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Travel

Europe's most beautiful cemeteries

These six beautiful European cemeteries are places of quiet contemplation as well as tourist destinations, also because of the famous people buried here.

Italien Venedig - Friedhof auf der Isola di San Michele

The cemetery on San Michele Island in the Venetian lagoon

Tourists visiting cities will always be found in the usual places - the castles, palaces, cathedrals and other historic buildings listed in their travel guides. And there's another place many relish as well - cemeteries. These sites are not just a place of quiet contemplation for the friends and relatives of the deceased, but also tourist destinations, especially when famous people are buried there."Over the course of the centuries, many cemeteries have evolved into regular city parks and pilgrimage sites," says Rolf Lichtner of the German Undertakers Association.

Once upon a time, cemeteries were mostly located outside the walls of European cities. But as cities grew, they are now very centrally located and integrated into the urban landscape. In Europe, there are six historically significant or spectacular cemeteries well worth a visit.

Hamburg's Ohlsdorf Cemetery

Deutschland Friedhof Ohlsdorf in Hamburg

There are 800 sculptures in Hamburg's Ohlsdorf Cemetery

Ohlsdorf Cemetery at nearly 400 hectares in area is the world's largest garden cemetery and the fourth-largest necropolis in the world. Famous people buried here include the physicist Heinrich Hertz, after whom the measure of wave frequency is named as well as German popular entertainers James Last, Heinz Erhardt and Inge Meysel.

Given its sheer size, the Ohlsdorf cemetery needs a road network totaling 17 kilometers, as well as a regular bus line running through it. Since 1996 there has also been a museum as well as a counseling center offering guided tours.

Vienna's Central Cemetery

The Austrian capital's Central Cemetery was opened in 1874. With its nearly 2.5 square kilometers (1.9 square miles) and 330,000 graves, it is one of the largest cemeteries in all Europe.

It was in 1863 that the Vienna city council voted to set up a cemetery outside the city, one where its capacity limit should never be reached and where every Viennese could be given a final resting place. Among the most prominent persons buried here is Ludwig van Beethoven. With its Art Nouveau architecture, the cemetery is one of Vienna's special attractions.

Österreich Grab Ludwig van Beethoven

The grave of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris

The Père Lachaise is the largest as well as the best-known cemetery in the French capital. It was set up at the outset of the 19th century as a replacement for the numerous small cemeteries which then had to be closed down.

Bildergalerie Pere Lachaise Friedhof Paris

The Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris is crowded with graves that look like miniature houses

During the day, it is, by Parisian standards, very quiet. Broad streets criss-cross the park-like setting. On the roads' edges stand the grave sites of granite and marble. About 2 million visitors come here, searching for the graves - now virtually pilgrimage sites - of such people as Édith Piaf, Frédéric Chopin and Jim Morrison.

Whitby Churchyard in Yorkshire

In the Whitby Churchyard in Yorkshire, England, the ghost of Count Dracula is said to be at home - or at least this is the claim of author Bram Stoker in his Gothic horror novel Dracula from 1897. Ever since, countless fans have made the Whitby Churchyard a pilgrimage destination. It's in a breathtaking location high atop a seaside cliff. The site also includes the 11th-century St. Mary's Church. For more than a century now no more burials have taken place, chiefly out of concern that the church's foundations could be imperiled by any further graves being dug on the site.

England Whitby Church of Saint Mary Friedhof

Whitby Churchyard inspired author Bram Stoker

The Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague

The crowded Old Jewish Cemetery in the historic city center of Prague is relatively small with an area of 1 hectare. But nonetheless, the remains of some 100,000 people are interred here - in some places, due to the shortage of space, with 12 graves stacked up atop each other.

Tschechien Jüdischer Friedhof in Prag

Tombstones are crammed closely together on the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague

The grave markers, some dating back to the 15th century, are crowded closely together. German undertaker Lichtner explains why: "Since in the Jewish ghetto there was no opportunity for expansion, the cemetery today very much corresponds to its historical dimensions."

The San Michele Cemetery in Venice

French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte ordered by decree in 1804 that a cemetery be set up on the island of San Cristoforo della Pace. Walls were built up all around the island, and a huge entrance gate erected. But fairly soon, the cemetery was too small, and so came the decision to connect the island with the nearby island of San Michele. The channel between the two was simply filled in. Ever since, the cemetery has been incrementally expanded as the need arose. Today, it measures 17.6 hectares in area. "There is no other example of an entire island being declared a cemetery," Lichtner notes. Its island location makes it an exceedingly attractive European tourist destination.