6 underground European attractions to beat the heat this summer

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Europe has faced record heat waves this summer, and the heat will be there for a while yet. The UK recently recorded its hottest day ever, with the temperature just over 104 F° (40 C°). Spain even became the first country to implement a naming system for heat waves, much like hurricanes. The same record-breaking heat wave in the UK has been dubbed “Zoe”, which brought temperatures of over 110°F (43°C) to Seville, Spain. Some believe the heat waves will even begin to alter the typical European tourist season. As temperatures soar, one of the best places to escape the heat is the basement, where the temperatures are always milder. We’ve compiled a list of six of the best underground European attractions to beat the heat this summer.

Derinkuyu Underground City – Derinkuyu, Turkey

Woman in Derinkuyu underground city looking up

Imagine tearing down a wall of your house and discovering an entire underground city. In 1963, this is precisely what happened to a man in the province of Nevşehir. After finding a room behind the wall of his house, his curiosity drove him to dig deeper, where he discovered many tunnels and rooms that formed the underground city of Derinkuyu.

Derinkuyu underground city in Turkey

The exact age of the tunnels is unknown, with various experts placing its origins between 1500 and 700 BCE.

  • Today, visitors can enter the city for a fee of 60 Turkish liras (approximately US$3.35) or opt for a guided tour at a higher cost.

The Real Mary King’s Close – Edinburgh, Scotland

the real mary kings closes the entrance sign

Beneath the bustling streets of the Royal Mile, less traveled and much older streets await. The houses and alleys have remained practically intact since the 17e century, offering a unique insight into the past. As the city grew, Edinburgh wanted to build a Royal Exchange and decided to build where Mary King’s relative was.

Rather than demolish all the buildings already there, they removed the upper floors and used the lower floors as foundations for the new Royal Exchange. Now visitors can tour these historic streets and buildings and enjoy costumed tour guides who play the role of historic residents of the Close.

  • Adult tickets are £19.50 (23.50 USD) and child tickets are £12.95 (15.60 USD).

Basilica Cistern Museum – Istanbul, Turkey

Basilica Cistern in Turkey

One of the city’s most impressive historic sites, the Basilica Cistern, sits across from the magnificent Hagia Sophia. The impressive structure is 140m (460ft) long and 70m (230ft) wide. It has 336 columns, each 9 m high, and can hold 100,000 tons of water.

  • Entry to this historic marvel costs 190 Turkish Liras (USD 10.60) and the Cistern is open to the public daily from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Berchtesgaden Salt Mine – Berchtesgaden, Germany

Visitors entering Berchtesgaden Salt Mine by train

After taking a train to enter the mine, venture 130m below the surface and cruise on a raft along Mirror Lake, 100m long and 40m wide. Dazzling lights highlight the cavern’s salt crystals as you make your way across the water. Average temperatures in the mine are around 12 C° (45 F°), making it an ideal escape from the summer heat.

  • Adult tickets cost €21 ($21.38), while child tickets cost €10.90 ($11.10).

Rome Catacombs – Rome, Italy

Rome Catacombs

Rome is home to more than 60 catacombs that stretch several miles underground. Five are currently available for viewing; The Catacombs of San Sebastiano, The Catacombs of San Callisto, The Catacombs of Priscilla, The Catacombs of Domitilla and The Catacombs of Sant’Agnese. The largest and most visited catacombs are the Catacombs of San Callisto, which stretch for 20 km.

  • Visitors can only enter with a guide and are included in the admission price (€10 / $10.18 USD).

Paris Catacombs – Paris, France

Paris catacombs

France recently ended all of its Covid restrictions, making it the perfect time to visit the Paris Catacombs. Visitors will venture down a spiral staircase of 130 steps to begin their visit. While in the catacombs, they will see intricately placed human bones, carvings, and inscriptions. Cameras are allowed, but visitors are not allowed to touch anything.

  • Adult tickets cost €29 ($29.50) and include an audio guide. Children’s tickets cost €5 (USD 5.09) and do not include an audio guide.

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