October 24, 2017 / Leave a Comment
Halloween draws out the deepest of intrigue, as it seemingly opens us to the mysterious, the macabre, and makes the impossible seem possible – if even for just a night. What’s more is that Halloween is also a great holiday to travel, especially if you’re looking for a night of frightful adventure in a historic European city and hoping to reconnect with the foundation of Halloween and how the holiday began!
Halloween is originally a European tradition, drawing inspiration from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, where people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. The Halloween season coincided with the end of summer in Samhain tradition, and thus the harvest took place as well as the beginning of the dark, cold winter, and the symbolic “death” of the year. Celts believed that on the night before this “new year”, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead blurred, making it possible to connect and and communicate with the other side. Thus, Halloween was born.
So original is Halloween to Europe, in fact, that the tradition of Samhain can be traced back more than five thousand years! Evidence of this can be seen at the Hill of Tara, Ireland (built circa 3000 B.C.), which was constructed in view and alignment of the sunrise on Samhain. Since the spread of the holiday to North America in the 18th century, traditions, symbols, and folklore have only added to the mystery, but Europe remains the place to be on Halloween!
Here are some of our favorite places to visit on the most dark, darling holiday of the year!
London’s haunted history is well-documented, gripped by stories of the supernatural and the uber-criminal. It doesn’t all start and end with Jack the Ripper, however, as famous sites such as the Tower of London boast their own ghostly tales. The Tower is said to be haunted by the ghost of Anne Boleyn, beheaded in 1536 at the Tower Green, as well as many other royal presences.
Check out one of London’s many haunted tours on Halloween, such as the Haunted London tour offered by Dickens London Tours.
One word – Catacombs. It’s sort of hard not to believe Halloween is the right holiday for a place if the walls are lined with skulls, isn’t it? The city at the center of the bloody French revolution has its share of haunted tales, and many of them come back to the oft-haunted Catacombs, which offer nightly tours (including Halloween).
If you’re looking for a broader tour of Paris’ haunted history, check out the tours offered by Dark Paris. As their website says, “this Vampire & Ghost Walk brings you through the dark heart of Paris and gives you an alternative experience, which allows you to see Paris in a way no other company will reveal.”
Couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Where would you rather be than touring the ultimate in gore and lore – the home of Dracula.
Vlad Tepes, the ruthless ruler of Wallachia in the 15th century and the real man behind the legend of Dracula, was known as Vlad the Impaler because of his horrific tactic of impaling his enemies in great number on his castle property. The dark history behind this “son of the Devil” inspired many tales, including Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Bucharest offers several haunted tours centered around the Dracula legend. You can even put your name in for a yearly contest which invites you to a Halloween costume party at the former castle of the legendary Vlad the Impaler.
If you wish, head north from Bucharest into the true “Transylvania” and tour Bran’s Castle – the castle which inspired Stoker’s terrifying novel.
Edinburgh is just so old it has to be haunted. Don’t worry – it is.
The Gothic and Medieval architecture belies a city that has seen it’s fair share of ghostly folklore, much of which is included on the Edinburgh City of the Dead Tour. Make sure to visit Edinburgh Castle, the site of which pre-dates the time of Jesus, and has been the scene thousands, of gruesome battles throughout the centuries – all leaving behind a mark of their own.
Being one of the original countries that celebrated Samhain, you’ll find Edinburgh to be long on Halloween tradition and a great place to celebrate the holiday.
Dublin has such a deep history, full of mythology and folklore as well as a central city to the history of the original Samhain, that it has to stand as a perfect Halloween destination.
The birthplace of the legendary author of Dracula, Bram Stoker, Dublin celebrates the holiday in a way that no other city in Europe does. The singular must do is the Bram Stoker Festival, taking place the weekend of or before Halloween each year, where the author’s life is celebrated as well as the holiday which most closely aligns with his most haunting work.
In addition, you can find plenty of haunted tours of the castles and enchanted ancient pubs through the city, but make sure to check out the Hellfire Club in the Dublin Mountains – said to be the place of ritualistic sacrifice and a host of ghostly activity!
If you’re looking for a place to celebrate Halloween that’s authentic, beautiful, and a little terrifying, these cities will not only give you chills you’re looking for, but grant you with some real insight behind the beginnings of the haunted holiday we all love – Halloween!