Top Haunted European Destinations
Sinister apparitions. The walking dead. Ghost carriages and the eternal shades of dogs and horses.
Europe is the well known home of many tourist attractions, but there is a darker aspect of the continent that might also appeal. A haunted forest, castles with plenty of bumps in the night, ghostly cities with ghoulish underground ossuaries, and terrifying tales of murder and unrest.
Why not diverge from the regular tourist route and delve beneath the surface of this fabulously ancient, haunted landscape?
Europe can be creepy anytime of year, but fall in the run up to Halloween is just the time to explore these 20 continental destinations that bring out Europe’s quirky, fun, and truly terrifying aspects.
The Catacombs — Paris, France
“Halt, this is the realm of Death” may not be the warmest greeting, but its perfect preparation for entering the creepy Paris Catacombs. A vast underground network of tunnels and cemeteries housing the dead, the Paris Catacombs contain six million skeletons in an area spanning almost 300 kilometers.
The former limestone mines were historically converted to a massive graveyard as crowded cemeteries closed and ghoulish remains were hidden 20 meters below the city’s surface. Today the catacombs are a morbid museum, and those braving the tour traverse eerie tunnels of human bones arranged in macabre designs as they reflect upon their own mortality.
Paris Museums recommends booking your tour eight weeks in advance and discourages the faint of heart from attending.
Bran Castle — Transylvania, Romania
Are you brave enough to celebrate Halloween with the Vampires? You can at Transylvania’s Bran Castle. Commanding the landscape from a high rock, Bran Castle perches between fiction and history, and really, who’s blood hasn’t run cold at the thought of Dracula, the fictional vampire who made the site famous?
Author Bram Stoker drew upon local myths of blood sucking creatures to create his famous character. Vlad the Impaler, the king Stoker also tapped to create Dracula, was a fierce opponent of the Turks, known to have impaled thousands of them upon stakes, further cementing the ghoulish castle’s bloody literary tradition.
Spooky Bran Castle is open to visitors any time of year, but Vampires celebrate the New Year on Halloween, and you can join their Halloween party, where Vlad the Impaler hosts a night tour of Dracula’s Castle, ending with a courtyard serving of blood red red wine. Bring your scariest costume for the adult only Halloween after party!
Tower of London — London, England
Home to royals, fortress, and prison, the Tower of London ranks among England’s most haunted locations. Over nearly a thousand years it has seen nine beheadings and several other executions, and its brooding walls have kept people out as well as in.
Its past is notorious as a haunted prison. Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII, has been seen carrying her head, and there are reports of ghostly visions of the botched execution of Margaret Pole, a sixteenth century Countess of Salisbury, being hacked to death as she ran from the headsman. The haunting sounds of children playing through the corridors are attributed to the two lost princes, maybe murdered by their uncle in a bid for the throne, and maybe not.
Visitors to the Tower can expect to see execution sites and the church were victims were buried, while the especially daring can brave the Tower Twilight Tour. Led by Yeoman Warders, the tour includes the Traitors’ Gate, the Scaffold Site and the Bloody Tower, with spine tingling tales of prisoners and past residents.
Edinburgh Castle — Edinburgh, Scotland
The most haunted castle in Scotland has dominated the capital’s skyline for over 900 years. Edinburgh Castle, the strategic key to the kingdom, is a supernatural hotbed. Many have heard the sound of a ghostly drummer, as well as haunting bagpipes. Sightings of a ghostly dog have been recorded in the dog cemetery, and the gruesome torture chamber, which you can see on castle tours, is an easily assumed source of poltergeist unrest.
Visitors beware, the spooks serious enough have been researched in 2001 by a psychologist with more than 200 participants, many of whom had strange experiences in the most haunted parts of the castle, including temperature drops, feelings of being touched and watched, and visions of misty figures. If that’s not enough to chill your blood, don’t miss out on Edinburgh’s ghost tours, any of which will be certain to raise goosebumps!
Frankenstein's Castle — Darmstadt, Germany
Famous for monsters, zombies, and alchemy, it’s also the scene of Germany’s biggest halloween party. Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, travelled to Castle Frankenstein, to find tales of a frightening alchemist seeking immortality through strange experiments, and who may have created a monster, which lurked in the woods enticing virgins to play until they disappeared forever… Today, Castle Frankenstein is open year round for Individual tours, and functions.
It’s at it’s spookiest in October, when it hosts the biggest Halloween party in Germany. Up to 100 monsters and zombies fill the castle with stage shows and scary dinners, and for a truly medieval fright, visitors venture up the tower to find out just how gruesome the Middle Ages were.
Dragsholm Castle — Zealand, Denmark
Ancient and haunted, Dragsholm Castle dates to the twelfth century, and is home to three ghosts, who unlike visitors, never leave the premises.
The most famous ghost is the Scottish Earl of Bothwell, third husband of Mary Queen of Scots. Through a series of misadventures he found himself imprisoned here, went mad, and died in captivity. His ghost has been seen riding a carriage, hopefully to freedom. The spectral Gray Lady is thought to be a former servant grateful for having been cured of a toothache, returning to make sure the castle’s inhabitants are comfortable.
On a darker note, there is the more tragic White Lady, the shade of a noble girl walled up alive by her father upon discovery of an illicit affair. Frighteningly, in the early 20th century, a girl’s skeleton was found in a wall.
Dragsholm Castle welcomes visitors today as a hotel, so you can book a room and maybe, between the beautiful surroundings, great food, and fun activities offered, you’ll also meet a ghost.
Leap Castle — Coolderry, Ireland
Fortress, home and tomb, Leap Castle calls itself the world’s most haunted. Built on a Druid site atop powerful ley lines, complete with a long and bloody history, it has collected a colorful assortment of haunts, including It, a small, sheep-sized creature summoned in the early 1900’s by a resident occultist, and a murdered priest, stabbed by his brother in a rivalry over clan leadership as he celebrated mass A knife wielding Red Lady also stalks the premises with the ghosts of two little girls.
Taking fright to a new level, a shaft found in the course of a renovation contained three cartloads of skeletons impaled upon spikes and one pocket watch. Visitors have experienced mists, sounds, and even a ghostly touch, while Leap Castle has appeared on Ghost Hunters and TV's Most Haunted.
Leap Castle does not host overnights, but the Ardmore Country House Bed & Breakfast is an easy six miles away.
Castello Della Castelluccia — Rome, Italy
The Castello Della Castelluccia has offered respite since the mid 14th century. Built on the site of an ancient Roman Villa, it’s a romantic spot for the living. At the same time, it’s also home to a variety of eccentric spectators.
Apparently unable to rest, the mad Emperor Nero wanders the path from his grave to the Castello Della Castelluccia. Ghostly horses streak through the premises, and if you’re interested in turning metal into gold, watch out for the shade of the alchemist who died in the tower by lightning strike in the 1600s.
Located in the countryside north of Rome, the Castello Della Castelluccia offers outdoor sports, and a comfortable welcome with a just a slight chill. Visitors might even get to say they shared digs with Nero.
Chillingham Castle — Chillingham, England
Feel the chill at England’s most haunted castle. Take the ghost tour, join an all night ghost vigil, or even stay overnight. The 12th century Chillingham Castle in Northumberland combines a sojourn to the medieval past with modern comforts and an array of paranormal activity. A perpetually thirsty white lady appears periodically requesting drinks of water.
Voices are heard in the chapel, invisible moving things are felt, and ghosts glimpsed in the courtyard. Visitors can book a Halloween tour or a more involved vigil. The castle takes its spooks seriously enough to retain its own paranormal team known as "Chillingham Castle Uncovered," with lead investigator and head ghost guide, Graham Burney.
Hoia-Baciu Forest — Cluj-Napoca, Romania
The world’s most haunted forest is near the Transylvanian city of Cluj-Napoca.
Known as the Bermuda Triangle of Romania, the 700 acre Hoia-Baciu Forest once swallowed a shepherd and 200 sheep. A 5-year-old girl went missing there, and reappeared five years later, unchanged and wearing the same clothes. The trees of Hoia-Baciu grow in counter clockwise spirals, and the apparent ground zero of the paranormal activity is centered around a circle where nothing can grow.
Visitors report feelings of fatigue and in one instance a man remembered everything in his life while in the forest, only to forget it moments later upon leaving, others have seen UFOs, and ghosts and orbs have been photographed. The Hoia-Baciu truly rivals the Dracula legend in the area, and visitors truly enter it at their own risk.
Lodging can be found near the forest at the fabulous art deco Pension Deja-vu.
Houska Castle — Blatce, Czech Republic
A beautifully preserved 13th century castle known as the the Gateway to Hell, Houska Castle has a terrifying reputation. The fortress served as an administrative center until it the early 19th century and was later a site of Nazi experimentation. Local legend says it was built to contain demons from a hellish hole, now contained under the chapel. The facade does look as if it might be trying to keep something in, and stories of terrifying animal/ human hybrids and flying creatures emerging from the hole are remembered by locals.
The castle has been featured by Ghost Hunters International and Most Haunted Live. Houska Castle hosts tours and events, and visitors can fine lodging Prague, an easy half an hour away.
Mary King’s Close — Edinburgh, Scotland
Strange lights. A ghostly woman in black. Mary King’s Close is a fragment of Edinburgh’s old city hidden deep beneath The Royal Mile. Once a bustling tenement, the close was struck by bubonic plague in the seventeenth century, and by the middle of the eighteenth century was so dilapidated the city removed its inhabitants and built the Royal Exchange on top of it.
A little girl named Annie has haunted the close since her death of plague, and visitors often leave her a doll. Strange lights and sharp drops of temperature have been experienced since the seventeenth century.
The close is open for tours and access is possible for paranormal research. Halloween tours are available with a focus on witchcraft through October.
The Capuchin Museum and Crypt — Rome, Italy
About 3,700 skeletons lay beneath the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini church in the center of Rome.
Believed to contain the remains of Capuchin friars, the ossuary is organized into six underground chapels, including the Crypt of the Skulls and the Crypt of the Pelvises.
The bones are displayed in chillingly ornate arrangements, designed to help you reflect upon your own mortality. The site is maintained by local Capuchin monks, who lead visitors on regular tours.
Black Forest — Germany
This aptly named forest, where the sun is blocked out by densely packed trees, has inspired some seriously spooky tales. The forest was said to inspire the Brothers Grimm as they wrote their classic dark fairy-tales Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and Hansel and Gretel. It's also featured prominently in the famed Gothic novel "Necromancer; or, The Tale of the Black Forest."
According to legend, the forest is home not only to ghosts, but to mythological creatures like werewolves, witches and sorcerers.
Windsor Castle — London, England
The ghost of Henry VIII has been heard shouting and seen dragging himself through the corridors, his second wife Anne Boleyn appears weeping, Queen Elizabeth I appears clad in black stating that she is married to England, and Mad King George III peeks from the windows.
The site of the most recent royal wedding, Windsor Castle has been a royal residence for 900 years, and it seems many of its residents have never left.
Visitors can visit the castle and take the Windsor Ghost Tour, a spooky walk through the city’s past including stories of the Castle.
Blokhuispoort — Leeuwarden, Netherlands
A prison from 1580 to 2007, Blokhuispoort has seen its fair share of horrifying incidents — and the victims of those traumas continue to haunt the fortress today.
In the 17th century, people were tortured and publically executed here, and in the 19th and into the 20th centuries, it housed a sick ward with tuberculosis patients. Take a tour through the building, now a museum, to hear the stories of the tragic spirits who continue to roam its dimly lit halls.
Palazzo Dario — Venice, Italy
Take a boat ride along the Grand Canal and you'll see many historic facades lining the waterway. But be warned that one is cursed: Palazzo Dario, aka "the house that kills."
A staggering number of people who've owned the five-century-old building over the years have met dark fates, including an aristocrat who saw several of his family members killed, an opera performer who got in a serious car accident and a Count who was murdered by his lover. For a time, it was owned by Kit Lambert, manager of The Who, but he allegedly stayed at a nearby hotel after one too many ghost sightings.
Director Woody Allen considered buying the place as well, but reportedly backed out because of the stories he heard.
The Haunted Vicarage — Borgvattnet, Sweden
Hauntings at this circa-1876 vicarage date back to 1927, when the resident vicar first reported suspicious happenings. Tales of ghostly mischief — suspicious screams, rocking chairs rocking with no one in them, the spirits of old women seen sitting on the sofa — continued for decades.
The stories gained so much notoriety that, in the 1980s, an outside priest came to perform an exorcism to rid the place of its unwelcome residents. But his efforts were unsuccessful, and people still report mysterious happenings today. Even some of the former vicars are said to roam here now.
As of recently, the house was operating as a small B&B.
Wolfsegg Castle — Germany
The story of the ghost who haunts this striking Bavarian castle in the heart of a remote German village is a sad one. Legend has it when the original owner of this 13th-century castle discovered his wife was having an affair, he had her killed in her chamber. Today, her spirit haunts the room she once lived in.
There is some indication that this story isn't actually true, and that the wife actually outlived her husband. But in any case, witnesses have long reported seeing a mysterious apparition of the "White Woman" wandering the castle. Who could she be?
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
With names like Blood Street and Spook Alley, pragmatic Amsterdam has its share of haunts.
The blood of condemned prisoners is said to have flowed through Blood Street as it drained into the canal, and Spook Alley is the eternal home of the ghost of Helena, who killed her sister in fit of jealousy. Nearby Dam Square is known after dark as home to the spirits of victims of the witch trials, while the nearby Amsterdam Dungeon, itself built over a medieval cemetery, offers a chilling exhibit of the city’s darker past.
To get the most of Amsterdam’s haunted past, visitors can join a local ghost tour, and the Amsterdam Dungeon has a variety of frightening but fun Halloween activities.