Best Cities in Europe for Urban Exploration
Not inspired by traditional museums or moved by panoramic vistas? Then turn your attention to other equally fascinating and impressive sights in the form of Europe’s abandoned buildings. Urban exploration, or Urbex, is the investigation of manmade structures that are usually abandoned or off-limits. Europe is packed full of incredible examples to explore.
Of course, you should always make sure that you’re legally allowed to explore the structures in question. And be sure to take all necessary precautions. If you’re looking for the best of these off-beat attractions while on a Eurail journey through Europe, here are some of the best cities to target.
The French capital might seem regal above ground, but beneath the surface lies a totally surreal world ripe for exploration. During the 1700s, officials identified an outbreak of an infectious disease in a local cemetery. In order to limit its spread, they moved the dead to quarries located beneath the city. The Paris Catacombs are now home to some six million skeletons and are fully open to the public. Some areas are more accessible – and welcoming – than others, which some intrepid urban explorers see as a challenge.
Don’t miss: The Paris Catacombs are the principle urban exploration attraction in the city.
How to get there by train: Paris is a major rail hub in France, and easily accessible by train from throughout the country. There are also direct rail connections from all neighboring countries, including the direct Eurostar from London.
It’s hardly surprising that a city with as much history as Berlin is also one of the most popular destinations for urbex. There are famous abandoned sites across the city and its surrounds, which vary in their popularity and legality. Fortunately, dozens of books and websites outline some of the best urban exploration sites in Berlin. A cursory online search will point you in the direction of abandoned factories, military complexes, homes and hospitals.
Don’t miss: Beelitz-Heilstätten Hospital, a former tuberculosis clinic and sanatorium, is as fascinating as it is unnerving.
How to get there by train: Berlin is an easy city to reach by train from throughout the country. There are also direct high-speed trains from many neighboring countries, including Poland, Czechia, and the Netherlands.
Rome has an underground collection of tunnels that many claim are even more enthralling than Paris’s. The Roman Catacombs are an extensive network of burial tunnels that some estimate run for several hundred miles beneath the iconic city. There are also other fascinating abandoned sites in Rome to explore, if you’ve got the mettle. These include Manicomio della Marcigliana orphanage, and an ancient underground forum accessible only via the city’s sewer system.
Don’t miss: The principal urban exploration attraction in Rome are the Roman Catacombs.
How to get there by train: Rome is a popular entry point into Europe by plane, but it’s also a convenient rail hub in Europe. There are high-speed trains to and from the capital, as well as overnight trains from neighboring countries.
The Belgium capital is a surprisingly good base for urban exploration. Intrepid explorers are particularly interested in the abandoned grave sites just outside Brussels. These offer a fascinating and eery window into a distant past. These labyrinthine crypts are a network of tunnels amongst the dead. As such it’s not a location for the faint of heart. Of course, there’s plenty of history near the capital to offer other urbex opportunities as well. These include an abandoned coal mine and the 19th century Fort de la Chartreuse.
Don’t miss: If you explore one abandoned crypt in Belgium, make it Laeken.
How to get there by train: Most cities that fall into Benelux is easy to navigate by rail, and Brussels is no exception. There are regular trains to the capital from throughout the region, including a Eurostar connection to London.
London, like Paris, offers a surprising number of underground urban exploration opportunities. This is thanks to the city boasting the oldest underground train system in the world. Today, this means there are endless miles of unused tracks and tunnels. There are also abandoned stations, including the famous Down Street station, which have inspired several movies and television series.
Don’t miss: Aside from the Underground, don’t miss Millennium Mills, a derelict flour mill dating back to the turn of the 20th century.
How to get there by train: Your valid Eurail Pass includes passage on the undersea Eurostar train to London, and you can reach it from either Brussels or Paris in under three hours.
Though many people travel to Europe to take in the traditional sights and sounds, there’s nothing quite like a trip to an abandoned destination to further entrench your memories. There’s no reason to gloss over the continent’s main attractions, but if you happen to find yourself in one of these cities while on your Eurail journey, it might well be interesting to spend some time embracing your inner urban explorer.