What makes a cemetery special? Perhaps it’s the size, or the number of tombs? Or is it the age of the graveyard, or the famous people buried there? Are they architectural masterpieces in baroque style, or are they more whimsical? Find out for yourself below, as we celebrate Halloween with a list of ten of the most haunting and beautiful cemeteries from around the world!
1 Père Lachaise, France
This one of a kind collection of burial sites located in the heart of Paris is known to be the most visited cemetery in the world. The Père Lachaise opened in 1804 and experts estimate that there are somewhere between 300,000 and 1,000,000 people buried on its grounds. Many celebrities are laid to rest among the grand tombs and mausoleums including Oscar Wild, Frédéric Chopin, George Seurat, and even the Doors’ Jim Morrison!
2 Highgate Cemetery, England
Here at one of North London’s most visited cemeteries you’ll want to watch for the ghost of Karl Marx! Guarded by a large bust of his face, Marx’s tomb ranks as the most visited grave on the premises—out of a possible 170,000. This beautiful and expansive cemetery is divided into two main sections: the East Cemetery which visitors are free to roam independently and the West Cemetery which embodies the quintessential Victorian cemetery vibe (but is accessible by guided tour only).
3 Milan Monumental Cemetery, Italy
Located just outside of Milan and known for its artistic flair, the Milan Monumental Cemetery (Cimitero Monumentale) is a massive complex spanning more than 2.5 million square feet. In typical Milanese style, elaborate displays and elegant ornamental fixtures are just as important to the deceased as they are for the living members of the city. Those buried here are among the wealthiest and flashiest of them all, with their tombs reflecting the glamorous lifestyle they had when they were alive.
4 Carrowmore Cemetery, Ireland
Found in Sligo, the Carrowmore Cemetery is the oldest Megalithic cemetery in Ireland. This ancient style of art is often composed of large, bare stone that has been used to build Neolithic, Chalcolithic or Bronze Age monuments during the prehistoric period. At one time, this cemetery contained around 100 tombs, of which 60 are still there today. The fascinating center grave site has been restored to almost its original condition, allowing visitors to actually see what the other tombs looked like back when they were built over 5,000 years ago! Don’t skip this glimpse back in time when you visit the Emerald Isle.
5 Cementerio de la Recoleta, Argentina
Moving from Europe to South America, the Cementerio de la Recoleta is next on our list. In 2013, CNN listed it among the 10 most beautiful cemeteries in the world and among the elaborate tombs and wandering lanes a variety of fascinating folks found their final resting place! First Lady Eva Peron lies in a black granite tomb that attracts tourists all year long who come to pay their respects. (Intrepid travelers can see this iconic burial ground as part of our Patagonian Explorer by Sea trip!)
6 The Old Jewish Cemetery, Czech Republic
Located in Prague, Czech Republic, the Old Jewish Cemetery dates back to the 15th century, making it one of the oldest and most important Jewish burial grounds that has survived. With over 12,000 tombstones, the cemetery has a calming mood, enhanced by the lack of modern technology and urban area near the gravesites. Because the Jewish tradition does not permit demolishing old graves, there are sections among the cemetery that are as many as 12 levels deep!
7 Colón Cemetery, Cuba
The Colón Cemetery, or the Christopher Columbus Cemetery, is located in the island-nations’ capitol, Havana. Organized by social status, the wealthy and well-connected occupy the main burial sites in the center of the complex, while those considered “lower” in status (the poor, condemned, ill, etc.) are buried in the “suburbs” of the cemetery, farther out from the affluent middle. With over 500 chapels, family tombs, and mausoleums, the Colón Cemetery is definitely a must see if you’re in Cuba.
8 Okunoin Cemetery, Japan
Markers for the dead are spread across the forest that surrounds Mount Koya at Okunoin Cemetery, the largest burial site in Japan. Despite the dark and seemingly hidden grave sites among the trees, it is lit with thousands of lanterns. More than 200,000 additional people are buried here, mostly Buddhist monks. With stone paths winding through the cemetery, and light bouncing off of the many graves from the thousands of lanterns, this place is hauntingly beautiful.
9 Mount of Olives Cemetery, Israel
The Mount of Olives Cemetery is a Jewish burial ground offering a marvelous view of the ancient city of Jerusalem. This religiously significant cemetery overlooks the Temple Mount–the place in the Jewish religion where the first specks of dust were gathered to create the first man, Adam. Because of this holy connection, many Jews flock to Israel during the late stages of their lives, to assure that they will be buried here. Both the first place the Messiah will appear and the first place the dead will start to resurrect, this site clearly has a significant role in Judaism.
10 The City of the Dead, Egypt
More than 700 years since the creation of this cemetery, The City of the Dead is right in the heart of Cairo, Egypt. No one truly knows the number of graves here but experts believe the “residents” number well into the millions! And in fact, people still live and work inside the ‘city’ alongside the gravestones and spirits of the past. With a mishmash of styles spanning centuries of burials, the tombs are a must-see for anyone visiting Egypt’s bustling capital city. Note that despite the aesthetic differences, the majority of tombs have two stairways leading into the sites, one for women and the other for men, reflecting the conservative nature of the ancient Egyptian culture.