Visitor’s Guide to Alcatraz Island

island panorama

Alcatraz Island ©kashyap_hc/Flickr

The Island of Alcatraz in the middle of San Francisco Bay is a place of legend. One of the most infamous places in San Francisco, Alcatraz is also one of the most visited.

Throughout the centuries that have passed since the United States were colonized, Alcatraz went through many changes. Once the most feared maximum security prison in the United States, the island is today a popular attraction, visited by thousands of tourists every day. Actually, Alcatraz is such a popular attraction, that you might have to book your visit well in advance if you really want to see it. Here are a few useful tips for those who wish to see this former prison:

What to see

What is very interesting about Alcatraz is that the stories and legends surrounding the island are far more interesting than the island itself. But to here these stories you have to get on the island first, where a guided audio tour will take you through the old prison’s corridors. Some notorious gangsters and criminals have been imprisoned here, and you will get to learn about many of them and see their cells. You’ll also learn about another very important moment in the history of Alcatraz: the Indian occupation. Last but not least, you should know that the island offers some of the best views of Golden Gate Beach and San Francisco waterfront.

San Francisco prison

Alcatraz cell block ©photos4uandme/Flickr

Booking and tickets

As I said before, advance booking is essential when visiting Alcatraz. This is most easily done online. You will also get a departure hour for your ticket, so make sure you will be there at the right time and the right day, otherwise you risk missing the whole experience. All tours are organized by Alcatraz Cruises and depart from Pier 33 (the short cruise trip to Alcatraz Island  is included in the price of the ticket). There are several types of tours and tickets available, but the most basic one starts at 30$.

island panorama

Alcatraz Island ©kashyap_hc/Flickr

Things to keep in mind

The most important thing to keep in mind when traveling to Alcatraz is that the island has a national park status, so all the fauna and flora there are protected by law. Eating and smoking are forbidden at Alcatraz, as well. As for what to take with you, the same rules apply as with any San Francisco trip: wear several layers, have something against the rain and wear sunscreen.

inside Alcatraz

Alcatraz Courtyard ©Fmarier/Flickr

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