There's more to iconic landmarks than meets the eye, and when you dig deeper, eye-opening surprises await. Hidden deep within the walls of the world's most notorious sights, you'll discover everything from secret compartments to churches, cemeteries, passageways, and much more. These destinations make the world's wonders even more incredible, showing that history holds surprising secrets our imagination can't quite comprehend. While some of these sites are open to the public and others remain hidden, interesting stories abound.
The Eiffel Tower is one of the most iconic landmarks on earth, with millions of annual visitors. While they can travel straight to the top, glimpse the city from every angle, and experience a romantic dinner with a view, one stop remains entirely off-limits — a one-of-a-kind top-floor apartment designed exclusively for Gustav Eiffel himself. He's the only one who's ever lived there, and he refused to sell it to anyone else, regardless of the price. Using it to host close-knit gatherings during his lifetime, the apartment remains furnished with his decor.
The Vatican houses countless secrets, from long-lost tunnels to abandoned spaces from centuries gone by. However, the most macabre is the expansive catacomb hidden beneath St. Peter's Basilica. Essentially a second city for the dead, this massive grave houses mysterious figures at depths between 16 and 40 feet underground. Over 1,000 graves are buried there, some dating back to the Imperial Period of Ancient Rome. The first Pope, Peter, and Jesus's disciples are rumored to call the cemetery their final resting place.
The Great Pyramid of Giza, built to memorialize Pharaoh Khufu between 2550 and 2490 BCE, is the largest of the ancient Egyptian pyramids, so not every space has been discovered in detail. Filled with secret rooms and hidden passages, the most mesmerizing is a recently discovered 400-foot tall secret chamber. A second, smaller passage has also been identified. While archaeologists aren't 100% sure about the purpose, many believe this is the opening to Khufu's hidden burial chamber — a site that remains unexplored after thousands of years.
Visit New York, and One Times Square is impossible not to notice, imposing over the avenue with its around-the-clock advertisements and eye-catching grandeur. Step inside, however, and you'll discover a surprise... nothing. That's right, absolutely nothing. While a pharmacy takes up space on the ground floor, the rest of the building is brimming with vacant offices, including supplies and equipment from decades past. After its bankruptcy in 1992, the building was sold solely for advertising purposes, with the interior left empty for the unforeseen future.
Niagara Falls is one of North America's most popular tourist destinations, but a quaint limestone cave carved into the gorge's side is hidden away from the action. It was given its name by the Seneca people, who believed that the darkened den housed an inimitable spirit. Notable explorers, including Robert Cavalier de LaSalle, didn't heed the warnings and stepped inside, suffering the penalties when he was abandoned by his team, lost his fortune, and was murdered by his own men. According to legend, the spot is not just haunted but cursed, and visitors can explore at their own risk.
Another New York City must-see, the Statue of Liberty, is an American icon that's enchanted visitors from across the globe. While you can still travel to the top, did you know that the torch was also open for adventuring? Until 1916, tourists could explore the room enclosed within Liberty's torch, capturing an entirely new view of the city. After a WWI explosion damaged the infrastructure, the room was closed. It remains off-limits to this day. A TorchCam can give curious travelers a small peek inside.
There's a hidden door behind Lincoln's head, and it's home to some bold ambitions. Built between 1938 and 1939, the Hall of Records was meant to honor American history in-depth, with plans to hold vital historical documents like the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, busts of famous Americans, and a list of U.S. contributions to the arts and sciences. When creator Gutzon Borglum died in 1941, work came to a close, and the room was sealed off to the public.
Hidden deep in the Worcestershire countryside, Harvington Hall holds many secrets. The site was used as a hideout for Catholic priests fleeing persecution during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, and it still houses rare antiques and paintings from that era. Also held within are seven secret crawl spaces known as priest holes. Regarded as "The House of Secrets," there's plenty to discover, but these cramp, cold, dark spaces are by far the most terrifying. In the 16th century, priest hunters stripped the paneling and floors of great houses around the country, playing a petrifying game of hide-and-seek. While the terror is long gone, these spaces remain open for exploration today.
While many visitors are aware of this not-so-secret destination, few have actually seen it. Nestled directly under the palace's roof, this notorious prison was harsh on its inhabitants, covered with sturdy lead slabs that conducted heat in summer and passed cold through in winter. During its 400-year history, only one person escaped to this difficult destination — renowned lothario Giacomo Casanova in 1765. Top-secret tours are available for a limited number of guests to make their way through.
Sunday service was conducted in secret in this hidden church with a marble altar and pews for a 150-person congregation. Attended by locals in the 17th century, this attic church was hidden away to avoid Catholic persecution. On the outside, it's a traditional home that blends in effortlessly with its surroundings. Once you head up the stairs, however, the attic church comes into view, and tourists are free to explore it in full, including remaining artifacts from the period.