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Call me morbid but I am fascinated by cemeteries.
There is just something about them that I find enthralling. I think that death goes hand in hand with history and cemeteries are a showpiece of death.
I love the peacefulness about them. I find them tragically beautiful. Every gravestone is for a person that was once living and breathing, with stories of their own and complicated histories.
I read the epitaphs as sometimes what is written can give you a clue to the story of the person buried there. Life that once was.
Cemeteries always lead me to reflect on my own life and how fragile life can be.
The Victorians had a very different attitude to death than we do today. Dying young was common back then due to disease, so they embraced death as a part of life.
They created elaborate cemeteries with beautiful architecture and leafy park-like surroundings and would enjoy visiting the graves of their departed friends and family, taking a picnic and spending the day there.
It is similar to the Mexican culture where during the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations, Mexican families dress up as zombies and skeletons and celebrate the departed.
There are candlelight vigils and parties in cemeteries where families visit their loved ones that have passed on, bringing them their favorite foods and creating elaborate and colorful altars that include marigolds, sugar skulls and candles.
I have visited many cemeteries around the world and there are many more that I want to visit. They help me to learn the history of a place and it is interesting to see how death is treated in different cultures.
I want to share with you a few of, what I think are, the best cemeteries to visit around the world.
Best Cemeteries to Visit Around the World
Cemeteries in Europe
Pere Lachaise – Paris, France
This iconic cemetery is most famous for being the final resting place of Jim Morrison of The Doors. You can also find the tomb of the writer and poet Oscar Wilde which is covered in red lip-sticked kisses and the understated grave of the French Singer, Edith Piaf.
Broad avenues and rows of opulent tombs, reminiscent of small houses, create a feeling of a City: A City of the Dead.
Greyfriars Kirkyard – Edinburgh, Scotland
Said to be haunted, this ultra creepy cemetery is one of the stops on the City of the Dead Ghost Tour. Most of the supernatural activity is said to have come about when the tomb of Sir George MacKenzie was broken into in 1999, and there have been numerous reports of people passing out and being cut, bruised, bitten and scratched while in the graveyard with no explanation as to how.
An exorcist, Rev Colin Grant, was unable to rid the grave yard of evil spirits and a few weeks after trying, he died suddenly of a heart attack. I went on the tour and thankfully nothing happened but it was still scary!
The Protestant Cemetery – Rome, Italy
The romantic poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley are buried at this quiet cemetery in a suburb of Rome. The cemetery also encloses the 12th Century pyramid of celtius and a large colony of semi-feral cats that are looked after by volunteers.
Hill of Crosses – Siauliai, Lithuania
A deeply, spiritual place with over 100,000 crosses crowded over a small hill. It is not known exactly when the first crosses were left here but the practice was believed to have been started in 1831 during the uprising against the Russian Empire, when crosses were left in memorial for the killed rebels.
During the occupation of the Soviet Union from 1944–1990, the tradition continued with the Lithuanian people risking their lives to erect crosses on the hillside as a peaceful resistance movement against their occupiers.
It is an incredible place and a popular pilgrimage site; Pope John Paul II even visited in 1993 and was deeply moved.
If you go anywhere in Lithuania, you need to go here and see it for yourself.
Ari Burnu Cemetery – Gallipolli Peninsula, Turkey
Beautifully maintained and with a gorgeous waterside location, this war cemetery is pretty special to Australians and New Zealanders. Located at one end of ANZAC Cove, this is where a large number of ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corp) soldiers were killed during World War One.
My Great-great Uncle, Arthur Verner, was an ANZAC soldier and died on the beaches of Galipolli. I was possibly the first one of his blood relatives to visit his grave and I now have his rosary beads that were on him when he died in 1915 and were sent back to his Mother.
Highgate Cemetery – London, England
Highgate is a grand Victorian Cemetery located in the affluent Northern suburb of Highgate in London. It is one of the ‘Magnificent Seven’, seven massive park-like cemeteries that are spread throughout the city.
The older western section of the cemetery can only be visited by guided tour which I definitely recommend.
It is an overgrown lost world of gothic architecture. Intricate statuary, moss covered angels, carved tombs and winding pathways amongst the tall trees and vines make this cemetery hauntingly beautiful and more than slightly spooky.
Karl Marx is buried in the newer Eastern Section of the cemetery and Elizabeth Siddal, the model for Sir John Everett Millais’s painting ‘Ophelia’, is buried in the older Western section. There were rumours of a vampire in the cemetery in the early 1970’s and many ghost sightings have been reported.
Belas Knap Long Barrow – Gloucestershire, England
A Neolithic burial chamber with false entrances and side chambers, dating to approx. 3800 BC. Belas Knap is located near Winchcombe in Gloucestershire and can only be reached by hiking.
The remains of 31 people were found in the chamber when it was excavated between 1863 and 1865. A beautiful spot for a picnic, you are even allowed to sit on the grassy roof of the long barrow.
Nunhead Cemetery – Nunhead, London
Another of the Magnificent Seven, this Victorian cemetery can be also be visited by an informative and interesting tour or you can roam around the extensive grounds at your leisure.
Old Barnes Cemetery – Barnes, London
This is truly a lost cemetery, hidden in the woods and completely overgrown. There are no signs and no path so you really have to know about it to find it. The cemetery officially closed in the 1950’s and there has been numerous ghostly sightings including a nun floating over one of the graves.
Crossbones Graveyard – Southwark, London
Now just a vacant lot, this was the final resting place of local prostitutes in the 18th Century. There are many messages and flowers attached to the chain link fence in memorial to the forgotten women who were laid to rest here over 200 years ago.
All Saints Church – Isleworth, London
An intact stone tower dating back to the 14th Century and a creepy overgrown cemetery where the faded gravestones are sinking into the ground. It is always so quiet here.
Cemeteries in the Americas
Granary Burying Ground – Boston, Massachusetts, USA
One of the most famous burial grounds in the US and dating back to 1660, this cemetery houses some important figures in American History including Paul Revere, three signatories of the declaration of independence: Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Robert Treat Paine, Phyllis Wheatley: the first African American woman to publish a book and the family of Benjamin Franklin.
I love the simple gravestones with various hand carved drawings along the top ranging from simple skulls with wings and cherubic angels. In my opinion, a visit to Boston isn’t complete without visiting the Granary Burying Ground.
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery – Concord, Massachusetts, USA
One of my absolute favorites, this gorgeous cemetery is home to many notable Transcendentalists and great thinkers of the 19th century.
Transcendentalism is a religious and philosophical movement which core belief was the inherent goodness of both people and nature.
The authors Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, William Ellery Channing and Nathanial Hawthorn are buried here on a grassy hilltop known as ‘Authors Ridge’.
The cemetery was designed with transcendentalist principles in mind, to be a garden for the living to enjoy as well as a place to inter the dead.
It is a beautifully landscaped work of art and the feeling of peace I felt when I walked the grounds was immeasurably calming. Visiting Sleepy Hollow Cemetery was one of my Massachusetts highlights.
Ferndale Cemetery – Ferndale, California, USA
Located in one of the best preserved Victorian villages in California, the grassy slopes of Ferndale Cemetery is a beautiful spot. The movie ‘The Majestic’ filmed here and many of the graves date back to the mid 19th Century.
I saw a family of deer wandering soundlessly between the gravestones on my visit.
Bodie Cemetery – Bodie, California, USA
Located atop a hill overlooking the spooky Ghost town of Bodie, this graveyard is full of the hard living gold rush pioneers, a lot killed in bar brawls, who settled this patch of sand before the gold ran out; the town was abandoned completely by the mid 20th century.
Undesirables such as prostitutes were buried on un-consecrated ground on the other side of the cemetery fence including the famous Rosa May.
Rosa May was a prostitute who apparently helped nurse sick miners during an epidemic but her line of work did not allow for a burial inside the cemetery gates.
A lot of the wooden crosses have rotted away over time and there are just a few marble memorials standing today.
Fairview Lawn Cemetery – Halifax, Canada
This non-descript cemetery may not look like much but it is the final resting place of the largest number of the Titanic dead as well as many victims of the Halifax Explosion, the largest non-nuclear explosion in human history.
Graves include the Unknown Child, who was finally identified as 2 year old Sidney Goodwin in 2007, and a J Dawson who many tourists believe to be Jack Dawson of the movie ‘Titanic’ who was a fictional character.
The grave is in fact for a Joseph Dawson, who was a coal trimmer on the ill-fated ship. Visiting the Fairview Lawn Cemetery will give you a great insight into the history of Halifax.
Jacksonville Cemetery – Jacksonville, Oregon, USA
A unique feature of this pioneer cemetery, one of the first in Oregon, is the fact that there are different sections for different religions and orders. I hadn’t seen that in a cemetery before. I love the elaborate marble and granite headstones and the charming wooded grounds of this historic cemetery.
I saw a few interesting gravestone inscriptions including one family plot where four men in the family had been ‘killed by Indians’.
Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 – New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
I had been looking forward to going to this cemetery for years, after seeing it in movies like Double Jeopardy and it was just as gothically beautiful and interesting as I imagined it to be.
It’s still free to enter Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 as well, unlike the popular St Louis Cemetery in New Orleans. My favorite thing there was the old tombs overgrown with vines. If you are really lucky you might catch a Jazz funeral.
A world-famous cemetery just outside of Savannah, Georgia, Bonaventure Cemetery is absolutely massive and a great place to wander aimlessly. One of the reasons this cemetery is so popular to visit, is because of the beautiful, and slightly creepy, Spanish moss draped trees.
Another reason this cemetery is so well known is because of the cover art of the book ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’, which is set in Savannah. It depicts a statue holding up a bird bath saucer in each hand that is known as ‘Bird Girl’.
Unfortunately people were defacing the statue so it was moved to a museum, although there are a lot of other creepy statues you can visit in the cemetery.
Mount Moriah Cemetery – Deadwood, South Dakota, USA
This large wooded cemetery overlooks the town of Deadwood, South Dakota, and is the final resting place of two of the wild west’s most famous characters – Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.
There is a small entry fee to the cemetery but you get a map with notable graves and the history of the cemetery.
Russian Cemetery – Sitka, Alaska, USA
Sitka was the Russian capital of Alaska, and the Russian cemetery is one of the coolest cemeteries I have visited.
It is a dark and overgrown wonderland of narrow pathways choked with moss and ferns and too many creepy headless angel statues to count. The ground is uneven and soggy with many gravestones half sunken into the earth.
This sprawling cemetery is 200 years old and is home to over 1600 graves!
Arlington National Cemetery – Arlington, Virginia, USA
The graves themselves aren’t too exciting but you can’t visit Washington D.C. without making the trip over the river to Arlington, especially when it is spring and the cherry blossoms are blooming.
There are a number of notable graves at Arlington including Robert Kennedy, John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy Onassis, the boxer Joe Louis, and William Taft.
Trinity Church Cemetery – New York City, USA
Amidst the craziness of Manhattan there is a historic and quiet churchyard filled with old stone graves, some sunk nearly the whole way into the earth. This is Trinity Church Cemetery.
This cemetery dates back to 1697 and Alexander Hamilton is buried here.
Recoleta Cemetery – Buenos Aires, Argentina
Palatial tombs crowd together along the labyrinthine pathways of this famous Cemetery. Most people come to see where Eva Peron, the former First Lady of Argentina, is interred.
The magnificent stone work of the tombs make this cemetery a very interesting place to visit during a visit to Buenos Aires.
Cimetière de Morne-À-l’Eau – Morne-à-l’Eau, Guadeloupe
If you are visiting the French islands that make up Guadeloupe in the Caribbean, make sure to visit Cimetière de Morne-À-l’Eau. This cemetery is distinctive because of it’s black and white chequered patterning on the concrete crypts and graves.
Originally only the rich of Guadeloupe were buried here, but now the cemetery houses a more diverse population of the island’s dead. On All Saints Day families gather at the cemetery, lighting candles and honoring their dead.
Cemeteries in Asia Pacific
Bukit Brown Cemetery – Singapore
Bukit Brown was a Chinese cemetery that was established in the early 20th Century, and was believed to be the biggest Chinese graveyard outside China. The cemetery is still in existence despite being abandoned – but that is why it is worth visiting.
The cemetery has nearly completely been reclaimed by the jungle, and it is a fascinating place to visit – discovering colorful graves hidden amongst the foliage.
Symonds Street Cemetery – Auckland, New Zealand
Established in 1842, the Symonds Street Cemetery was the first official cemetery in Auckland and is located in a lush, green valley right by downtown Auckland. Many notable Auckland colonists were buried here including the first Governor of New Zealand, William Hobson.
When the Auckland Southern Motorway was being developed in the mid 1960s, more than 4,000 bodies were moved and the land area was reduced to one quarter of the size.
Interestingly, 2000 remains were found under 1200 headstones in the Anglican section, and 2100 remains under 400 headstones were found in the Catholic section.
Lighthouse Keepers Cemetery – Kangaroo Island, Australia
Officially named Harveys Return Graveyard, this small but interesting cemetery is located in a remote corner of Kangaroo Island in South Australia, and is the final resting place of numerous lighthouse keepers and their families, who lived and worked at the Cape Borda Lighthouse.
The lighthouse was manned between the years of 1858 until it was automated in 1989, and life there was hard and isolated. The cemetery is located three kilometres away from the lighthouse because the limestone ground on the Cape is unsuitable for burial.
Have you been to any of these cemeteries around the world? What is your favorite cemetery to visit?
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Hi, thanks replying back. This particular dream was so long ago but the stones many were tall carved and some were crooked and many broken but the way they were lined up on this hill/mountain is what stood out to me. There was also black iron but not sure it was a broken fence or something else. Also, although I was on one ledge of this hill riding my bike on a dirt path I remember I was lookkng down at myself as if a drone were capturing the entire size of this cemetery with me on this path. All the while I wondered how do I get to the next level. Also I was alone but not afraid. Felt like a place I knew and often visited.
Sounds like a very vivid dream! Maybe do some googling and maybe you will be able to find it – good luck!
When I visited Buenos Aires, before visiting Recoleta, I thought all the attention given to it in tour and travel books was weird. Then I went and I understood. It’s a work of art and a celebration of life…loved it!
Exactly Valeria! There are a lot of cemeteries around the world that are beautiful artistically as well as being peaceful places to visit. Glad to hear you enjoyed it too 🙂
I’ve been searching for a cemetery I’m starting to believe doesn’t exist but I keep searching. As a child I had one of many recurring dreams and one in particular was in a old cemetery located on a hill or mountain. I was alone riding a tricycle and remember the dream clearly. I am 56 years old and recently remembered this dream and began searching online if such a cemetery exists. Also, thought of Spain or any South American country? But can be anywhere.
Thought of reaching out and asking since I’m curious and would love to if one existed visit it. I also find cemeteries beautiful and no matter how old or in need of care just something about them that attracts me. Would so appreciate any help in my search since I haven’t had much luck. Thank you!
Hi Elsa, that sounds like an interesting dream. Do you remember what the grave stones looked like? That could lead you in the right direction as they change country to country.
I love cemeteries! Just the sight of a tombstone just seems to pull me towards it….and the more neglected and overgrown, the better! I love just wandering and looking at the inscriptions on the monuments, thinking about what the stories might be. Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh is a favourite of mine. Wouldn’t go there at night though! And you have so many more here I need to go see!
I can’t believe I went at night – very scary! I agree that the neglected and overgrown ones are the best 🙂
So interesting. I am adding some of them to my list of places to visit. If you ever find yourself in Lviv, check their cemetery – it would give you a glimpse of a complicated Ukrainian history.
Our most recent visit was to the Sofia central cemetery, not the dignitaries section, but just common folks grounds – wow, this was fascinating, basically a clear reflection of difficult economic and cultural times.
I will definitely add to my list if I go to Ukraine, thanks for the tip 🙂
Creepy!! But veeeery cool 😀
Glad you liked it 🙂
I love visiting cemeteries when I travel, too. It’s so interesting to see how other cultures deal with death and burials. I stopped at a few really interesting ones in Ireland but I’m lucky to have a gorgeous one right next to where I work. It’s one of the first municipal cemeteries in the US and there are many famous suffragettes and abolitionists buried there.
The one by your work sounds interesting, there are some beautiful cemeteries in the US 🙂
I feel pretty indifferent about cemeteries during the day, but they creep me out at night – haha! We actually have a really pretty one in my hometown that people always go to for walking or jogging.
They creep me out at night too! I have definitely watched too many horror movies featuring creepy cemeteries!
My Grandpa worked in a cemetery so my sisters and I grew up hanging out there more than most kids probably do! Now I live in Key West and our cemetery here is super fascinating, well worth a visit. I’ve been to Ferndale, one of my absolute favorites in the entire world. Just gorgeous!
Hi Jen, your Granpa definitely had an interesting job! I have been to the Key West cemetery but unfortunately I didn’t have much time to look around. I loved Key West and funnily enough am currently writing a post on my time there!
Ohh I love it! I love visiting cemeteries too, I find them fascinating and peaceful and very moving… I’ve been trying to convince my husband that it’s not a weird request to want to see a few in New Orleans when we visit in January, might show him this post to help sway him hehe
Hi Jess, I totally agree with you. I would love to go to some of the cemeteries in New Orleans. I hope you can convince your husband – good luck! 🙂
I do find cemeteries upsetting but also very moving and I love reading the messages from loved ones. Nunhead is so near where I live and yet I can’t believe I’ve seen Recoleta even before seeing Nunhead!!
You definitely need to get to Nunhead – definitely do the tour, it is really interesting 🙂
Also love cemeteries as well – though only recently realized that there was such a thing as cemetery tourism!! There’s a gorgeous site in Savannah, Georgia which is covered in Spanish Moss. Very eerie, but so beautiful!
Meg @ Mapping Megan
Very cool – I’ve only recently become interested in cemeteries – I find them fascinating!! There’s a super cool cemetery in Savannah, Georgia which is covered in Spanish Moss – so gorgeous but also kind of eerie!!
I have heard about the one in Savannah and seen pictures – it looks exactly like the eerie cemeteries I love. I will definitely get there one day
I’m a big fan of cemeteries as well. They’re just so fascinating. One of my favorites is in Havana, Cuba.
What’s it called Talon? I will google it 🙂
Wow! I have never even considered visiting graveyards on my travels, If I’m totally honest I am scared of death and graveyards are too great a reminder of this for me. I have visited several though, mainly WW1 & WW2 graveyards in France and Belgium – These graveyards with thousands of graves really put a perspective on the sheer magnitude of the “great” wars
I’m scared of death too but I actually think that is one of the reasons I am fascinated by cemeteries – probably the same reason I watch Air Crash Investigation despite being terrified of flying! I was actually going to put the Normandy American Cemetery on the list too – I visited there a few years ago.
Such great inspiration for travelling! I love cemeteries too 🙂
Thanks! There seems to be a lot of us that appreciate the beauty and history of cemeteries 🙂
I absolutely share your fascination with cemeteries and, I’ve got to say, this list is fantastic! SO many that I want to visit! Great post 🙂
Thanks so much! These are just my favourites of the ones that I have actually visited so once I visit more the list will definitely grow!
Ahh, I was just having a conversation with someone in my hostel about how weird they thought I was because I love cemeteries! They’re peaceful & I find them an inspiring place to write in. I always thought I was a total freak, so I’m glad others share my sentiment. Pere Lachaise is totally on my bucket list (who has a cemetery on their bucket list?? lol) Beautiful shots though!
Don’t worry you aren’t the only weirdo haha! Pere Lachaise is gorgeous – my cemetery bucket list includes Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah and St Louis Cemetery in New Orleans.
I share your fascination with cemeteries and I don not find them creepy or morbid at all…well for the most part anyway. I have been to Pere Lachaise and Highgate and I’ve also been to Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah Georgia which is said to be the most haunted city in North America. Last October we were in Mexico for Dia de los Muertos which was an amazing experience! I think the cultures that celebrate the life even in death have it right…after all it’s the only thing that’s definite in this world.
I’m pleased I’m not the only one! I would love to visit Bonaventure Cemetery – I have seen photos and it looks amazing. I think that the Mexicans are definitely onto something and so were the Victorians – we should celebrate death more