Visiting a cemetery. It’s not exactly like going to the beach, enjoying a fine meal or going shopping on vacation – and it’s probably not on the top of many travelers’ to-do lists for a holiday. Yet, there are some gorgeous cemeteries around the world that, for good reason, regularly make it onto tourist itineraries.
Although visiting a cemetery may seem like a morbid way to spend part of a trip, many are actually beautiful locations that can reveal important details about the history and the culture of an area. They can offer a relaxing respite to tourists who are weary of other busy tourist landmarks. On the other hand, some of these final resting places are architecturally quite impressive and are home to such noteworthy residents that they have become landmarks in their own right. Cemeteries in places such as Paris, London, Buenos Aires and New York have become must-see sites in the city. Many of these cemeteries are so beautiful and have such fascinating history that you might – almost – forget their actual purpose.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans, Louisiana
Established in the late 1700s, this is the oldest cemetery in New Orleans and is listed on the National Register of Historic places in the U.S. The tombs at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 are located above ground because New Orleans is situated below sea level. In earlier cemeteries, flooding had caused a problem for its inhabitants.
This magnificent cemetery has many impressive above ground tombs, though many of them are sadly in a state of disrepair because of their age and weathering in the harsh climate over the years. Visitors to the site can enjoy guided day tours as well as special haunted tours.
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
When the wealthy residents of the city moved to the Recoleta neighborhood in the mid-1800s, they chose this centrally located cemetery as the final resting place of choice for their wealthy and illustrious family members. Presidents, military leaders, scientists and writers have all been laid to rest in this surprisingly serene and beautiful cemetery with elaborate tombs and memorials, many of which are still very well maintained.
Its most famous inhabitant is the former First Lady, Evita Peron. Although she is buried in a modest location that does not have as prime of a spot as some of the other renowned individuals in Recoleta, her tomb is easy for visitors to locate thanks to the flowers and notes that decorate it daily by tourists from around the world who still come to pay their respects to her.
Highgate Cemetery, London, England
One of the greatest Victorian cemeteries in the world, this North London cemetery is home to many interesting graves, including dignitaries such as Karl Marx, George Eliot, and the parents of Charles Dickens. Its appearance today is slightly eerie, overgrown with trees, ivy, flowers and bushes.
A vampire was rumored to haunt it in the 1970s. After paying an entrance fee, visitors can enjoy guided tours on the cemetery’s West side or wander the cemetery’s East side at their leisure.
Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York
As the name suggests, this cemetery is green and pleasant, with a stunning chapel on its grounds. It was once a major tourist destination: in the 19th century, this National Historic Landmark was the 2nd most visited tourist attraction in the United States. It still impresses visitors with its many beautiful monuments, rolling hills, trees and of course the very famous people buried there including scientists, musicians, baseball legends and Civil War veterans.
One of the most noteworthy individuals laid to rest there is Louis Comfort Tiffany. The cemetery is a hidden jewel in New York City because it offers visitors stunning views of Manhattan on top of Battle Hill, which was the site of a battle during the Revolutionary War.
Pere-Lachaise, Paris, France
This cemetery was established by Napoleon in 1804 and is the burial site of many famous French authors, writers and musicians, including Marcel Proust, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison.
It has graceful and winding cobblestone paths and lots of green trees in between the picturesque tombstones, mausoleums and even pyramids, castles, and statues.
Cementerio General, Santiago, Chile
With over 2 million occupants, this Chilean cemetery is the largest cemetery in South America. Like many other cemeteries in Chile, its gravesites are stacked one on top of another above ground and are marked with inscriptions and drawings, as well as colorful flowers left by family members.
The grounds of the Cementerio General are a bit like a city within a city, with its own streets and even street vendors. Although some areas are in bad repair, but there is an area where the wealthy were buried that has tombs made in virtually every architectural style, including pyramids and even miniature “mansions.”
Merry Cemetery, Sapanta, Romania
This cemetery is a unique place because of its very brightly colored gravestones. These wooden headstones commemorate the deceased with a funny saying or by depicting a scene from the occupants’ lives.
The result is an unusual, exceptionally colorful cemetery. Visitors might want to consider bringing along their own tour guide to translate the inscriptions.
Waverley Cemetery, Sydney, Australia
This cemetery, featured in the Baz Lurhmann movie “The Great Gatsby,” is in a scenic location that offers visitors a pleasant walk while gazing at the headstones that go back as far as the 18th century. Statues of completely white angels provide a poetic, almost surreal contrast with the blue Australian sky and ocean in the background.
Novodevichy Convent and Cemetery, Moscow, Russia
This cemetery is on the site of a 16th century convent that is a popular place for history buffs to visit, and for good reason. Important Russian poets, musicians, politicians and writers are all buried here. A visit to the cemetery should also include a visit to the picturesque church.
Visitors who don’t speak or read Russian may want to come prepared with a guidebook so it is easier to find the graves of the historical dignitaries.
Xoxocotlan Cemetery, Oaxaca, Mexico
This cemetery, which dates to the 1500s, is an especially fascinating place to visit during Day of the Dead celebrations that start on the night of October 31. On that holiday, a cheerful and very festive atmosphere prevails in this densely packed cemetery.
Visitors cover the gravesites of their loved ones with large bouquets of colorful flowers and thousands of candles before sitting around and enjoying a party in honor of their dead family members. Families bring picnics, listen to music played by live musicians who roam the grounds, and of course eat and drink in their loved ones’ honor.