My husband once said to me, “it’s good that you like cemeteries because you’re going to be spending a lot of time in them one day.” Morbid but true, I think cemeteries are one of the coolest places you can visit. They offer art, nature, and history as well as compelling personal narratives presented with only a few names and dates on gravestones.
Here are some of my favorite cemeteries I’ve visited in the US and Europe along with my impressions:
In the United States
- Sunset View Cemetery (El Cerrito – Bay Area)
The name says it all. The views here are spectacular.
- Mountain View Cemetery (Oakland – Bay Area)
Also offers great views when you drive to the top of the cemetery.
- Decatur Cemetery (Atlanta)
Lots of personal mementos let you know the people buried here were loved. My favorite spot is the wind chime filled path near the monument to those who’ve donated their bodies to science. It’s a great place to sit and reflect.
- East View Cemetery (Atlanta)
A lovely small cemetery. Check out the memorial to Stewart Maiden, a.k.a. Kiltie the Kingmaker, who taught legendary golfer Bobby Jones among others.
- Oakland Cemetery (Atlanta)
Filled with history–it’s well worth taking one of the many tours offered here. Beautiful flowers and sculptures. Great views of downtown Atlanta. Lots of cool events happening throughout the year.
- Westview Cemetery (Atlanta)
Largest civilian cemetery in the Southeast. Don’t miss the massive mausoleum inside Westview Abbey.
- Mt. Auburn Cemetery (Boston)
Lush landscapes abound in this historic private cemetery. Amazing views of Boston and Cambridge available from Washington Tower. I found out during a jog through the cemetery that jogging is not allowed here. Came back again and took a nice long walk.
- Spring Grove Cemetery (Cincinnati)
A personal favorite–there is much to explore in this cemetery and arboretum. Beautiful monuments, mausoleums, lakes and ponds. Great for running and biking.
- Laeken Cemetery (Brussels)
Check out the crypt that spans a large underground section of the cemetery. Aboveground there are detailed gravestones for soldiers who served during World War I.
- Mirogoj Cemetery (Zagreb)
Long arcades are an architectural highlight. Flowers and other ornamentations decorate many of the more recent gravestones making for a very personal feel.
- Highgate Cemetery (London)
Great example of a Victorian Cemetery. The guided tour of the West Cemetery is a must do. It’s the only way to gain entrance to this part of the cemetery and experience Egyptian Avenue and the Circle of Lebanon.
- American Cemetery (Normandy)
This was the last stop on a D-day tour I took in Normandy. Seeing the rows of graves, reading the names on the Wall of the Missing, and watching the flag lowering ceremony drove home the importance of the sacrifices the US soldiers made during World War II and how they still impact us today.
- Louvre Museum (Paris)
Not a cemetery but a museum that houses an incredible collection of funerary art. Lots of interesting objects to see in the French sculpture collection and in the Greek, Roman, and Near Eastern Antiquities collections. But the Egyptian collections really steal the show when it comes to funerary related items. There are mummies, coffins, sarcophagi, plus all the objects that were placed in tombs as part of funeral customs. Be sure to check out the funerary objects in both the Ancient Egypt section and in Near Eastern and Egyptian Art.
- Montparnasse Cemetery (Paris)
Great statuary. Visited the graves of famous authors including Charles Baudelaire, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Marguerite Duras. My favorite monument, one for the family of Charles Pigeon, shows a full scale replica of a husband and wife in bed.
- Père Lachaise Cemetery (Paris)
This cemetery is one of the most visited in the world for a reason. (I visited many times during my summer in Paris in 2019!) Wind your way through wooded paths and stumble upon the graves of celebrities spanning several centuries: Héloïse & Abelard, Molière, Frédéric Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Colette, Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison, and more. Make sure to check out the northeastern corner of the cemetery (near the Gambetta entrance) where there are memorials to victims of war and airline crashes.
- Frankfurt Main Cemetery – Haupfriedhof (Frankfurt)
Enjoyed an easy stroll through this wooded cemetery. Well maintained plots with planted flowers–there were watering cans available throughout the cemetery (presumably so that families can garden).