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  • Historic former prisons have become popular tourist destinations

    2013-03-15

    Abandoned prisons may not seem like a staple of global travel, and if you're looking for a destination that is more geared toward relaxing they certainly aren't. However, they can surely add some spooky intrigue to your travels. Full of history and stories often dating back centuries, centuries-old prisons have become increasingly popular among tourists, and according to CNN Travel there are a few landmarks in particular that stand out above the rest.

    Old Melbourne Gaol - Australia
    Australia was a much different place in the 1800s than it is today, something which is especially evident at Old Melbourne Gaol. The prison was first opened in 1845 and during its nearly 80 years of operation, the facility housed everyone from the mentally ill to hardened criminals, including infamous murderer Ned Kelly. According to CNN, the prison now serves as a museum and offers both guided and self-directed tours to anyone who wants to experience the prison's ghastly history first hand.

    Oxford Castle - England
    From the Tower of London to St. Paul's Cathedral, England is certainly not lacking when it comes to historic buildings, but Oxford Castle sheds light on some darker corners of the country. Amazingly, the prison, which was built in 1071, was used for more than 900 years before closing for good in 1996. Today, the building stands as a testament to its impressive security measures. There are a number of highlights of the castle tour, including the decidedly creepy crypt located beneath the floors, as well as the St. George's Tower, which offers stunning views of the surrounding city, CNN notes.

    Rodden Island - South Africa
    While most prisons have become popular destinations largely due to their sordid pasts, such is not the case for Rodden Island, which was the longtime home of former South African president Nelson Mandela. The prison was used for more than three centuries, but today it is most recognized as a symbol of freedom and democracy. The prison was home to many political prisoners during Apartheid and was Mandela's home for 18 years. Today, the tours, which are led by former political prisoners, offer untarnished glimpses into the struggle for equality and the checkered past of South Africa's history.

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