The Secret Worlds of Underground Palaces

Do you think that there is nothing left to explore on Earth, or that we know everything about our history that we should? While today we have unearthed more mysteries than ever before, as well as having an unprecedented ease of access to the answers to nearly any question – there are places rooted far back in history which continue to evade us, and other forgotten histories whose evidence still slumbers.

Some perfect examples of this phenomena lie in spaces hidden away underground. Though it may sound like a fantasy novel, there are entire cities and palaces which never see the light of day, that reamined hidden for years from society. Here are just a handful of those places:

  1. Coudenberg Palace (Brussels, Belgium)

17th Century Painting of Coudenberg Palace

Over a year ago, I stumbled onto Coudenberg while I was travelling in Brussels. Beneath the royal square, or “Place des Palais,” lies the remains of this once grand palace. With twisting tunnels of cobblestone and concrete, ornate archways, and grand stairways which now lead to nothing – it is easy to tell that the location was truly regal, and far larger than what can be explored by the public today. Originally built in 1100, the castle was a cornerstone of history in Brussels, housing numerous monarchs, such as Charles V, and their representatives. However, in 1731, a fire broke out in the palace which destroyed everything but the chapel. With the cost of repair and demolition being exorbitant, the palace was left in ruins until Charles Alexander of Lorraine began its transition into a Royal Square, built on top of the palace remains. Though the building is now buried, it can still be accessed via the Bellevue museum, where you can explore many of the castle’s preserved rooms. Nonetheless, there are multiple areas that were unable to be completely restored, and others that are completely inaccessible to the public, as they are too dangerous to explore.

  1. Subterra Castle (Eskridge, Kansas)

Subterra Drum Circle, image courtesy of

This “castle” wasn’t always such. In 1994, Edward and Dianna Peden claimed an underground property 23 miles west of Topeca, but this was not just any building they purchased. They decided that they would renovate, and then live in, an abandoned nuclear silo built during the Cold War. In its past, the subterranean building housed an Atlas E intercontinental ballistic missile, and if you’re not sure what that means, just know that it probably could have killed everyone in the 34-acre estate if detonated. Today, the space is adorned with tapestries, fuzzy carpets, and ornate hanging light fixtures – a far cry from the ominous concrete and metal arsenal that it once was. To the owners, Subterra Castle is a place upholding, per their website, “a vision of a healthy, healing, community environment, nurturing Body, Mind, and Spirit.” Though the estate is private today, the owners embrace the history of their home, and are more than willing to give scheduled tours.

  1. Zhāngbì Underground Castle (Píngyáo, China)

Zhāngbì Ancient Castle, image courtesy of Mariane Ballesteros

Okay, this last one isn’t exactly a “castle” as advertised. Above ground, Zhāngbì is a traditional, ancient Chinese royal estate dating back 1400 years. But for many today, the real significance of this building is 26 meters beneath it. There lies over 10 kilometers of defense tunnels. While the passages were initially made near the end of the Sui dynasty in the interest of evacuating the royal family should there be an attack or other disaster, they were ultimately never used for their intended purpose. Instead, there are hidden rooms shooting off of the main path frequently, each serving wildly different purposes. Some were made for mundane reasons, such as food storage, while others were used to torture prisoners. The oldest and most extensive tunnel of its kind still known and accessible to the public today, tours are held from 8:00 A.M. – 6:30 P.M. on most days of the week for a price of ¥60, but know that the site can only be accessed by driving there directly.

Any underground palaces that we didn’t cover? Personal stories from exploring similar ruins? Tell us about them in the comments below!


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