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Referred to as RÉSO or La Ville Souterraine, Montréal‘s huge underground city has everything you could want: stores, apartment buildings, hotels, banks, offices, schools, a theatre and arena, and several modes of transport, including both trains and buses. With 120 separate entrances, there are plenty of ways to get in during Montréal’s frigid winters, helping inhabitants stay warm when conditions might be dangerous. Though Montréal’s underground city is touted as a huge tourist destination, it is just a piece of everyday life for Montréal’s citizens, serving as a spot to live their lives and get across the city while staying out of the cold.
Holder of the Guinness World Record for the ‘largest underground shopping complex,’ Toronto’s PATH system is an enormous underground system spanning 19 miles (30 kilometers) of the city. While it serves more as a connecting walkway between different areas of Toronto and less as a full ‘underground city,’ it remains the easiest way to escape the cold Canadian winter.
Matmata is located in southern Tunisia and is a small city made up of buildings called ‘troglodyte’ – meaning ‘cave-dweller’ structures – where over 2,000 inhabitants live full time. The buildings are created by digging a pit and forming artificial cave walls to make a living space. Though these structures were only rediscovered in 1967, it has already taken on a decent amount of fame — the Hotel Sidi Driss, located directly in Matmata, was used in Star Wars: A New Hope as Luke Skywalker’s childhood home on Tattooine (with another featured spot in one of the Star Wars prequels, Attack Of The Clones).
In 1969, former Chinese leader Mao Zedong, ordered that tunnels and bunkers be built under Beijing in case the city was bombed, which led to 19 miles (30 kilometers) of space underneath the city. While the space holds basic living amenities like homes, schools, entertainment venues and even frivolities like a roller-skating rink, the space was primarily built as a defense space, and the rumor was that each home even included a trap door so that residents could get to the center of the space safely in case of an attack. Though the space was never officially used and is now mostly a tourist attraction, there were residents illegally living underneath Beijing as recently as 2014, due to rising rent costs in the city proper.
Though the Pyramids of Giza are, of course, a site within themselves, visitors may not know that there is a secret, and wholly abandoned city hiding underneath the ancient structures. Made up of chambers and tunnels, researchers didn’t begin researching the space until 1978, and upon finding it, they began mapping out how the city comes together in order to discover what its purpose was, naming it the ‘City of the Gods.’ Though some still believe it may not exist, researchers continue to inch towards a more complete discovery of this ancient, massive city and why it was built.
Coober Pedy, a small, underground city in Australia that houses around 1,600 residents, also serves an important mining purpose, as it is known as the ‘opal capital of the world.’ The dugouts and mines coexist with homes, shops, restaurants and other features, as the space is twofold — apart from the opal mines, the homes were built to escape the severe heat that affects Southern Australia and to hide from the dingoes that roam the immediate area. Despite its working reputation, the town is a cozy and friendly place to live beyond the mines and even contains a church and a graveyard for its residents.
Though Cappadocia is notorious for its underground cities, the biggest and most famous is Derinkuyu. Made up of seven underground levels, this city once housed upwards of thousands of residents (its capacity is said to be 20,000 people) and contained an entire civilization, including shops, markets, schools, and even primitive wineries. Derinkuyu has been open to the public since 1969 but only about half is available as a tourist attraction.
Derinkuyu, Bayramlı, 50700 Derinkuyu/Nevşehir, Turkey, +90 384 381 3194
Built in the 1950s for the English government to escape to in case of a nuclear war, Burlington (which is the city’s code name) was designed to hold up to 4,000 government employees – but apparently, not their families. However, Burlington’s sheer scale was massive — constructed in a stone quarry, it spanned 60 miles (95 kilometers) and housed hospitals, a water treatment plant, a train station, a pub, and even a BBC station where the Prime Minister could broadcast in case of a nuclear blast. It even continued to function until 1991, when the Cold War officially came to an end.
Located in London’s classy Financial District, Canary Wharf‘s shopping district is entirely below ground and contains a huge selection of stores as well as housing a popular, busy subway station. It connects to three different stations via its shopping malls, which include Canada, Cabot, and Jubilee Place — indeed, you can also get to Jubilee Park quite easily from here. With over 200 restaurants, cafés and stores, you’ll have plenty of options from which to choose.
Chicago’s Pedway is more of a tunnel system than an underground city, per se, but it does keep the city of Chicago connected, as it runs between skyscrapers and hosts different stores, cafés and features while keeping Chicago residents out of the freezing cold. Spanning over 40 blocks in the downtown area of Chicago, the space even houses a few residential buildings and connects to some hotels as well, though the majority of the connections are between commercially owned or government owned real estate.
Though the main purpose of Empire State Plaza in Albany, New York‘s capital city, is to house government buildings for the state which are fully above ground, there is also an ‘underground city’ concourse full of shops, recreation, and restaurants so that government employees can head below ground to play once they’re done with their workday. In addition to plenty of spots to visit, shop at, and dine in, the concourse also holds many precious and original works of art from famous artists like Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Alexander Calder.