Wordtravels

Wordtravels

The Underground City

The Underground City © Well-rested
The Underground City © Well-rested

For more than 20 years, Beijing's Underground City, a bomb shelter just beneath the ancient capital's downtown area, built in case of nuclear attack, has been virtually forgotten by Beijing locals, despite being rather famous among foreigners since its official opening in 2000. A sign near the entrance announces this rarely visited attraction a 'human fairyland and underground paradise'. Aside from some rather odd recent additions, the Underground City features factories, stores, guesthouses, restaurants, hospitals, schools, theatres, reading-rooms, a roller-skating rink and many other curious features, like a mushroom farm to provide food easily cultivated in darkness. On Mao Zedong's orders, it was built from 1969 to 1979 by more than 300,000 local citizens including school children, mostly by hand. The tunnels were initially intended to accommodate all of Beijing's six million inhabitants upon completion. Winding for over 18 miles (30km) and covering an area of nearly 53 square miles (85 sq km) from eight to 18 meters under the surface, the underground City includes more than 1,000 anti-air raid structures.

Address: Xi Damochang Jie 64

Transport: Metro: Qianmen (exit B)

Opening times: Open daily 9am - 4pm but appointments are by arrangement only and must be booked in advance.

Admission: CNY 20