This is a story I’ve wanted to write for some time now. With the beautiful send offs of Aretha Franklin and John McCain as well as halloween around the corner, I’ve been thinking about the idea of death and how it’s perceived in different cultures. My family is West Indian. When someone dies, there is a wake that lasts almost a week, that to an outside observer, may seem like an inappropriate party. In Jamaican tradition it’s called Nine-Night. This practice, a celebration of the person’s life and a “send off” of them into death so to speak, can be seen in other cultures; an Irish wake is a well known one for example. Sitting shiva in the Jewish culture lasts a week long, but isn’t as turnt up as West Indian or Irish. While in New Orleans on a Sunday, I saw beautiful brass bands celebrating the passing of someone during second lines. In New Orleans, funeral processions play solemn music on the way to the cemetery and joyous music on the way back. There is also a history of rejoicing at death through music in West African burial traditions. Yes there is sadness but there is also joy. Funerals and death can be a family gathering celebrating the deceased’s life. In Mexico Día de los Muertos happens to be around Halloween but it is a celebration of death and loved ones that have passed.
This all being said, our Western culture has a macabre fascination with death and with cemeteries. Often thought of as spooky and haunted here in the US. The scene of Halloween ghouls, cemeteries get a bad rep. Who remembers being told as a kid to hold your breath when you pass a cemetery as to not breath in the spirits of the dead? However, if you look at it objectively, cemeteries are some of the most beautiful parks in the world, especially in cities. Historical respect for the dead often gave them prime real-estate — sometimes hillside and in some cities, like Paris, cemeteries with their planning and architecture feel like perfectly curated mini neighborhoods. Here are some of the best cemeteries in the world that draw thousands and in some cases millions of visitors each year, whether or not they have loved ones buried there!
The St. Louis Cemetery // New Orleans, Louisiana
The St. Louis Cemetery in New Orleans was given the moniker City of the Dead by Mark Twain and the name stuck for many of the sprawling cemeteries in the Southern city. Rows and lanes of beautiful ornate tombs, fresh flowers and yea, the more than occasional ghost sighting makes St. Louis cemetery as bustling as the city outside of its gates. The latest celebrity tomb is that of Nicholas Cage — definitely a sight. If you’re a movie buff, head to the Garden District (a must see area in New Orleans anyway), the stunning Lafayette cemetery has served as the backdrop for scenes from movies like Interview with the Vampire (a tomb here was the inspiration for Lestad’s crypt — Anne Rice’s home is down the street), Double Jeopardy, CW’s hearththrob-filled series, Originals and many more.
Père Lachaise Cemetery // Paris, France
Hmm, is it a French thing? Do they just know how to rest eternally the right way? The most visited cemetery in the world is the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Three of the most visited graves in this cemetery are Oliver Wilde’s beautiful sphinx tomb adorned with red-lipstick kisses, the Doors’ Jim Morrison — just follow the music — and another music legend, Frédéric Chopin.
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Green-Wood is now an accredited Level III arboretum! We are proud to care for 510 species and cultivars of trees and shrubs and excited to provide programs and resources for you to learn all about them! . Upcoming is the Alive at Green-Wood walking tour, led by the incredibly talented @allisoncmeier at 12pm on November 11. Come learn about Green-Wood’s ecological past and present, and observe the chemical changes and breakdown of chlorophyll in the leaves of the trees (fall color)! . Find an interactive digital map of our arboretum at https://green-wood.com/trees It can be accessed on any web browser on any device! . . #aliveatgreenwood #urbanarboretum #urbanforest #autumnfoliage #forestbathing #historicgreenwood #brooklyn #newyork
Green-Wood Cemetery // Brooklyn, New York
In the heart of Brooklyn, true to its borough, Green-Wood is happening. Often hosting fun events, like musical concerts on the grounds, Green-Wood seems like a lively place for your final resting place. Created in the mid 1800s, it was considered Brooklyn’s first public park way before the creation of Prospect Park and the popularity of Green-Wood actually inspired the city to create Central Park. Famous residents include Jean-Michel Basquiat and Leonard Bernstein.
Sayulita Cemetery // Sayulita, Mexico
A Mexican fall tradition that has crossed over into the US is Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead (11/2). It’s a festival to remember friends and family who have died. Yes, it is mournful, but it is also beautifully colored. One of my favorite cemeteries in the world is Sayulita Cemetery, in Sayulita, Mexico. Perched on a hill overlooking the water and surf of Playa de los Muertos, you have to go through this cemetery on your walk to the beach. Like the town, it is small and colorfully rustic and no matter how crowded this little town gets over the years, the Sayulita Cemetery is still a place to find some serenity.
The Memorial Necrópole Ecumenica // Santos, Brazil
It’s an age-old problem, as real estate rises, the premium goes up on space for the dead. The Memorial Necrópole Ecumenica in Santos, Brazil has gone the way real-estate professionals have done for ages, build up! Started in 1983, today, it measures 108 meters tall, features 25,000 tombs, several wake rooms, crypts, mausoleums, a peacock garden with its own small waterfall and even a chapel and snack bar on the roof.
Closer to heaven, huh?
Morne-à-l’Eau Cemetery // Guadeloupe, F.W.I
And last on my list is my favorite cemetery in the world. It’s so damn Instagrammable. While on a trip with Guadeloupe’s tourism board my fellow journalists and I drove past this cemetery in the commune Morne-à-l’Eau. We insisted the driver stop and give us time in this BEAUTIFUL place. The tiled black and white on the tombs and graces symbolize the passing from light to dark. A beautiful site to see, I could spend hours here. From what I heard, this cemetery is lit on All Saints Day. At dusk, candles are actually lit and this beautiful cemetery glows on the hill.
Take a tour around the beautiful Guadeloupe Cemetery!
Have you ever visited a cemetery while touring a city? What are some of your favorites around the world?