Last weekend, I went for a walk with a friend around the famous Highgate Cemetery. It is one of the most magnificent cemeteries in London and a place you cannot miss if you’re interested in exploring unusual historical locations.
I purchased tickets for a self-guided tour of the West Cemetery online (which included access to the East Cemetery as well).
We started our visit with the West Cemetery, and I found it much more impressive than the East part. It’s older and somehow more fascinating with its winding paths leading up the hill to many impressive tombs and funerary monuments like the Circle of Lebanon (a set of tombs built around an ancient cedar tree) or the Egyptian Avenue (rows of family tombs inspired by the Egyptian architecture).
We could feel the atmosphere of romantic decay as we wandered among crumbling and really old tombstones (so old that the inscriptions aren’t always legible), beautifully chiseled but frequently broken statues, catacombs, and old, dusty chapels covered in ivy.
It felt as if we were on Tim Burton’s movie set – in the surreal, dreamy and gothic world (if you have ever watched “Nightmare Before Christmas”, you know what I’m talking about).
It’s the place to go if you enjoy “Burtonesque” mysteries that elicit a strange sense of dread. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend reading any stories about the Highgate vampire or spirits haunting this site before visiting, especially if you plan to come here after dark.
Despite how moody it was, we had a great time on the walk. Places like this one always make me reflect, cultivate gratitude and keep things in perspective. We frequently paused to read old inscriptions, reflecting on history and learning more about the lives of some famous people buried here (the map we were given at the entrance to the cemetery was helpful to find their graves).
Following our exploration of the West Cemetery, we moved on to the East Cemetery, which is still an active graveyard. East Cemetery, while much different in character (less quirky and neglected), is equally interesting, with many unusual burials. The most famous is probably Karl Marx’s grave, but there are many other truly bizarre and one-of-a-kind headstones.
We enjoyed strolling around the alleys, sitting on the bench, and catching the sun after several hours of rain. Suddenly, the atmosphere around the place became more cheerful and light-hearted.
It was a pleasant surprise to see the abundance of wildlife in the cemetery. You can spot there everything from blooming flowers to various types of birds. Even foxes can be seen in the area. A small fox who had been avoiding my camera had finally come out of hiding and allowed me to capture a photo of him (all you need is patience).
If I didn’t make friends with a graveyard cat, I wouldn’t be myself (pet-obsessed as I am). The little poser loved being in front of the camera, and the camera loved him right back:)
Following our visit to the cemetery, we made our way to the Archway tube station via the nearby Waterlow Park. I highly recommend going there for a breathtaking view of the city.
HOW TO BOOK
You can book your self-guided visit to the Cemetery here.
West Cemetery ticket costs 10£ / person (the East Cemetery entry is included in the price)
HOW TO GET THERE
Nearest underground station: Archway (or Highgate for those who don’t mind a longer walk)