Today, Lowtown is a labyrinth of shantytowns, corridors, and hexagonal courtyards—"hexes" in the local parlance. Lowtown's poorest live in caves hewn out of the cliff face. The district is shoddily built and bears scars caused by collapsing walls. Foundry smoke smothers the area. Only a cold winter storm clears the air, but the icy wind howling over the mouths of old mineshafts hardly counts as relief.
Occasionally, these Darktown shafts erupt with gouts of foul air known as chokedamp. It's not uncommon to find whole slums silently suffocated, frozen in the midst of everyday activity.
The walls surrounding Lowtown are highest by the harbor. Its busiest street leads up to Hightown, where the wealthiest Kirkwallers perch. When one stands in Lowtown, all one sees other than the rocky walls is Hightown. It glitters overhead, always in sight, yet always beyond reach.