The Halloween we recognize today began in Ireland, where Celtic pagans celebrated Samhain. Tied to the end of summer, the festival was meant to give thanks for the harvest. Revelers, knowing the cold was about to set in, partied like it was their last day among the living, because it was entirely possible that they wouldn’t survive the winter.
These days, Halloween is a beloved holiday around the globe, allowing people to get down and boogie with their ghoulish inner selves. Here are the best places in the world to celebrate Halloween.
40. New Orleans, USA
Although Mardi Gras gets all the attention, Halloween is another holiday that turns the streets of NOLA into an all-out, decadent smorgasbord of debauchery. There are two major events you’ll want tickets for in October: the Anne Rice Vampire Ball, a fancy-dress gala for goths and other creatures of the night; and Boo Krewe, a Halloween parade full of incredible costumes and the city’s signature jazz ensembles.
39. Dallas, USA
Screams Halloween Park is the biggest, scariest amusement park in the world, and it takes the Texan city by storm every October. Haunted houses, bloody milkshakes, and park workers that jump out and scare the bejeezus out of you are just some of the spooky thrills that keep tourists flocking to this seasonal attraction.
38. Salem, USA
If a history of witch trials and shady paranormal activity aren’t enough to get you in the mood for All Hallow’s Eve, nothing will. The village celebrates for the entire month, with Haunted Happenings like a jack-o-lantern contest and a zombie walk. While you’re there, you should stop by the Witch Museum and the House of the Seven Gables. Try not to get hexed while you’re there.
37. St. Petersburg, Russia
When Peter The Great wanted a city built on a swampy strip of land in northern Russia, he didn’t care if people had to die to get it done. And that’s exactly what happened – thousands of workers, masons, and their families succumbed to the cold, damp weather that pervades St. Petersburg. History tells us that their bodies were thrown unceremoniously into the surrounding bog. Often sunk in a murky but atmospheric fog, we recommend strolling through this ghostly city while reading the complete works of Gogol.
36. Prague, Czech Republic
Castles, atmospheric bridges, and an annual zombie walk – there’s plenty here for the Halloween aficionado. But why not add a little history to your holiday and check out the Jewish cemetery in the Josefoy. The thousands of tightly-spaced headstones present a spooky picture, but are only the tip of the iceberg, as over 100,000 bodies are said to lie beneath them.
35. Dublin, Ireland
Rolling the pagan holiday of Samhain into its modern iteration of Halloween is no trouble for the Irish. Dublin is already a fun city, but and at the end of October they take it up a notch, with costumed parades, all-night raves, historic mansions fitted out like haunted houses, and the much-anticipated and aptly named Disco Bloodbath.
34. Edinburgh, Scotland
Haunted castles abound throughout Scotland, but Edinburgh Castle has something the rest of them don’t: the Edinburgh Dungeon. Visitors can take a guided tour and learn all about Scotland’s notorious serial killers, Burke and Hare, and then continue the subterranean rollick at the Banshee Labyrinth, a gothic underground bar.
Halloween night is capped off by the Samhuinn Fire Festival. Imagine Burning Man, but instead of glitter and Instagram influencers, it’s all fake blood and the souls of the recent dead. Never mind, it’s exactly like Burning Man.
32. Niagara Falls, Canada
This is one of the more family-friendly destinations on the list. Local pumpkin farms offer hayrides and apple cider to visitors, and there are all kinds of spooky activities that won’t give a five-year-old nightmares for life. But if nightmares for life is what you’re looking for, the open-all-year Haunted House is a must-do, as is Nightmares Fear Factory. The Falls, lit up in brilliant orange for the holiday, is also a sight to see.
31. Paris, France
The mile-long underground Catacombs of Paris are open all year, but become a smidgen spookier when you visit them near October 31st. The low tunnels lined with human bones are quiet, dank, and definitely haunted.
But perhaps not haunted enough for you? If that’s the case, head over to the Manoir Hanté de Paris and get spooked by ghouls, demons, and ghosts. It’s perfectly safe, as long as you don’t have a heart condition.
30. Cairo, Egypt
There’s no better time to visit the Valley of The Kings. Lit up at night so the towering pyramids look even creepier than usual, this historic site is rife with stories of intrepid archeologists uncovering curses and meeting their deaths through misadventure, accident, or sudden, mysterious disease. If you manage to survive, you can spend the night dancing with the spirits at Alchemy, a gothic night club that encourages people to show up in full costume all year long.
29. Brno, Czech Republic
At the Capuchin Monastery, you can commune with the dead up close and personal. The monks who lived here mummified and interred their dead in the crypt below the church, and this morbid attraction is now open to the public. If you’re in the mood for more lively festivities, you can try to score tickets to Brno’s famous all-night bash, Bloody Sexy Halloween. People fly in from all over Europe in full costume to attend this notoriously over-the-top party, so you might want to think about getting tickets for next year now.
28. Najaf, Iraq
Home to the world’s largest cemetery in the world, the ground here is populated by over 5 million dead. Wadi Al-Salaam, or the Valley of Peace, is a tribute to the almost nonstop wars that have torn up this region of the Middle East for the past century. A walk amongst the unassuming, sandy-hued graves is a harrowing experience, and one you won’t forget.
Of course, this is Iraq, so if you visit any time in the foreseeable future you may well end up joining the dead.
27. Wolfsegg, Germany
When her jealous husband hired assassins to have her murdered, Klara von Helfenstein got her revenge by haunting Wolfsegg Burg, the family castle, scaring her husband and sons to death. Word has it that her ghost, an ephemeral “Woman in White,” haunts the castle still. If you visit, you might see her, or one of the ghosts that populate the forest behind the castle, which is rife with spooky tales accumulated over its 800-year history.
26. Corinaldo, Italy
Italy’s “national capital of Halloween” banks on its haunted history to draw tourists all year long. A medieval walled city, Corinaldo has seen enough down-and-out battles to last millennia – and it has. On Halloween, visitors flood in to take part in the Witches Feast, a night-long bacchanalia that partly explains the Corinaldo’s nickname, “City of Madmen.”
25. London, England
Like any major metropolitan city, London has lots of sordid history. The Jack the Ripper tour is part of that, and especially freaky to experience near the holiday, or pick up a horrific hobby by trying out a taxidermy workshop at the London Museum. There’s also plenty of ghostly theatre to attend, like the longest-running show in the West End, “The Woman in Black,” or the Andrew Lloyd Webber classic, “Phantom of the Opera.” The night of, themed parties are the name of the game, including the utterly awesome Halloween Zombie Glitterfest – we promise it’s scarier than it sounds.
24. Herxheim, Germany
When archeologists uncovered this mass grave in Herxhein, pottery shards and metal artifacts weren’t the only things they found. Tons of human remains were interred here also, and historians speculate it was used as a site for mysterious rituals. The best part? Some of the human bones have teeth marks and other signs of posthumous nibbles. Cannibals? You decide. Either way, it’s a great place to spend the spookiest night of the year.
23. Bratislava, Slovakia
The hills surrounding Bratislava are peppered with atmospheric castles formerly inhabited by creepy personages, including Čachtice Castle. The was the home of Elizabeth Bathory, who earned herself the nickname “Countess Dracula” for her habit of bathing in blood to keep herself young. Elizabeth’s ghost is purported to haunt the castle grounds to this day.
Bratislava proper, being one of the oldest cities in Europe, hosts more than its fair share of ghost stories, and throws epic Halloween bashes come October 31st.
22. Port Arthur, Tasmania
Australia’s scariest city has a dark past. Port Arthur is an island in the heart of Tasmania, and was used by the British to exile convicts – when you consider that Australia itself was a sort of prison for ne’er-do-wells pushed out of the UK, the men of Port Arthur must have been some pretty bad hombrés. Indeed, they resorted to cannibalism in order to survive. More recently, in 1996, Port Arthur was the site of a shooting massacre that killed 35 people. But that’s no reason not to celebrate the devil’s holiday, for which the city comes alive with ghost tours, parties, and other ghoulish affairs.
21. Bruges, Belgium
The medieval fairytale city that’s been suffering from an overwhelming influx of tourists in recent years gets all decked out for Halloween. After-dark ghost tours and costume parties in haunted castles are on the menu. For a heavier dose of shivers, visit the Torture Museum. Home to over one hundred devises used in executions and torture sessions, this tour through one of Europe’s oldest prisons is not just for fun – it’s educational.
20. Venice, Italy
Thanks to Carnivale, Venetians know how to masquerade. It’s already an eery city with its creepy canals and labyrinthine layout that seems to capture lost tourists like a spider’s web. So it’s no surprise that there’s plenty to do here come Halloween. Take part in an old-fashioned “Murder Game” in a 19th-century palace, or head to the Hard Rock Café for the ultra-cheesy Let the Ghoul Times Roll party.
If you want a real scare, though, book passage to nearby Poveglio Island. Once used to sequester plague victims from the city, the island also has an asylum where doctors are rumored to have performed inhumane experiments on their patients.
19. Oaxaca, Mexico
Oaxaca is said to be one of the best places to celebrate Dia de Los Muertos. Not to be confused with Halloween, the Day of the Dead is a deeply spiritual ritual in Mexico, when families are reunited with the souls of their dearly departed. But for the reveler looking for a spooky good time, this Mexican celebration spanning three days has even more to offer, with epic costumes, reapers haunting the streets, and parties lasting from dusk until dawn.
18. Vancouver, Canada
Fright Nights at Playland, a Halloween Parade and Expo, and annual Zombie Walk make Vancouver one of the best places to celebrate the holiday in Canada. Other ghoulish things to get into in October include the Stanley Park Ghost Train, the Vancouver Aquarium’s Halloween, when you can spy on the nocturnal habits of sea creatures. The star of the spooktacular show has to be Reapers Haunted Attraction, a theatrical haunted house experience so scary that children are forbidden to enter.
17. Sleepy Hollow, USA
Nothing screams Halloween more than Washington Irving’s classic tale of a headless horseman reaping revenge in this quaint country village. Still steeped in its historic Quaker roots, Sleepy Hollow is a picturesque place to visit, and the town has embraced its claim to fame. Throughout October there are guided ghost walks, costume parties, and pumpkin carving contest galore. Just don’t get stuck with a pumpkin for a head, or you might become the town mascot.
16. Oravský Hrad, Slovakia
If you want to delve into a bit of cinematic history this Halloween, you should visit Orava Castle in Slovakia. As the setting of the film Nosferatu, the 13th-century fortress certainly manages to give off a distinctly vampiric vibe. Tours through the neo-Gothic structure include the dungeon, the strongholds built to protect against the Mongol invasion, and underground tunnels that double as secret passageways. During Halloween, the castle is open for nighttime tours and haunting theatrical presentations.
15. Palermo, Italy
Those Capuchin monks were a creepy bunch; wherever they went, they left behind a macabre legacy. In Palermo, the Capuchin Catacombs are lined with thousands of mummies, most of them still dressed in robes and adornments. Italians, and Sicilians especially, have always had a passionate, complicated relationship with death, but Palermo shows its lighter side come Halloween night, with lively costume parties and cheery jack-o-lanterns.
14. Vienna, Austria
This beautiful city has always been a mashup of different cultures – of East and West, past and present. Its moody atmosphere presents a perfect canvas for Halloween celebrations, and into late October there a multitude of parties to strut your costumed self at. Look forward to haunted houses in falling down mansions and 90s-themed discos where guests are encouraged to dress as zombie Spice Girls or Backstreet Boys.
13. Sagada, Philippines
A great place to visit year-round but especially spooky come October is the site of the hanging coffins in Sagada. A ritual of the Igorot tribe, the dead are wrapped, placed in wooden coffins, and nailed hundreds of feet overhead to the side of a vertical cliff. Since the tribe continues to practice this type of burial, some of the coffins aren’t that old. The method was thought to bring the departed souls closer to their celestial resting place – but also, head-hunters used to roam the area, and families just didn’t want them making off with the skulls of their dearly beloved.
12. Leap Castle, Ireland
Notoriously known as the most haunted place in Ireland, Leap Castle has a gory history. Continually pillaged by rival Celtic clans, it’s no surprise that scores of innocent people met their ends here. Now, their ghosts roam the stone hallways and there’s enough paranormal activity to get any amateur ghost hunter excited. For the holiday. the castle hosts Halloween tours and ghost hunts, which you should only attend if you’re prepared to become one of the castles gloomy specters yourself.
11. Barcelona, Spain
Traditionally, Barcelona has always celebrated All Saint’s Day on November 1st. Similar to Dia de Los Muertos in Mexico, the holiday is an opportunity for the living to remember the dead. But Barcelona, being a modern, multicultural metropolis, has welcomed Halloween to its streets as well, and there are plenty of spooky happenings here on October 31st. Before you head to that swinging costume ball, though, check in at the Museum of Funeral Carriages or take a stroll through one of the city’s historic, sprawling cemeteries.
10. Dargavs, Russia
A city of the dead with mysterious origins? Sign us up. This collection of white crypts gleam against a beautiful alpine backdrop, but don’t let its beauty fool you – this place is so notoriously haunted that the locals won’t go near it, fearing they won’t return alive. Legend has it the graves, which look like large beehives, were constructed to house the remains of unlucky souls struck by a plague in the 16th century. The perfect destination for a Halloween scare.
9. The High Seas
If you’re feeling a little extra this year, you could book a cruise with Carnival Cruise Lines in October. All month, the behemoth ships are decked out in themed decorations, have costumes parties and pumpkin carving contests, and serve up all sorts of spooky festive fun. Just remember to keep extra room in your suitcase to pack your costume.
Singapore knows how to throw a party, and Halloween presents no exception. Themed pop-up night clubs surge to life during October, but there’s also Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights to keep you entertained all month long. You can also take part in Zedtown Asia: Battle For Singapore. Inspired by zombie movies, this city-wide event features people dressed up as the living dead who spread the plague by tagging other participants, who then become zombies themselves. If you can escape becoming one of the infected, you win.
Go to California for the holiday and you’ll have enough to do to keep you in thrills and chills for the rest of the year. If you’re in for some scary amusement, Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights run through October. Pop down to San Francisco to visit Alcatraz, where you can still hear the moans of tortured inmates echoing in their cells. There are more parties to attend than any socialite has room for on her Halloween calendar, and costume expectations are high, with costume contests here being some of the most competitive in the world.
6. Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong Disneyland is where you party if you’re craving some good old-fashioned Halloween fun. The park puts on tons of holiday-themed events, featuring character favorites from the movies. For something with a more local flavor, Ocean Park Halloween Fest pays tribute to the city’s colorful history while also producing some scares. The night of, head to the Lan Kwai Fong district to hit up bars and nightclubs, or just to see and be seen but other ghouls and goblins strolling the streets.
Or, if you really want to be scared, go to a pro-democracy protest.
5. New York, USA
Since 1974, Manhattan has been taken over by the legendary Village Halloween Parade, shutting down the streets to make way for over-the-top costumes, dancers, floats, and mile-long puppets. The city that never sleeps certainly keeps the lights on for All Hallow’s Eve, and there’s no end of parties and pub crawls to attend. For an extra scary boost, visitors can go looking for Edgar Allan Poe’s ghost, or haunt the crypts under Cathedra St. John the Divine, which are open for the occasion.
4. Tokyo, Japan
Over the last decade, Halloween has grown in popularity all over Japan, but Tokyo is definitely the place to be if you want to do it right. Instead of keeping the costume party inside, Tokyo likes to take the party to the streets, so hundred of people can attend and show off their spooky attire. Halloween is also when Tokyo’s hundred of themed restaurants really come in handy. Fuel up for the festivities at Prison of Fire, where diners are locked in a private jail cell, or eat some questionable delicacies over a coffin at the Vampire Café.
3. Limoges, France
Like a kid coming late to the trend, Limoges only adopted Halloween in 1996 but since then it’s been rocking the holiday like it was invented there. A massive parade that draws 30,000 spectators a year starts off the festivities, followed by parties in clubs and bars all over the city. You can expect even the most casual of participants to be dressed as their best zombie, ghost or witch.
2. Derry, Ireland
The Banks of the Foyle Halloween Carnival is purportedly the largest in all of Europe. The mist-strewn river is inundated by more than 40,000 people come October 31st. The festival is so popular that hotels in the area are booked months in advance, but you might still be able to score a spooky AirBnB if you’re quick. The holiday originated here with Samhain and thousands of years later, it’s still one of the best places to celebrate Halloween.
1. Transylvania, Romania
Transylvania has become the nexus of vampire subculture and you’re sure to find plenty of Halloween horror here. You can visit Vlad the Impaler’s castle in nearby Bran. The headquarters of the bloodthirsty warrior used to be surrounded by the severed heads of Vlad’s enemies posted on spikes. In the city proper, wannabe Draculas roam the beguiling Gothic streets and pay tribute to the holiday with festive galas, gaudy costumes, and bad attempts at Romanian accents, no doubt.