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?
If it came to ‘Heritage per square kilometre’ the United Kingdom would win hands down. It’s a tiny island with an immense history and UNESCO haven’t missed a bit of it. From Neolithic Orkney to Maritime Liverpool there isn’t an aspect of the UK’s thrilling past that’s been overlooked. There’s royal pomp and pageantry, politics, paternalistic philanthropy, colonialism, industrialism, romance, religion and more than a dash of dastardly deeds, apparitions, ancient mysteries and, of course, a few murders.
So if I’ve missed a few in my pick, you’ll have to forgive me and put all the blame UNESCO’s way for being so very generous with their UK designations in the first place.
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
Blenheim stands alongside Castle Howard and Highclere as one of the finest and most beautifully preserved English Romantic Palaces. You might recognise it from its many movie appearances (think ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’). But as the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, caretaker of Capability Brown’s magnificent park and landscaping and curator of a fascinating and important art collection, Blenheim’s been playing a starring role in English architectural, social and cultural history for centuries. Wandering around on your own is mesmerising but for some real passion take a tour, the guides are wonderful. www.blenheimpalace.com
Maritime Greenwich, London
Even if you simply caught a Thames River Boat and just sailed past Maritime Greenwich you’d find it awe-inspiring. Time is measured here, the ideas and discoveries of England’s great scientists, astronomers, navigators and thinkers are celebrated and nowhere expresses the nation’s nautical tradition more eloquently. And for the geeks among us Thor saved the world here in the second movie. Visit The Queen’s House for the art collection, The Old Royal Naval College for seafaring legends and the ancient Royal Park for famous deer and exceptional views. www.visitgreenwich.org.uk
Palace of Westminster, London
Better known as The Houses of Parliament, the Palace of Westminster is London’s most famous landmark, home to beloved ‘Big Ben’ and the seat of central government in the UK. The Palace, viewed in its entirety from across the River Thames, is imposing. Up close, the graceful Gothic architecture is delicate and intriguing. But to lift the lid on ancient traditions and intimate secrets, book an in-depth guided tour with Afternoon Tea on the Terrace – nothing could be more quintessentially British. www.parliament.co.uk
Dorset and East Devon Coast
Cliffs, crags, sea stacks, natural stone arches, miles of sand and many fossils make up the 185 million year old marvel that’s the Dorset and East Devon Coast. Known as ‘The Jurassic Coast’ this was the UK’s first natural UNESCO World Heritage Site and its 95 mile long stretch is one of the best known and best loved walks in England. Whether you do it in bite-size bits – stopping off for fossil hunting and amazing seafood – or you hike the whole lot at once, The Jurassic Coast is truly stunning. www.jurassiccoast.org
Precise and monumental, Stonehenge is the world’s only surviving Lintelled Stone Circle. Archaeologically significant, sacred, historically unique and totally enthralling this Late Neolithic structure has mesmerised for millennia. The very size of the stones and the distances they were carried as early as 2500BC defies imagining and various theories as to Stonehenge’s function have been suggested over the centuries. Today it’s generally accepted as a Temple aligned to solar movement so if you want to see it serve its purpose visit with 1000’s of others for the annual Summer Solstice celebrations. www.english-heritage.org.uk
Edinburgh Old & New Town
Back in the 18th century when the great and good of Edinburgh abandoned the Old Town’s tenements in favour of Georgian grandeur in the New Town, little did they think that both ‘towns’ would be UNESCO World Heritage Sites within a few centuries. Edinburgh New Town is the yardstick by which all masterpieces of town planning are measured. It’s elegant, austere and very beautiful and a complete contrast to the Medieval, higgledy-piggledy fascination of Edinburgh Old Town. For the mighty castle, ghouls and ghosts and graveyards, the Museum of Scotland and St. Giles Cathedral you want Edinburgh Old Town. And you’ll find the Scottish National Gallery, the Portrait Gallery and some of the loveliest homes in the world in Edinburgh New Town – you can even see how the other half used to live in the National Trust’s restored Georgian House on Charlotte Square. www.nts.org.uk/property/georgian-house
Tower of London
The Tower of London’s past might be gloom and doom laden, but for intrigue, espionage, treachery, confounding mystery and sheer atmosphere it doesn’t have an equal anywhere. If you were treasonous (or in a lot of cases just out of Royal favour) back in the day, this is where you’d meet your fate either at the end of a botched blade or – if you still had a bit of clout – a sharp sword. Henry VIII beheaded wives, enemies and friends alike here and Queen Elizabeth I executed Mary Queen of Scots. The magnificent Crown Jewels are on display at the Tower of London under guard of the famous Beefeaters and you can take a – wary – look at the legendary, flightless ravens (there has to be at least six ravens in residence or the Tower will fall, so to defy prophesy it’s customary to clip their wings). Understandably there are more than a few ghosts roaming around and, whether you believe or not, I defy you to tour the entire Tower without at least one shiver. www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon
Honourable mention has to go to the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, the enchanting and elegant City of Bath, marvellous Maritime Liverpool and tiny, desolate and far-flung St. Kilda – if you don’t like sailing, 17 hours on a boat from Lewis for St. Kilda might be a bit of a thought, particularly as they’ve been known to get halfway and turn back because of the weather.
In short, I’ve just scratched the surface of the UK’s heritage. My advice is: make your own list and even if you just stick with UNESCO’s 28 sites, there’s more than enough to make several historic holidays in the UK.
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.