They say that cities never sleep; that they stay awake for 24 hours a day, every day, brimming with life, activity and energy. And that’s exactly why city-break-addicts like you and me love them. But many of the world’s most famous cities have another side to them; a side that lies dormant, abandoned and asleep deep underground – their lost subway stations.
Hidden beneath the earth, these disused railway stations, or ghost stations, have become popular sites for urban explorers as tributes to bygone eras or unfinished urban developments. Here are 10 lost subway stops to think about exploring on your next city break.
credit: Duncan WJ Palmer
There are over 50 abandoned underground stations on the Tube (see all of them on a map here) and for many years London Transport Museum has been offering tours of Aldwych station, the crimson-tiled entrance to which can still be clearly seen on the Strand, one of London’s busiest streets. A trip down, and under, memory lane shows off features rarely seen on the Tube these days including Aldwych’s wonderfully preserved original lobby, wooden-panelled lifts and a vintage train. Keep an eye on London Transport Museum’s website to get tickets for the next tour.
City Hall, New York City
It’s a little ironic that one of Manhattan‘s most beautiful subway stops is one that lies unused by commuters every day. Built in 1904 as a showcase station for the rest of the Manhattan Main Line, at the time the grandeur of City Hall station was compared with that of Central Station. However, despite its charm the station closed in 1945 and the only way you can still see its elegant tiled arches and original glass skylights for yourself is by staying on Line 6 after its Brooklyn Bridge stop, when it travels through City Hall station before turning around. Worth the detour!
Estación de Chamberí, Madrid
credit: Michel Bricteux
Found between the stops of Bilbao and Iglesia but disused since 1966, Estación de Chamberí was closed because it couldn’t be lengthened to accommodate Madrid‘s newer and longer trains, a common ‘cause of death’ for many ghost stations. After lying forgotten for many decades, in 2008 it was made possible to walk down the steps to Estación de Chamberí once more after it opened as a museum showing how Metro travel used to look in Madrid. Look for the posters from the early 1900s which show how Madrid phone numbers used to have only four digits!
Lower Bay, Toronto
Lying under busy Bay station in downtown Toronto is Lower Bay, one of the most short-lived stations in underground railway history. Opened in February 1966 with the name Bay Yorkville, it was closed in September of the same year as part of a failed experiment to create three separate routes from two pieces of track. Due to it still being in relatively good condition, the platform is often used as a set for films and TV shows, with movies like Bulletproof and Johnny Mnemonic being filmed there. TTC has opened the gates to LowerBay to the public on a number of occasions in recent years, including Toronto’s Nuit Blanche event, so keep an eye on their website to find out when you can access LowerBay station.
Spring Garden, Philadelphia
It’s only possible to see Spring Garden by travelling on one of the SEPTA trains that pass through the tunnels between Fairmount and Chinatown in downtown Philadelphia. Even a passing glance is worth it as this abandoned station has become a mecca for graffiti and street art, offering an unexpected burst of colour and urban art. The magic of this station, which was closed off from public access 20 years ago, is that the tags and art on the walls change so regularly it’s like an ever-changing street art gallery, and even plays host to specially-made art installations.
Porte Molitor and Saint-Martin, Paris
In the last few months Paris have begun to publicly discuss ways it can breathe new life into many of its abandoned Metro stations, meaning long locked-up stations like Arsenal, Croix Rouge and Haxo will rise from the dead and be converted into restaurants, swimming pools and even underground gardens. One fantôme station that is unlikely to get a makeover is Porte Molitor which is actively used by the network to store trains and carriages and to also offer the public rare access to an old disused station. Be sure to also keep your eyes and ears open to find out if any events are taking place at Saint-Martin station, a popular spot for cutting-edge art exhibits.
Rapid Transit Subway, Cincinnati
Self-proclaimed as the most famous abandoned subway system in the world, Cincinnati doesn’t just have a handful of ghost stations for visitors to explore, but a whole underground subway tunnel. Explored on foot as part of a “Walk and Talk” tour and you can discover over five blocks of the city’s Rapid Transit Subway. Built in the early 1900s the system was somewhat doomed from the start with lots of stop-start attempts to give Cincinnati an underground railway. Sadly due to escalating costs the project was completely abandoned by the late 1920s and 16 miles of underground tunnels were left abandoned having never transported a single paying customer.
credit: Ville Miettinen
In the north-western suburbs of Helsinki lies the unassuming suburb of Munkkivuori, a mostly residential area that was to be home to the city’s first underground railway station. However, it never saw a single train arrive at its platforms due to a change of plans. You’ll need to use your imagination and observation skills to identify this station, because compared to the others on this list it isn’t particularly ghostly. In fact it’s disguised as a small but busy 1960s style shopping centre, though signs of the station’s lobby features are easily identifiable and a section of the train tunnel remains underground.
Lerchenfelder Strasse, Vienna
In the heart of Vienna’s beautiful old town is Lerchenfelder Strasse, an underground station that trains haven’t stopped at since 2003. The main reason for its closure was its close proximity to Volkstheater and Rathaus, thus making it redundant. The only way you can catch a glimpse of this ghost station is by taking the U2 line between these two stations. Up above the ground, the street of the same name is one of Vienna’s best shopping streets.
Gaojin and Fushouling Stations, Beijing
If you find yourself in Beijing, and you’d like to escape the hustle and bustle of the country’s ever-populous Capital, take Line 1 out to its most westerly stop, Pingguoyuan Station. Here you’ll notice that the station number is 103, which is weird considering it’s the beginning of the line. This is because stations number 101 and 102 are now no longer in use and the overground stations of Gaojing Sation and Fushouling Sation are now ghost stations believed to be used for training new drivers, but most often they lie spookily empty and silent.
Did I miss an underground station stop you’ve seen or heard about?
Gone are the days when being a vegetarian meant going hungry when travelling. In fact, vegan and vegetarian travel are now growing markets and the best meat-free cuisines around the world are sought out by travellers with hearty appetites. Whether you’re a curious carnivore or a master of meat-free food, here are ten cities worth visiting if you enjoy vegetarian and vegan food.
Portland, Oregon, USA
Considered by many to be USA’s most sustainable and eco-friendly city, it should be no surprise that vegetarians and vegans are well-catered for in Portland, Oregon. With hotspots including the 100% plant-based Back to Eden Bakery and the vegan trattoria Portobello, it’s never a struggle to find a good vegetarian or vegan meal in this city.
Prague, Czech Republic
I had many expectations when I went to Prague for the first time – cold weather, beautiful architecture, and centuries of history hiding around every corner – but what I didn’t expect to find was a hidden mecca for vegetarian and vegan food. Despite Czech food being very meat-focussed, which admittedly it still is, Prague has a long-standing reputation for good vegetarian cuisine, like that being served at Buddhist restaurant Maitrea tucked down a side street close to Old Town Square. Here you can wash down vegan and vegetarian food with some local Czech hemp beer in a smart and minimal interior that has been fully feng-shui-ed.
Once considered the world’s number one city for vegetarians, London has sort of gone full circle with a recent flurry in popularity of meat-focused restaurants. This is actually a good thing for vegetarians as we are now seeing a new generation of vegan and vegetarian restaurants emerge, not to mention the growing popularity of farmers’ markets in London selling seasonal vegetables you won’t find in the supermarket. Check out this list of London’s vegetarian restaurants for some great spots across the city.
Vegetarian food is an integral part of Berlin’s understated yet vibrant foodie scene. Across its eclectic neighbourhoods from Friedrichshain to Schöneberg you will find organic farmers’ markets and vegetarian restaurants from around the world. Try the cheerily named natural fine-dining restaurant Lucky Leek in Prenzlauer-Berg for a fully vegan menu or enjoy brunch at Café Morgenrot, where you pay what you think the canteen style spread is worth. You can even try a vegan version of Berlin’s famous currywurst at Yellow Sunshine on Skalitzer Strasse.
Recent years have seen more and more vegetarian options sneaking their way on to the menus of Amsterdam’s best restaurants and the popularity of organic supermarkets like Marqt shows no sign of dwindling. Other highlights include the Vegetarian Butcher on Rozengracht, where you can find some of the best meat-substitutes and imitations, and Marits Huiskamerrestaurant in Amsterdam-Oost, where you can enjoy food that is literally home-cooked in Marit’s own kitchen which she opens up to the public three days a week.
Famous for its coffee culture, Vienna’s vegetarian scene deserves much more press than it gets with over 50 vegetarian and vegan restaurants lining its historic streets. From the all-organic Bio Bar to yamm!’s vegetarian buffet, which also includes lactose and gluten-free dishes, keep some room for a stop at Vienna’s famous Naschmarkt which also has vegetarian street food stalls.
Loved as a creative and cosmopolitan city, Austin is something of a vegetarian veteran with long-running restaurants and cafes. Popular spots include Swad, home to the city’s best veggie Indian dishes, and Tex-Mex restaurant Mr. Natural, where you can follow a veggie empanada with a gluten-free chocolate brownie.
While much of Southeast Asia can pose some problems for vegan and vegetarian travellers, they will find it much easier to satisfy their appetite in Singapore. Head to Little India to find flavourful vegetarian dishes being served by families from southern India. Even restaurants with a mix of meat and vegetarian dishes on the menu are masters of the vegetarian dish. Like Lagnaa Barefoot Dining restaurant where you can choose how spicy you want your food on a scale from 1-10, though be warned very few make it past level 3 even.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Something of a retreat for soul-searching and yoga-practicing travellers, Chiang Mai is proud of its relaxed atmosphere. It follows that the city is a haven for vegans and vegetarians with restaurants offering meat-free interpretations of both Thai and international dishes. One popular vegetarian Thai restaurant is Pun Pun, set within the ground of Buddhist temple Wat Suan Dok.
Vancouver is another Pacific Coast North American city that suggests maybe west is best when it comes to meat-free cuisine. Upmarket cocktail bar and restaurant The Parker proves that vegetarianism can be sustainable and sexy, and for an Asian twist seek out Paradise Vegetarian Noodle House for cheap and cheerful Vietnamese food. Vancouver also has a great reputation for farmers’ markets and delis selling bio-organic produce so you can confidently go self-catering in this city knowing you’ll have no trouble finding your favourite vegetarian ingredients, or some new ones to experiment with.
For many running a marathon is the challenge of a lifetime. It’s not just because of the physical challenge on the day, but it’s the months and months of training and preparation needed to go the distance. When you look at it like this, you begin to understand why many people choose to run a marathon in a foreign and far-flung place they’ve always wanted to visit, because not only do they get to achieve a remarkable physical feat, they also get to see and experience a new travel destination in the process.
1. Virgin Money London Marathon, UK
The world’s largest marathon in 2012, the Virgin Money London Marathon is loved by runners around the world for a course that waxes historical, a route that is good for both beginners and experienced runners and for having some of the best (and loudest) spectators. A great place to stay while running the London Marathon is in leafy Blackheath where the course begins. From here you can enjoy views across East London and you’ll find many typical British pubs to stock up on carbs before and after your run. The course itself acts like a sight-seeing tour of London taking you past the Cutty Sark in Greenwich and through the heart of the City of London to Westminster. Special highlights on the course include running across TowerBridge, through CanaryWharf and past the Tower of London. It also has one of the most famous finishing miles as you run – or stumble – your way to Buckingham Palace. There’s a reason you have to wait years for a place in the Virgin Money London Marathon.
13th April 2014 http://www.virginmoneylondonmarathon.com/
2. Big Sur International Marathon, California
Considered the largest rural marathon in the world, Big Sur International Marathon follows a 26.2 mile section of the famous Pacific Highway from Big Sur to Carmel. Expect the sun to shine and the sea breeze to keep you cool as you enjoy one of the world’s most scenic marathons, taking in the iconic Brixby Creek Bridge and a section of Big Sur’s redwood forest. For accommodation, you could stay close to the finish line in Carmel, whose full name Carmel-by-the-Sea alludes to its white sand beaches. Alternatively, make it a city break by staying just a few hours up the coast of California in one of America’s favourite cities San Francisco. Golden Gate Brigde, Alcatraz prison and cosmopolitan suburbs like Little Italy, China Town and The Castro, San Fran also has vibrant coffee and foodie scenes which will help replace lost calories after the marathon.
27th April 2014 http://www.bsim.org/site3.aspx
3. Marathon du Medoc, Bordeaux
credit: Leite’s Culinaria
If coastal views aren’t really your thing, maybe running passed vineyards will be a good enough reason to pump those pistons. This chateaux-hopping tour of one of the world’s most famous wine-producing regions is a marathon with a difference, because runners are encouraged to take frequent breaks along the twenty-six mile course which snakes through vineyards and chateaux. Energy drinks and orange slices are replaced with oysters, cheese and wine as you sample some of the fine foods and award-winning wines the Médoc region is famous for. If you stay in nearby Bordeaux you can visit the Bordeaux Wine and TradeMuseum which will tell you why this part of France is so sacred to wine lovers. There is, of course, much more to do in this historic city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With a large and lively student population, you’ll find a lively atmosphere in the city’s pedestrian centre and a gentle walk along the banks of the River Garonnne or in Bordeaux’s public gardens on a sunny day should stretch any marathon-sore legs.
13th September 2014 http://www.marathondumedoc.com/
4. Midnight Sun Marathon, Tromsø
credit: Outreach Moldova
The only marathon on this list that begins in the middle of the night and still offers ideal running conditions, the Midnight Sun Marathon is a unique race that takes you around the island of Tromsø, the second largest city in the Arctic Circle. With beautiful dusk light and a scenic course from beginning to end, this race is worth messing up your body clock for. Take in the impressive sight of the Arctic Cathedral watching over the city and be sure to go inside to see the midnight sun shine through the stained glass windows. Warm up your legs with a wander around the city’s oldest streets which are lined with colourful wooden houses and enjoy famous Norwegian delicacies like lutefisk or sweet cinnamon buns. If you’ve got the energy after your marathon – and the budget, because alcohol is heavily taxed in Norway – Tromsø is very famous in Norway for its nightlife playing host to many of the world’s most popular musicians and DJs thanks to a student population who really do make the most of the city’s short but spectacular summers.
21st June 2014 http://www.msm.no/index.php?language=no&cat=23429
5. Two Oceans Marathon, Cape Town, South Africa
Confidently called the world’s most beautiful marathon, I wonder if this name tricks people into thinking the Two Oceans Marathon is a ‘normal’ marathon, because it’s actually fourteen kilometres longer than the traditional marathon distance. One of the world’s most popular ultra marathons, runners follow a spectacular circuit of the Cape Peninsula, beginning and finishing at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Although an extreme reason, the marathon is the perfect excuse to visit South Africa’s second largest city and arguably its most beautiful. Must-see sights include the view from the top of Table Mountain, the colourful houses of Bo-Kap, and there is of course the option to visit the thought-provoking Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. For a post-marathon feast try some Cape Malay food, which centres around spice infused meat dishes like denningvleis, slow-cooked lamb, and bobotie, an Indian inspired mince meat and egg dish that could fuel many marathons.
19th April 2014 http://www.twooceansmarathon.org.za/
6. Vodafone Istanbul Marathon
Perhaps the only marathon in the world that crosses continents, the Vodafone Istanbul Marathon began in 1978 when 34 visiting German tourists wanted to run a marathon in the Turkish capital. These days, you’d be one of thousands who lace up their trainers and run across the Bhosphorus Bridge and through the city’s European and Asian streets. While the marathon will show you a real mix of Istanbul’s old and new architecture and culture, you can choose to immerse yourself in one or the other depending on where you stay. Be just walking distance from all the historic buildings around Sultanahmet Square in the Old City or find yourself a slick apartment with a view in one of New Istanbul’s high-rises. Either way, be sure to over-indulge in meze before and after your cross-continental run and book yourself in for a hammam spa, a traditional Turkish spa treatment that washes away dead skin and will also relaxingly soak those tired muscles.
16th November 2014 http://www.istanbulmarathon.org/en
Do you run? Which was the most beautiful marathon course you’ve ever enjoyed?
Once upon a time, the Formula One calendar wasn’t the world tour it is today. It was dominated by the Grand Prix circuits of Europe, the continent which pioneered the sport. There are now eight European destinations in 2014′s Formula One line-up, but today I’m highlighting five of them. Not only because of their appeal for quality Grand Prix racing, but also because they are found in parts of the world well worth visiting.
What’s he up to? What’s he dropped this time… Nothing? Then why is he bending down? Why is he… Wait! What’s that he’s pulling out of his pocket? And why is he… Oh my goodness! Is he really doing what I think he’s doing?
Now, isn’t that what you want your partner to think as you get down on bended knee? You want some shock don’t you? Especially as you’re planning on doing it around Valentine’s Day, Mr. Obvious. So, yes, shock is what you want.
And awe… Awe will go a long way and get you plenty of brownie points. Shock and Awe. So, how are you going to go about making this proposal the most awesome thing that ever happens to your significant other?
You do that by choosing one of these not-too-obvious, but-still-ridiculously-romantic places to propose that I’ve helpfully handpicked for you.
Giardino degli Aranci, Rome
Put the Roma into romance by proposing in this little known and even less visited corner of Rome, the garden of orange trees – also known as Parco Savello. High up on Aventine Hill, Giardino degli Aranci promises some of the best views of Rome and you can distract her by showing her the very special view found at the ‘Keyhole to Rome’ in the gates to the Priory of the Knights of Malta.
If the one you love wants a fairytale proposal as well as a fairytale wedding, then you’d do well to whisk them away to Sintra, near Lisbon in Portugal. A small town famous for its abundance of theatrical castles and palaces, you can take your pick of views and romantic backdrops.
Bridge of Love, Helsinki
credit: Tina Maria
Of course, there’s Pont des Arcs in Paris and the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, but one of the least known, and yet most romantic, bridges covered in love locks is the Bridge of Love in Helsinki. This small and modern bridge connects Meritullintori to Katajanokka, a regenerated waterfront area home to the Uspenski Cathedral, lots of bars and restaurants and many examples of art nouveau architecture. Don’t forget your padlock (or the ring!).
Leeds Castle, Leeds
Leeds Castle is England’s answer to the Taj Mahal…albeit a monosyllabic one by comparison. Originally built as a Norman fortress, two centuries later Leeds Castle was presented as a gift to Anne of Bohemia by her soon-to-be husband King Richard II, often regarded as one of history’s most romantic monarchs. Anne went on to spend a whole winter at LeedsCastle preparing for their nuptials – let’s hope your bride doesn’t take that long to get ready!
Hotel de Ville, Paris
Scene of arguably photography’s most famous kiss, L’Hotel de Ville in Paris is the place to propose if you’re heading to Paris for V-day but still want to surprise the one you love with a less obvious location (unlike the Eiffel Tower or in front of Rodin’s kiss statue). Just ignore the fact that the kiss as photographed by Robert Doisneau was staged. Yours will be 100% original and authentic.
LOVE Sculpture, Montreal
The original LOVE design by Robert Indiana was created in the 1960’s for a Christmas card design and can now be seen at Indianapolis’ Museum of Art. I’m not too confident of Indianapolis’ qualifications as a romantic city, but I know very well how quaint and cute Montreal is, which is why it’s the perfect city to find a LOVE sculpture worth proposing in front of. Despite several cities now having their own LOVE statues, this one is definitely more of a surprise, found outside Lhotel on Rue Saint Jacques, just a few steps away from Montreal’s romantic old town.
Jo’s Hot Coffee, Austin, Texas
Another unassuming North American location, but one that admittedly has been photographed a lot thanks to the simple graffiti-ed message you’ll find there “I love you so much”. But the story behind the street art on the corner of South Congress Avenue is a really romantic one. Written as a spontaneous love note by Austin musician Amy Cook for her partner, Liz Lambert (who happens to be one of the owner’s of Jo’s Hot Coffee), the original was sadly removed a year after its creation in 2011, but together the couple painstakingly restored the original message so everyone could keep sharing the love.
In what has to be one of the most romantic films to not feature a single sex scene, few can forget that poignant scene from Lost in Translation when Bill Murray and Scarlett Johanssen say goodbye to each other in the busy shopping district of Nishi-Shinjuku, a.k.a. the last place your lover will expect you to propose. And as for what he whispers into her ear when they share their tender embrace? Well, that’s entirely up to you.
St Pancras Station, London
No matter how late you’re running for your train most find time to stop and gaze at the bronze statue of a couple kissing in St Pancras station’s international terminal. Known as the Meeting Place, this 30ft statue was actually modelled on the artist and his wife (aww!). If you’re catching the Eurostar to or from London this could be a very unexpected but utterly romantic place to propose.
So, there you go, and I’ve done all the hard work for you. Now you’ve just got to book some flights, find yourself a swanky apartment to stay in, buy the ring, hide it somewhere it’s not going to be found, maybe arrange some flowers and some chocolates, keep your cool and of course, don’t overlook a celebratory dinner for afterwards. Oh, and don’t forget the Champagne… See? Easy!