Have you always wished to be some kind of tomb raider, looking for adventure where others only see ruins? Why not start living that dream? Put on your exploring boots, head for the road – and get exploring like Lara Croft!
There’s something about abandoned places that just screams adventure, making us want to jump out of our chairs and explore what others left to be forgotten. A roller coaster that was once filled with laughs, tears and adrenaline; the classroom where children (now old enough to be your grandparents) passed funny notes to each other; the asylum where unimaginably crazy experiments took place – all consumed by nature’s power that transformed these places into just memories. We made you a list of Europe’s most beautiful abandoned places, so you can explore much more than just the usual tourist attractions: time itself.
1. São Domingos Mine, Portugal
The first destination is one of the most precious ones on this list. Literally, since that’s why this place exists in the first place: a gold, silver and copper mine, emptied out and waiting for you since 1966.
Nowadays, some tourists still come here to visit some of the original buildings, but don’t expect massive crowds. Actually, expect to be greeted by silence. Just come and enjoy the calmth, which these days is almost as rare as gold – but if you do find a big chunk of gold, try not breaking the silence by being a cheerful eccentric and shouting: that’s MINE!
2. Balestrino, Italy
This beautiful ghost town is proof that, fortunately, we can be haunted by amazing things. No one will ever get tired of looking at this magical place, not even in dreams – and, believe us, it will follow you there.
But do you know what people say about dreams? That they’re “too good to be true?”. Well… We’re sorry to inform you that is explicitly forbidden to enter this town. Why? The buildings are falling apart due to the area’s hydrogeological instability. Luckily, you can still see it at a safe distance and take amazing pictures of it. And hey, it’s better to take a piece of it with you in the form of a photograph instead of being crushed by crumbling buildings, don’t you think?
3. Craco, Matera, Italy
No, this is not a déjà vu – especially because it’s not in France. Apparently, Italy is the country of ghost towns. This second one is in the southern Italian region of Basilicata and is well known for being where the movie “The Passion of the Christ” was filmed.
How does an incredible place like this get uninhibited? Basically, it was all due to landslides that got it abandoned in 1963. Nowadays, it’s a tourist attraction (no wonder!) and it’s on the watch list of the World Monuments Fund.
4. Lake Reschen church, Italy
Image your electricity company deciding to build a dam to provide you with electricity. Pretty ok, right? Well, what if that dam flooded the whole area where you lived? Yup, this is what happened here. By the way, the town’s church was way taller than what they expected the water could cover, making it an unmissable abandoned place in Europe today.
But the weirdly-crazy story doesn’t end here. Rumour has it that on cold nights you can still hear the churches bells ringing. What’s the problem about this? None, if the bells weren’t removed one week before the “voluntary flood”, in 1950!
5. Valle dei Mulini (Valley of the Mills), Sorrento, Italy
Life has its ups and downs; this valley is proof of that. Once the centre of flourishing business models due to the waters on the bottom of this crevasse (that used to power flouring mills and sawmills), now it’s just a cluster of ruins crumbling a little bit more day by day.
This valley owes its origin to a huge eruption that devastated all of the Mediterranean area 35.000 years ago. How something that tragic became something so beautiful is for you to contemplate!
6. Spreepark, Berlin, Germany
Have you ever played those beautiful post-apocalyptic video games where nature has taken control of cities and everything humans ever touched? Well, Spreepark is exactly like that. A theme park lost in time, where nature has its fun covering everything in green year after year.
At the moment, it’s possible to make a visit during the weekend – if you book a guided tour. A Ferris wheel, a roller coaster and other abandoned attractions are waiting for you. But if you decide not to go there, well, it’s not the end of the world… Or is it?
7. 1936 Olympic Village, Berlin, Germany
The best way to showcase the mightiness of a country is through the Olympics. At least that’s what some country-leaders think, and Adolf Hitler wasn’t any different.
That’s why he ordered the construction of this place: an Olympic Village to show Germany’s greatness to the whole world. After the Olympics (Germany won 89 medals), this village was transformed into a military school, then occupied by the Soviets after WWII and abandoned when the last Russian soldiers left, in 1992.
8. The Chateau de Noisy, Dinant, Belgium
We’re sorry to say that this place has already been demolished. But one thing that cannot be taken down is the history of this spine-chilling ex-manor. First, it was owned by French aristocrats that escaped the guillotine. Then, it was turned into a children’s orphanage (there’s nothing like this for an epic horror story, right?), it was taken by the Nazis during World War II and finally, in 1992, it was forgotten – then acts of vandalism, a major fire and huge storms led this chateau to ruin.
Despite the strange occurrences that happened here (where did you think the name “Chateau Noisy” came from?), this manor was recurrently visited by curious explorers and photographers – and, for their safety, the current owners had to demolish this beautiful place.
9. Dadipark In Dadizele, Belgium
To save you from future disappointment, like the previous example, this place was demolished. But it’s too incredible to be left out. Can you believe this themed park once was a playground for children of the Basilica of Our Lady of Dadizele? Fast enough, the schoolyard equipment was replaced with amusement rides, giving it a new life full crazy moments, tourists and families.
Unfortunately, after an accident in 2000, the park was closed for maintenance and never reopened ever since, leaving those rides to blend with nature.
10. Kasteel Van Mesen In Lede, Belgium
We all have that friend who’s a master of impressions. This castle is almost the same, with the panoply of things it already was: a private castle (home), a gin distillery, a sugar refinery, a potash refinery, a tobacco factory and lastly a boarding school.
Today, it’s just a ruin of what once was a place of great importance to the aristocracy. Even being marginally vandalized, it’s so beautiful it has become something else once again: an amazing place to visit.
11. Hasard de Cheratte coal mine, Liège, Belgium
Usually when you think about “coal mines”, you think of dark, rough and ugly places, right? Well, clearly this is not the case here: a huge and beautiful neo-gothic coal mine waiting to be explored.
More than 1500 miners worked here in the 1860’s. 117 years of mining later, the place was closed, and it was considered a monument left to be forgotten. And a living monument, if you allow us the audacity, since it was left untouched, still with original masks, shoes and shirts spread around the coal mine. Today, you can explore it in full, but you’ll need a couple of days to be able to do it.
12. Power Plant IM, Charleroi, Belgium
Once the main power source of Charleroi, this power plant tower now energizes any explorer that craves for adventure in abandoned places.
Built in 1921, it was completely abandoned in 2007 after being responsible for 10% of Belgium’s total CO2 emissions. Nowadays, you can visit this place and be amazed by natures’ mightiness and also by its silence – sometimes interrupted by weird unexplainable sounds.
13. Colonnade, Baron Hill manor, Anglesey, Wales
Built in 1612, this manor lived through some incredible (and terrible) things. As you can imagine, it withstood two Great Wars, several resizes, and time itself. But, unfortunately, it was a victim of a major fire in the Second World War, being permanently damaged, which led to its abandonment.
Today it has no ceiling, no windows or doors (maybe that’s why nature didn’t even knock when took control of the manor) which means years of permanent exposure to extreme weather conditions, making of this house an authentic enchanted ruin that you need to pay a visit to.
14. Denbigh Asylum, Wales
We know what you’re thinking: “How can an asylum be one of Europe’s most beautiful abandoned places? It must be haunted!”. Well… Yes. It’s both amazingly beautiful and, some say, haunted. But this last thing is not important at all (who believes in ghosts, after all?). Abandoned in 1995, this asylum is already completely wrecked, since it was looted and vandalized several times – but its structure is still the same with a touch of green here and there, giving it a natural charm.
This incredibly huge place was home for more than 1500 patients, all with a history of mental illness. The crazy ghosts’ stories had to come from somewhere, right? If you still have the guts to visit this place, keep in mind that it’s guarded, which means you may need some kind of authorisation to enter the building.
15. Kilchurn Castle, Scotland
Welcome to Scotland, the country of men’s skirts, mighty family clans, epic battles, jaw-dropping landscapes, and home of a great part of Europe’s medieval castles – like this Kilchurn Castle.
Property of the Campbell Clan for more than 600 years, this castle, located at the head of the river Awe, was abandoned in the 1700s. Despite its tragic fate (several storms led to its ruin-look), it’s one of the most photographed castles in Scotland – no wonder, right? You can visit it free of charge, but remember it’s closed between October and March (which, of course, will not stop you from taking beautiful shots of this historic lake powerbase).
16. Maunsell Army Sea Forts, England
Imagine you’re in the middle of the ocean. Then, out of nowhere, you see 6 rusty structures rising from the water. No, you’re not in War of the Worlds, but you’re not far from it: they’re remains of the Second World War.
These weird buildings are anti-aircraft tower-forts, used during the war to protect the country from enemies’ attacks. After the war, these towers were abandoned and taken over as pirate radio stations. Today they’re open to be explored, but you’ll need a boat ride to get there.
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