Although Europe doesn’t celebrate Halloween with the same fanfare like the United States, that doesn’t mean the fascinating Old Continent, with its long and tempestuous history, frightening legends, and century-old castles, is not a great place to be on October 31st.
Halloween in Europe combines colorful folklore with modern-day merriment, offering a variety of events and parades, plus the Irish tradition of the Jack O’Lantern, the iconic Trick-or-treating, the telling of ghost stories, and the American custom of carving pumpkins.
Halloween is the world’s second commercial holiday after Christmas and a good opportunity to travel the world, visit frightening places, learn about other nations’ cultures and traditions, and, why not, to have fun and indulge yourself in the local delicacies. Considering all these things, plus other characteristics such as weather and local attractions, I’ve managed to put together a list of Europe’s best Halloween destinations:
The glamorous British capital, with its bloody past, obscure dungeons, ancient buildings, chilling backstreets, and memories of the world’s most infamous serial killer – Jack The Ripper, has been often regarded as one of the world’s most haunted cities.
Halloween in London comes with lots of mystery and ghostly attractions, plus an excellent choice of celebrations that take place all over the city. From spooky tours and themed dinners to flamboyant parades and posh club events, London certainly knows how to thrill its visitors on October 31st.
The birthplace of Renoir and the renowned Limoges porcelain, the medieval city located in the Limousin region is probably the best place in France to spend Halloween. While this is not one of the country’s customary holidays, Limoges seems to have happily embraced this tradition ever since 1996, when it hosted its first Halloween spectacle.
Nowadays, each end of October, Limoges comes to life with a plethora of events, including street shows, themed fairs, costume parades, storytelling festivals, and colorful parties. And the 50,000 annual visitors seem to cherish them more and more every year.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague, the Gothic fairytale of Europe, with its stunning architecture, winding medieval lanes, macabre corners, and mysterious allure, is a place that gives you chills up the spine whether it’s Halloween or not. And although the Czechs are not exactly crazy about this holiday, the city itself seems to have been designed especially for such kind of celebrations.
Best Halloween attractions in Prague include the spectacular Old Jewish Cemetery, the Torture Museum, Sedlec Ossuary, Charles Bridge – with its landscaped statues, and the charming Prague Old Town – the setting of many legends and local ghoulish stories.
Transylvania is the most beautiful region in Romania and an ideal place to spend Halloween. Besides the quaint Bran Castle and the world-famous legend of Dracula, which has its roots here, this place boasts a startling collection of citadels and frozen-in-time villages, where the present is twisted with legends and long-lasting traditions.
All these make Halloween in Transylvania not only a creepy, one-of-a-kind experience, but also a great journey back through the country’s mind-blowing past.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Tortured souls, haunted alleys, and some of the most creative costume parties you’ve ever seen put Amsterdam among the best places in Europe to spend Halloween. From clubs and restaurants to boats and museums, there are themed events all around the city during this time of year, plus ghost tours, music concerts, and an all-night marathon of scary movies to attend.
Whether it’s family-friendly entertainment at Ripley’s Believe It or Not, an intense night of fetish extravaganza at Obscene Halloween, or partying with outlandish creatures at the legendary Monster Ball, Halloween in Amsterdam has something for everyone.
We often forget that Halloween is much more than just an opportunity to put on a costume, or a children’s holiday of trick-or-treats. It is an echo of the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, whose celebrations are still preserved today in Scotland and Ireland.
Consequently, the gorgeous, eerie city of Edinburgh, with its thrilling Royal Mile, mighty castle, rich traditions, unsolved mysteries, creepy vaults, and high paranormal activity reported over time, provides its visitors with a Halloween blast.
Just like Edinburgh, Dublin has a special charm when Halloween comes around. Maybe it’s the custom of carving Jack O’ Lanterns, which springs from the Samhain carving of turnips, or perhaps the myriad of events which take place all around Ireland during this time of year, but Dublin has a cool, sexy, flamboyant way of celebrating Halloween, and it always does this with huge parades, carnivals, traditions, and all sorts of captivating events suitable for all tastes.
Venice might not be your usual Halloween destination, but it is one of the most romantic, mysterious, and beautiful places in Europe.
This jewel of a city in northeastern Italy has a permanent eerie atmosphere, a disturbing past, lots of shadowy corners, and mind-blowing legends about sea monsters. Add to all these the city’s stunning architecture, the sensual Venetian masks, and the spectacular masquerade balls, and you’ll probably have the most sophisticated Halloween of your life.
Also known as the “City by the Sea” due to its miles of sandy beaches stretching along the North Sea, cosmopolitan Ostend has gained the reputation of Belgium’s Halloween city. Each year, from the beginning of October, Ostend starts celebrating Halloween with elaborate decorations, creepy creatures roaming the streets, and various ghoulish events taking place all over the city.
As weird as it might sound, Barcelona is a great destination to spend a hell of a Halloween. First of all, Catalans, as well as the entire Spanish nation, are known for their exuberance and unparalleled way of throwing parties. Secondly, Barcelona is a vibrant, multicultural city with many traditions, festivals, and spectacular Gothic architecture, so it’s no wonder Halloween here is as varied and colorful as the city itself.
From the fancy parties held in Barcelona’s premium clubs to the outdoor music festivals, and from the entertaining Halloween events on the beach to the family-friendly shows organized in the PortAventura amusement park, there’s nothing you can’t do in Barcelona for Halloween.
Furthermore, on November 1st, the seductive Catalan capital celebrates La Castanyada (Chestnut Festival) and the Mexican holiday of Dia de los Muertos with a stream of cultural events, street fairs, and traditional goods.