Abandoned and Intriguing
Stripes Europe September 14, 2023
Sometimes a crumbling structure from a forgotten time has more allure than the polished tourist sites. Try out some urbex (urban exploration) by visiting some of these abandoned locations that are just derelict enough to give off that post-apocalyptic vibe.
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This clifftop village ruin survived the Bronze Age, the Etruscans and the Romans before falling to French forces in 1799. You can still explore the town, its ancient aqueduct and the old castle.
Nearly all residences left Doel when eviction notices announced the town’s demolition in the 1970s as part of the nearby Antwerp harbor expansion. Protests prevented its destruction, so you can now wander the empty streets and admire the graffiti art.
Originally built to house the communist Yugoslavia’s long-range radar, Željava Aerodrome became a massive underground air base able to withstand nuclear bombardment. Bring a high-powered flashlight to explore the old hangars and remnant twisted metal from its destruction, and if you are lucky the local police will let you speed down the runway.
Boasting a long list of eerie stories and claiming to be the world’s most haunted castle, this well-preserved medieval castle has a bloody and violent history. If you are brave enough, contact Sean at leapcastle.net for a visit.
The Jardin D’agronomie Tropicale still houses the relics of a bizarre colonial exhibition from 1907. Built to showcase plants from French colonies, it soon came to house people in a human zoo on display in fenced recreated “native villages”. You can still see the remnants of this all-to-recent injustice in its collapsing state.
A former industrial site has become a public space pulled straight from the world of steampunk at the Landschaftspark in northern Duisburg. The steel walkways are surrounded by pipes and metal structures, the playground slides go through former ore bunkers and a viewing tower sits atop an old blast furnace.
The ghost of Lord Lovell may still be wandering the roofless rooms of Minster Lovell Hall. It was originally built by one of the richest men in the 1430s and changed hands many times over the Middle Ages. You can still visit the ruins of the manor house, tower and dovecote.
The Soča River valley saw some of the bloodiest WW1 battles along what was known as the Isonzo Front. There are empty tunnels built by Russian POWs along the hairpin turns of the Vršič Pass and an abandoned trench system and ruined battery near Kal-Koritnica.
Affectionately dubbed a ghost train station, Geisterbahnhof Olympiapark, resides at the end of a defunct rail line that was built for the 1972 Olympic games. It was abandoned in 1988, but with rumors of a revitalization floating around, you should visit now to see the station in all its post-apocalyptic glory.
Esco Village, Spain
This village was (mostly) abandoned in the 1960s when a new dam flooded the occupants’ former farmland. Set in a scenic arid valley, the crumbling walls still house a few people who graze sheep in the hills above. The road into town is blocked to vehicles, but you can still walk in and explore.
Malpasset Dam, France
Only five years after its construction, the Malpasset dam showed signs of leaking which were ignored by authorities. It broke on December 2, 1959, and swept away two towns before flooding Fréjus. You can still see the wrecked dam and chunks in the river, which nature is slowly eroding away.
J-4 Battery, Spain
The J-4 coastal defense battery is perched above the Atlantic coast just north of the Portugal border. Built by Nationalist forces during the Spanish Civil War, it still houses rusting artillery guns amongst the windowless buildings and underground tunnels.
Perched atop a mountain pass like an alien spaceship, this disc-shaped monument to communism was abandoned in 1989. You can hike up to admire the lofty aspirations and walk around the exterior of this odd structure.
Completed in 1790, this neglected monastery was bombed by the Turks before it could be consecrated. But the solid structure remained. Believed to be cursed, it later housed dying plague victims and is said to be haunted.