1. The Bomb Shelter in The White House
The White House probably has quite a few secret spaces. The bomb shelter is one you’re allowed to know about without security clearing but not many people do. The shelter was built in 1941, under the guise of the general construction of the East Wing, during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The official White House website claims the president protested against the construction of the air-raid shelter, but it was added anyway.
2. The Hall of Records in Mount Rushmore
Behind Lincoln’s head, carved on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, lies a little secret room, used as a “hall of records”. The chamber, which is inaccessible to the public, contains copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The monument’s sculptor Gutzon Borglum envisioned an 800-foot stairway with a large bronze eagle at the entrance. Above the eagle, an inscription would read, “America’s Onward March” and “The Hall of Records.”
The walls were meant to be carved with written descriptions of America’s nine most important events from 1776 to 1906. Unfortunately, Borglum died in 1941, before his project could come to life. In 1998, monument officials partially revived his dream and made the room a safe house for America’s history.
3. The Secret Cinema in Paris Catacombs
It is not a secret that there are 200 miles of tunnels laid beneath the French capital. What was unknown until 2004 is that in an uncharted part of the catacombs lies a secret, fully equipped cinema that could hold up to 20 viewers, complete with a fully stocked bar and a dining area.
It was discovered by the police when they were patrolling the catacombs under Palais de Chaillot, a building once home to Cinémathèque Française. This cool elaborate facility was built by the UX (the Urban eXperiment), an underground organization that secretly improves and restores hidden corners of Paris which are historically significant but were neglected by the government, mostly due to lack of funds.
4. The Secret Passageway in Buckingham Palace
In 2018, a secret passageway was revealed by Anna Reynolds, a curator of the Royal Collection Trust. If you pull on a small handle behind an ornate floor-to-ceiling mirror in the White Drawing Room, the entire thing swings forward to reveal a passageway leading to the Queen’s private apartment.
“Often when the Queen is meeting guests, they’re lined up here in the music room. It allows her to make an entrance without having to walk through all the Palace rooms,” Anna explained. The passageway isn’t accessible to tourists, of course, but the White Drawing Room is, so keep an eye for the mirror if you happen to stop by.
5. The Secret Room in Medici Chapels
In 1975, the then director of the Medici chapel museum in Florence Paolo Dal Poggetto was searching for a new exit route for visitors. While exploring, he stumbled upon a trapdoor underneath a wardrobe, leading to what seemed to be a storage space.
After weeks of plaster removal and meticulous cleaning of the walls, Del Poggotto’s suspicions turned out to be true - the room contained a hidden treasure. Scores of charcoals and chalk doodles were revealed. Although the work is not signed, there are some hallmarks of Michaelangelo’s signature style. The room has been closed for renovations ever since, but plans are underway for it to open to the public sometime in 2020.
6. The Bus Station Under Carter Hotel in NYC
The Hotel Carter in Times Square has quite a seedy reputation. In fact, it has made it to TripAdvisor's ‘Dirtiest Hotels in America’ more than once. But it turns out there is more to it. The Carter was known for much of its life as Hotel Dixie. At the time it was opened in April 1930 the Dixie was home to the Central Union Bus Terminal, which at the time was the largest enclosed bus station in New York.
“Buses entered beside the hotel’s entrance on West 43rd and proceeded underground. After descending underground, buses would rotate on a 35-foot turntable, then proceed into a designated berth," explains Scouting New York. The station has been since turned into a parking lot, but you can still see the turntable if you venture down there.
7. The Balcony In the Statue of Liberty's Torch
Until a century ago, tourists were allowed to climb onto a platform on the Statue of Liberty’s torch. On July 30th, 1916, German agents blew up a military warehouse located in a nearby island, which contained supplies that were meant to be sent to Europe and aid British troops in World War I.
The explosion sent shrapnel into Lady Liberty, and the torch was damaged. US authorities have not reopened the torch balcony to the public ever since, in fear of similar attacks. It is however possible to enjoy the view through a webcam perched on the balcony.
8. The Tiny Police Station at Trafalgar Square
The most observant visitors might notice that there is one lamp post in London’s busy Trafalgar Square that is more than meets the eye. The door on the lamppost leads into London’s smallest police station, which only has room for one police officer.
It was installed in 1926, so that police could keep an eye on the frequent protests that took place in the square. Allegedly, there was even a direct phone line to the Scotland Yard. You can peek inside, but unfortunately, you won’t find anything exciting behind the door these days, as the room is being used as a broom closet.