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.
If your children are animal lovers, care for a treasured pet or deliver heartfelt speeches on the terrible effects of whaling on the sperm whale population; they’ve probably already told you that today is World Animal Day.
To celebrate a day of caring for the cute and fuzzy, the feathered and winged, even the scaly and slimy; we’ve put together some pictures ideas for your next holiday break, if you want to centre your holiday around getting your little activists enthused about some of the amazing creatures to be found in all corners of the globe.
When some animal rights lovers think of a zoo, they sometimes think of dank, dark cages and sad animals in wretched captivity. But the truth is that many zoos around the world are beautiful places to live, dedicated to animal conservation and providing their fluffy guests with plenty of room to roam and live free-range, as it were. These are some of the best.
Chester Zoo, Chester, England.
credit: Adam Foster
Tiergarten Schönbrunn, Vienna, Austria
National Zoological Gardens of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Bronx Zoo, New York City, United States
Berlin Zoological Garden, Berlin, Germany
credit: Tambako the Jaguar
Apart from the only way for many of us to experience incredibly tough to spot deepwater fish (such as the rarely-seen-in-captivity Sunfish which you can find in Valencia or Lisbon) – and the slow, otherworldly elegance of the earth beneath sea-level, aquariums are homebase for many marine biologists, whose jobs are to try and keep the oceanic ecosystems in balance.
Dubai Aquarium and Discovery Centre, Dubai, U.A.E.
The Deep Aquarium, Hull, England
credit: Bruce Stokes
L’Oceanogràfic, Valencia, Spain
credit: Jofre Ferrer
Turkuazoo, Istanbul, Turkey
Oceanário de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal
Featured image of Squid, the HouseTrip office dog, by reversepanda.
We’re about to say something that’s going to burst a few frothy cappuccino bubbles, ‘The only real Coffeehouses are Viennese’. We know there’s a legend doing the rounds about bags of camel dung and Turkish invaders and entrepreneurial 17th century Austrians, but it’s not the history of its coffee that makes the Viennese Coffeehouse authentic, it’s the culture of coffee and conversation and philosophising – yes, in a Viennese Coffeehouse sitting around doing nothing is considered a worthwhile activity.
So Starbucks take a seat and learn at the knee of the masterful Viennese. You can keep your power bloggers and pundits and Capitol Hill speech writers and anyone else with a notebook and a half-caf-skinny-mocha-choca-frapuccino-kitchen-sink-in-a-styrofoam-cup-with-lid-and-cuff-wholemeal-lo-fat-zero-carb-no-cholestrol-zero-taste-muffin. In Vienna, coffee comes marvellous as standard however it’s served, the cake has songs written about it (nobody’s humming anything about a ‘Fat Free Brownie’) and everyone’s relaxed and at home (most Viennese have favourite Coffeehouses which are just like their second homes really).
‘House Waiters’ are known for their ‘schmäh’: sense of humour and chat. Sitting alone is perfectly acceptable (you don’t even have to accessorise with electronics or a book). Nobody minds if you linger long over your coffee (you could be thinking great thoughts). And don’t be surprised at the glasses of water that appear on your table; in Viennese Coffeehouse tradition you’re a ‘guest’ and the water says you’re welcome to stay as long as you like.
Now you know the basics of what makes Vienna’s Coffeehouses the best in the world, here are a few specifics. Word of warning though: no matter how finely tuned you think you’ve got your local coffee order the Vienna experience is guaranteed to ruin it forever.
Café Central, Herengasse 14
Possibly one of the most famous and illustrious of all the great Viennese Coffeehouses (and that’s going some), Café Central was also the place where Sigmund Freud liked to while away a few hours – no doubt pondering his own and others’ neuroses. With its magnificent and vast ‘column and cloister’ Moorish interior, Art Deco design details and aura of hushed traditionalism Café Central should either be the first Coffeehouse you visit and judge all others by comparison or the last on your list for a perfectly grand finale.
Try ‘Weiner Melange’. In an effort to describe its ethereal delights people call it a cross between a Grand Crème and a Cappuccino – it’s not. It’s milder, creamier and infinitely more delicious.
Café Demel, Kohlmarkt 14
Café Demel is blonde parquet floors, creamy walls, deep cushioned window seats and the type of understated elegance that makes you just want to move in and live here permanently with your staff and quite probably a coach and four. Unsurprisingly this Coffeehouse is where the ladies of the Austrian Aristocracy drank a cup of hot chocolate on the first cold day of every year. A ritual that might have had something to do with Café Demel being part of K&K Hofzuckerbäcker, possibly one of the most celebrated chocolatiers in the world – just a thought.
Leave time to stand in the middle of the chocolatier, close your eyes and just breathe – forget Freud this is real Viennese therapy.
Café Hawelka, Dorotheergasse 6
If a café could be a love story it would be Café Hawelka. Run by the Hawelka family since it opened in 1939, the very elderly Leopold Hawelka was unabashed when he said, ‘without my wife there would be no Hawelka’. Even though Leopold passed in 2011, this iconic figure has been immortalised in the furnishings, decorum and tall tales inside this, the little coffeehouse that could. Café Hawelka is the polar opposite of the Demel and the Central: earthy, bohemian, lively and open unusually late (till 2am every day except Tuesday). Café Hawelka is where to see Vienna’s literati and creative types.
Go later in the evening for Hawelka’s famous Buchteln (deliciously yeasty sweet buns) – good with coffee, great with beer.
Café Prückel, Stubenring 24
Café Prückel is a mere child by Viennese Coffeehouse standards but its immaculate 1950’s interior is as charming as the Rococo or Art Nouveau drama of its more traditional elders. Join the very mixed crowd for the café’s regular book readings, exhibitions and live piano sessions as well as all the usual Coffeehouse deliciousness.
Café Prückel is directly opposite the Museum of Fine Arts (MAK) on Vienna’s famous Ringstrasse.
Café Sacher, Philharmonikerstrasse 4
Only one of the most famous of all the famous Coffeehouses and definitely one of the most glamorous, Café Sacher is part of the Sacher Hotel and home, of course, to the Sacher Torte. Widely considered to be the first chocolate cake, Sacher Torte is much copied the world over but never, ever comes close to the sinfully good confection created on home ground.
You have to taste the torte but it goes best with a summer afternoon on the Café Sacher’s delightful open air terrace.
Café Schwarzenberg, Kärtner Ring 17
The first café to open on Ringstrasse Boulevard, Café Schwarzenberg is opulent, whispery rich and incomparably chic. Whatever you do don’t worry about how you look, the Viennese in haute café mode are effortlessly elegant and there’s no point in competing. But should you feel like slipping into something slightly smart Café Schwarzenberg hosts regular concerts to go with your coffee and cake.
Try the famous and dangerously decadent Café Schwarzenberg Trüffeltorte – ask for two forks and share.
Grand, decadent, artistic, elegant, understated or chocolaty, choose your Viennese Coffeehouse with care. Pay attention to the details. And don’t forget to turn your laptop off – in Vienna if you’re not deep in conversation or deep in thought you’re just not Coffeehouse material.
It’s a funny thing. Love, the most inconvenient and unpredictable of all emotions, is neatly celebrated once a year on Valentine’s Day. Because of course that’s the day the world at large feels romantic. Apparently every single one of us wakes up on the 14th of February with nothing on our minds but roses and hearts and kittens and chocolate and strangely inflammable looking lingerie. Well here’s a handy Valentine’s Day tip: ‘if it’s supposed to be romantic, it probably isn’t’.
Romance is imaginative, sincere, memorable, unexpected – not rings in pudding, that’s just silly and dangerous. Romance isn’t about a gesture or a day, it’s a shared experience that no one else can have in quite the same way.
So in the true spirit of romance we’re leaving Valentine’s Day to the Divine Order of Retailers and laying claim to the rest of the year instead.
Romance is wherever you happen to be. By yoga – photowork.
Giudecca Island, Venice
When it comes to romantic experiences that just aren’t, The Gondola has to be right up there with a carriage ride round Central Park. We defy you to find a pic. (not posed by models) where the ‘happy couple’ don’t look as if they’re thinking, ‘Please Venice sink faster and take us with you’?
True romantics catch a vaporetto and cross the lagoon to Giudecca Island. Giudecca is the best place to see an uninterrupted panoramic view of St. Marks, its breathtaking Campanile and the skyline of Venice itself. The island’s also home to the world famous Hotel Cipriani and, since you saved a fortune foregoing a gondola, you could afford a cocktail and the pleasure of the hotel’s seductively beautiful gardens.
Hotel Cipriani, Venice. By sabinaharlacz.
The Giant Pandas, Edinburgh
We can’t vouch for any romantic entanglement between Tian Tian and Yang Guang themselves as yet, but we can tell you that Edinburgh’s Giant Pandas are now so popular with everyone else you need to book a time to see them. Good news is you don’t pay extra and you can choose your 20 minute Panda Experience time slot on-line and print your pass. Plus you’ve got the rest of one of the world’s best zoos to enjoy while you’re waiting.
Tian Tian. By afcone.
La Musée de la Vie Romantique, Paris
If anything can kill the spirit of romance quicker than a sweltering summer afternoon spent creeping along in a queue at the base of the Eiffel Tower, we’d love to know.
You’ll find us at 16 Rue Chapital, at the foot of Montmartre hill, taking tea in the garden of La Musée de la Vie Romantique. Once famous for its Friday evening salons where Chopin, Delacroix, Georges Sands, Ingres and even Charles Dickens were guests, 16 Rue Chapital is one of only three Literary Museums in Paris. Small (by Louvre standards) the museum is like a perfectly imagined Parisian home filled with eccentric and intriguing art and ephemera where you can wander around for free any day of the week – except Monday.
La Musée de la Vie Romantique. By eraritjaritjaka.
Orange Blossom, Seville
In spring the streets of Seville are filled with the scent of oranges and orange blossom. It’s not too hot just warm and pleasant. And the streets aren’t crowded with tourists ticking one after another of the city’s Moorish masterpieces off the ‘Must See’ list. If you want to make Seville the setting for your own particular romance, Spring is definitely the time to do it.
Orange lined street. By Simon & Vicki.
Vienna On Ice
When it comes to romance Vienna doesn’t make such a song and dance about things as Paris. It’s quite happy to let the city speak for itself. This is where the waltz was born, home to Gustav Klimt’s ‘The Kiss’, chocolate cake is considered part of a balanced diet and just about everyone looks confident, happy and almost unreasonably attractive.
Plus, every winter from January to March the kindly Viennese freeze large parts of the city to let you, and your love, skate. So if you want to leap and whirl or just stumble about try the grand rink in front of Vienna City Hall. Take to the frozen paths of City Hall Park. Go classical at the Wilhelminenberg Palace. Or join everyone else on Friday night for in-line skating – we think you may need to practice this first. It’s outdoors, very Viennese and who doesn’t look desirable in a beanie?
Skating on the Danube. By trbuh.
Wild and Wanton Winter Beaches, Cornwall
We’re the first to admit to a bit of a winter crush on wild British beaches. The weather doesn’t matter because it’s not August so we don’t (foolishly) expect too much sun. And crashing surf make us feel rugged and explorer like.
From windswept Godrevy on the North Coast to the gentler sweep of Praa Sands in the South, Cornwall does beaches – lots of them. And, as an added bonus, almost every Cornish beach comes with a cosy pub not too far away. So once you’ve braved the elements, faced down your fears and made it back from the wild, you can cuddle up and have tea.
Fresh, clear and cold. By grakki.
Night and Day Amsterdam
It doesn’t really matter what they’re showing at Amsterdam’s Theatre Tuschinski book a Love Seat. Then sit back with some food and wine and enjoy the old fashioned romance of this wonderfully grand and eccentric Art Deco cinema.
A Saturday picnic is a bit of a tradition and the best place to pick up supplies is De Negen Straatjes, the city’s irresistible shopping district. Just a short walk from Dam Square and spread out over the network of 17th century canals, De Negen Straatjes is where the very tall, very elegant and very charming citizens of Amsterdam gather at the weekend to make the rest of us feel like a sub-species. For your picnic spot choose nearby Vondel Park; sitting on the grass, holding hands and looking picturesque is almost the law here.
Tuschinski Theatre, Amsterdam. By Kees van Mansom.
Birthplace of Aphrodite, Paphos is known for beaches, glorious weather, secluded swimming coves and wonderful walks. What better way to worship the Greek Goddess of Love’s bounty than by making the most of her home town? Best time to visit is Autumn or Spring when the Mediterranean climate is only perfect for cycle rides, lazing in the sea, long picnic lunches and touring the Temples.
Cyprus sunsets. By sweenpole2001.
Horseshoe Bar, The Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin
The most famous thing about Dublin’s most famous hotel is the iconic Horseshoe Bar. Name checked no less than four times in James Joyce’s Ulysses, just having a drink here gives romance a glamorously louche and Worldly edge.
Horseshoe Bar. By aj842.
A Moment in Barcelona
At about half past seven on a late summer’s evening the crowds, queues and postcard sellers have moved on, La Sagrada Familia is silent and Barcelona is in between day and night. There’s a little park just opposite the Cathedral where you can sit and have a glass of wine in the last warmth of the sun. The Passion Façade is yours alone for just that very brief time. It’s an almost perfect moment.
The Last Supper, The Passion Facade, La Sagrada Familia. By bobcat rock.
Happy Valentine’s Day – and the rest!