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Though costume parties for October 31 are growing increasingly popular, most of Europe doesn’t celebrate Halloween in quite the same way as the United States does. To get your spooky fix on that next European vacation – whether on All Hallows Eve or any other time of year – check out one of these spine-tingling tours and attractions.
Paris: The Catacombs
From the late 1700s to the mid-1800s, the remains of about six million Parisians were dug up from cemeteries around the city and reinterred in a central ossuary, known as the Catacombs of Paris, a site that should be on every traveler’s shortlist of must-see Paris attractions.
Visitors descend 130 steps beneath the Paris streets for a 1.2-mile trek through poorly lit passageways. Whoever designed the Catacombs definitely had a taste for the macabre: An engraving above the entranceway to the ossuary reads, “Stop! For this is the kingdom of Death,” and the bones are artfully arranged in mounds with scores of skulls on top that seem to stretch on indefinitely. Perhaps the creepiest thing about the Catacombs is the pile of bones at the street exit – the artifacts that visitors have tried to take home as souvenirs.
1, Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy. Admission is €8.
London: Jack the Ripper Tours
We may never know the identity of the UK’s most famous serial killer, but the legend surrounding Jack the Ripper still scares the bejeezus out of us. Tramping through the back streets of East London on a dark October night seems fitting tribute to this grisly murderer.
Though many groups offer similar excursions, London Discovery Tours claims to have the “original” Jack the Ripper tour. With a published historian at its head, the company certainly promises a thorough background in the murders, the suspects, and neighborhood history. The two-hour circuit winds through cobblestone streets to point out sites where the victims lived and died.
Tours start at the Aldgate East Underground station. Reservations must be made in advance; the cost is £8 per person.
Edinburgh: The Underground Vaults
Many cities boast myths of people living underneath the streets, but in Edinburgh the legends are true. In the late 1700s and early 1800s, a veritable underground city of chambers, vaulted rooms, tunnels, and passageways existed below South Bridge. In these darkened, confined spaces thousands of people lived – and some say their spirits never left. Abandoned in the 1830s, the Underground Vaults reopened to the public in 1996.
Your guide into this underground world is Mercat Tours, who will lead you on a 1 hour 15 minute tour of the haunted halls. From October-March, Mercat offers tours daily at 4 pm and Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2 pm. The tour starts at Mercat Cross on High Street. Reservations are £9 for adults.
Budapest: Nighttime Visits at the Labyrinth of Buda Castle
Located underneath Buda Castle, the Labyrinth is eerie enough in the daytime when it’s illuminated by electric lights. After dark, however, with only a lantern as a guide, the stone passageways are downright spooky. Personally, we’d steer clear of the Labyrinth of Love (where couples start at opposite ends of the maze and meet in the middle for a “romantic” rendezvous undisturbed in one of the chambers), but a Dante-themed program makes our skin crawl in a good way. Forty minutes alone in the darkened halls with visions of the Divine Comedy in our heads? Let’s not think about what demons may be lurking just around the corner!
Find your own way out of purgatory by booking your night tour in advance via the Labyrinth of Buda Castle website (hours and days vary by tour; the Dante tour is available Mondays at midnight, Wednesdays at 11 pm, and Saturdays at 5 am). Adult tickets cost 2,000 forints (about $9), and include one regular admission during daytime hours.
Note: the Labyrinth is temporarily closed and is undergoing government inspection – we hope it will be back open in time for Halloween!
About the author: Liz Webber is an associate editor at ShermansTravel.com, a leading site for hand-picked travel deals and expert destination advice.