Underground cities have generally been used throughout history as wartime shelters, haven from the elements and sacred spaces.
Ancient myths and legends tell of several mysterious underground cities filled with secret chambers, passages shrines and tombs.
10. Seattle Underground, Washington
The United States’ Northwest region is brimming with beautiful and interesting sites like Portland. Oregon’s Japanese Garden and Washington’s Snoqualmie Falls, But tourists looking for something unique will want to make sure to stop off in Seattle. Long before the city we know and explore today existed.
There was a small metropolis filled with buildings made of wood. On June 6, 1889, 31 blocks of 1889 Seattle burned to the ground. In response to the Great Seattle Fire, city officials decided to enforce an ordinance that required buildings be built from stone. Brick and raised the city’s streets two stories, away from the ruined grounds. Visitors can still visit the remnants of the city. Which sits below modern-day Seattle like a forgotten cemetery of the city’s history.
9. Setenil de las Bodegas, Spain
Defining an “underground city” leaves a lot of room for interpretation. So while some may raise an eyebrow to this series of subversive buildings. We feel it’s pretty literal to the name. While this Spanish city can be seen from the outside. A good portion of it is built directly into rock overhangs that overlook the Rio Trejo river. The small town is said to house just over 3,000 people and features roads that wind throughout.
From the innermost residential area to the outer rim of commercial businesses. The white structures contrast beautifully against the natural tan of the rock they’re built into. Creating an impressive display of man integrating with nature both inside and out. The modern town seen today was a vast improvement upon the 25,000 years of civilization. That once resided within the naturally formed caves.
8. Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland
Over a million visitors a year makes the trip to Poland’s Wieliczka Salt Mines. So there must be something there worth seeing, right? The 13th-century mine proves to be a great journey underground with man-made and natural displays to drive the senses wild. The salt mine is more than your average dugout hole in the ground, though. Wieliczka may not have the variety of establishments to make it a full-on city.
But the space it offers may leave you feeling there’s more to these underground wonders than just salt mining. Along with tunnels that can be toured. The salt mine is also home to four chapels, statues, and art carved by modern artists. If you’re looking to enjoy an underground affair. A reception room allows for private functions.
7. Underground City, Helsinki
Overpopulation on land is bound to cause space issues in certain areas. Some cities may have found an alternative to sacrificing our elders. Finland’s capital, Helsinki, has started to consider life underground. Having already built a church, hockey rink, data center, swimming pool, and shopping malls within the bedrock beneath the city.
With its current subterranean living proving to be a success. The city aims to increase use of the space below itself with a connected network of tunnels to make travel in and out of the city easier. Though there is currently no residential area in Helsinki’s underground. The public areas that are used daily indicate that it may need to be a thought on the city’s mind for the future.
6. Coober Pedy, Australia
We’ll try to spare you a “down under” joke, but no promises! Nestled beneath the South Australian town of Coober Pedy is an unexpected slice of underground living. The spaces formed within the belly of the Earth were believed to have started as holes dug during opal mining which were converted into livable square footage.
One such hole was so large that it was converted into a 3-bedroom area. Complete with living room, wine cellar, and a swimming pool. Accompanying these underground dwellings are St. Peter and Paul Catholic Underground Church and the Serbian Orthodox Church. Many of Coober Pedy’s residents, upwards of 60% of the population, are said to live underground to avoid the heat. Some may say that they’re truly “Down Under!” Sorry, we tried!
5. Kariz-e-Kish, Kish Island, Iran
Kish Island takes up 35.3 square miles or roughly 91.5 square kilometers of the Persian Gulf. Acting as a prolific tourist stop with over 1 million visitors annually. What may prove to be one of Kish’s finest features. Albeit one of its most overlooked, is Kariz-e-Kish, an underground architectural wonder that once acted as the island’s hydraulic ducts.
The qanat, or series of vertical wells, once filtered water throughout the city. But modern architects have begun to take note of Kariz-e-Kish’s beauty. Turning it into an underground draw for tourism. Structural additions have been made to the snaking wide halls to make way for additions like an amphitheater, vendors, and restaurants. Even without these modern luxuries, this sub-level space feels and looks like a mysterious city.
4. Burlington Nuclear Bunker
Nuclear war is a prevailing threat, fueling the paranoia that leads some to build cities that are complete. Sustainable underground living quarters. One such location is Corsham, Wiltshire in England. Burrowed beneath the small market town is 35-acres of nuclear-attack-ready livable space, built in the 1950s. With space for up to 4,000 of the most important members of the government.
The bunker wasn’t meant to save civilian life in the event of an attack. Those thousands of government workers, though, would be very comfortable with their underground fresh water lake, hospital, television studio, cafeterias, kitchens, and a working phone exchange. The bunker was built to sustain life for at least three months while the surface air cleared. Though it was decommissioned in 2004.
3. Derinkuyu, Turkey
Believed to be a hiding place for early Christians. The underground formations beneath Derinkuyu in the Nevsehir Province now houses one of the largest underground cities to be found. Sporting 18 stories that run 278 feet or 85 meters deep. The Derunkuyu Underground is equipped with ventilation shafts, running water, and air conditioning, some of the essentials for a thriving civilization.
Able to hold up to 20,000 people, the intricate network of underground pathways connected living quarters to shops, wells, tombs, and communal rooms. Should an attacker somehow prevail and invade the underground city, escape routes were dug out.
2. Dixia Cheng, Beijing
Like the English, the Chinese also feared the threat of nuclear war in the 1970’s. Beijing locals took to tunneling underground to create a safe haven from air raids and nuclear fallout. The now-empty system was meant to provide not just shelter, but a complete way of life.
Classrooms were built. Restaurants were included, and entertainment like movie theaters and a roller skating rink were designed to help keep inhabitant’s minds off of the impending doom outside. Until 2000, the city remained unused and most of it started to wither away until it was turned into a tourist attraction. Visitors can visit much of the subterranean world and, to help drive attraction, modern shops have been opened.
1. Montreal’s Underground City, Canada (RESO)
With all of these historic, decommissioned beautiful cities. Who would have thought one of the most impressive examples of a subterranean metropolis would be an extremely modern take in Canada? This underground city in Montreal, otherwise known as RESO, is a hybrid of your typical above-ground life.
While most of RESO’s businesses, offices, and points of interest are located above ground. The network that winds underneath Downtown Montreal is an impressive display. Offering some access to subterranean commercial sectors. Just how large is the network of connecting tunnels. You ask? You’re looking at 20 miles or 32 kilometers of channels. A large reason that RESO looks and feels like a true underground city.
Many of these curious underground worlds remain covered in mystery because we have not been able to locate them yet. There are also fascinating very old underground tunnels, caves and cities that have been discovered, but the history behind them remains unsolved because we have no idea who built them and for what desire.