Tombstone tourist: Why visiting these beautiful cemeteries should be on your bucket list

  • london
  • October 26, 2020
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No longer just a hangout for bats, cemeteries have become destinations in their own right for those who want to appreciate their eerie beauty, spirituality and, of course, their peace and quiet.

Take a look at some of the most serene cemeteries from around the world and some of the famous faces that rest there.

Père-Lachaise, Paris, France

After spending my teenage years as a huge fan of The Doors, the first time I visited Père-Lachaise, in the low-key suburb of Ménilmontant, I made a beeline for the grave of the Californian band’s iconic lead singer, Jim Morrison (who died in the French capital in 1971).

I wasn’t the only one – it was surrounded by moody-looking, pouty, long-haired rock fans who left offerings of packets of fags and scrawled graffiti on his headstone.

Similarly, devotees paid homage to the final resting place of poet and playwright Oscar Wilde, many adorning his carved tomb with red lipstick kisses.

Elsewhere, it’s a delight to stroll through the cemetery’s elegant, tree-lined avenues, where other residents include legendary singer Édith Piaf and mime artist Marcel Marceau.

Highgate Cemetery, North London, England

I may be biased, as I live only a few minutes away, but Highgate Cemetery is a pleasant, peaceful place to stroll.

It’s the final resting place of dozens of artists, novelists and philosophers, including the painter Lucian Freud, authors Douglas Adams and George Eliot, music legend Malcolm McLaren, and ‘father of Communism’ Karl Marx.

Created during the Victorian era, the then-romantic approach to death led to a profusion of dramatic Gothic tombs, obelisks and stone angels.

Egyptian Avenue is one of the most photogenic thoroughfares, leading to the Circle of Lebanon, a set of tombs built around an ancient cedar tree.

La Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina

One of the most famous women in Argentina is buried here: the actress María Eva Duarte, better known by the time of her death in 1952 as Eva Perón, wife to the country’s president.

Her grand, heavily fortified mausoleum is adorned with brass plaques for the other Duarte family members also interred there.

There are more than 6,000 tombs, designed like Greek and Gothic temples and fairy-tale grottoes, housing some of the country’s most celebrated intellectuals, army generals and entertainers.

Look out for the life-size statue of boxer Luis Ángel Firpo, eternally represented in his robe.

Mirogoj Cemetery, Zagreb, Croatia

A contender for the title of most beautiful graveyard in Europe, the grand 19th-century Mirogoj is full of Italianate-style columns, domes, arcades and black-and-white-tiled passageways (right) – much of it covered in ivy.

It describes itself as an ‘open-air museum’, possibly because of the large number of statues and sculptures that adorn many of the graves, created by some of Croatia’s finest artists and sculptors.

These include Rodin’s apprentice Robert Frangeš-Mihanović and the renowned Ivan Meštrović. On a sunny day, strolling around its perfectly cultivated parklands and gardens is an oddly life-enhancing experience.

Panteón General Oaxaca, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca, Mexico

It may sound odd to put a visit to a cemetery on your bucket list but this was on mine five years ago for the celebrations for Day of the Dead.

Held at the start of November, families gather to decorate loved ones’ graves with flowers, figurines and candles.

It’s a colourful, uplifting, vibrant celebration, with music, singing and dancing, and this grand graveyard in central Oaxaca is a very special setting in which to experience it.

Bonaventure, Savannah, USA

Practically a physical representation of the literary genre Southern Gothic, you’ll find trees draped in Spanish moss stooping over cracked gravestones in this atmospheric burial ground.

Savannah, in Georgia, styles itself as America’s most haunted city, thanks to its calamitous past – blighted by yellow fever, wars, famine, slavery and natural disasters.

One of its spectral-looking statues, known as Bird Girl, found fame on the cover of John Berendt’s 1994 novel Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil, (later made into a film starring Jude Law and John Cusack).

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