Prison tourism is a growing segment for travelers who enjoy seeing and experiencing a more “off the beaten trail” holiday.
Eastern State – Pennsylvania
Reportedly one of the most haunted incarceration sites in the world, the Eastern State Penitentiary near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the U.S, the institution is open year round for guided tours, and during the Halloween season hosts a special “prison-themed” haunted house attraction.
The United State Park Service operates tours of “The Rock”, the former Federal Prison on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. The Rock housed many famous criminals throughout its history, including Al Capone, the “Birdman” Robert Stroud and others.
Old Melbourne Gaol
The Old Melbourne Gaol in Australia, a bleak structure, is known primarily as a place where many, many execution by hanging took place. Tours include the main facility and death row, with tours by candlelight at night, with docents telling tales of the prison and prisoners.
Originally built in 1115, the “Clink” Prison was home to both men and women prisoners, many of whom were judged to have committed some ‘religious’ offense.
South Korea’s Seodaemun
The Seodaemun Prison in Seoul, Korea, was forcefully built during the Japanese occupation of the country between 1910 and 1945.
Each of these prisons (and many more) are open to the public, as tours and museums, and remind us of terrible times and terrible people throughout history.
The Hanoi Hilton
Some of the world’s most infamous prisons are now open for inspection. One such facility is the notorious “Hanoi Hilton”, where prisoners of war were kept during the Vietnam conflict; the tour also includes a museum. Vietnam is a fascinating place to visit with its interesting mix of traditional Asian lore and French colonial influence. Perhaps just because of the intriguing history, the most interesting way to find out more from a historical and reality perspective is to walk it through with a local… but this might not be everyone’s cup of thea… For the faint-of-heart you can take the regular guide, and for the not-so-faint-of-heart you better get yourself a guide from a local with some background knowledge and perhaps some skin in the game.
South Africa’s Robben Island
Off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa, the curious can tour the Robben Island Museum, used for decades to house criminals and political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela. There are a lot of tours going to the Island. So you can learn all you wanted to know by those who know best.