There are many unique European cemeteries but a few stand out due to their stunning funerary statuary and the history reflected in the tombs and mausoleums.
UNIQUE EUROPEAN CEMETERIES
Staglieno Cemetery in Genoa
Monumental Cemeteries in Italy can be seen in many cities throughout the country. They are where you will find the most impressive tombs of the families of the city. Staglieno Cemetery in Genoa is the most impressive of them all, it covers an area of over 1 km square. Opening in 1854 it is like walking through an art gallery. Here you see aspects of different art eras displayed in larger than life-sized sculptures.
Described by Mark Twain as ‘sculptured figures that are exquisitely wrought and are full of grace and beauty, ‘ this cemetery is filled with the stories of the people of Genoa. From Caterina Campodonico who spent her lifetime selling nuts to fund the building of her tomb which still show her with her nuts to sell, to the Appiani family tomb showing the family grieving at the bedside of their loved one to some of the richest residents displaying their lives and how charitable they were, no-one is excluded as long as they can pay. It truly is something to be seen to be believed and certainly one of the unique European cemeteries.
Ron and Michele Legge blog at Legging It
Cimitero Monumentale di Bonaria
Most people who visit Sardinia use Cagliari just as a base from where to explore the best beaches in Sardinia, or at most spend a weekend visiting the main attractions in the city. Yet, the capital of the island is packed with hidden gems that should not be overlooked.
One of the nicest places to visit in Cagliari is the Cimitero Monumentale di Bonaria, so beautiful that it looks like a huge, monumental open-air art gallery with sculptures of what were some of the most influential artists on the island between the 19th and 20th centuries. The most important families in the city would hire them to create intricate and beautiful sculptures to adorn the tombs of their beloved.
The cemetery was inaugurated in 1828, though the area where it is located was already a burial site in the Punic and Roman times. After Napoleon’s Edict of 1816 which prohibited burials in the city due to hygienic conditions, Bonaria became the main cemetery of Cagliari, as it was located in an area that at the time was far from the main center.
The cemetery stopped being used as a burial ground in 1968, remaining now a beautiful garden and an open-air museum, with beautiful statues, some of them packed with mystery and legends.
My Adventures Across The World
Poblenou Cemetery in Barcelona
Visiting cemeteries is one of the greatest ways to learn a lot about the history of a certain place. Barcelona has been a city of major importance for many centuries so you find several important historical cemeteries there. One of the most famous burial grounds is the Poblenou Cemetery found in a neighborhood very close to the beach. It can be easily visited since there are several metro stops quite close.
The cemetery was opened in the 18th century when there was no more space in the larger Montjuic cemetery. It was designed by Ginesi, an Italian architect and it is divided into two major sections: the one closer to the entrance has thousands of burial niches, while at the back you can find large individual crypts and family mausoleums. One of the most curious landmarks of the cemetery is the “Kiss of Death” statue, a winged skeleton kissing a young person. You can easily find the major sites in the cemetery following the leaflet that you can pick up at the entrance and truly enjoy one of the great and unique European cemeteries.
Surfing the Planet
Bunhill Fields Burial Ground, London
If you’re a fan of English Literature or history in general, Bunhill Fields Burial Ground in London is begging you to visit. Opened in 1665, Bunhill Fields Burial Ground has been the final resting place for thousands ranging from commoners to authors.
When it comes to special residents, the three most popular are John Bunyan, Daniel Defoe, and William Blake.
If you love a good mystery the following should intrigue you. Blake, a Romantic author, poet, and painter, is perhaps the most famous resident. However, his final resting place has never truly been verified and marked within the grounds. But recently a group of Blake enthusiasts believes they’ve discovered where he lies.
To learn more, and where they believe he is, you can read about their process of finding his spot, here. And if you’re a fan of indie rock, you’ll have to listen to Bloc Party’s “Ion Square” to catch the reference to finding Blake’s true grave. Happy hunting!
Scott & Hayley
Greyfriars Cemetery, one of the great unique European cemeteries, is in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town. It is beautifully gothic with graves dating back to the 1560’s. Most of the graves are grand and elaborate with intricate details which are fascinating to look at. It’s these graves that inspired JK Rowling and some of the characters in the Harry Potter books were named after the notable residents in Greyfriars. Many now visit to hunt out the graves of Tom Riddle and McGonagall and leave flowers and cards (please don’t, it isn’t really him!). As with most cemeteries, there is a resident ghost and he isn’t a friendly chap! George MacKenzie was a ruthless prosecutor of the Scottish Covenanters and as someone broke into his tomb he is now free to roam Greyfriars. Enter at night at your own risk. There is a cute story too though, of the little Skye Terrier Bobby who is thought to have watched over his deceased owner’s grave for 14 years, you can find a bronze statue of Bobby just outside the graveyard. You could easily spend half a day walking around Greyfriars, it’s utterly fascinating.
Nicola Holland at FunkyEllas Travel
Olšany Cemetery is the largest cemetery in Prague, Czech Republic. At one time in history, it was the resting place of up to two million dearly departed. Among its most notable residents is Jan Palach, the Czech student that set himself on fire to protest the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Olšany Cemetery has a dreamlike ambiance. Overgrown lush green ivy crawl over the elegant statues and tombstones and speckled green moss blanket them with a comforting embrace. The thick canopy of trees creates a somber shadow over the cemetery and blots out sound from the outside world. Thousands of stories lay all around you, each unique, making a walk through this cemetery one of the most special and moving experiences you can have in Prague.
Randi & Michael at Just a Pack
Brompton Cemetery, London
Brompton Cemetery in London is one of those quintessentially Victorian cemeteries that you see in horror and period movies – think Sherlock Holmes and Finding Neverland, which were actually filmed here. It is part of what is known as ‘The Magnificent Seven’ cemeteries in London, and you will realize why as soon as you walk through the gate.
Built in 1840, it is one of Britain’s oldest cemeteries and it has over 35,000 monuments that go from simple headstones to grand mausoleums. Here you can find the graves of notable people such as Emmeline Pankhurst, the famous suffragette.
Don’t forget to visit the beautiful chapel and the colonnade. The catacombs are open to the public once a year, and if you happen to be there around that time, don’t miss this opportunity. Even if you don’t go in, have a peek through the gate and you will be able to see the ornate coffins stacked up on shelves. A pretty daunting sight!
Teresa at Brogan AbroadBeing the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful, that's what matters to me. Steve Jobs Click To Tweet
Abney Park Cemetery
Location: Stoke Newington, Hackney, London
The beautifully overgrown Abney Park Cemetery is a unique cemetery that has even made its way into pop culture in Amy Winehouse’s music video, Back to Black.
Built in the early 1800s to cater for London’s rapid population growth, Abney Park gets its name from Sir Thomas Abney, who served as Lord Mayor of London at the time.
Abney fell into disrepair and was abandoned in the 1970s. As the years passed, Abney Park became overgrown but it was decided to maintain and manage this new and unique urban wilderness. Efforts were made to ensure a balance between the needs of Abney Park’s wildlife with the requirements of the historic landscape and structures as well as the Park’s memorial role.
Abney Park Cemetery is home to many rare species of plants from around the world. The oldest recorded tree is a 170-year-old Perry’s Weeping Holly, which is actually a bush.
Hundreds of species of insects thrive in the cemetery including the hoverfly Pocota personata; the rare moth Adela reaumurella and the girdled mining bee.
Famous tombs found in Abney Park Cemetery include William and Catherine Booth, founders of The Salvation Army plus, scores of Victorian comedians, pantomime actors and other performers.
The Intrepid Guide
Unique European cemeteries showcase the history and heritage of their cities and culture. That’s why they are unique. And don’t forget to visit part one of Famous and Unique European Cemeteries.
To learn more about these fascinating places follow the European cemetery route here.
Which one of these unique European cemeteries is your favorite? We want to know.