Iconic SF

Alcatraz

Alcatraz, a former prison, is now a national park and one of the city's most popular attractions. Learn all about visiting "The Rock."

A sailboat passes in front of Alcatraz Island in San Francisco.
Alcatraz Island is one of San Francisco's most iconic sights.

Alcatraz was the site of the first lighthouse in the Western United States but became a federal penitentiary from 1934-1963, housing famous convicts such as Al Capone and George "Machine Gun" Kelly. Now, this once infamous prison island is part of the Bay Area’s 80,000-acre Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Located one-and-a-half miles from Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz is one of the city's most popular attractions. A visit to the island includes a tour of the cell house where visitors can see where the prisoners lived. Although the last inmates were transferred off the island in 1963, the main prison block—with its steel bars, claustrophobic (9 x 5-foot) cells, mess hall, library and "dark holes," is still structurally intact.

For additional information, contact the National Park Service at www.nps.gov/alcatraz.

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Alcatraz

Movies that feature Alcatraz:

  • The Rock (1996)

  • Murder in the First (1995)

  • Escape From Alcatraz (1979)

  • Birdman of Alcatraz (1963)

What to Expect When Visiting Alcatraz

  • Alcatraz Cruises is the official ferry provider to Alcatraz. Departures start at 9:30 AM and are available every half an hour throughout the day. Please note that these cruises frequently sell out, so plan and book your cruise in advance, especially in the summer and on holidays.

    To purchase tickets, view the schedule and/or for more information, visit the Alcatraz Cruises web site at www.alcatrazcruises.com.

  • Touring the island will be at your own pace. During the day, there is no formal tour but an audio tour is available for the cell house portion of your visit. This award winning audio tour is available in many languages including English, Spanish, Japanese, French, Italian, German, Dutch and Mandarin and can be purchased upon your arrival on the island or with your ferry ticket. You can stay on Alcatraz Island as long as you like if you choose the Day Tour. Evening guided tours of Alcatraz are also available, where you can marvel at the sunset and see spectacular views of the city. The night tour includes a personally narrated boat tour around the island, guided tours from the dock to the main prison building, and "Doing Time: The Alcatraz Cellhouse Tour." Visit the Alcatraz Cruises website for additional information.
  • The weather on Alcatraz varies every day, sometimes even on the same day. It can be warm, windy and wet any day of the year. The best way to prepare yourself is to dress in layers and wear comfortable shoes.
  • To allow ample time for screening, it is strongly recommend that you arrive at Alcatraz Landing at least 45 minutes prior to your departure time.
  • Due to social distancing requirements in the Cellhouse, there may be a lengthy wait for the Cellhouse Audio Tour. 
  • Food and beverage service is not available at Alcatraz Landing, onboard the ferries, or on Alcatraz Island.
  • Credit cards are the only acceptable form of payment at this time.
  • Disposable masks and hand sanitizer will be available for purchase.
  • Hand washing stations are located throughout Alcatraz Landing.
  • Hand sanitizer is located onboard the ferries and on the island.
Plan Your Visit

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Where is Alcatraz located?

Alcatraz is located in San Francisco Bay, approximately 1.25 miles (2.01 KM) from the northern shore of San Francisco. To get there, take an Alcatraz Cruises from Pier 33 Alcatraz Landing, located along San Francisco’s northern waterfront promenade, on The Embarcadero near the intersection of The Embarcadero and Bay Streets, located approximately 1/4 mile from San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. Allow at least 2 1/2 – 3 hours for sailing to the Island, exploring the island, and returning to Pier 33 Alcatraz Landing. The trip over to Alcatraz Island is 12-15 minutes each way and is factored into the suggested time of 2 ½ –

How to get there

The following MUNI bus lines stop within three blocks of Hornblower Alcatraz Landing at Pier 33:

  • #8X Third Street
  • #82X Presidio & Wharves Express
  • F Line streetcar. The most direct route. Use the Bay Street stop
  • #10 Townsend bus (Weekdays only, ending at 7 p.m.)

You can also get there on the historic F Line streetcar. This is the most direct way. Exit at the Bay Street stop.

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The Golden Gate Bridge at sunset with a multicolored sky and the San Francisco Bay in the foreground.
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