Urban Exploration, often referred to as Urbex, is a fascinating and sometimes risky activity. Urbex Photography combines adventure, history, and the study of urban decay. It involves exploring and documenting man-made structures, especially abandoned sites and hidden components of the urban environment that are generally off-limits to the public. The allure of Urbex photography lies in uncovering the forgotten or unseen aspects of human constructions and their histories, often providing a unique window into past lifestyles, industrial processes, and the transient nature of human endeavors.

Urbex Photography of an abandoned train depot

Check out my Urbex Photography Gallery of Abandoned locations:

Brief History of Urban Exploration Culture:

The roots of Urbex can be traced back to the Parisian catacombs in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when Parisians began exploring this underground labyrinth that held the remains of millions of people. This early form of urban exploration expanded as individuals ventured into abandoned or unseen parts of cities for various reasons, including historical curiosity and the thrill of discovery.

In the mid-20th century, the term “urban exploration” began to take shape as enthusiasts started to systematically explore and document subterranean tunnels, abandoned buildings, and unused railway tracks. The culture gained momentum in the 1990s with the rise of the internet, which allowed explorers to share their discoveries, photographs, and tips with a global audience. Websites and forums dedicated to the topic began to appear, helping to formalize Urbex as a hobby and linking local groups into a worldwide community.

During the early 2000s, the release of the book “Access All Areas” by Ninjalicious, a prominent figure in the Urbex community, provided a significant boost to the movement. The book offered a comprehensive guide to the ethics, techniques, and legal issues surrounding urban exploration, and solidified many of the practices and philosophies that are still respected in the community today.

Urbex Photography of an abandoned mine

What is Urban Exploration?

Is Urbex photography legal?

What equipment do I need for Urbex?

What are the risks involved in Urbex Photography?

Why do people engage in Urbex?

How can I find Urbex locations?

Can I do Urbex alone?

If you have any specific questions or need more detailed advice about Urbex Photography, feel free to ask!

Urbex photography of an abandoned garage

Urbex Communities

Connecting with other urban explorers can enhance your experience and provide you with valuable insights and safety tips. Here’s how you can connect with the Urbex community:

  1. Online Forums and Social Media: Platforms like Reddit, Facebook, and Instagram have active Urbex communities. You can join groups or follow hashtags such as #urbex, #urbanexploration, #abandonedplaces, and more to connect with other enthusiasts and share experiences.
  2. Dedicated Urbex Websites: There are several websites dedicated to urban exploration where you can find forums, location databases, and articles. Websites like UER.ca (Urban Exploration Resource) offer a platform for explorers to share stories, photos, and location details.
  3. Local Meetups and Events: Sometimes, local Urbex communities organize meetups and explorations which can be found through social media groups or Urbex forums. Attending these events can be a great way to meet fellow explorers in person.
  4. Urbex Photography and Exploration Blogs: Many urban explorers run blogs where they share their adventures and tips. Commenting on their posts and engaging with their content can help you make connections.
  5. Attend Urbex Conferences: Though less common, there are conferences and events dedicated to urban exploration and related themes. These can be great places to meet a wide range of explorers from different areas.

As for what members of the Urbex community call themselves, the most common term is “urban explorers.” However, you might also hear terms like “urbexers” or simply “explorers.” Some individuals within the community might also refer to themselves based on their specific interest, such as “ruin photographers” or “abandonment explorers.” These terms generally encapsulate the spirit of exploration and discovery that defines the Urbex community.

Urbex Photography of an Abandoned Drive-In

Top 10 locations that explorers seek out

Urban explorers often seek out locations that are not only abandoned but also rich in history and architectural interest. Here are ten highly sought-after types of locations within the Urbex community around the world:

  1. Asylums and Hospitals: Abandoned medical facilities, especially those with a long and often somber history, are popular due to their eerie atmosphere and the stories they hold.
  2. Military Bases: Decommissioned military facilities, including bunkers, bases, and forts, attract explorers with their unique structures and historical significance.
  3. Industrial Sites: Factories, refineries, and power plants, especially those from the industrial revolution era, are fascinating for their massive machinery and industrial architecture.
  4. Schools and Universities: Educational institutions that have been left to decay are explored for their haunting classrooms and auditoriums, often still filled with relics of their operational days.
  5. Prisons and Jails: These are intriguing due to their intense pasts and the stories encapsulated within their walls, offering a glimpse into a world most will never experience.
  6. Theme Parks: Abandoned amusement parks provide a surreal landscape, with rusty rides and deserted walkways that give a stark contrast to their once joyful atmosphere.
  7. Theaters and Cinemas: These locations are sought after for their ornate architecture and the dramatic contrast between their intended glamour and current state of decay.
  8. Hotels and Resorts: Grand hotels and holiday resorts that have been abandoned are explored for their luxurious designs and the stories of past visitors.
  9. Mansions and Castles: These can be particularly enthralling due to their grand architecture, extensive histories, and the personal belongings sometimes left behind.
  10. Ghost Towns: Entire towns that have been abandoned, often due to economic downturns or disasters, offer a comprehensive urban exploration experience, with multiple types of buildings and structures to investigate.

These types of locations are generally popular because they offer a combination of architectural beauty, historical depth, and the thrill of exploration and discovery. However, it’s important for explorers to approach these sites with respect, adhere to local laws, and prioritize safety and preservation.

Urbex Photography at night

How can I get permission to enter an abandoned location I want to explore?

Gaining legal access to explore an abandoned location involves a bit of research and often a formal request for permission. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to proceed:

  1. Identify the Owner: The first step is to determine who owns the property. This might be an individual, a company, a bank (in the case of foreclosed properties), or local government. Property records can typically be found at local county or city offices, or online through the county assessor’s or land registry’s website.
  2. Prepare Your Request: Once you know who owns the property, prepare a formal request. It’s important to present yourself professionally as this increases your chances of being taken seriously. Explain who you are, your interest in the property, and why you want to explore it. Emphasize your commitment to safety and your respect for the property, including your intention to leave it as you find it.
  3. Contact the Owner: Reach out to the owner directly if possible. This might be via email, phone, or a letter. If the property is managed by a real estate agency or a property management company, contact them instead.
  4. Offer Assurances: Owners are often hesitant to allow access due to liability concerns. Offering to sign a waiver releasing the owner from responsibility in case of injury can help alleviate these concerns. You might also propose a visit during which the owner or manager can accompany you.
  5. Be Flexible and Courteous: The property owner may have concerns or conditions. Being flexible about when you visit and adhering to any requirements they have will make them more likely to grant you permission.
  6. Follow Up: If you don’t hear back within a reasonable time frame, it’s appropriate to send a polite follow-up. Sometimes emails get missed or misplaced, so a gentle reminder can help.
  7. Consider a Guide or Professional Help: In some cases, especially with larger or more dangerous properties, you might consider hiring a professional guide or joining a tour, if available. This can sometimes make access easier because professional guides often have pre-existing relationships with property owners.

By taking a respectful and formal approach, you maximize your chances of gaining access legally and safely, ensuring both your safety and that of the property you wish to explore.

Urbex Photography of an abandoned gas station

Do’s and don’ts of Urbex Photography

Urbex photography is a fascinating activity that requires careful consideration of legal, ethical, and safety aspects. Here are some essential do’s and don’ts to guide your Urbex adventures:


  1. Do Get Permission: Always try to obtain legal permission to enter properties. Trespassing laws are strict in many places, and getting caught can lead to fines or arrest.
  2. Do Plan Ahead: Research the site thoroughly. Know the history, understand the layout, and be aware of any potential hazards. Check the weather and prepare for the environmental conditions you’ll encounter.
  3. Do Take Safety Precautions: Wear appropriate clothing and gear, including sturdy boots, gloves, and a helmet. Bring a flashlight, a first aid kit, and a fully charged phone. Consider a respirator or mask if you’re unsure about air quality.
  4. Do Respect the Location: Treat the sites with respect. This means no vandalism, graffiti, or taking souvenirs. Leave everything as you find it.
  5. Do Document Responsibly: Take photos and make notes if you like, but be mindful about sharing sensitive information that could lead others to damage the site.
  6. Do Go With a Buddy: Exploring with at least one other person not only makes the experience more enjoyable but also safer. It ensures help is at hand in case of emergencies.


  1. Don’t Break the Law: Avoid breaking into properties or ignoring clear “No Trespassing” signs. The legal consequences can be serious.
  2. Don’t Endanger Yourself or Others: Avoid taking unnecessary risks like climbing unstable structures or venturing into potentially hazardous areas without proper equipment.
  3. Don’t Disturb Wildlife or Residents: If a site has become a habitat for animals or is still partially inhabited, be considerate and minimize disturbance.
  4. Don’t Leave a Trace: Do not leave garbage or any other items behind. Urbex follows a “leave no trace” philosophy to preserve sites as they are.
  5. Don’t Publicize Sensitive Locations: Sharing too much information about certain locations can lead to vandalism, theft, and access restrictions. Be thoughtful about what you share and with whom.
  6. Don’t Forget Legal Consequences: Always be aware that even if you follow all ethical guidelines, urban exploration can still be legally precarious depending on local laws and enforcement.

By adhering to these guidelines, you can enjoy the thrill of Urbex photography while minimizing risks and respecting the sites and communities associated with them.

Ethical and Cultural Impact:

Urban Exploration is not just about thrill-seeking; it’s a cultural and ethical practice that emphasizes respect for history and architecture, advocating for preservation through documentation. Urbexers often follow a strict code of ethics that includes “take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints,” reflecting their commitment to preserving these sites in their found states for future explorers.

Further Research:

For those interested in learning more about Urban Exploration and Urbex photography, here are some resources that can provide additional information and context:


Documentaries and Films:

Websites and Online Forums:

These resources can provide a deeper understanding of the techniques, history, and culture of Urban Exploration and Urbex photography, as well as the community’s ongoing discussions about the ethics and future of Urbex.