Lead Us to the Greatest Mazes and Labyrinths!

show-and-tell
mazes
#1

Fun fact: mazes and labyrinths are not the same thing. Despite being generally similar, labyrinths are obtuse, twisted paths that only have one entry and exit, while mazes are a puzzling network of routes that can have multiple entry and exit points. This distinction is fun to pull out at parties to make you sound very smart/pedantic, but whether you’re navigating a tricky corn maze or winding your way through a devotional labyrinth pattern, one thing is always the same: they are totally wondrous. Let’s talk about the greatest mazes and labyrinths we’ve ever discovered!

(Image: fribbleblib/CC BY 2.0)

All over the world there are mirror mazes, hedge mazes, and flat religious labyrinths that are just waiting for you to get lost in their designs. I’ve always wanted to visit the longest hedge maze in the world on the Longleat estate in Wiltshire, England. It looks like something straight out of a fairy tale, as though if you enter, you’ll exit into another world.

Tell us about the coolest maze or labyrinth you’ve ever encountered in the comments below. Let us know where it is, how you discovered it, and if you have any pictures, post those as well. Your submission may be included in an upcoming round-up article on Atlas Obscura. Mazes, labyrinths, either way, let’s help each other get lost!

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#2

The corn mazes in Ontario, Canada, in the fall are always a good time!

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#3

Suddenly I need to rewatch The Shining…

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#4

I love mazes and labyrinths! I consider it a great shame that I haven’t experienced that many of them, and those I have have been pretty straightforward, mostly decorative affairs. Right now, I’m reminded of this article on the psychological resonance and appeal of mazes in culture. I’m also, like @Ssshannon, drawn into a compulsion to lose myself in The Shining or maybe a dark cinematic fantasy ruled over by David Bowie as the Goblin King

Anyway, the labyrinth I love the most is the boardgame Master Labyrinth. In my family, I’m the undisputed champion. The ‘Master’ part is important, differentiating between other editions of the game in which the magic items that players chase after are printed on the maze tiles and not loose tokens. (It strikes me as less of a challenge and certainly requires less strategy and wit). I guess the game offers a competitive cerebral thrill and touches on dungeon crawler tropes in addition to the appealing iconography of labyrinths. Altogether, I love it!

As for the wider world, the most beguiling maze I’ve personally ambled around and got lost in is probably the city of Venice (Venezia) itself! (Not strictly what we might formally define as a maze but I experience it as such!) It’s a tremendous experience, just picking a vague general direction and wandering without much purpose down and around the canals, alleys, sequestered piazzas and bridges of the eternally strange, ever-mystifying Serene Republic.

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#5

I think my favourite symbolic maze / labyrinth is the labyrinth of Amiens in France. I discovered it on a family holiday as a kid when we went to the cathedral but I dont know if it actually counts as its not a labyrinth that you can actually get lost in.

An actual maze that comes to mind is the one at Leeds castle which is a classical hedge maze and is pretty awesome.

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#6

Egeskov Castle in Denmark had a decent maze.

Side note: it also had an incredible collection of motorcycles on display.

#7

The maze at Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna (AKA what rich kids did for fun before TV). Picture taken from my own visit.

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#8

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the lamest maze I ever encountered.

The Wooz was an amusement park built in Vacaville, CA when I was a kid. It had opened to huge fanfare. Mazes had been a trend in Japan, so the Wooz opened with great hopes of being a big destination.

My family and I went the first month it was open. And it was…meh. Really easy, if not mostly tedious, to get through. There was no decorative quality. It was just brown wooden walls. And Vacaville in the summertime is ridiculously hot. So you wind your way through some boards and sweat your tail off for 30 minutes and leave. I don’t even think they had snacks there. It’s now regarded as a famously bad idea.

https://localwiki.org/vacaville/The_Wooz

And here’s some bizarre footage of Steve Wozniak running through it.

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#9

There are some nice visual mazes on the London Underground. Nice to let your mind wander even if feet are fixed. Some of the cathedral ones were originally partially used for meditation. You need that as a commuter even more. I tend to do the one at St Pancras most when waiting for a train. Bank station really really needs one as that place is a laabyrinth of lines and exits itself. Rumours are people have been wandering lost there for decades. https://art.tfl.gov.uk/labyrinth/about/

#10

There’s a labyrinth on the northern edge of Barcelona, which can be beautiful when it’s well taken care of Barcelona parks - The oldest park in Barcelona, The Labyrinth Park, is influenced by a host of architectural eras and regions, with a maze as one of its main attractions - (barcelona-metropolitan.com) However, no mention has been made here of meditation labyrinths, the most famous, perhaps, is in Chartres Cathedral: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/labyrinth-chartres-cathedral

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#11

I also love the Parc del Laberint d’Horta in Barcelona! Super fun and definitely easy to get lost in! “It is a historical garden in the Horta-Guinardó district in Barcelona and the oldest of its kind in the city. Located on the former estate of the Desvalls family, next to the Collserola ridge, the park comprises an 18th-century neoclassical garden and a 19th-century romantic garden.”

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#12

I was born and grew up in Venice. I moved away when I was 19. Up until that time my sense of orientation in Venice was uncanny, even by Venetian standards. You are right, it is a maze. I enjoyed walking visitors to any T junction and ask them: “Left or right?”. They’d be baffled. Normally there is a right way and a wrong way. Not necessarily so in Venice. Now, the beauty of this is that I am hopeless finding my way in any of the cities I have lived in since I left. I am very GPS dependent. Nevertheless, to this day, you can drop me blindfolded anywhere in Venice and the moment I open my eyes again I know my way home.

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#13

Grace Cathedral in San Francisco has a two lovely Labyrinths based on the ancient one in Chartres Cathedral in France. Grace has one inside and another outside, atop one of the highest hills in the city.

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#14

There’s a labyrinth on top of St. Catherine’s hill just outside Winchester in England. Don’t start walking it thinking “This’ll be fun!” It’s very serious, but it can also be joyful. A ley line runs through the center of it.

In Memphis, First Congregational Church (usually referred to as First Congo), 1000 Cooper St., has a very beautiful meditation labyrinth set into the floor. People come early, before the worship service, to walk the labyrinth, or appointments can be made for individuals or groups to walk it.

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#15

The incredible hedge maze at Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel almost makes the exorbitant room rates seem worthwhile.

Running around that maze with my kids has become one of my funnest memories, in a trip full of fun memories.

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#16

I’ve been in several mazes and labyrinths (although by what you’re calling a maze, all of them are labryinths, despite the names at the sites. I’ve been through several labyrinths based on the Chartres design, all in the U.S. But the most fabulous labyrinth I explored was at Glendurgan Gardens in Cornwall, UK. (Pictures attached) I have also made it through the maze at Hampton Court, with its 8-ft-plus hedges.

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#17

So many great mazes and labyrinths here - excellent topic. Like many others here, growing up I loved mazes and I’ve had the opportunity to experience several. The one that was most memorable for me, however, was actually rather simple.

On my last trip to New Orleans, my wife and I walked all the way from the French Quarter to the end of Magazine Street, exploring and stopping for drinks along the way. At the end of the road we came upon the Labyrinth at Audubon Park (actually two adjacent labyrinths of increasing scale) which was designed following Hurricane Katrina to help survivors heal by walking the path, and thereby understanding that to move forward, one must sometimes move backwards.

Having recently moved to Tampa, I had just experienced my first hurricane with Irma, which left our neighborhood without power for the better part of a week. We were lucky enough to be able to live and work from a nearby hotel, but I became acutely aware of all of those who weren’t as fortunate as we were. Folks who wouldn’t be able to easily recover from the damage nature had inflicted. As I walked the first of the two Labyrinths at Audubon Park, I found myself thinking about it and by the time I completed the second one I discovered I was tearing up just a little bit, which was entirely unexpected. Maybe it was due more to the series of hurricanes I’d been drinking than the one I had weathered, but it really left a profound and lasting impression on me.

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#18

I recall a recent camping trip to Cromer, here in England. We located a nearby maze online and set off to cycle there, but on our journey we unexpectedly found another maze to explore. There is a joy in getting lost, losing your friends, climbing the tallest point to figure your way, and finding those hidden gems lurking round corners

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#19

One of the most interesting labyrinths I visited was at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. As part of a mind-body therapy program, service members who are being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries walk the labyrinth in this skylit atrium filled with plants. This is one of seven labyrinths featured in my documentary, “Labyrinth Journeys.” The film presents the stories of adults, teenagers and children who use labyrinths as tools for meditation, rehabilitation, healing, stress-reduction, and playful exploration.

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#20

IKEA.
Hands down the most difficult maze to navigate, the designers certainly wanted you to never leave.

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