13 of the most breathtaking cemeteries in the world (PHOTOS)

These visually stunning cemeteries from Paris to Guatemala are so much more than just a scary Halloween trope.

View of  Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia

How a civilized society honors its dead tells us a great deal about what that culture values, its religious traditions, and its view of life after death. Cemeteries, the final resting places for the dead, are a physical remembrance of cherished lives; they are places for the living to go and remember, meditate, and pray.

Around Halloween, its tempting to think of graveyards as just a scary movie trope—but it’s important to remember that these memorials represent our history, and, somewhat paradoxically, help frame our understanding of what it means to really live. So in honor of that notion, take a moment to learn about these breathtaking cemeteries from all over the world, all celebrating life, and reflecting on death in different ways—and all worth paying your respects to:

Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris. Considered the most “prestigious necropolis” in all of Paris, Père Lachaise Cemetery is 44 hectares (approximately 108 acres) of Gothic and Haussmanian architecture. With over 70,000 burial plots, Père Lachaise is also home to the tomb of the beloved playwright Oscar Wilde. Wilde’s tomb was previously coated in red kisses from visitors’ adoration, but was replaced with a glass cover to prevent damage to the tomb. Père Lachaise’s other famous residents include Colette, Frédéric Chopin, and more. Marji Lang | GettyImages
Merry Cemetery, Sapanta, Romania. With 5,000 handpainted and personalized wooden crosses to mark the graves, Merry Cemetery is northern Romania’s blue treasure. Each grave has its own poem to tell the story of the deceased. The purpose is to celebrate death rather than mourn it. Vlad G | Shutterstock
La Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Named for the Recoletos monks that founded the nearby Basilica Nuestra Señora del Pilar, La Recoleta Cemetery inhabits the Recoleta neighborhood in Argentina. The splendid architectural design, created by the French civil engineer Prospero Catelin, reflects a time when Argentina thrived as an economic powerhouse. The richest of the country flocked to the neighborhood and built magnificent mausoleums to honor their legacy. Many of Argentina’s famous athletes, writers, and other celebrities are buried there. La Recoleta also holds many haunting stories, including the story of Liliana Crociati, the newlywed bride who passed on her honeymoon. Her parents created a vault that recreates her childhood bedroom, where Crociati and her beloved dog are buried. Elena Mirage | Shutterstock
Aoyama Cemetery, Tokyo, Japan. Located in the Minato area of Tokyo, visitors flock to Aoyama Cemetery just to see the cherry blossoms each year during the season of hanami. Along with the graves of Tokyo natives and international foreigners, there is the grave of a faithful dog named Hachikō, who waited at Shibuya Station for his owner even after the owner passed. o_0 | Flickr
Waverley Cemetery, Sydney, Australia. The oldest funeral supplier in Sydney, Waverley Cemetery was founded in 1859 as the first cemetery in Sydney. It was designed to reflect the style of great gardens, copying the trend of the “Garden-esque” movement popular for the time. It contains 50,000 gravesites, some containing famous Australians such as the Albert Family (responsible for the ‘Boomerang Mansion’ also located in Sydney), vaudeville actor “Queenie” Paul, and dozens more. Idealink Photography | Alamy
Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia. Hollywood Cemetery might not be in Hollywood, but that doesn’t make it any less famous. The 130-acre plot is home to the grave sites of two U.S. Presidents (James Monroe and John Tyler) as well as Jefferson Davis, the sole president of the Confederacy. There’s even a famous legend of a vampire that is said to lurk in the mausoleum of a man named W.W. Pool. But whether you’re there for the history or spooky legends, Hollywood Cemetery is one of the loveliest cemeteries in the nation. Atomazul | Shutterstock
Punta Arenas Cemetery, Punta Arenas, Chile. Invested in the city’s urban heritage and culture, Punta Arenas Cemetery is known for its vast lawn and gorgeous mausoleums. The land was donated by a woman named Sara Braun, who requested after her passing the front entrance be permanently shut. The main door has since been left unopened, just as Braun wished. It was named a National Monument of Chile in 2012. Professional Foto | Shutterstock
Neptune Memorial Reef, Key Biscayne, Florida. Emulating the Lost City of Atlantis, Neptune Memorial Reef was created to bring life after death with an eco-friendly burial plot. With 16 acres of underwater marine life-friendly structures, loved ones can be cremated and memorialized under the Atlantic Ocean. It’s free to visit, and family members can become dive-certified to visit memorial sites. National Geographic Creative | Alamy
Highgate Cemetery, London, England. Considered a treasure of English history, Highgate Cemetery is divided into East and West sections (the latter is only available to see on a guided tour). Highgate was opened in 1839 by a private company in order to manage England’s rising population (of both the living and the dead). Today it is managed by the Friends of Highgate Cemetery, a nonprofit that ensures the glory of Highgate’s Victorian design is preserved. Highgate is also where philosopher Karl Marx is buried, his monument attracting fans from all over the world. Gary Perkin | Shutterstock
Panteón Antiguo, Oaxaca, Mexico. Created by Spanish missionaries in the 1500s, Panteón Antiguo attracts visitors every year during the Day of the Dead celebrations. Mariachi bands serenade relatives of the buried as visitors place Mexican marigolds, figurines, and candles on the graves of loved ones. But even on other days of the year, the cemetery is a must-see for its mixture of traditionally haunting mausoleums combined with colorful grave markers. Latin Content | STR | Getty Images
South Park Street Cemetery, Calcutta, India. Ranked number nine of 198 things to do in Calcutta, South Park Street Cemetery is a necropolis of mossy ruin. Built in 1767, it was used to bury British settlers involved in the East India Company’s occupation of India, one such being the philologist Sir William Jones. With over 1,000 graves, it is one of the largest Christian cemeteries outside of Europe and the United States. Radiokafka | Shutterstock
Mount Royal Cemetery, Canada. One of the first rural cemeteries in North America, Mount Royal Cemetery is 165 acres of luscious trees and around 200,000 graves. Along with its historical heritage as the site of Quebec’s first crematorium, Mount Royal is the proud burial site of early feminist Hannah Lyman. The cemetery also focuses heavily on reforestation and inviting visitors to enjoy the natural beauty of the park. Hemis | Alamy
Chichi Cemetery, Chichicastenango, Guatemala. Though a long, steep walk, Chichi Cemetery is a colorful expedition made up of above-ground tombs. Each tomb vibrantly celebrates the lives of their inhabitants with brightly colored mausoleums, a sharp contrast to the nearby popular marketplace. It was also named number three out of eight things to do in Chichicastenango by Trip Advisor. If you decide to experience the beauty of Chichi Cemetery, just remember to have good walking shoes. Kelly Cheng Travel Photography | Getty Images

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Gretchen Gales
Gretchen Gales

Gretchen Gales’ work has appeared in Bustle, The Huffington Post, The Establishment, and more. She is the managing editor of Quail Bell Magazine, a literary and arts magazine devoted to a menagerie of social-minded topics.

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