The Best Cities to Visit for Halloween
The modern holiday of Halloween can trace its roots back to Samhain, an ancient pagan end of summer festival that began here in Ireland. The Celts believed that on the 31st of October the veil between this world and the next became thin, allowing spirits to return and druids to predict the future.
Halloween has been growing in popularity across Europe over the past several years. After all, this continent is rife with ruins of a turbulent history. Abandoned castles, medieval dungeons, dark graveyards, and chilling ghost tours all make for excellent Halloween-themed attractions. From the culture where Halloween itself originated to the mythical lair of Count Dracula, let this list be your guide to a European Halloween city break.
The Scots also had Samhuinn (Scottish Gaelic), so Edinburgh’s Halloween traditions are particularly mystical.
The annual Samhuinn Fire Festival kicks off on Halloween night atop Calton Hill. Watch as the Summer and Winter Kings battle for power until the Goddess declares Winter the winner, indicating the colder months to come. This performance features spectacular pyrotechnical stunts and brilliant costumes.
Aside from this unique celebration, there are a multitude of spooky sites in Edinburgh worth incorporating into your Halloween festivities. Step back in time on a special Supernatural History guided tour of the Real Mary King’s Close. The underground maze of streets beneath Edinburgh’s Old Town is famous for urban legends like hauntings and murders. Afterwards, visit the Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, a chilling graveyard which inspired some of the magical world of Harry Potter.
Similarly, London’s own chilling history makes it an ideal Halloween destination. Board a Ghost Bus Tour of the city on Halloween night for a special trip to all of London’s most haunted and famous sites, like Westminster Abbey, The Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge, and Downing Street. Your tour guide narrates the creepy tour with the perfect balance of grim seriousness and dark humour.
For an even scarier way to spend Halloween night, check out the Jack the Ripper Ghost Walks! The tour guides who fearlessly lead the Jack the Ripper Tours are actually published authors, having written books about the historic unsolved murders which took place in Whitechapel, London in the 19th century. These knowledgable Jack the Ripper researchers will take you through London’s East End and to the real sites of the mysterious and brutal deaths. This tour is not for the faint of heart!
For something a little less gruesome, catch a West End show like The Woman in Black, the Phantom of the Opera, or Wicked to get in the Halloween spirit. Similarly, the whole family can enjoy a visit to the Harry Potter set all decorated for Halloween at the Warner Bros. Studio London. The Great Hall houses a special ‘Dark Arts’ exhibit all about the work of evil wizards in the Harry Potter universe from 27th of September to 10th of November.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague does Halloween with vigour. From all-night parties to energetic parades, there’s something for everyone in this Central European city. Pick your pumpkin from the Náplavka’s Riverside Market, and head to the Botanical Gardens in Troja for a carving workshop. Later, get your costume on and dance the night away at the party which attracts tourists from all over the world and over 5,000 total attendees— Bloody Sexy Halloween Party.
Though Halloween isn’t traditionally part of Czech culture, the holiday known as ‘Dusicky,’ or All Soul’s Day, is an important time for the living to connect to their deceased relatives. Every November 2nd, people place candles, flowers, and other tokens on the graves of their lost loved ones. The cemeteries at Olšany, Vinohrady and Vyšehrad are beautifully lit up with tiny flames, and certainly worth a post-Halloween night visit.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Amsterdam is the party capital of Europe, and its Halloween festivities are no exception. Since 2000, Amsterdam Spook has been the city’s premier group for all things Halloween. Each year, they hold a wicked fun Halloween Festival and Costume Party with a unique theme.
Then, for the whole of October, Amsterdam Dungeon gets a Halloween makeover! With 11 shows that explore the macabre history of this spooky site, Amsterdam Dungeon pulls out all the stops for the scariest holiday of the year. Their shows score anywhere from a 1 to a 5 on the frightening scale, so you check their website and prepare in advance for what’s to come!
In addition to the party scene and the dungeon’s horrors, join in on The Ghost Walk Tour, where an educated guide will take you on foot to see all of Amsterdam’s most haunted sites. Learn all about the malevolent spirits still roaming the city in search of revenge after being scorned in life!
We can’t imagine a better way to celebrate Halloween than spending the evening in Dracula’s castle! Though Irish Dracula author Bram Stoker had never been to Romania, his description of Dracula’s castle in the novel most closely matches Bran Castle. Also, Stoker drew inspiration from infamous leader Vlad the Impaler for his titular character, Count Dracula. In 1492, the king of Hungary actually captured and imprisoned the real Vlad at Bran Castle for two months!
This haunted site is the perfect place to have a Halloween holiday. Every year, Bran Castle hosts an epic Halloween Party inside the castle walls. There are special Halloween tours to Bran Castle available from the capital city of Bucharest. They include a tour of the castle, a meeting with Vlad the Impaler, a Halloween dinner, and the afterparty in the castle! Many tours will continue on to visit Sighisoara, Dracula’s birthplace, for another Halloween party in the Medieval Citadel.
From the 11th of October to the 3rd of November, Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens gets a Halloween makeover. Unlike some of the other attractions on our list, this theme park has many options for families and people of all ages. Kids will love the Halloween themed rides, decorations, and performances on the Open Air Stage.
Tivoli displays over 20,000 pumpkins around the park during its Halloween season. Get a taste of Autumn with special dishes like game, mushrooms, and even pumpkins cooked into Halloween delicacies. Look out for the Monsters Night Out costume parade in Tivoli where creatures of all sorts invade the theme park! For an especially traditional Halloween, Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen is the place to be.
Are you ready for your spooky Halloween adventure?