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Secret Underground Cities

February 3, 2016

Hidden Under Cities

Here is our collection of 10 fascinating tunnel labyrinths, cities, and mines that lie hidden under modern cities.

Catacombs of Paris

A large underground graveyard may sound morbid but the Catacombs of Paris are legendary. Paris is one international city that may legitimately claim an undying love affair with its underground tunnels, mines, vaults, and caverns. The Catacombs are a labyrinth right under the heart of Paris – a series of connected quarries that were the source of the limestone that went into building the city. Through the 18th and 19th centuries these quarries were filled with bones and remains from the city’s overflowing graveyards. You may think that the sight of bones and skulls arranged along the galleries of the Catacombs present a macabre sight, but millions visit this 186 mile-long underground ossuary each year.

Edinburgh’s South Bridge Vaults

In 1788, the construction of the South Bridge in Edinburgh was completed. Under eighteen of the nineteen arches of the bridge, there were vaults and chambers built with an intention to house supplies of the tradesmen and shopkeepers of the city. It is likely that most of these traders built shops on either side of the bridge above. Faulty construction led to leaks and waterlogging and the shops on the bridge shut down. A few years later, in moved poor people, destitutes, and criminals. Serial killers Burke and Hare are believed to have lured many of their victims from these shady vaults. By the 1880s, these vaults were shut down by filling them up with rubbles and stones. It wasn’t till later in the 1980s that excavations were undertaken here and their history unearthed.

The Big Salt Mine of Detroit

The salt mines lying about 1200 feet below Detroit city are almost as good as city underneath another. Millions of years old salt deposits were discovered underneath Detroit in 1895. the Detroit Salt and Manufacturing Company took charge of the mining operations and set up one of the most modern and technologically advanced mining operations through the early years of the 1900s. Later , the Detroit Salt Company took over and expanded the mines. The salt mines of Detroit are about 1,500 acres big and are connected by over 100 miles of roads and provided livelihood to thousands. Some believe that the mines are meant to shelter the elite when the end of the world is near.

The Underground City of Beijing

The Underground City of Beijing, also referred to as the Dixia Cheng, is an elaborate labyrinth of tunnels constructed beneath Beijing city during the Cold War as a bomb shelter. It is also called the “underground Great Wall”. Between 1969 and 1979, China’s relations with the USSR were at their worst and the impending fear of a nuclear war loomed large. This subterranean bomb shelter, spread over an area of about 85 square kilometres, can house over 300,000 people and has all possible amenities including grocery stores, medical clinics, classrooms, libraries, and an indoor cultivation facility. The Underground City was open to tourists and visitors between 2000 and 2008, but thereafter was shut down.

RESO in Montreal

RESO or Montreal’s Underground City is an elaborate set of over 60 underground complexes that house a number of residential apartments, banks and offices, shops, hotels, and other establishments. It is estimated that about 500,000 people access the RESO each day. It is a complete city unto itself with universities, museums, entertainment centers, Metro stations, and bus terminals. Spread over 3.6 square kilometre area, the RESO is a swanky locality that is loved by the residents and those frequenting it. The RESO is home to about 1600 housing units and is very well lit and ventilated. The RESO is also referred to as the La Ville Souterraine.

Wieliczka Salt Mine of Poland

Another salt mine, but one with glamourous overtones to it. The Wieliczka Salt Mine is located under the town of Wieliczka in Poland. Salt mining was practiced here since the 13th century right until 2007. This mine is now, a major tourist attraction and is visited by about 1.2 million people each year. The key attractions of this erstwhile mine are the beautiful rock salt sculptures made by miners of yesteryears, the beautiful carved interiors, and the art carvings of newer artists that are being added each day. This mine city is a fascinating and a beautiful one.

Tunnels of Las Vegas

Las Vegas is Sin City to some and fun city to others. Very few, however, know of the city’s dark secret – a labyrinth of 200 miles long tunnels inhabited by thousands of people. These tunnels running under the Las Vegas Valley were initially built to protect the city from flash floods. They are now home to thousands of the city’s homeless destitutes, criminals, addicts, and impoverished lot. Many of the inhabitants have built themselves small living quarters from the castaway furniture of more affluent households. What no one discusses, though is the danger of losing these few material belongings and their lives when flood waters flow through these tunnels.

Burlington Bunker of Cortsham

Cortsham in Wiltshire seems to be a charming English town. But it hides a dark secret deep underground – the Burlington Nuclear Bunker. Built some 100 feet beneath the cobblestone streets of this rustic town is a massive nuclear bunker from the Cold War era. Spread over 35 acres is a complex that was designed to hold some 4000 government personnel in case of a nuclear attack and sustain them for about 3 months. From offices to living quarters, from canteens to clinics, the bunker has all facilities needed to make it self reliant. It was only in 2004, when the facility was decommissioned that the bunker’s existence was revealed to the people of UK.

Kish Underground City

If you thought that the skills required to built a subterranean city under another is a modern one, think again. The city of Kish is located on an island off the Iranian coast. The subterranean city that exists under this picturesque tourist centre is believed to be about 2500 years old. This underground township is often refered to as the Kariz since it may have functioned as an acquaduct at the time. Spread over an area of about 10,000 square metres, this Kariz is believed to have housed numerous wells. These wells collected and purified water that was used by the people of Harireh city. In 1999, when the Kariz was discovered, it was converted into a sprawling shopping complex and entertainment centre.

Shanghai Tunnels of Portland

What is a labyrinth of underground tunnels worth without a ghost story to match? Welcome to the Shanghai Tunnels or the Portland Underground. These tunnels connected the basements of buildings such as hotels and bars in the Chinatown locality of Portland, Oregon. They lead up to the waterfront of the Willamette River. Through the 18th century the Shanghai Tunnels were infamous as a hotspot for the practice of Shanghaiing. Shanghaiing was the illegal practice of abducting men to serve as slaves on ships. The ghosts of many victims are believed to haunt the Portland Underground.


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