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?
The International Olympic Committee are getting ready for a huge announcement this weekend: who will host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games? The 3 contenders have been preening their feathers, flexing their muscles and showing their best side.
And it’s all come down to this.
Will current favourite Madrid claim this incredible honour?
credit: Víctor Peña
credit: Tonymadrid Photography
Will Tokyo be able to overcome the negativity surrounding the Fukushima disaster, and prove to the world they have the passion to host the best games yet?
credit: Brendan Skinner
credit: Stuck in Customs
credit: Jun Takeuchi
credit: Stuck in Customs
Or perhaps Istanbul, making its 5th bid for the games, will finally be able to show us all just what their flourishing economy, young population and widespread support will give to a transcontinental games.
credit: Christopher Chan
credit: Kıvanç Niş
Who would you like to see hosting the 2020 Olympics?
Many of you dear readers are travelling to Spain for your summer breaks this year. With that in mind, we thought it worth reminding you of the culinary delights that are in store for you. Madrid is renowned for having the widest selection of Spanish culinary delights. Whether you’re from the north of Spain and call them pintxos, or the south and call them tapas, this style of cooking and eating is so enjoyable because it is incredibly social.
From intricately designed to heartily prepared, every town, each beach-side resort and practically all the bars and restaurants will have a selection of bite-sized meals for you and your companions to work your way through. Our favourite traditional delicacies are:
a) tortilla de patatas
b) lomo Iberico
c) jamon y melon
d) pimientos de padron
Enjoy this photo menu of what’s in store this summer in Madrid, and have a delectable weekend.
Tomato and goat cheese salad, jlastras
Pimientos de Padron, su-lin
Oreja de la plancha, deramaenrama
Oysters in the shell, xmatt
Oliver skewers, shaggyshoo
Lomo Iberico, jlastras
Jamon con foie, jlastras
Brie, anchovy, mixed pepper & balsamic baguette, Allan Reyes
Tortilla de patata, jlastras
patatas bravas, arsheffield
baguettes of pimiento, goat cheese, anchovy and cherry tomato, PromoMadrid
Featured image by Javier Medina
Pedro Almodovar probably didn’t need to say that his latest movie is his ‘gayest film ever’. Short of having Gloria Gaynor selling popcorn on its opening night ‘Los Amantes Pasajeros’ couldn’t be more high camp.
But, much as we like a film set entirely on a circling plane waiting for a convenient ‘crash landing slot’ and featuring air stewards in body-con uniforms lip-synching disco anthems, we can’t deny feeling a little cheated by the notable lack of one essential in this latest Almodovar outing: Pedro, where’s Madrid?
The director may have been born in La Mancha and his home town, Calzada de Calatrava, is very proud of its famous son, but when it comes to making movies Pedro Almodovar is Madrileño to the core; he doesn’t do adoring, he doesn’t do postcard, he seldom does pretty but his take on Madrid is the city at its louche, sexy, seedy, enchanting and irresistible best.
We’ve no doubt Almodovar will be back filming in Spain’s capital very soon. In the meantime here are a few of his finest Madrid moments for you to enjoy. As the man says, ‘I like the idea of helping people to have fun.’
El Rastro Flea Market, Barrio de Ebajadores
When 17 year old Pedro Almodovar first arrived in Madrid in 1967 he worked Sundays at El Rastro. 16 years later this huge flea market, one of the oldest and most famous in Europe, featured in the opening sequence of the young director’s first movie ‘Labarinto de Pasiones’ (1982). El Rastro is in the centre of Madrid and open from 9am to 3pm on Sundays and Bank Holidays. Get there about 10.30 for a browse around the 3500 stalls and shops and you’ll be ready for a tapas lunch in one of the local bars or cafés. Then spend the rest of the afternoon catching up on what you missed in the morning. Good for: young designers selling clothes, bags, shoes, jewellery; rare and collectable books; paintings, drawings and art supplies; and at Calle Mira el Sol, movie memorabilia – of course. Kids furiously trading cards and magazines is a not to be missed moment of young Madrileño passion.
Café del Circulo de Bella Artes, Calla Alcala 42
Victoria Abril and Peter Coyote sit surrounded by ludicrous Belle Epoque opulence, she looks gorgeously sinister and he muses on the ease of murder. The film is Almodovar’s ‘Kika’ (1993) and the opulence is courtesy of Café del Circulo de Bella Artes. As part of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, the Café del Circulo is almost sacred in Madrid (the Academy’s former pupils include Picasso and Dali and the Café has an astonishing art collection spanning five centuries – yes, that Goya on the wall is authentic). This is a superbly decadent place to pay tribute to the lush, overblown, melodramatic darkness of Almodovar and it’s also excellent for breakfast – popular for Sunday lunch so get there early – and there is no shame whatsoever in taking a drink at the bar as early as 10am (you’re on Spanish time in Almodovar’s Madrid remember).
Plaza Mayor, Calle Mayor
‘La Flor de mi Secreto’ (1995) involved quite a bit of dancing and while we couldn’t find the location for the pas de deux with Marisol Muriel and Joaquin ‘any old excuse to get my shirt off’ Cortés, we can point you to Plaza Mayor right in the centre of Madrid. Here, one of ‘La Flor de mi Secreto’s’ main characters dances alone in the early morning across the vast deserted square surrounded by upright bourgeois architecture. We’re thinking you won’t have Almodovar’s clout with the local council so you’ll have to brave some crowds but Plaza Mayor’s worth it for deep fried calamari sandwiches and cold cider.
Cine Doré, Calle Santa Isabel
Cine Doré is one of the unsung heroes of Almodovar’s disturbing and touching ‘Talk to Her’ (2002). In Madrid’s hectic but seductive Anton Martin District it’s a beautifully restored 1912 cinema showing up to four programmes a night for a few euros. Classics, foreign language (not Spanish), documentaries and indies show every evening except Monday. The cinema is also next door to the National Film Library and doubles as their screening room so little seen gems are not unusual.
Cementeria de la Almudena
If you like a cemetery (Almodovar does) this is the largest one in Europe. Over 5 million souls rest in 120 acres under monuments ranging in style from Neo-Classical to typical Madrileñan. Don’t expect leafy and wistful like Highgate or parts of Montparnasse, this is a typically austere Spanish cemetery but fascinating all the same. Almudena makes brief appearances in quite a few Almodovar movies notably ‘Volver’ (2007) and ‘Carné Trémula’ (1997).
Lavapiés District (close to El Rastro)
With its narrow winding streets and alleys, skinny buildings and endless balconies Lavapiés not only turns up regularly in Almodovar films it’s also one of our favourite places to stay in Madrid. Lavapiés was originally the city’s Moorish quarter, then mainly a working class district and now it’s Madrid’s centre for alternative, artistic, ethnic and 24/7 something going on somewhere.
Museo Chicote, Gran Via
Not strictly a location in any Almodovar film (although the neon and traffic insanity of the Gran Via are writ large in ‘Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown’ (1988)) Museo Chicote is a Madrid icon and has played host to the likes of Hemingway, Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren et al in its time. Today it still attracts movie stars, Madrileño ‘it’ types and Pedro Almodovar. 1930’s decor, seriously good DJ’s after midnight and claims that over 100 of the world’s most famous cocktails were first mixed here.
Bocaito, Calle Libertad
One of the best tapas bars in Madrid and a favourite haunt of Almodovar who’s quoted as saying, ‘Bocaito is the best anti-depressant ever’. Fantastic olives and jalapeno peppers are another good reason to go.
Madrid is all over almost all Almodovar’s movies and, while he’s had flirtations with the likes of Barcelona and Toledo and even Santiago de Compostela, it’s the capital he comes back to time and time again.
We’ve scratched the surface and given you a few ideas (we hope). But to be honest Madrid, like every great European city, makes you feel like you’re in a movie anyway. So our last word on the subject has to be: visit Madrid and make sure you’re as glorious as Penelope Cruz or as elegant as Antonio Banderas at all times and you’ll be just fine.
Los Amantes Pasajeros (I’m So Excited) opened in the UK on Friday 3rd May 2013.
This blog post written by Keith Jenkins of velvetescape as part of our #housetripping series.
Madrid, the capital of Spain, is arguably one of Europe’s grandest cities. There’s something for everyone in this city. The explorers among us will enjoy discovering hidden corners of Madrid in its historic neighbourhoods; the art-lovers will gasp in glee at the treasures of world-renowned museums such as the Prado and the Thyssen; and the foodies will experience many mouth-watering moments at one of the city’s many tapas bars and markets. For those looking for a romantic moment (or two) with a touch of luxury, Madrid is the place!
The best part about Madrid is that it’s a relatively inexpensive city. In this sense, you can treat yourself to the city’s luxuries without burning a hole in your pocket. Here are a few tips to help you experience Madrid like a local, with a dash of indulgence and romance!
1. Get in the mood for Madrid
Travel can be a hassle so it’s important to arrive in good spirits, with the knowledge that you’re in good hands. I’ve discovered that staying at a luxurious holiday rental gets me into the right mood very quickly. I like the fact that I’m greeted by a local who isn’t afraid to share their secrets of the city and provide any assistance I require.
HouseTrip has a stunning collection of luxurious apartments in the heart of Madrid, with owners who will go out of their way to make sure you’re comfortable. I especially liked this palatial apartment housed in a historic complex a stone’s throw from the Opera.
Other HouseTrip apartments I enjoyed included this gorgeous pad near the Plaza Mayor and this artsy studio just off the Gran Via. Luxury is all about the small touches and the owners of these apartments excel in providing a distinctive touch to a guest’s stay, thereby getting you into the mood for Madrid in no time!
These HouseTrip holiday rentals offer surprising value-for-money – imagine staying at a luxurious apartment for a fraction of the price of a five-star hotel, with the added bonus of meeting a friendly local upon arrival who will make you feel right at home.
2. Eat, drink and feel like a local
Once you’ve settled in, forget about the city’s main tourist attractions – there’s plenty of time for that later. Instead, head for the Mercado de San Miguel. This market isn’t really a market in the strictest sense of the word. Rather, it’s one big, happy, culinary paradise where locals and visitors mingle and enjoy good wines and fine tapas. Grab a glass of cava to celebrate your arrival in Madrid, then stroll around the market (glass in hand) and indulge yourself in a huge variety of tapas, exquisite hams and desserts. The Mercado is guaranteed to get you and your partner into a fabulous mood and you’ll soon be chatting with the locals and feeling like a true Madrileño!
Another wonderful way to get acquainted with the city’s culinary, historic and cultural scene is to join the Old Madrid Tapas Tour. Your guide, Andrés, knows all about the city’s history and secret culinary gems. He’ll take you and your partner down some of Madrid’s most romantic streets, exploring various tapas bars only locals know about, and he pairs each tapas course with exquisite wines/ports from his private collection.
3. Save time for some R&R
Madrid is best explored on foot as it’s so compact. Most of the main attractions and museums are within walking distance of each other. After a day of exploration, treat yourself and your partner to some R&R at one of the city’s spas. One spa I can recommend is Hammam Al Andalus. You can opt for a full hammam treatment (steam bath, scrub and massage with aromatic oils) or simply sit in one of the heated pools. The beautiful tiled vaults and arches in the underground chambers, lit by Arabian lamps and candles, are simply soothing, and dare I say… romantic!
One last tip. There’s nothing more romantic than a sunset stroll… at least, in my book. Pack a few tapas (or pintxos, the posher north Spain version) with some wine and head for the gardens at the Royal Palace just before sunset. Sit on one of the many benches and enjoy the changing colours of the sky and the light reflecting off the grand palace. It’s a moment you won’t easily forget!
Featured image by dMad-Photo.