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February 8, 2023

Abandoned places in Europe: sites that spark Escape Room ideas

Inspiration comes from everywhere, movies, books, theatre, music but sometimes random locations are what makes our imagination work full steem. Europe is full of hidden treasures -  abandoned places which were completely transformed by time and nature. The mystical, magical and sometimes really spooky atmosphere create the perfect backdrop to spark inspirations for new Escape Rooms or puzzles.  

We have curated a list of incredible abandoned places throughout Europe that trigger our creative minds. Read all about it below!

The Ghost City of Fossa, L’Aquila, Italy

The region of L’Aquila in Italy counts many ghost cities after a terrible earthquake hit this part of the country in 2009. The state of emergency was declared in the middle of the night, forcing around 70,000 inhabitants to leave their villages in the span of a few hours, resulting in entire cities being completely abandoned.

Some of them have been rebuilt after this catastrophe but most of them remain empty, in the same state in which it was when people left the place. 

Located in the mountains of Italy, these ghost cities do offer a breathtaking view to the most adventurous of travellers. Houses were left in a rush, beds are still made and family objects can still be found in drawers and shelves. 

Up to 30,000 inhabitants could live in these villages but now nature has been taking over for almost 15 years, breaking into homes and filling the absence of people.

These villages would make perfect playgrounds for an escape room, a treasure hunt or a trail game. Every corner of these streets are full of mysteries, each house has its own story that players could rebuild through scattered objects and hidden locations, making the adventure spooky and thrilling. 

Here is what walking through the empty streets of one of these villages would feel like:

The abandoned hospital of Beelitz Heilstätten, Germany

In Beelitz, Germany, still stands today an abandoned military hospital which witnessed one of the most important eras of our history. 

Already creepy looking, its own history is enough to send shivers down our spines. Built in 1898, this building complex was first used as a sanatorium to treat lung diseases, sometimes fatal ones like tuberculosis was at that time.  

During the First World War, this place was then used as a field hospital to treat German soldiers affected by the newest weapons used on the battlefield: machine guns and mustard gas. Young Adolf Hitler was one of them, blinded by a British gas attack and wounded during the battle of the Somme.

This hospital continued with this function during the Second World War, treating wounded German Soldiers. In 1945 it was then occupied by the Russians and served as a Soviet military hospital until 1995, for 50 years. The site has been abandoned ever since, only a few of its buildings being used today for neurological rehabilitation and Parkinson’s research. 

With these many layers of history, the atmosphere is already set and the location clearly looks like it’s straight out of a movie. This location was actually used to film some scenes of the movie The Pianist (2002). 

An escape game about spies, World War II and mysterious diseases is easy to imagine in such an incredible location, though it might not be fit for the faint of heart.

Europe’s biggest car cemetery, Sweden

Båstnäs’ forest in Sweden hides the biggest collection of old cars of Europe, more than a thousand vehicles were left here in Mother Nature’s mercy ever since the Second World War ended.

This place originally belonged to two brothers who ran a car scrapyard in the 50’s, getting these vehicles from American soldiers leaving Europe after the war. They stopped their spare parts trade business in the 80’s and since then, these incredible carcasses have been abandoned here.

These two brothers still live in the area, in two different parts of the forest and don’t mind explorers, photographers and artists coming here to get inspiration from this mesmerising cemetery. 

The owners of this place did however leave a message for future visitors, asking them to leave this place as it is so that everyone can have the same experience. They added another part to this message, a much more threatening one:

“After about 30 burglaries this year I’m fed up with it! I’ve made traps in the buildings so if you get hurt or die, I DON’T CARE! Remember in this place no one can hear you scream…”

Makes you think twice before adventuring yourself in these lands, but the danger and mystery of it all makes the whole journey even more worth it, right?

Each car that was left here is worth around 120€, making this whole scrapyard worth more than 120 000€. Thinking about the past glory of these vehicles is enough to make any collector feel dizzy. 

This forest would make a perfect location for a post-apocalyptic themed escape experience. Branches breaking through the cars’ windows, flowers and plants growing back on these carcasses, whether it happens in the middle of the day or in the dead of the night, the atmosphere would be breathtaking. 

Wondering how walking in this giant cemetery would feel like? We’ve got just the thing for you:

The abandoned Castle of Miranda, Belgium

Built in a neo-gothic style, the Miranda Castle, also called “Castle of Noisy”, looks straight out of a dark fairy tale. Imagining an old vampire coming down from the highest bell tower just makes sense.

This castle was originally commissioned by Count Liedekerke-De Beaufort to be a summer house in 1886. It was designed by the English architect Edward Milner who unfortunately died before completing it, passing it on to a French architect. 

The castle was finally finished in 1907 and the Count’s family, who had fled their primary home to seek safety during the French Revolution, settled here in Belgium’s countryside. They lived here until the Second World War ravaged the farmlands of the country.

This place was then used as a camp for German soldiers and the bloody Battle of the Bulge, (also called the Ardennes Offensive), took place in this very location towards the end of the war. The castle was then turned into a children's summer camp before becoming a well-known holiday destination in Belgium until the place closed in the 1970’s.

The Miranda Castle was made of more than 500 windows, gothic and cathedral-like arches, French gardens and turrets. But time took over as soon as it was left to rot in 1991 after its owner unsuccessfully tried to search for investors. It was demolished in 2017 after a fire caused parts of the roof to collapse, putting an end to this incredible location’s life.

It’s easy to imagine masquerade balls happening in the castle’s rooms, or a WWII battle being reenacted in its ruins. Historical places like this hold so many mysterious powers that it’s difficult to pick just one idea.

Here is what this mystical castle looked like before disappearing forever:

The never opened Amusement Park of Pripyat, Ukraine

This Ukrainian amusement park was to officially open its gates on the 1rst of May 1986 and prepared this grand opening with festive decorations, ready to welcome its eager visitors. 

However, the park never officially opened, only welcoming the public on the 27th of April 1986, as a way to entertain people preparing to leave the city after the Chernobyl disaster of April 26.

Pripyat’s amusement park never got the chance to hear the happy screams of children excited to try its new rides and has been abandoned ever since that day. The city was deserted after the nuclear catastrophe and everything was left to crumble.

Today, the large Ferris wheel is still standing and bumper cards, parachute rides and other shooting ranges can be found, slowly being eaten by nature. People often visit the deserted city and leave stuffed animals and plushies on the old cars, as a memorial.

The amusement park was in fact completed just a few days before the accident of Chernobyl, and today, its atmosphere is still intact, despite having been swept away by radioactive waves. Signs can be found every couple of metres to warn visitors of the different radiation levels still present in this wasteland.

The post-apocalyptic setting is breathtaking and the location perfect for yet another survival themed escape experience. The spookiness of the abandoned rides and the Ferris wheel standing on its own as a reminder of what happened here is enough to send shivers down your spine. But still, very inspiring.

From Ruins to Adventures: Unlocking Creativity for Escape Room Enthusiasts

Whether it is for their ever so mysterious stories and backgrounds or for the incredible atmosphere that they portray, these abandoned places are great inspiration that stimulate our minds for many different reasons. A new plot? An investigation game? New decorations? Nature and time do really work wonders in creating puzzling places that make us want to create more.