getty Images
Tobolsk Prison Castle
The interior of a sweat-box, now one of the rooms in the hostelAlexander Aksakov/Getty Images
Tobolsk Prison Castle
The interior of a room at the hostel in the Prison Castle in TobolskAlexander Aksakov/Getty Images
Tobolsk Prison Castle
A tiny barred window in one of the sweat boxesAlexander Aksakov/Getty Images
Tobolsk Prison Castle
A security tower in the grounds of the Prison Castle in TobolskAlexander Aksakov/Getty Images
Tobolsk Prison Castle
A sign reads: "The place of mass executions, 1937-1938"Alexander Aksakov/Getty Images
Tobolsk Prison Castle
A stone monument to people who were shot and executed at this wall during the repressions of 1937-1938Alexander Aksakov/Getty Images
Tobolsk Prison Castle
A list of names of around 2,500 people who were shot between 1937 and 1938 at the Prison Castle in TobolskAlexander Aksakov/Getty Images
Tobolsk Prison Castle
A a guard tower is sited at the wall for executionsAlexander Aksakov/Getty Images
Tobolsk Prison Castle
Prayer rooms for (clockwise from top left) Catholics, Jews, Muslims and Lutherans. Before the revolution of 1917, there were rooms for different religions. When the Soviets took control over the coutry, the prayer rooms were eliminatedAlexander Aksakov/Getty Images
Tobolsk Prison Castle
Photographs of former Prison Castle inmates is seen in the museumAlexander Aksakov/Getty Images
Tobolsk Prison Castle
A reproduction of a photograph of prisoners is seen in the museum of the Prison CastleAlexander Aksakov/Getty Images
Tobolsk Prison Castle
A prison robe and shackles are seen in the museum of the Prison CastleAlexander Aksakov/Getty Images
Tobolsk Prison Castle
Snow blankets one the yards of the Prison Castle in TobolskAlexander Aksakov/Getty Images
Tobolsk Prison Castle
A monument to Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky, not far from the prison castle in TobolskAlexander Aksakov/Getty Images
Tobolsk Prison Castle
Gates leading out of the Prison Castle in Tobolsk. The sign says: "To freedom with a clear conscience"Alexander Aksakov/Getty Images