I am sure I’m not the only person in the world who likes to walk around cemeteries.
There are two main reasons why I like them: first, old cemeteries are hidden jems, witnesses of history and often, an art gallery in itself. And second, the silence. Going for a walk in a cemetery helps me focus and put some order in my head, and even if I don’t go there every week, it’s a highly appreciated promenade.
Old cemeteries are filled with surprises. Not only because of the famous guests you can find there – at Highgate cemetery in London there is Marx, at Père Lachaise in Paris there is Jim Morrison – but also because of the pieces of art that are built in memory of the loved ones. Most of the time, when visiting a new place, first thing on the list I will check is whereabouts is the oldest cemetery and how to get there. Of course, not always there will be an old fashioned cemetery to visit because some cities rather have the aseptic and “modern” version – with the white head-stones lying and the endless green park.
Among my personal favourites, Vyšehrad cemetery (Prague) and Montmartre (Paris) are on top of the list (the other two I mentioned above are fine too). Vyšehrad was a pleasant surprise because a) it’s on top of the hill; b) it’s filled with sculptures and pieces of art; and c) many people from the world of arts and sciences are buried there (like the composer Anton Dvořák). I got there by chance, just walking around and getting lost, but I had the perfect afternoon learning a bit more about the Czech culture.
Then, Montmartre cemetery is a special one for me. Probably because the first time I was there it was snowing and it was the first time I experienced the snowy cemetery visit. What I also like is the geography of the place – the alleys are in different levels, so you go up and down the whole time, and there is a bridge outside and above from where you get a nice view of the cemetery. Although there are not as many ‘stars’ as in Père Lachaise, Montmartre has a list of interesting characters to pay a visit: Berlioz (composer), Degas (painter), Sacha Guitry (actor & director), Emile Zola (writer) and François Truffaut, to count some. Since it’s kind of a small cemetery, you can go there in the morning and afterwards walk ten minutes towards the Basilique du Sacré Coeur, to watch the sunset in Paris.
You can check here some pictures of the Montmartre cemetery under the snow.
What do you think? Are there other cemeteries you would recommend to visit?