From its pagan Celtic origins in the festival of Samhain (Summer’s End), Halloween is now celebrated all over the world. Discover the best international destinations to celebrate your own Halloween getaway in an appropriately spooky fashion: From Dracula’s Castle in Transylvania, to Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris and everywhere cool spooks reside.
Halloween Inspired Getaways
By Max Milano *
November and early December’s chill is ideal for a Halloween inspired getaway. Check our top five destinations to get you in a spirited mood.
Paris has its charms all year around, it’s just that the city’s charms change with the seasons. Once the leaves begin to turn on the Bois de Boulogne (Paris’s Central Park), you know it’s time to dress up in retro-black before hitting an Absinthe bar. Once appropriately in the mood, take a tour of the Paris Catacombs or head for a spirited climb up Notre Dame’s famous bell towers in search of Quasimodo (Victor Hugos beloved hunchback). Save a full day to explore the antiquaries of Village Saint Paul (for Victorian era mourning rings and top hats) before visiting the tombs of Père Lachaise cemetery, a veritable who’s who of France’s 19th and 20th century literary and artistic luminaries (from Moliere to Edith Piaf, plus illustrious ex-pats Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison).
Prague is custom made for Halloween inspired explorations. Start early in the morning from Prague Castle’s hilltop balcony, for a bird’s eye view of the city’s gothic and medieval spires waving in and out of the mist. Then walk downhill from the Castle to Franz Kafka’s house, while reading a passage from “The Metamorphosis” to set the mood. Head on to Prague’s Old New Synagogue to hear about the legend of the Golum (a Frankenstein type mud-monster said to live in the attic and come alive during times of crisis). Finish your tour in Prague’s Old Jewish Cemetery; this mound of crooked 17th century tombstones in the heart of Prague’s Jewish quarter, for a picturesque Memento Mori experience.
Transylvania is Rumania’s historical central region; it can be reached by a three hour train ride from Bucharest. Transylvania’s jagged Carpathian Mountains, dark wolf and bear infested forests, fortified churches, medieval citadels and Saxon castles set the perfect mood for Halloween inspired travels. The area’s rich folklore was the inspiration for Bram Stokes Dracula, so follow in the footsteps of Vlad the Impaler with a visit to Bram Castle (a.k.a Drakula’s Castle) and the medieval walled city of Sighișoara. Round up your trip with a visit to the Merry Cemetery of Săpânţa, for its colorful tombstones with naïve paintings that celebrate life.
London is perfect for a Halloween inspired getaway that will equally satisfy children and adults. From Madame Tussaud’s wax exhibits, to night walking tours of Whitechapel, following in the footsteps of Jack the Ripper. The kids will love a scary-fun visit to the London Dungeon, for lively recreations of many gory and macabre historical events in a comedic ‘gallows humor’ style (from the Plague to Sweeney Todd and Bloody Mary’s hapless victims). For a more historically accurate experience, visit the Tower Of London, home to the Crown Jewels and the execution place to many disloyal royals.
The Japanese have elevated the American style cheesy theme restaurant into an art form (and their forte is horror inspired themes!). Visit the Vampire Café, in Tokyo’s glitzy Ginza district for a horrifyingly fun evening of coffin shaped desserts and blood inspired drinks. For an even more other worldly experience, visit Yurei Bar in the Kichijoji district for cocktails that glow in the dark and “pool of blood soup.” Of course, the wait staff is all done up in ghostly makeup, and you’re even allowed to dress up yourself!
* Max Milano is a world traveler, travel blogger and published author.