Sometimes there’s more to a city that what you see above ground. Several cities around the world sit above underground labyrinths just waiting to be explored. Budget Travel has put together a list of some of the best underground tours around the world.
In Paris, you can tour the sewer system, in Berlin, check out a hidden world of bunkers and tunnels used during World War II and the Cold War, and see the remains of the older city (which the new city was built upon) in Seattle. Other cities with tours that take you underground include Vienna, Rome, Seoul, Portland, Naples, New York, Jerusalem, Edinburgh, and Istanbul.
And to Budget Travel’s list of spots with unique attractions below ground, I’ll add two of my own. Most visitors to Chicago don’t realize that the city has it’s own network of underground tunnels, called the Pedway, that connect many of the city’s government buildings and allow people to travel between them without suffering in the bitter winter cold. And in Logrono, in Spain’s Rioja region, the area underneath the town is actually larger in area than that above, thanks to an extensive network of tunnels that were once used for defense and are now used as wine cellars.
When we visit a new city we generally spend a lot of our time looking up, gawking at the tall buildings. But, it seems, maybe should pay a little more attention to the wonders just underneath our feet.
Hungary’s capital city, Budapest, has always had a “split history.” Everything from the town’s name (which is actually a combination of two distinct cities along the Danube, Buda and Pest) to its incredibly diverse architectural styles, to a range of ruling powers from the Ottoman Turks to the Soviet Union after World War II speak to Budapest’s unique dichotomy of influences and history.
Considering this “split” history, it’s not surprising to learn that beneath Budapest’s beautiful World Heritage Site at Castle Hill is a series of spooky subterranean passages dating back to the Middle Ages. Simply called “the Labyrinth,” it’s a maze-like complex of dark corridors that has served at various points in history as torture chamber, wine cellar, bomb shelter and treasury.
Visitors can wander ancient passages on a self-styled quest, replete with a mission to find your way out by feeling your way blindly along pitch black walkways in search of the exit. Sound like a recipe for a lawsuit? There’s more – befitting its history as a wine cellar, the Labyrinth is also home to a red wine fountain hidden deep within its interior. Now you can stumble down pitch-black corridors AND be drunk!
For anyone looking for a quick thrill and an interesting view at Budapest’s many layers of history, the Labyrinth does sound like a lot of fun. How often do you get to wander your way through such an atmospheric place? Give it a try the next time you happen to be in town. Oh, and when they ask you to sign that liability waiver, see if you can’t skip the line…