Gotham City is the centre of the action in DC Comics featuring Batman. Over the decades since Batman made his debut, exploring Gotham City has become relatively easy because of the details in the DC comics, films, television shows and video games on the Dark Knight. Any guide to Gotham City will therefore include its own landmarks — the famous skyscrapers, huge gardens, a reservoir, seafront, bridges and rivers.
The Batman (2022), a film starring Robert Pattinson as the superhero, added the latest chapter to Gotham City’s shadowy history and fans got to see more of the tumultuous city the Caped Crusader protects. This is, after all, his home, both as the crime-fighter and as the billionaire Bruce Wayne.
How big is Gotham City?
This cannot be convincingly answered because the city has undergone some changes over the long period of Batman’s existence in comic books. Artists and illustrators have worked on creating maps of Gotham City, complete with its dark alleys, highways, thoroughfares and districts.
Gotham City was first named by Batman co-creator Bill Finger in Batman No.4 in 1940. The fictional city’s limits were defined in 1998 before the publication of Batman: No Man’s Land. This is where it is depicted as having been separated from the mainland US following an earthquake.
In the stories, the city’s location has most of the times been the US state of New Jersey, but it looks like a mix of real-life New York City and Chicago. Since Gotham City is separated from the mainland US, it is composed of three islands just off the coast. However, all of this is fiction and therefore, depictions keep changing.
Nevertheless, Batman’s Gotham City is a metropolis (not to be confused with Superman’s Metropolis, which is the name of his city). It therefore has all the glitz, glamour, and life expected of a mega city.
However, since the noir-ish stories of the Caped Crusader are more about the dark side of humans, Gotham City is also the infamous site of the DC universe’s most infamous asylum and penitentiary. In a city so full of darkness, it is not surprising that its only hope, Batman, also emerges from one of its darkest places — a cave.
The Batcave is the Dark Knight’s operational headquarters. In the comic books and some films, Bruce Wayne accidentally discovers the Batcave when he falls into a crevice.
A secret location beneath the grounds of the Wayne Manor, the Batcave was originally depicted as an ordinary underground bunker in the early Batman comic books of the 1940s. Over the years, the Batcave has been presented as a massive natural underground cave system, spacious enough to accommodate everything — from a training facility to a garage for the Batmobile.
Using his wealth, Batman has equipped the Batcave with modern technology, necessary for a military-like command centre. It also has a Hall of Trophies — room for all the prizes Batman collected on his missions. His multiple suits, which he may need from time to time, are kept in the Batcave.
Though this place is a closely guarded secret, some of Batman’s enemies have often stumbled into it. The Batcave also has a mysterious sublevel — number 7 — that none of the other superheroes visiting Batman have seen.
Interestingly, Batman also has other ‘Batcaves’ across Gotham. These are secret locations — although not as huge or awe-inspiring as the original Batcave — and serve as the Caped Crusader’s safe houses during his adventures.
The Wayne Manor has been the family home of the Wayne family for generations. Bruce inherited it following the murder of his parents, an incident that affected the young Bruce and led him onto the path of becoming the Batman.
The manor is located just outside of Gotham City in the Crest Hill community of Bristol township on the mainland. Its vast stretch of land is above the tunnel system, which Bruce turned into the Batcave. The building was designed by Ambroos Lydecker in Scottish and Norman architectural styles, reflecting on the Wayne family’s roots.
The manor has appeared in nearly all Batman films — live-action and animation — and comic books, evidently because it is Bruce’s home. The massive building has all the comforts one expects in a billionaire’s stately residence. It also has secret entrances to the Batcave, like a door behind a grandfather clock, which can quickly take him to his command centre to transform into Batman.
Alfred, Bruce’s butler, manages the Wayne Manor, its grounds and the Batcave. The manor has been damaged and repaired on multiple occasions by those who know Bruce’s secret identity, including Ra’s al Ghul in Batman Begins (2005).
Wayne Enterprises is the headquarters of Bruce’s business. The building in which it is housed is called Wayne Tower. It serves as a landmark of Gotham City and its symbolic hope, quite like the Empire State Building in real-world New York City.
The Wayne Tower is particularly known for its gargoyles — a Gothic architectural element. In several comic books, Batman can be seen atop the Wayne Tower, next to one of the gargoyles. It has an observation deck, offering a 360-degree view of the Gotham City skyline. The Wayne Tower has often been at the centre of major events that impacted the future of the city, including Batman’s fight against the Court of Owls, an organised crime group that carried out their operations from the tower.
As for Wayne Enterprises, the business has sometimes been referred to as Wayne Industries, WayneCorp and Wayne Tech. The global corporation was first introduced in the comic book Batman #307 in 1979 and has since appeared numerous times in all media related to the Dark Knight.
Lucius Fox usually runs most of the businesses of Wayne Enterprises, especially since Bruce is too busy fighting crime. Many of Batman’s weapons and vehicles are built secretly by Fox at Wayne Enterprises.
Just like New York City has the huge Central Park, Gotham City has its Robinson Park. The park is located at the centre of Gotham and is its largest green area.
Robinson Park is notorious for its connection to Poison Ivy, one of Batman’s most powerful supervillains. To Ivy, whose real name is Pamela Isley, the park is home and its numerous plant species are family.
Besides Ivy, the park is often used by underworld thugs for their small-time crimes. Batman has often taken on more ruthless enemies such as Scarecrow and Black Mask at the park. This is why he has a small ‘Batcave’ below the Robinson Park reservoir to keep an eye on the activities.
The building in which the asylum is located was the private residence of Amadeus Arkham, a doctor who cared for the mentally ill. Amadeus converted the building into the asylum and named it Elizabeth Arkham Home for the Criminally Insane after his mother. The asylum, which has a historic clock tower, is always depicted as an eerie place outside of Gotham City near Wayne Manor, which no ‘civilised’ resident would dare visit.
Over the years, the Arkham Asylum was turned into a high-secure facility, housing some of the most dangerous criminals of Gotham City. Its most notorious inmates include the Joker, the Riddler and Amadeus himself. Even though it is meant for the criminally insane, Arkham’s technologically advanced cells are necessary to hold the likes of sane supervillains such as Mr. Freeze.
Despite its reputation, Arkham isn’t completely secure, as many of the inmates often managed to escape either on their own or with external help. Even its staff has often been found affected with some degree of insanity, like its psychiatrist Dr. Harleen Quinzel who became Harley Quinn after the Joker manipulated her.
Arkham Asylum first appeared in Batman #258 in 1974. It is so significant to the Batman stories that it also has an acclaimed video game series named after it — Batman: Arkham.
One can’t help but notice the darkness that looms over Gotham City at all times. This is because it has not one but two sites for dangerous criminals. While Arkham Asylum is at one end of the city, the island housing the Blackgate Penitentiary is on the other end.
The penitentiary is a relatively new structure in Batman lore. It first appeared in Detective Comics #629 in 1991. This is where the ruthless and cunning criminals of Gotham are housed whenever they are caught by the Caped Crusader. The Penguin, Poison Ivy, Victor Zsasz and Bane are frequent ‘visitors’. Sometimes, even Catwoman has found herself in the penitentiary when she was on the other side of the law.
The maximum-security prison has its own boats and helicopters in place if a convict tries to escape, which happens quite frequently.
The Iceberg Lounge
The Penguin can be found at the Iceberg Lounge, a nightclub that acts as the front for the criminal empire that the iconic supervillain has built for himself.
The nightclub is symbolic of both the wealth that Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot has amassed and the teetering perpetual dizziness of Gotham City. It seems as cool and trendy as one would expect at a posh nightclub in a metropolis. However, behind its glamour is the dark underbelly of crime in which the Penguin operates. He strikes deals with criminals in the lounge, often in the company of other supervillains such as the Joker. But Batman knows its secret and comes to the place in disguise to extract information.
The nightclub is also unique because the inside temperature is always colder than normal — something that suits the Penguin. It has ice-themed decor and animals, such as seals, on display.
Ace Chemicals plays an important role in Batman’s life. After all, this place created his greatest nemesis — the Joker.
In the most frequently cited Joker origin story, the supervillain was a Mafia member who found himself facing Batman inside the factory. During the struggle, he fell into the chemical vat which bleached his skin white, turned his hair green and permanently disfigured his mouth. It was also the accident that drove him insane and thus, was born the Clown Prince of Crime.
Ace Chemicals first appeared in Detective Comics #168 in 1951 and has also appeared in some Batman films, both live-action and animation. The factory is not directly connected to any criminal, but the Joker uses it often as his hideout or to make his deadly toxins.
Gotham City Police Department (GCPD) HQ
Of course, every metropolis needs a police department. The GCPD headquarters is, thus, tasked with maintaining the law and order in the city. It is most famous for the Bat-Signal, a huge spotlight, which is switched on when the police know that Batman must come to their and the city’s rescue.
The headquarters house the office of Commissioner Jim Gordon, one of Batman’s few trusted allies. The Dark Knight often meets Gordon in his office, but never comes in from the front door. It has also served as a battleground between criminals and the cops, forcing Batman to help the police.
The GCPD building was the centre of action in the TV series Gotham (2014-19), which was about Gordon’s rise from a detective to a commissioner.
Hero image: IMDb; Featured image: © 1989 Warner Bros./IMDb