Europe’s 10 Best Cemeteries

Pimsleur Approach • November 7, 2012 • Travel tipsComments (0)
crossbones

Cross Bones - via Wikipedia

They may not be the most talked about of tourist attractions, but Europe’s cemeteries have an awful lot to offer. From providing leafy havens in busy cities, to housing some of history’s most famous figures, to giving you a glimpse into local architecture, art and religion… there’s no doubt that these graveyards are more than just places of mourning. So, to celebrate their unique charm, here are ten of our favorites…

Cross Bones – London, England
There are plenty of renowned cemeteries in London – from the great gothic Highgate (the final resting place of Karl Marx, George Eliot and Douglas Adams) to the wonderfully non-denominational Abney Park (where people of all religions are buried together) – but the best of this brilliant bunch is Cross Bones.

jewish

Old Jewish Cemetery - via Wikipedia

A still unconsecrated graveyard for so called ‘Winchester Geese’ – medieval prostitutes who were licensed by the Bishop of Winchester to work within his jurisdiction of Southwark) – it is, in essence, a mass grave for those deemed unfit for a proper Christian burial. Although the cemetery was closed in 1853, it is still maintained by a dedicated group of volunteers and is open to visitors year round. And if you visit at Halloween, you can witness a candlelight vigil celebrating the tragic lives of the outcast dead.

Old Jewish Cemetery – Prague, Czech Republic
The most visited cemetery in Eastern Europe, Prague’s Old Jewish Cemetery is home to a huge number of Jewish residents who died in the area between 1439 and 1787. During this time, the Jewish community was only allowed to live with a tiny ghetto on the edge of town, and were only permitted a single 60-metre-square graveyard in which to bury their dead, so over three centuries it was crammed with over 100,000 bodies, buried layer-by-layer. That’s why, when you visit, you’ll see a huge number of tombstones jostling for space… whenever a new layer was added, each stone was laid back on the top.

Greyfriars

Greyfriars Kirkyard - via Wikipedia

Greyfriars Kirkyard – Edinburgh, Scotland
If you want to come up with three reasons why Greyfriars is Scotland’s most famous graveyard then here they are: a ghost, a dog and bad poet. For starters, the place is allegedly haunted by the ghost of an unsavory chap called ‘Bloody George Mackenzie’, who was buried in 1691. Secondly, there’s Greyfriars Bobby: a loyal terrier who guarded his master’s grave for 13 years until his own doggy death. And finally there’s William McGonagall, who was probably the worst poet of all time. Here’s a snippet of his work…

“All ye tourists who wish to be away
From the crowded city for a brief holiday
The town of Nairn is worth a visit, I do confess
And it’s only about fifteen miles from Inverness”

pere

Père-Lachaise - via Wikipedia

Père-Lachaise – Paris, France
For celebrity-spotters, there’s no better necropolis in Europe than Père-Lachaise. Best known as the final resting place of The Doors’ Jim Morrison, this vast and historic Parisian landmark is also home to the likes of Oscar Wilde, Frédéric Chopin, Molière, Marcel Proust and Édith Piaf.

But it isn’t all about the famous corpses: Père-Lachaise’s ornate memorials, leafy walkways and pleasant follies help create a tranquil oasis in the frantic French capital. In short, Père-Lachaise is a blessed relief.

Assistens – Copenhagen, Denmark
Regardless of the fact that it was built as a graveyard, Assistens has actually become one of Denmark’s most popular green spaces. A peaceful park that boasts a variety of blooming flowers, meandering avenues and the odd ornate temple, it’s the city’s prime spot for picnicking and other summertime fun.

almudena

Almudena - via Wikipedia

Almudena – Madrid, Spain
One of Europe’s most famous graveyards, the Cementerio de Nuestra Señora de La Almudena (to give it its full name) was the only real cemetery for Madridleños for the best part of a century. That means this vast plot holds more five million corpses… which is more than the current living population of the city! You can easily spend a whole day walking around the place, just trying to take in the enormity of it all.

Mirogoj – Zagreb, Croatia
One of the most ornate cemeteries in Europe, Mirogoj boasts pristine gardens, shaded trails and the most artistic memorials you will ever see – as well as beautiful churches and arcades throughout. It’s also important to note that this graveyard allows Christians, Jews and Muslims to be buried side-by-side.

Zentralfriedhof – Vienna, Austria
Famous as the cemetery of choice for Europe’s musical elite, Vienna’s largest graveyard has the remains of Brahms, Schubert, Beethoven and the entire Strauss dynasty, along with a big monument to Mozart (actual burial site unknown). With its woodland paths and many benches, it’s also a great place to relax.

merry

Merry - via Wikipedia

Merry Cemetery – Săpânţa, Romania
With more in common with the colorful burial sites you find across Latin America, this is one of the most upbeat and cheerful cemeteries in Europe. Subscribing to the beliefs of the ancient Dacian tribe – that death is a journey to a better place and should be celebrated – the whole atmosphere is unusually jolly.

La Cimetière des Chiens – Paris, France
And finally, if you’re looking for something a little different from a graveyard, how about ‘The Cemetery of Dogs’? The world’s oldest pet necropolis, this Paris park is home not only to dearly departed canines, but also to cats, goldfish, mice and almost every other pet you can imagine, including a 19th century lion!

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