These landmarks are some of the most well-known and most frequently-visited places in the world. But even with all that constant attention, there are some crafty corners that have managed to stay concealed. We’ve got the key to all of these hidden gems — and we’re ready to unlock some of the world’s best-kept secrets.
1. Crystal Palace Subway
In 1851, the city of London came up with an idea. In order to encourage tourists to go visit the Crystal Palace in Crystal Palace Park, they decided to build two rail lines, with one leading right up to the site. Once they arrived, first-class visitors could walk through a “subway” underground that was decorated with Victorian pillars.
But that all changed when the Crystal Palace was destroyed by a fire in 1936, as were the rail lines. Miraculously, part of the underground subway survived. Over the years, the space was used as a air raid shelter and later as a creative place for dance parties. Now, the site sits closed and hidden below the famous park.
2. A Hidden Cave By Niagara Falls
The Cave of the Evil Spirit, hidden away right next to Niagara Falls, has inspired folklore for generations. And the stories are just as creepy as the name makes them sound. According to the legends, Native Americans knew to stay clear of the cursed cave, and rumor had it that some even heard screams and groans coming from deep within it.
In 1936, a Canadian settler dared to enter the cave, where he was warned by the evil spirit to turn back around instead of heading west. He chose to ignore the spirit, and in the next few years he slowly lost just about everything before ultimately losing his life to a gruesome murder. Care to explore?
3. Abandoned Apartments In The New York Public Libraries
Back when New York City’s book hubs first opened, each needed a full-time staffer to tend to them. So naturally, often these caretakers lived there on site with their families. As technology advanced, these full-time tenants were no longer needed and the apartments were left abandoned. Today, there are only 13 left throughout the city.
“There used to be parties in the apartments on the top floors of New York City’s branch libraries. On other nights, when the libraries were closed, the kids who lived there might sit reading alone among the books or roll around on the wooden library carts.” According to Atlas Obscura, this was the life of families living in New York City’s public libraries.
4. The Massive Basement Under The Lincoln Memorial
Thousands of tourists every year visit the Lincoln Memorial on Washington DC’s National Mall. But while most of them are gazing up at the marble carving of the former president, they should actually be looking down at the floor. Right under their feet there is a 43,800 square-foot, three story basement that very few people know about.
The National Mall was built on a notoriously marshy area, and the original architects constructed this column-filled basement to support the monument. The gigantic space was forgotten about until 1975, when renovators made the jaw-dropping discovery. For a short period of time, the area was open to visitors, until asbestos was found in the undercroft in 1989.
5. An Entire Street Under London
Little Compton Street might not come up on many road maps, but believe it or not, it’s still there if someone just looks hard enough. In order to catch a glimpse, you’ll need to look deep within the sewage grates in London’s bustling Soho neighborhood beneath the busy Charing Cross Road.
Little Compton Street was once above ground, level to where basements of homes and shops are built today, but that changed in 1896. The buildings in this area were demolished and the street level was raised. Now, nothing is left of Little Compton Street except the road signs, two of which are still visible.
6. A Hidden Chamber Inside Mount Rushmore
When most people visit South Dakota’s iconic Mount Rushmore, they look straight on at the gigantic carved busts of some of America’s former presidents. But hidden behind Lincoln’s head sits a little-known vault meant to keep America’s most important documents safe. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum’s original plan had been to create a time capsule inside of Mount Rushmore, which could have been accessed by descending an 800-foot stairwell.
Borglum wanted the capsule to house America’s most important documents, like the Declaration of Independence. But that dream was never fully realized. Unfortunately, he died before the project was completed. The void remains and now houses documents related to Rushmore’s construction inside of a titanium vault.
7. A Tunnel System Underneath Rome’s Colosseum
Visitors to the Colosseum might be taken aback by just how gigantic the ancient amphitheater is. But the truth is, only up to 45 percent of the Colosseum is visible to the public. One of the most intriguing parts, the underground labyrinth of tunnels, has for the most part remained closed off.
These tunnels have an interesting yet deadly history. Back when the Colosseum was used for more brutal reasons, the tunnels would be where gladiators awaited their chance to battle. The tunnels also housed the huge cages that held animals brought in from around the world for these events, like lions, tigers, bears, panthers, and even elephants.
8. A Tennis Court In New York’s Grand Central Station
One of the most beautiful tennis courts in one of the most beautiful locations in New York City is barely even known about by even the most avid tennis fans. Tucked away on the fourth floor of Grand Central Station is an exclusive tennis court that costs a rumored $250 an hour to rent.
Before the space was a tennis court, it was used as an art gallery, a CBS recording studio, and turned into a 65-foot ski slope. Yes, there was once even a ski slope above one of New York City’s biggest travel hubs! Now, celebrities and the world’s top players take advantage of these regulation-sized courts situated right at the top of Grand Central’s famous facade windows.
9. A Private Apartment In The Eiffel Tower
Having a home with a view of the Eiffel Tower seems like a dream for anyone, except for Gustave Eiffel. Instead, the architect who built Paris’s most famous landmark had something else in mind. Instead of a view, why not just live inside the Eiffel Tower itself?
So Eiffel built himself an apartment 1,000 feet above ground. As opposed to the hard metal structure, the apartment was decorated with paisley wall paper and wooden furniture. Obviously everyone wanted to stay even for a night in the enviable apartment, but Eiffel did not rent out his space and rarely even allowed guests except, of course, for Thomas Edison.
10. A Crypt Beneath St. Mark’s Basilica
Tourists coming to Venice are almost sure to stop by St. Mark’s Basilica. But only very few ever get to see the crypt buried below their feet. The crypt was built in 1063 with stunning columns and high vaulted ceilings, and was the final resting place for some of the men who first established the church, including St. Mark’s own remains.
Water levels in Venice were immediately a problem in this crypt, and it was considered to be dangerous for years. Parts of the crypt are almost always covered in a layer of water, and the site has been open to the public only on certain occasions.
11. London’s Smallest Police Station In Trafalgar Square
While walking through London’s Trafalgar Square, it could be easy to miss the police station located right in the center. That’s probably because it was once the city’s smallest police station, created to be hidden in plain sight. The Lilliputian Police Station was built into a light post in the 1920s, with panoramic views from which to monitor protests on the square.
The post has barely enough room for one person, but was once said to have temporarily held two prisoners. While it was in use, the small watchtower had a direct line to the Scotland Yard. Today, this former police station is mostly used for cleaning storage.
12. An Abandoned Wine Cellar In The Brooklyn Bridge
Even people who have never lived in New York City know that the real estate there is insanely expensive. So imagine what it cost to build the Brooklyn Bridge (okay, we do not have to imagine: it cost $15 million in 1883, or $359 million by today). With all that investment, chief bridge engineer Washington Roebling needed to find ways to save.
So for a while, Roebling rented out two vaulted spaces at the base of the bridge as wine cellars. These dark and roomy chambers were perfect for storing wine, and so, bottles were once happily stacked to the ceilings. These cellars closed during World War II and have not been reopened since.
13. A Room Inside The Statue Of Liberty’s Torch
The lookout platform located inside of the torch that the Statue of Liberty holds was not always a secret. In fact, there was once a time when visitors could scale the spiral staircase to the very tip of the torch. But that all changed during World War I.
During that war, there was an explosion inside of a military warehouse that was situated on another island in New York Harbor, sending shrapnel flying and reaching close-by Liberty Island. Lady Liberty’s torch had been badly damaged, and ever since then the room has been closed off to the public. Instead, there is now a webcam placed on top of the torch for anyone who wants to experience the view virtually.
14. A Basketball Court In The Supreme Court
This secret space has been named “The Highest Court in the Land,” and we are not talking about the Supreme Court itself. No, instead we are referring to the basketball court that is situated on the fourth floor of the Supreme Court Building.
In the 1940s, this room that once housed extra paperwork was turned into a full gym, complete with a basketball court. The space is only open to court employees, but is closed during times that the Supreme Court is in session. We guess that hearing the bouncing of basketballs overhead might get in the way of announcing some of the most consequential rulings in the country. Go figure.
15. A Train Track Under New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel
Buried deep beneath the famous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City sits a railroad and storage station called Track 61. An antique train car has long sat dormant on the tracks, but the site itself is said to have not been completely abandoned. Instead, rumor has it that the track is used as an escape route for presidents visiting the hotel.
According to Atlas Obscura, former President Franklin D. Roosevelt used the tracks in order to secretly enter and exit the hotel during visits, as a way to hide his worsening polio from the public. Since then, the Secret Service supposedly uses these tracks as a potential escape route in case the need should arise.
16. An Abandoned Island At Walt Disney World
Disney’s River Country slid into its place in history as the first Walt Disney World water park. But the Disney family quickly learned that sometimes you can’t get everything right on the first try. Over the years, many of the attractions in River County needed serious repairs. In 2001, it was closed for maintenance, but never opened again.
Although the site still physically stands today, the now-abandoned water park has become surrounded by overgrown foliage near Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Now, it looks more like something out of a scary movie than the most magical place on Earth. However in 2018, Disney announced that a new park would be built on the same site. How enchanting!
17. The 103rd Floor Of The Empire State Building
For those thrill-seeking tourists who want to pay top dollar, there’s the option to scale the Empire State Building all the way up to the 102nd “top floor” lookout (as opposed to the also-open 86th floor lookout) and see one of New York City’s best views. But little did we know that this name is deceiving, because the real top lookout is one floor up.
The 103rd floor private lookout is located at the base of the building’s spire. Its mere inches of standing room and very short protective wall likely induce a pretty nauseating feeling for anyone who is afraid of heights. Unfortunately this “secret” platform is open only to the most exclusive guests, including Taylor Swift, who was photographed from the 103rd floor observation deck.
18. A Grand Ballroom in Flinder’s Street Station
Every day, 100,000 people shuffle through Melbourne’s Flinder’s Street Station, the busiest railway hub in Australia. But there was a different kind of shuffling happening in this station in the 1950s and 1960s, and Flinder’s Street has the ballroom to prove it.
The third floor of the railway station that holds the decaying, abandoned ballroom is closed off to the public, but it still stands in all of its former glory. Back during its use, the ballroom would host dances for the public so that people could spend the night dancing but still manage to catch their trains back home in time.
19. An Apartment In Radio City Music Hall
The Radio City Music Hall in New York City would likely not have landed its place in history without the touch of theater impresario Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel. And because of that, Rothafel nabbed for himself his own hidden apartment tucked away inside the music hall itself, complete with a 20-foot gold leaf ceiling and cherry-paneled walls.
The Roxy suite on Radio City Music Hall’s fifth floor has been called an “art deco masterpiece” by those who have seen the inside. Since Roxy’s death in 1936, the apartment has gone untouched for the most part. So the same chairs where Roxy hosted some of the world’s biggest celebrities are still there in all of their glory.
20. Hidden Offices In The Basement Of The Senate
Whenever someone goes to visit their senator on Washington DC’s Capitol Hill, they are usually led down grand hallways with bronze railings and intricate tiled floors that lead to the public offices. But it is a well-kept secret in the Senate that everyone has another hidden office, aptly dubbed the “senate hideaways.”
These hideaway offices are not nearly as glamorous as the ones open to the public. Instead, they are tucked away in the drab and dreary basement of the building. Usually, these offices show off a bit more personality, as senators decorate them with some more personal trinkets. It is also the place where senators will meet secretly together or with reporters.
21. Club 33 In California’s Disneyland
Who would have thought that one of the most exclusive, adults-only clubs in the United States is located in a place known for its massive crowds and screaming children. But tucked away behind a basically unlabeled door obscured by a ficus tree is Club 33, Disneyland’s exclusive, members-only lounge.
Club 33 only has roughly 450 members. Those who are able to have access to this magical experience within the happiest place on Earth are treated to food and drink with top-level service. The inside also hosts another formal dining room, which is said to have a two-way mirror with microphones so that someone can prank guests by listening to their dinner conversations before responding from the walls.
22. A Room Inside Washington Square Park’s Arch
In New York City’s posh Greenwich Village, folks gather in Washington Square Park to do some people-watching and look at the arch monument located in the center. And while the arch has had millions of onlookers, only a select few know that there is a room inside, and even fewer have ever seen it.
To be fair, there is not much to see inside of the hallowed arch. It is basically just an empty brick room with a few ladders and little light. But really, this is about the thrill of being inside of a monument, along with the other thrill of getting to take the stairway to the roof of the arch.
23. A Secret Compartment In The Da Vinci Statue at Rome’s Airport
Anyone flying into Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport will be greeted at the arrivals gate, and promptly after that they’ll be greeted once again by a giant bronze statue of da Vinci just outside of the airport. The statue was erected there in 1960, but it was not until 2006 that a secret compartment was found inside.
One of the people working to renovate the statue discovered a small hatch about 30 feet above the base. Inside, two pieces of parchment were found in perfect condition. The first piece of parchment told the history of the site where the statue stands, while the second included a list of people who were present during the statue’s unveiling.
24. A Club Hidden In Pixar Studios
We assume that animator Andrew Gordon was just procrastinating at his office in Pixar Studios when he made a startling discovery. He found a human-sized hatch on one of the walls, and actually decided to crawl through it, where he found a completely empty room. Immediately, he began to make himself at home.
That discovery is now known as Lucky 7, a miniature lounge in Pixar Studios reserved for the most elite visitors. There are booths lined in crushed red velvet, and walls covered with autographs and photos of the famous visitors who have relaxed inside the secret clubhouse, including Tim Allen and Steve Jobs.
25. A Bowling Alley At The Frick Collection
On the Upper East Side of New York City lies the Frick Collection, an art museum that houses the extensive art collection owned by industrialist Henry Clay Frick. But beyond the art, most people do not know that the museum also houses an absolutely stunning secret bowling alley.
The mahogany-lined bowling alley only cost a reported $850 to build back in 1914, and at the time they also paid an extra $100 to commission customized 2-holed bowling balls. People who have been inside say the space is truly stunning, replete with maple-, pine-, and even marble-lined bowling lanes. Unfortunately, it is not up to fire code and is not open to the public.
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