Our planet is so full of surprises! We are often left awestruck by the beauty that is on the surface of cities, made of monuments, roads and bridges. Now, imagine that in a lot of cities that beauty is mirrored in mysterious, parallel underground metropolises that get discovered little by little, in a myriad of ways, underneath roadwork sites, or while digging tunnels for the next extension of the underground network, revealing the remains of the city’s former imcarnation. The great thing is, a lot of these remains are open to the public, allowing us to discover the world hiding beneath our feet, made of narrow passages, rooms, caves and secret objects. Get your flashlight ready, and join us on our journey, to discover the most beautiful underground cities in the world.
Underground Rome, Italy
The Eternal City, whose history is extoled in so many books, has a crazy underground world beneath it. How many times were your walks around Rome interrupted by construction sites? Well, blame the riches of the Roman Empire for that, since it left us with such an underground treasure. Among the things you shouldn’t miss, we recommend going to the Catacombs of San Calisto, to the underground section of the Basilica of Santa Cecilia, and to Mecenate’s auditorium. It will take time to see the rest, but don’t forget, Rome wasn’t built in a day!
Underground Rome (Flickr Maria Pia Forbicioni)
Derinkuyu, Cappadocia, Turkey
In 1963, some tunnels were discovered in the region of Cappadocia, Turkey, inhabited since the dawn of time. These tunnels led to an entire underground city, made of houses, stables, churches, depots and basements, all perfectly preserved. It is only possible to see about 10% of this ancient city, as the remaining portion is still being upgraded to make it suitable for the public. We can’t wait for it to be ready!
Derinkuyu, Cappadocia, Turkey (Flickr Dino Corsini)
Underground Naples, Italy
While there is beauty on every corner on the city’s surface, there is also a true, priceless treasure nestled underneath it. The most ancient remains beneath Naples are 5000 years old, and they are a testimony of ancient Roman genius. You can visit the network of aqueducts, one of the first in Italy, see fountains and even some housing of the time. These large underground spaces were also used as bomb shelters during World War II.
Underground Naples (Flickr Elena Portioli)
Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
The UK also has its own underground gem, located in the Scottish capital. Dark, secret, mysterious rooms were discovered under Edinburgh’s streets a few centuries ago. According to legend, these places used to be foundries and taverns, and later on, they became a favorite spot for serial killers to torture their victims. Whether you believe in these scary stories or not, these secret rooms are definitely worth a visit!
Edinburgh, Scotland, UK (Flickr Stevie Douglas)
Dixia Cheng, Beijing, China
Asia also has its very own underground city, in Beijing, China. These tunnels have about a hundred secret entrances, and they were created with a precise aim in mind, that is, to be a shelter for the population in case of danger. This is why you will find all sorts of sophisticated infrastructure here, such as hospitals, schools and public bathrooms. This parallel world is very modern, and an interesting testimony of the Chinese government’s planning skills.
Dixia Cheng, Beijing, China (Flickr Xiao Niao)
Just a few kilometres away from regional capital Kraków, you will find one of the most popular sights of the country: 18th century caves that used to be salt mines. Once you make your way down the 378 wooden steps that lead to the caves, you will be warmly welcomed by the guides, who will tell you all about this wonderful parallel world.
Kraków, Poland (Flickr Tomonori Yamamoto)
RÉSO, Montreal, Canada
Last but not least, Réso, a French play on words with the French word for network, réseau. This place is the most modern on our list, built by the city in the 1960s, in order to ease traffic congestion on the surface. Later on, the tunnels were redeveloped into an entertainment hub, where you can go shopping and visit art exhibitions. It’s basically another city that competes with the overground one!