A special kind of tourism is growing in Spain

by Lorraine Williamson
prison tourism

MADRID – More and more people want to know what life was like for prisoners. That is why they like to visit a disused prison. Prison tourism continues to grow in Spain, according to a recent report. 

The report was produced by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC). The conclusions reveal the success of this type of tourism. It uses the La Model prison in Barcelona as an example. It has been visited by more than 154,000 tourists since its closure in 2018. 

At Barcelona’s La Model Prison, which has benefited from the growing trend of prison tourism, visitors can walk the prison corridors for free for one hour. They are also allowed to visit the cells and see what the daily life of the prisoners was like. 

Why do tourists want to visit a prison? 

José R. Ubieto, professor of psychology at UOC, has highlighted the three main reasons he thinks tourists want to visit these centres. Primarily, “most tourists want to learn a little about the history during the visit”. According to him, some tourists come out of “morbid curiosity” to see scenarios of human suffering. Still others follow the trend and like to share their ‘special’ experience on their social networks. 

ASSSA - health insurance in Spain

The negative part 

However, there is also a risk for some visitors. It could be that a prison visit causes an increase in some pathology they have already developed. Ubieto confirms this, claiming that “for a few, it may fuel a pre-existing pathological delusion (psychopathic people who visit these spaces as havens for their ghosts)”. 

A worldwide phenomenon 

This trend is not only emerging in Spain. Alcatraz Prison, California, receives more than one million visitors each year. Karosta Prison (Latvia) is visited annually by 30,000 curious people. This one also has the “extreme night” package. For €17 – and with prior signed permission – the visitor is treated the same as the prisoner. With forced push-ups, running laps around the patio, waking up at midnight and so on. 

In addition to the prison in Barcelona, in Spain, you can also visit the Cárcel del Broto in Huesca, of Valdenoceda in Burgos, Pedraza in Segovia and El Fuerte de San Cristóbal in Navarra.

Also read: Wine tourism in Spain

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