Highgate Cemetery should be a top London tourist priority if it’s not already on your list. In my almost 14 years here it’s probably one of the nicest things I’ve done in London, and a guaranteed option for peace and tranquility, even at weekends. There’s not many places you could say that about in the capital! It’s certainly an attraction, but not that it has hoards of people- which is just about right, and probably what you’d expect.
It might seem strange to say a cemetery should be high on your list, but it’s not when you consider the Victorian beauty of cemeteries like this one, developed with its first burial in 1839. Notably, Highgate has many famous people buried there, including Freud, Karl Marx and George Michael and George Elliot(*note: you cannot access Freud’s and George Michael’s graves on the tour). Charles Dickens buried his small daughter here. The cemetery was apparently modelled on a smaller version of the incredible Pere Lachaise in Paris. It’s no way near the size of Pere Lachaise, nor does it have quite the same impact, but it’s beautiful, and there’s been an evident amount of work to restore and preserve some of that beauty.
I loved it on the tour that we were told that at the time of its creation, Highgate wasn’t even in London! The London churchyards couldn’t cope with the amount of dead and dying, and therefore cemeteries were developed to manage the growing demand of appropriate space for the dead. There was the side for the poorer people and the side for the wealthier, and at it’s peak it ran many funerals a day. You can still be buried here, as the information will tell you (for the right price!) and on our walk we were surprised by how much vacancy they still have, and sad at the stories of the demise of graves when families come to the end of the line.
The Egyptian Avenue and Lebanese circle in the West side of the cemetery were just gorgeous and my favourite areas. I’d recommend the tour wholeheartedly. It reminds you of how beautiful London is and how precious life is.
Length of tour for the West Cemetery: 1 hour 15 minutes approximate.
Frequency: Every 30 minutes from 10am-4pm at weekends, 10-5pm during weekdays
Cost of tour/entry to either side of the cemetery: at time of writing, the West Cemetery is only available to access via tour which costs £12.00. This will cover you for both the East and West. Otherwise, you pay £4 (for adults) to enter the East Cemetery (where Karl Marx is buried) and you can wander round this freely.
Where can we buy tickets? Buy them on the day! Tours leave frequently.
Closest tube: Archway on the Northern line
Anything else: https://highgatecemetery.org/
Please let me know if you go, how you enjoyed it! I’d love to know x