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Alcatraz

Located in San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz was a solitary island for thousands of years until it was converted into a fort; during the Civil War more than 100 cannons and 400 soldiers were placed in the island so that the island could be part of the United States’ defense plan.

Alcatraz Island
Getting to Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz, Cell Block
Cell Block in Alcatraz
Alcatraz, Times Square
Times Square, a well known point in Alcatraz
Escape from Alcatraz
Escape from Alcatraz

In the year 1934, Alcatraz changed into a federal penitentiary, a maximum security prison where prisoners considered irrecoverable and dangerous were taken. Some of the most well known inmates were Al Capone "Scarface", George "Machine Gun" Kelly and Robert Straud "The Birdman of Alcatraz".

The inmates of Alcatraz tried to escape from the prison on fourteen occasions, but the most important attempt occurred in 1962 when Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers managed to flee by water.

In 1963 Alcatraz closed its gates permanently. The sea water had corroded the prison structures and the maintenance costs were excessively rising. The prison stopped being cost-effective and the prisoners were transferred to other penitentiaries.

A successful escape attempt?

In 1962, Frank Morris, John Anglin and Clarence Anglin made a hole in each of their cells and left papier mache heads in their beds to avoid detection by the guards.

Although theoretically they were able to swim to freedom, it is believed that they died in the freezing waters of the Pacific. Their bodies were never found.

We do not know whether it was coincidence or not, but a year after the escape the most secure prison in the world closed its gates for good.

Visiting Alcatraz

"You have the right to receive food, clothing, shelter and medical attention. Anything else that you receive is a privilege." Rule number 5 in Alcatraz gives you some idea of life in the prison.

The adventure starts in Pier 33 in Embarcadero on Fisherman's Wharf. There you will take a ferry that will take you to the island in around 15 minutes. Landing on the island is an emotional moment when we consider the number of prisoners who were taken there in the same way, but to stay there permanently.

As soon as you leave the boat you are given a complete guide and are taken to the cell block area where audio guides are distributed (also available in other languages). Once you have put on the headphones, the visit to the best known prison of all time begins.

The audio guide includes narrators who were themselves characters in the Alcatraz story. Four of them were prison employees who lived there with their families and four were prison inmates. They go with you at all times telling interesting stories about each cell and room in the prison.

You will walk through the tiny cells, the canteen, and the library and you will also be able to see the recreation yard (through a small window).

The route will also take you via "Cell Block D" to the punishment cells where prisoners were placed for bad conduct. There they were kept isolated in the cold and darkness until they were driven, in some cases, to madness.

A visit to the Alcatraz prison is not to be missed; it is full of stories that can provoke strong emotions in its visitors.

Alcatraz on film

This prison has been selected as a stage for many film successes such as Escape from Alcatraz, The Rock, Birdman of Alcatraz and Prisoners of Alcatraz.

Location

San Francisco Bay.

Hours

Departure Times
Day tour: 9.10am, 9.30am, 10am, 10.30am, 11am, 11.30am, 12pm, 12.35pm, 1.10pm, 1.45pm, 2.20pm, 2.50pm, 3.20pm, 3.55pm.
Night tour: 6.10pm, 6.45pm.
Closed: November 25, Thanksgiving, December 25.

Admission

Day tour
Adult (18-61): $28.
Junior (12-17): $28.
Child (5-11): $17.
Senior (62+): $26.25.
Toddlers (0-4): Free.
Night tour
Adult (18-61): $35.
Junior (12-17): $34.
Child (5-11): $20.50.
Senior (62+): $32.25.
Toddlers (0-4): Free.

Transport

Pier 33, Fisherman's Wharf.
Streetcar: line F.

Map

Alcatraz location

Closest attractions

SS Jeremiah O'Brien (1.13 miles)
USS Pampanito (1.21 miles)
Musée Mécanique (1.26 miles)
Fisherman's Wharf (1.28 miles)
The Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf (1.33 miles)