I asked fellow travel bloggers to share their favorite jails & prisons around the world, and these are the 10 Jails, Gaols, and Prisons we came up with. Enjoy reading the tales of history and horror of some of the world’s most famous prisons. And remember when traveling, it is always better to visit the historic sites, NOT the current correctional facilities. Happy Travels!
1.Alcatraz, San Francisco, CA, USA
Without a doubt, Alcatraz Island is one of the most infamous prisons in American history. From as early as 1861, the island was being used to house soldiers taken prisoner during the Civil War. In 1895, 19 members of the Hopi Native American tribe were imprisoned on the island for seven months. Their heinous crime? Defying the US government’s orders to abandon their culture and replace it with a “civilized” life of farming. But what most folks know about Alcatraz stems from its operation as a federal penitentiary from 1934 to 1963. During those years, it housed the country’s most dangerous criminals, including the legendary gangster, Al “Scarface” Capone. It had long since become apparent that the island’s location was ideal for a maximum-security prison; the icy currents of the Pacific Ocean separate it from California’s scenic San Francisco coast over a mile away. Of course, this didn’t stop some rather brazen prison breaks. On the night of June 11th, 1962, three inmates stuffed fake heads clumsily crafted cement chunks mixed with soap under their blankets. Shimmying through the vents in their cells, Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers climbed three stories through the pipes and made it to shore. With a boat made from a raincoat, they slid into the icy water and disappeared.
Alcatraz Island now operates as an attraction managed by the US National Parks Service. Check their website for information about visiting. https://www.nps.gov/alca/
Public boat access to the island is provided by one company, Alcatraz Cruises LLC. Book tickets in advance as tours sometimes sell out weeks in advance. https://www.alcatrazcruises.
2. Cellular Jail in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India
3. Chateau D’if Marseilles, France
Chateau D’if is the castle/prison/fortification located on the island of If, 1.5 km off the shore of Marseilles, along the Mediterranean Sea. It was made famous in popular culture by the novel Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas. The whole prison feels a lot like Alcatraz in the way it is separated from the mainland, and it’s infamy for housing political and religious prisoners.
The area itself a barren waste land but the view and history are amazing. Since it is a castle/fortification first and foremost, it is not child friendly. After climbing to the main entrance, we paid our fee and were instructed to leave the stroller behind. They say to take 1.5 hours on the island. There were several levels of prison cells, roof access to more fortifications and the armory. There were several references to their most famous prisoner, Edmond Dantes, the Count of Monte Cristo. It is a 45 min shuttle to land, but only 20 to the island, because there is a stop at Frioul island on the way back.
By Christine Leger Tapped Out Travelers
4. Kilmainham Gaol
This Gaol (or jail) is located in Dublin Ireland not far from the Guinness Storehouse. Kilmanhaim Gaol was originally built in 1796 as the New Gaol to replace the nearby Old Gaol. During the first years of its existence, public hangings took place right outside of the jail. Men, women, and children were not separated, and up to 5 people were crammed into each cell. If you have the chance to visit this historic site, you should definitely take the free guided walking tour. The tour will show you the cells of famous inmates, the sites of hangings and shootings, and share the history of the jail and its rebellions. By 1924, the jail was no longer used as a prison, and eventually became a tourist site. The jail is a symbol of Irish Independence as almost every significant Irish nationalist leader was imprisoned in Kilmanhaim throughout its history. The famous Easter Rising also took place in the courtyards of this jail.
By Stephanie Kuchs. To read more about local Dublin sites, check out Dublin in a Day
5. The Old Charleston Jail, Charleston, South Carolina, USA
The Old Charleston Jail in South Carolina is both one of the saddest and scariest places I’ve ever been. I went on a nighttime tour on a pitch black night and I was terrified. Prisoners were held in terrible and overcrowded conditions and thousands died of dysentery and cholera during their time there. You can feel a weird energy throughout the place, whether you believe in ghosts or not. A few of us experienced difficulty with our cameras or phone batteries while we were walking around, which is a sign of something spooky going on. Lavinia Fisher, the woman known as America’s first female serial killer (although many believe she is not guilty), was held here before her execution. Many in Charleston have said they’ve seen an image of a woman who looks just like her in a window that does not have a floor underneath it.
6. The Old Idaho State Penitentiary, Boise, Idaho
The Old Idaho State Penitentiary in Boise, Idaho is considered by many to be the most haunted building in the state. The Penitentiary first opened in the 1870s, but it wasn’t until the mid-1930s that it began to be known as one of the most violent jails in America. The Penitentiary saw riot after riot during this time, with one of the most common complaints being about the overcrowded and harsh living conditions. Ultimately, this aggression led to the end of the Penitentiary in 1973 when it finally closed down after a riot fire. Since then, tales of the Penitentiary’s odd occurrences have spread throughout the world of paranormal investigations and today, it’s possible to tour the abandoned jail to get a sense of the spirits that may still be roaming the cells.
7. The Old Melbourne Gaol, Melbourne, Australia
8. Palais de L’Isle, Annecy, France
This historic island jail located in the quaint village of Annecy, France is currently under construction. The 12th century building, sitting in the Canal du Thiou, has served as a royal home, a court, a mint, and a prison. It functions as a museum today, featuring local history, architecture, and art exhibits. A stop by this beautiful triangular building is a must on any trip to the picturesque village of Annecy in the French Alps. I didn’t venture inside to explore the museum during my quick trip to Annecy, but we did sit along the canal eating profiteroles with this stunning view!
By Stephanie Kuchs Read more about the Village of Annecy in Top 5 Reasons toVisit Annecy France
9. S-21 Prison, Phnom Pen, Vietnam
S-21 prison is a shocking place to visit and a very sobering experience. It wasn’t a prison for long, but what happened there in its time is nothing short of heartbreaking. Central to Pol Pot’s reign of terror, the prison was a closely guarded secret, symbolically located in an old school, it was often the last place people would visit before taken to the
The prison has been left pretty much untouched, the blood has obviously been cleaned up and most of the equipment removed but walking around is quite surreal knowing you are following in the footsteps of the not too distant past. Many of the classrooms were turned into cells, each one just 2 metres long and 1metre wide. In total around 40,000 people were brought here as prisoners, out of those, just 7 survived. They underwent horrific
torture before being forced to sign false confessions, often not only about themselves but also pointing fingers at friends and neighbours. It sounded like the sooner you reached a killing field, the better off you
When you are in Phnom Penh it is difficult to not hear about visiting The Killing Fields and the S-21 Prison, both are widely promoted by most tuk-tuk drivers and hostels. Where possible I recommend getting a guide and just prepare yourself mentally, visiting Cambodia’s past can be quite an emotional experience.
By Matt Holland www.thetravelblogs.com
Tuol Sleng (S21) – Phnom Penh, Cambodia
“At only $2USD per person entry fee, Tuol Sleng provides an insight into the atrocities committed under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. Its tragedy emphasized only by the fact the buildings had once been a school – a place of education and safety – which were ultimately used to torture, maim and kill. There are 4 sections within the prison each depicting a different aspect of life incarcerated: torture rooms, photographs of the prisoners and fabricated confessions, the cells and details of the legal proceedings being brought against those few perpetrator that are still live today.
And if f you thought the prison was a sobering experience, but feel compelled to delve deeper into a dark part of Cambodia’s history, ensure you follow up your visit of S21 with the audio tour at Cheoung Ek Genocide Museum – also known as The Killing Fields.”
10. Seodaemun Prison, Seoul, Korea
Seodaemun Prison sits in an unassuming park near the center of Seoul, Korea. Most tourists to the Land of the Morning Calm head to places like the Gyeongbukgung Palace or a traditional market, but few take the time to head here. Though they should. Seodaemun Prison was built in 1907 and once housed the independence fighters that resisted the Japanese colonization of the peninsula. At its height, the buildings on the grounds held more than 2,000 prisoners though they were only built to house 500. After entrance, visitors are sent into a museum that explains the history of the grounds as well as the Japanese colonization of Korea and highlights some of the important independence fighters that were housed here and explains what ultimately what happened to them. Many starved or were tortured and due to the overcrowding and lack of basic human necessities, many died of heat stroke in the summer and froze to death in the winter. After leaving the museum, visitors can walk the grounds visiting the prison halls to see the dank and dark interior as it was when prisoners were once there. Picturing the 2,000 activists here causes most to experience a somber moment before heading out to the execution chamber. Activists that were killed here were discreetly carried out through a tunnel so as to keep their execution concealed. The tall brick buildings provide a stark contrast to what most people see when visiting Seoul, but is a beneficial stop to learn about Korean history. The park that surrounds the prison is now known as Independence Park and statues of activists and the Independence stone gate are other highlights not to be missed.