When you're traveling abroad or within your very own state, there's plenty to explore on your vacation. While art museums, top-notch restaurants, and unique shopping spots take over the top of your travel to-do list, I'd bet cemeteries hardly ever make the cut. You're probably thinking — Well, yeah, why would they? I get it, cemeteries are creepy and it's not like you want to spend your limited time in a new place among the dead, but I have the feeling that idea might just change.
Graveyards are quiet, for one, and they're historic. You can learn a lot about the history of a town by its main graveyard. As the book nerd and writer that I am, I'm sort of fascinated by them. Sure, they can be spooky, but they're also filled with neat facts, gorgeous gardens, and famous dead authors. If you love books more than the average person, then you probably got a little excited about that last point, too.
Wherever you travel to next, make sure to scope out the best places to eat and things to see, but don't forget about looking up the graveyards, too. You might just find out that you're within a walking distance to Oscar Wilde's kissed gravestone, or Shakespeare's unique burial site.
1. Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh, Scotland
If you find yourself lucky enough to visit the beautiful town of Edinburgh, I'm guessing you might be there to check out a couple major Harry Potter spots. There's The Elephant House cafe where Rowling wrote parts of HP and plenty of castles and views that'll remind you of Hogwarts — but have you heard about the Greyfriars Kirkyard cemetery? Rowling used to take strolls through this graveyard, and it's where she picked out a few interesting character names you'll definitely recognize. While you won't see any famous dead authors' graves here, you will feel a sort of magical connection to Harry Potter, and what could be better than that?
2. New Jewish Cemetery in Prague, Czech Republic
This is a cemetery I've visited myself, and while I was there I got to see Franz Kafka's gravesite. Being a creative writing student and book lover, I admire Kafka's work, even if it is a bit odd. This cemetery was beautiful and completely covered in ivy and overgrown plants. It seemed as if nature had taken over and it was no longer a place of just death. It has a long history — one that isn't cheerful — but this cemetery is a site you certainly won't forget.
3. Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts
With the name like Sleepy Hollow, you know you're in for an iconic destination. This cemetery is the resting place of Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Louisa May Alcott. It's just a short walk from the many other things to do in Concord, and it's a destination worth visiting for any major reader.
4. Pere Lachaise in Paris, France
When you find yourself in Paris, your list of things to do probably doesn't include visiting a cemetery, and I totally get that. However, if you happen to have room in your schedule, consider checking out Pere Lachaise. It's home to one of the most beautiful graveyards in the world, and many notable names happen to be buried here, including Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, Richard Wright, Emile Zola, Victor Hugo, and Marcel Proust.
5. Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira, New York
This historic and traditional cemetery is the resting place for many famous people, including Mark Twain. Visited as a popular attraction, this cemetery is a beautiful place to take a stroll in. If you happen to be in the neighborhood around Halloween, the cemetery also offers spooky haunted tours at night. But if you can't stand the thought of a nighttime graveyard expedition, skip the night tour and enjoy the changing colors of the leaves during the day while visiting Woodlawn.
6. Holy Trinity Church in Warwickshire, England
Holy Trinity Church happens to be where the infamous William Shakespeare lies, but you won't find his gravestone outside in the churchyard with all the others. By buying a tithe deed while he was alive, Shakespeare was allowed to be buried within the church. The church is open to the public, so you're welcome to walk up and see his grave, rain or shine. The church is something worth noting as well, as it's a beautiful and historic place to check off of your travel destinations.
7. Forrest Hills Cemetery in Boston, Massachusetts
For all of the poetry fans out there, make sure you add Forrest Hills Cemetery on your places to see. Both e.e. Cummings and Anne Sexton are buried in this ginormous graveyard. You'll also find some unique gravestones, like stone beds, glass-incased statues, and unique architecture throughout.
8. Ketchum Cemetery in Ketchum, Idaho
Ernest Hemingway was neither buried in Illinois (his birthplace), Key West, Florida (where he spent a good portion of his life), or even anywhere he lived in Europe. His grave can be found in the last place he lived, in Ketchum, Idaho. If you ever happen to be on a road trip heading in this direction, it might be worth it to check out his gravesite where visitors often leave behind pennies or take a drink in honor of the man who was known for the phrase "Write drunk, edit sober."
9. Memory Hill Cemetery in Milledgeville, GA
Memory Hill Cemetery won't be smack-dab in the middle of your next traveling adventure (unless you're driving through the small towns of Georgia), but it is a place worth making a detour for. The beloved Flannery O'Connor, one of my favorite authors, is buried here. There are historic tours you can take that'll explore the old South, and many historic heroes are buried here as well.
10. St Thomas A. Beckett's Churchyard in Heptonstall, England
Sylvia Plath is buried in St Thomas A. Beckett's Churchyard, a place with absolutely breathtaking views and fairytale-like trees hanging over the castle-like church. It'll feel as though you've stepped into a book while visiting, and it won't feel creepy or scary in the least. The small town of Heptonstall is worth exploring, so while you're there, don't miss out on this bookish graveyard.
Images: UncleBucko, Kate, Bill Ilott, Thomas Hawk, Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P., mackatz64, Sharat Ganapati, Loren Kerns, Stanley Zimny, Pablo Sanchez/Flickr