Père Lachaise opened in 1804 and is arguably the most visited and beautiful cemetery in the world. Its 70,000 ornate tombs of the rich and famous fill the 44 hectare sculpture garden. The most visited are those of rock star Jim Morrison and writer Oscar Wilde. Other notable people buried here include Chopin, Molière, Proust, Édith Piaf and Gertrude Stein. If you are not the starstruck type or none of these names ring a bell, you can still appreciate the views of Paris, the Haussmannian chambers and haunting statures and mausoleums. The best way to enjoy this cemetery is to stroll aimlessly around its paths.
Old Jewish Cemetery
Prague, Czech Republic
This cemetery dates back to the 15th century. It’s known for its extremely cramped graves, which adds to its haunting quality. To abide by the Jewish prohibition on destroying graves or moving headstones, graves were errected on top of existing graves. There are more than 100,000 bodies buried in the cemetery, but roughly only 12,000 headstones are visible. There are approximately 12 layers of graves beneath the soil. The last burial took place in 1787. Many of the surviving gravestones are broken and crooked, but definitely adds to the ancient beauty of the cemetery. The carvings and inscriptions that have survived are as beautiful as they are fascinating.
(Source: clausmorell, Flickr)
There are approximately 800 sculptures in Ohlsdorf Cemetery. It is nearly 400 hectares, making it one of the world’s largest garden cemetery and the fourth largest necropolis in the world. Famous people buried here include Heinrich Hertz, after whom the measure of wave frequency is named as well as James Last and Heinz Erhardt. Given its size, the Ohlsdorf Cemetery has its own bus line. There are hundreds and thousands of graves in this very green park and a few individual graves that are truly remarkable. Many of the graves belong to those who died during the two world wars.
Vienna Central Cemetery
The Central Cemetery is the final resting place of a number of notable figures. It was used as a cemetery from 1874 and is the largest cemetery in Vienna. There are 330,000 graves and 3.3 million people have been buried there. It is the second largest cemetery in Europe, after Ohlsdorf Cemetery. There are tombstones, memorials, mausoleums and sculptures sprinkled around the cemetery. Some areas are completely overgrown with trees and plants, others are neatly groomed with pathways and walkways. The most interesting section is the “graves of honour” where Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and Strauss II are buried as well as other individuals who are renown in the areas of music, science, invention, politics, painting or sport.
San Michele Cemetery
Isola di San Michele is the most peaceful of Venetian islands. The Venetian government decreed the island a cemetery in 1837 after determining the usual practice of burying the dead beneath paving stones and church floors was unsanitary and illegal. The burial areas are divided into categories, with the majority devoted to Catholic graves. Smaller sections are for Greek Orthodox and Protestants. The grounds are green and expansive, covered in rows of modern tombstones, and dotted with statuary, trees and occasionally a family chapel or mausoleum. Parts are clean and well attended, unfortunately other corners have fallen into disrepair from neglect.
(Source: Farm7, Flickr)
In this cemetery, there are over 600 wooden crosses that bear the life stories, dirty details and final moments of the bodies they mark. Displayed in bright, cherry pictures and annotated with limericks are the stories of almost everyone who has died in the town. Stan Ioan Pătraş was born in Săpânţa in 1908, and at the age of 14 he had already begun carving crosses for the local cemetery. By 1935, Pătraş had begun carving clever or ironic poems about the deceased, and painting the crosses with the deceased’s image, often including the way in which the individual died in the image.
Icelanders’ love affair with nature is in evidence at Hólavallagarður. An endangered species of moss coats portions of the wall ringing the eight-acre property. Inside, narrow paths wind around headstones, some adorned with barely discernible engravings, while a tangle of trees bearing gnarled branches stands guard. Birch and rowan predominate, but larch, spruce, willow, and poplar also provide shade in what amounts to one of the more densely wooded forests in the capital city. The air is alive with the fluttering of birds—goldcrest, common blackbird, redwing, and others, providing a truly peaceful respite from the urban hum.