Historical landmarks of stunning beauty created by man to remember those that have gone before him, cemeteries are not just somewhere for the dearly departed to haunt. Plenty of tourists love to meander around graves, as many are places of timeless and beautiful architecture that give an insight into the city in which they are. You don’t have to have a ghoulish streak or unhealthy interest in death to poke your way around a graveyard, as cemeteries appeal to art lovers and historians.
Cemeteries can be the source of titillating stories of the haunting ghost variety, sad tales of lives or the ending of a full life of fame and fortune that is reflected in the size of the mausoleum in which they repose. The most beautiful graveyards are open-air living history museums of amazing sculpture with many located in stunning locations.
Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris
The most visited cemetery in the world, Père Lachaise Cemetery is on many people’s list of things to do when in Paris due to the fact that it’s where you can peek at the earthly resting places of Jim Morrison, Marcel Proust, Edith Piaf and Oscar Wilde to name a few VIPs that are buried here. The first “garden” cemetery located in the 20th arrondissement in Paris, it’s 44 hectares of cobblestoned pathways lined with old gnarly trees and exquisite statues plus tombs. Initially established in 1804, today it’s claimed to have 70,000 burial plots from Haussmanian burial chambers to gothic style graves and ancient mausoleums.
You can join a guided tour of the cemetery and get the full rundown of its famous residents or take a poke around by yourself with the help of a map; basically, just head to where groups of tourists are lingering, and you will be sure to stumble across a famous identity. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that one day you could join this hallowed roll-call of deceased at Père Lachaise Cemetery. Although it’s still taking new burials, there are super strict rules on who gets to lie here for eternity. You can pay for a 30-year lease on a gravesite, but if your family doesn’t keep paying the dues, your remains will be removed! Families are literally stacked up in tombs, and with very few plots available, there’s even a waiting list to recline with the highflying departed. Maybe you have to put your name down on the waitlist when you are born, similar to elite private schools.
La Recoleta, Buenos Aires
Another achingly beautiful cemetery that you won’t end up in is La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires. The resting place for the famous, politicians and the founding families of the city; the history of Buenos Aires is reflected in its layout. It dates back to 1822 when it was a vegetable garden for the monks; it then became the place to bury paupers. As the city grew, the poor were ousted for the founding families during the mid-1800s when the yellow fever plague hit the town.
It’s designed like a mini-city of piazzas and cobblestoned alleys leading out from a statue of Jesus that really you have to look twice at, as it’s a very different interpretation to that of the accepted version. This is the most expensive real estate in the whole of the city and reflects the power and wealth that Buenos Aires held during the period 1890 to 1930. Literally overflowing with elegant and intricate statues of angels, glorious tombs of a mish-mash of architectural styles opulently standing in a spectacular array, shoulder-to-shoulder. The resting place for Eva Peron whose remains are interred 15-feet below ground, you can read the names of every past president, famous artists, writers and sportspeople.
Highgate Cemetery, London
Dramatic, opulent and exuding wealth, Highgate Cemetery in London has 170,000 inhabitants supposedly resting in peace within its walls. This is where numerous illustrious souls are taking their last sleep from Karl Marx to novelist George Eliot, professional boxer Tom Sayers to the wife of Charles Dickens, Kate Dickens. Today the music legend, George Michael, has joined the legendary list, plus it’s where Alexander Litvinenko – think poisoned Russian spy – is in repose in a lead-lined coffin because of the level of radioactivity in his remains.
Dressed up in obelisk towers, soaring angel figures and mammoth crosses, Highgate Cemetery is another art gallery of history in a picturesque slumbering garden where moss has invaded nooks and flourishing trees gracefully shadow meandering pathways. Sitting in London’s north, Highgate Cemetery is listed on the Historical Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England.
So now you know where you definitely won’t be buried, as all the good final resting spots are taken, maybe you should contemplate under the orange tree in the backyard of your home as an alternative for when you “shuffle off this mortal coil” sans the beautiful angels.