The world is full of impenetrable fortresses and marvels of security that are just waiting for you to try and fail to visit them. We’ve told you before about some of the most heavily guarded places on Earth … and now it’s time for a brand new batch.
10. The 1960s Bar
Bars, pubs and other watering holes aren’t generally considered among the safest places in the world, if only for the potential damage they pose to the visitor’s liver. The 1960s Bar, also known as the Rose and Crown, is an exception. Dubbed “the world’s most secure pub” by the science magazine Focus, this establishment is a replica of the Red Lion, a well-known pub in London’s Whitehall region that is popular among government workers.
The bar’s safety comes largely from its location: It lies inside the vast, nuclear-proof bunker complex a hundred feet under the town of Corsham. While the underground base was decommissioned in the 1980s, a skeleton crew still maintains the complex in case of a nuclear attack, which might turn the base into the new headquarters of the British government. Last call, anyone?
9. Antwerp World Diamond Center
As you can probably guess by its name, Antwerp World Diamond Center in Belgium deals with precious stones, so you know their security is a bit heavier than the average commercial complex. This public-private corporation is located at the beating heart of the diamond industry and acts as its official representative, but despite its association with an industry that is often criticized for its shady tactics, it appears to maintain a refreshingly open policy about its occasional security “situations” and how it has dealt with them.
From their security news, one can gather plenty of information about their efficiency and close relations with the city and police force of Antwerp. They have contingency plans in place for virtually anything, from the “AMOK-Active Killer” protocol for active terror threats to cyber crime. They even have a program against, uh, tiger kidnapping, which appears to be a huge thing within the diamond industry. Oh, and they also have a traditional underground vault. Back in 2003, it was hidden behind heat detectors, magnetic fields, sensors, radars and a virtually impossible-to-open combination lock. It’s probably safe to say that the security measures are even stricter today.
If you’re wondering why a corporation dealing in diamonds and investing in such security measures is not higher on the list, well, it’s because their safety is not quite impregnable. In 2003, a ring of expert thieves managed to breach the ultra-secure vault described above, and steal $100 million in diamonds and assorted jewelry. Although some arrests were eventually made, the loot was never found and the police still can’t quite figure out how the thieves did it.
8. Hard Rock Cafe secret vault
So, Hard Rock Cafe — yes, THAT Hard Rock Cafe — has a treasure chamber in London. It’s a repurposed bank vault that used to belong to Coutt’s Bank, and it’s not just for secret recipes for onion ring batter. The old, highly secure subterranean vault has reportedly contained valuables ranging from the Queen of England’s personal items to Princess Diana’s wedding dress, and Hard Rock Cafe’s collection makes honor to its history.
As anyone who has ever visited a Hard Rock Cafe can attest, their whole deal is rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia scattered all over their restaurants. They’ve gathered an amazing amount of valuable rock star knick-knacks over the decades, and the most valuable items are stored in the vault. The collection of 200 or so items within is valued at over $600 million, and features gems such as John Lennon’s handwritten lyric sheet of “Imagine,” Jimi Hendrix’s guitar from his iconic Isle of Wight festival performance, and a number of personal items from music legends such as Freddie Mercury, Madonna and Elvis Presley. While the vault is understandably well-guarded, it’s by no means unattainable. In fact, you can visit it for free … but only under watchful eyes, as a part of a guided tour. After all, no one wants a visitor to walk away with a brand new Queen-themed jacket they “accidentally” picked up during their visit.
7. The Broker Restaurant
If there’s a restaurant equipped to survive the end of civilization, it will probably look a lot like the Broker Restaurant. A legendary establishment in Denver’s fine dining circles, the eatery gained fame for its steaks and seafood, not to mention the fact that warrants its inclusion on this list: the Broker was located in the basement of a former bank, complete with a thick, super-secure vault door. With its name and location, it’s probably no surprise that the restaurant became popular with the yuppie business dinner crowd.
However, you probably notice that we’re talking about the Broker in the past tense. The restaurant unfortunately closed its doors on the last day of 2017, after serving ultra-secure steaks for the area’s affluent for 45 years.
6. La Santé
La Santé is basically France’s Alcatraz and San Quentin rolled into one legendary (and legendarily infamous) facility, second only to Bastille in its reputation. Boldly located in the stylish Montparnasse region of Paris, this looming prison has been in operation since 1867 (with the occasional modernization break), and has housed high-profile inmates such as Manuel Noriega and Carlos the Jackal.
Although La Santé has seen the occasional escape, a large part of its reputation as a secure prison stems from the fact that it used to be a very, very brutal place for its inmates. Memoirs of a former prisoner describe a rat and cockroach infested, overcrowded madhouse where prisoners drank disinfectant to try and end it all, and doctors had to treat wounds and ailments that are usually only seen in serious wartime conditions, such as the festering trenches of World War I. The prison was, in essence, a violent “city within a city,” with its own insane rules and logic. The same violence was applied to the officials’ approach to executions: La Santé performed public executions as late as 1939, and didn’t retire the guillotine until 1972.
Despite (or, possibly, because of) all this, the now modernized and presumably less ruthless prison remains a highly respected institution for officials and inmates alike, and the people who have either worked or done time there carry the experience like a strange badge of honor.
5. The Library of Congress
Knowledge is power, and few places house more knowledge than the Library of Congress, the research arm of the Congress and home to many, many millions of manuscripts, books, newspapers, recordings and images. As such, the Library is hardly helpless when it comes to security measures. Visiting the Library of Congress is much like entering an airport, with similar security checks. However, these are only the beginning.
Open food and drink are not permitted in the public areas, all electronic devices must be silenced, and belongings such as backpacks will be inspected upon exiting the premises. The guests will be tightly monitored, and larger crowds (such as student groups) can expect to have a chaperone following them around to see things don’t get out of hand. And if something goes wrong, the culprit can expect a lot worse than a hush and a stern look from the nearest librarian. Up until 2003, the Library of Congress used to have its very own, fully authorized police force that operated video security and patrolled the premises. In fact, they’re still around in all but name — they have merely been merged with the larger, even more powerful force of the U.S. Capitol Police.
4. DMCC storage vault
DMCC (Dubai Multi Commodities Centre) is the hottest global trade free zone in the world which, along with the emirate’s penchant for opulent construction, is perfect soil for some pretty inventive security systems. Nowhere is this more evident than in the DMCC storage vault deep under the Almas Building skyscraper, which the owners boast is itself one of the most secure buildings in the Middle East.
The vault lies under the Almas Building, so deep that it’s actually one storey below sea level. The only point of entry is an elevator that is constantly monitored and guarded. The vault itself is protected by the usual array of security personnel and a number of heavy, guarded and locked gates, and there are even secondary vault walls to protect the actual vault walls. Of course, in case someone decides to go Mission: Impossible on the site, it’s also equipped with assorted sensors that react to temperature, motion and vibration. And as if all of that isn’t enough, to definitively crush any and all dreams of movie-style heists, the facility also features something called an “anti-drilling corridor”. We’re not sure what such a system would do to prospective tunnel-drilling thief, but it’s probably best not to speculate.
3. Air Force One
Air Force One. The flying fortress. The “most secure plane in the world”. While “Air Force One” is technically just a callsign for whatever plane happens to carry the President of the United States, there have been many specialized crafts in the Presidential fleet that are so heavily associated with the term, it might as well be their name. Since 1990, the fleet has been a pair of massively customized Boeing VC-25As, tall as an apartment building and long as a city block.
Both planes are essentially a combination of a flying luxury hotel and state-of-the-art command center, and can go halfway around the world with a full tank of gas. They also hide all sorts of shenanigans that the Air Force is understandably not too keen to reveal. It is known that the planes have their own luggage loading systems and stairs (to minimize security risks), and they’re shielded well enough that they can withstand aerial attacks and an electromagnetic pulse from a nuclear blast can’t fry their electronics. There are flares to counter heat-seeking missiles, and electronic counter measures to jam radars. There are also many other avionic and defense features, but they’re precisely as classified as you’d expect. All in all, the planes are impressive enough that while their current occupant has criticized their maintenance costs, he had this to say after his first ride aboard Air Force One: “Beautiful, a great plane, terrific.”
2. Indian Point power plant
Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, New York is not only a nuclear power plant, but also located upriver from a certain major city that has gained notoriety for getting targeted by terrorists. This is why the facility’s owners, Entergy, went all in after the 9/11 attacks and poured a whopping $150 million in Indian Point’s security systems. It shows, too: Nuclear plants are already some of the most protected locations in the country for obvious reasons, but Indian Point takes things to next level with its layered security system. Various physical and security personnel barriers are designed to protect the site from virtually any form of attack, from water, land or air.
Indian Point’s security starts with its own personnel, who are thoroughly vetted with background checks. Every time they enter and exit the facility, they have to go through multiple security checkpoints and processes that make airport security blush. And that’s just the people they actually want to let in. Unwanted visitors have to go through razor wire, a number of state of the art security devices, vehicular barriers, and a trained, armed-to-the-teeth security force that watches the site 24/7. To ensure that the guards stay on point, Indian Point security personnel drills pretty much constantly. Apart from normal high-end security training, they simulate all sorts of attacks on the facility, and even fight each other, trying (and presumably failing) to take over the facility from its guardians in a high-tech game of laser tag. Of course, even if someone gets through these guys and manages to knock on the facility’s door with wicked things in their mind, Indian Point is unlikely to fall, as Entergy says that the plant’s containment structure is “among the strongest structures built by man.”
1. Fort Knox
Whenever impregnable fortresses are considered, it’s only a matter of time before someone mentions Fort Knox, a.k.a. the United States Bullion Depository. The site is home to roughly 50% of the country’s gold reserves, and regardless of what old James Bond movies would have you believe, it takes more than gas and a henchman with a razor-brimmed bowler hat to get in.
Apart from the physical hurdles of a steel fence and the building’s steel-reinforced concrete structure and massively sturdy doors, Fort Knox boasts modern state-of-the-art defense systems. The U.S. Treasury has no inclination to reveal the gadgets protecting their most famous pile of gold, but there is talk that their security systems are straight out of a video game. Automatic machine gun traps, land mines, electric fences and constant radar monitoring are all rumored to be part of the defense system, as are posted guards who are armed and have a very, very good aim. Not that the site even really needs any of that, though: the entrance to the vault is through 20-ton steel-and-concrete doors, and the only way to get in is with a complex series of codes that are all known to different people.
Oh, and if for some reason an unwanted person found their way to surpass all of these devilishly clever security systems, there’s still one final hurdle: Fort Knox is not just a fortress vault. It’s also a pretty muscular Military post, with no less than 40,000 soldiers and civilian workers who might want to have a few words with the trespasser.