Millions of people travel across the world to experience the beauty, grandeur, and heritage of some of the planet’s most popular landmarks. However, there is often more than meets the eye to many historic attractions, things most tourists will never realize are there. For example, many famous landmarks house hidden spaces you may not notice at first glance.
Here are ten secret places inside the world’s most famous landmarks. Some of them can be visited by those with sufficient funds or the right connections. Others are entirely off-limits.
Mount Rushmore is easily one of the most recognizable landmarks in the United States, as it depicts four of the arguably most famous presidents in US history: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Yet, many people might not be aware that behind the chiseled sculpture of Abraham Lincoln is a hidden room, which is known as the Hall of Records. The secret room is roughly lined up with Lincoln’s forehead, and it contains text from some of America’s most important documents.
The designer of the famous political monument, Gutzon Borglum, originally wanted the room to serve as a vault for a selection of US documents. In fact, his vision was to install an 240-meter (800 ft) stairway that would lead to the grand hall, which would measure 24 meters by 30 meters (80 ft x 100 ft) and would be directly behind the US presidents’ sculpted faces. Inside the hall would be busts of great Americans from history, as well as a list of US contributions to industry, science, and the arts. Tragically, Borglum’s vision was halted due to his death in 1941. However, in 1998, monument officials chose to make Borglum’s dream a reality by maintaining records from American history in the secret hall.
The Eiffel Tower is one of the most famous landmarks in the world, which is why the city of Paris welcomes millions of tourists year after year. You might, however, be surprised to learn that the historic landmark features a secret apartment. Those who are lucky enough to visit the top of the structure will not only absorb the mesmerizing views of the French capital, but they might also enjoy a glimpse inside the secret apartment and office, which has only recently been opened to the public.
Gustave Eiffel, the structure’s engineer, built a private apartment for himself inside the landmark in 1889, and only he had access to this hidden room throughout his lifetime. In fact, many Parisians offered to rent the apartment for one night only, but he always refused, wanting to keep the space all to himself and the occasional guest. Visitors can now finally take a step inside the private apartment, which has been restored to its original condition. They can also view mannequins of Gustave, his daughter, and Thomas Edison, who he regularly entertained at the apartment.
The Waldorf Astoria is deemed one of the most luxurious hotels in New York. While many more modern hotels have emerged over the ensuing decades, it has continued to welcome every sitting US president, from Hoover to Obama. Many people might, however, be unaware that there is a secret train station located below the hotel, as the secluded platform was introduced to help President Franklin D. Roosevelt to inconspicuously travel from the presidential suite to Hyde Park, which was his childhood home. Track 61 was an integral mode of transportation during World War II, as the president’s private railway car could pull up inside the station, and he could take an elevator to gain direct access to the hotel. It is also believed that FDR used the train to hide his paralysis from the public.
The platform remains in use today, and it can be reached within minutes from JFK Airport. The Secret Service has been sworn to secrecy regarding some of its features. While the platform is still in working order, FDR’s custom locomotive now sits abandoned under the hotel.
Millions of people visit the Statue of Liberty every year, with many tourists stepping inside the structure’s crown to enjoy beautiful views of New York City. Yet, many people might be unaware that it is possible to climb higher within the structure. Until June 30, 1916, tourists were able to enter a room located inside the Statue of Liberty’s torch, which offered breathtaking panoramic views of the city.
However, access was denied to the public when the pier between Jersey City and Black Tom Island was blown up by German agents. Sadly, the explosion ripped through various buildings nearby, which caused serious or fatal injuries for hundreds of people. Debris from the explosion became embedded within the Statue of Liberty’s arm, which made the route to the panoramic room unsafe for the public. The arm was repaired, but only National Park Service staff can enter the torch, and they must climb a narrow 12-meter (40 ft) ladder to gain access to the torch and maintain the floodlights.
Travelers are welcomed into Rome by the Leonardo da Vinci statue located at Fiumicino-Leonardo da Vinci Airport. Yet, there is more to the structure than you might realize at first glance. Despite the 18-meter (60 ft) bronze statue being unveiled in 1960, the hidden hatch located halfway up the structure was not found until its renovation in 2006.
Workers found two parchments inside the statue. One parchment detailed the area’s history in classical Latin, while the other listed the attendees from the opening ceremony. It is believed both the hatch and parchments were the brainchild of Assen Peikov, the Bulgarian artist who won the competition to design the work of art.
You will not find a drop of alcohol in Disneyland unless you step inside the exclusive Club 33. It would be easy to walk past the club, as it sits behind an unmarked door in New Orleans Square. It was originally created as a place for Walt Disney to entertain his guests and business associates. Unfortunately, he died five months before Club 33 was officially opened.
Only those who become a member can now step inside the club, which offers both a restaurant and jazz lounge, known as Le Salon Nouveau, as well as access to the 1901 Lounge in California Adventure. Membership is not cheap; depending on the level of membership, the initiation fee reportedly costs between $25,000 and $100,000, followed by a $12,500 to $30,000 annual fee. The waiting list is reportedly years long.
Niagara Falls is the umbrella name of the three waterfalls located along the international border between the state of New York and the province Ontario. Located a stone’s throw away from Niagara Falls is Devil’s Hole State Park, which many people visit to experience the beauty of the waterfalls. A cave inside the park was given the nickname “the Cave of the Evil Spirit” by the Seneca due to their belief that an evil spirit was trapped inside. It was believed that only warriors who were ready for battle would enter the cave.
The Devil’s Hole Massacre was a battle that took place between the Seneca and British soldiers in 1763. After the Seneca won the battle, they warned the British of the cave to prevent them from trespassing on the land. There is also a superstition that anyone who steals a rock from the cave will experience bad luck.
The Empire State Building has been a tourist hot spot for nearly a century, as visitors have been enjoying the New York skyline since 1931. While most people can view the city from the observation deck on the 86th floor and the top deck on the 102nd floor, you might be surprised to learn that some visitors can experience an even better view on the private 103rd floor.
The secret deck offers only a knee-high ledge with a low railing, and visitors need to take a series of escalators to reach it. The elevator ride alone will be a unique experience, as visitors will pass the inner workings of the building on their journey up to the secret floor. It is an experience often only available to VIP guests, such as celebrities and dignitaries. For example, Taylor Swift had the pleasure of experiencing the VIP observation deck back in 2014.
The Colosseum welcomes four million tourists annually, who visit the landmark to view the Flavian Amphitheatre, which dates back to AD 80. Yet, many people might not realize that there is a network of (now exposed) underground tunnels below street level, called the Hypogeum, which were used to house various animals, such as lions and bears, which were then lifted into the gladiator arena via a pulley.
The maze was hailed as a superb archaeological discovery when it was initially uncovered. The Hypogeum is now open to the public, but tours are limited to a maximum of 25 people each time. Archaeologists have, however, criticized the tours, as they believe they could put the structure at risk.
Trafalgar Square might be well-regarded for its remarkable architecture and beautiful fountains, but it also features a hidden room you could easily miss. The public square is the home of Britain’s smallest police station, which is located on the southeast corner of Trafalgar Square.
The tiny station was built in 1926 to serve as a watch post, as the square was often the location of many protests, riots, and marches. It therefore only offers enough space for one police officer or two prisoners. The box is no longer in use by the police and is now simply used as a broom closet for Westminster Council cleaners.
Elisabeth Sedgwick is An English freelance writer. You can view her growing portfolio at clippings.me/elisabethsedgwick.