Have you ever been somewhere that triggered your sixth sense, and made the hairs at the back of your neck stand on end? Plenty of places can spook us – especially when they have a dark and troubled history. With its millennia of turbulent history, however, one continent seems to have more scary places than any other. Yes, the spookiest places in Europe are amongst the creepiest anywhere!
In this round-up post, travel bloggers share places that need to be added to your spooky Europe list right now!
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The Spookiest Places in Europe
Here are some of the best places in Europe to visit, if you love to explore dark history.
Contributed by Suzanne from Meandering Wild
Pripyat City is located in the far northeast of Ukraine on the border of Belarus. Unknown until 1986 it was a new city built to house the workers at the nearby nuclear power plant. On the 26th April 1986, an accident in the power plant resulted in a nuclear disaster that covered the area in radioactive material.
The city and surrounding area will never be inhabited again and was evacuated fully on the 27th of April 1986. All that remained were the family pets and those brought in to clear up the contamination.
Today the city is abandoned and nature is slowly taking over. It has an eerie feel as you wander around. Schools and kindergartens remain but the toys and swings are forgotten, covered in a layer of dust, decaying slowly as time passes.
The tower blocks that were once bustling with life are collapsing, the padded front doors no longer useful to the inhabitants. Everything is as if time stood still on the day that the population left.
If you want to see Pripyat City for yourself then you need to go as part of a tour. No-one is officially allowed into the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone without being registered and passing through the official checkpoints. To be booked onto a tour you must book in advance as there is some official documentation that needs to be submitted before you can enter the zone.
Tours can be for a single day or overnight and staying overnight is the best option as you get to see and experience far more of the area. The checkpoint is closed overnight so by staying in Chernobyl you can visit popular areas before the day tours arrive.
Hill of Crosses, Lithuania
Contributed by Ilona from Top Travel Sights
Our favourite spooky place in Europe is the Hill of Crosses in Lithuania.
Nobody knows when or why people started setting up crosses on this hill. One legend says that a long time ago, a church stood here. During a horrible storm, lightning struck the church, and it sank into the ground. Everyone inside got buried alive.
Some people say that at sunrise, you can spot a procession of ghost monks from that church walking around the hill.
But the Hill of Crosses is not just a place of ghost stories. Many religious pilgrims come here every year. In addition, this hill serves as a reminder of the silent resistance during times of the Soviet Union. Back then, the government would regularly bulldoze the monument. At night, people came out, putting the crosses back in defiance.
Today, you can find more than 100,000 crosses on this hill. Some are huge, but you will also discover tiny ones hanging from strings and rosaries.
If you want to experience the spookiness of the hill, we highly recommend that you come in winter. You’ll enjoy the atmosphere much more on a dark, cloudy day. Plus, you’ll barely see any other tourists!
You can find the Hill of Crosses near Šiauliai. To get here, catch a train either from Vilnius or Klaipeda. If you have any luggage, leave it at the station and then hire a taxi to go to the hill. The taxi driver will wait for you in the parking lot, so make sure that you agree beforehand how long you’re going to stay.
Kutna Hora, Czech Republic
Contributed by Derek and Mike from Robe Trotting
A short drive east from Prague lies a small city called Kutna Hora. It takes about 90 minutes to reach and makes a great half-day visit. It’s a great addition to your Prague itinerary because it’s so easy to reach and the main attractions are clustered together in an already compact city. Walking through the town you will notice the faded grandeur of a former silver mining town with baroque buildings and pretty squares. Kutna Hora was once the second richest city in Bohemia next to its nearby neighbour, Prague.
While it has a glorious past, the main draw to Kutna Hora in modern times is the creepy Sedlec Ossuary, also known as the “Bone Church”. This small Roman Catholic chapel is located beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints. Inside of this spooky attraction is estimated to showcase the skeletons of 40,000 – 70,000 people. The remains are arranged artistically to form decorative features of the chapel making works of art from human skeletons.
The chapel itself is rather small, so you can go through the ossuary relatively fast. Of course, you’ll want to take some time for photographs in the unique holy building. While you’re in the town, pay a visit to Saint Barbara’s Cathedral, a much larger cathedral with medieval frescos. Kutna Hora is also home to quaint shops and cafes, so you can easily linger in the town beyond the Sedlec Ossuary.
While it’s an incredibly spooky destination in Czechia, the town of Kutna Hora and the Bone Church are worth a visit.
Contributed by Emily from Wander-Lush
The Republic of Georgia in the South Caucasus is home to a number of spooky sites, most of them abandoned buildings left over from the country’s time as a Soviet Republic. Tskaltubo, a spa resort town known for its curative spring waters, is a favourite place to visit among urbexers and anyone interested in Soviet history.
Tskaltubo is located just north of Kutaisi and can easily be visited as a day trip. As you enter the town, you’ll see a massive leafy park ringed by a set of giant sanatoriums – hotels and spas that date back to Soviet times. Back in the day, Tskaltubo was so popular, there were direct trains here from Moscow, and Stalin himself even had a private room in one of the bathhouses.
After the breakup of the USSR, the larger sanatoriums were abandoned and left to ruin. Most have been stripped of their tiles and furnishings, leaving only the skeletons of the once-luxurious buildings behind. As you wander through the derelict sanatoriums, you can just imagine trainloads of families arriving here for their summer holidays.
In the 1990s during the war in Abkhazia, some of the larger sanatoriums were used to house internally displaced people. When visiting Tskaltubo today, it’s important to remember that many families still live here – be respectful and take care not to intrude. Other sanatoriums have been purchased by private investors and are fenced off. It’s fairly clear which ones you’re free to wander around and which ones are off limits.
Long regarded as the most haunted city in Europe, ancient York boasts a whole barrage of ghostly happenings and spooky sightings. The best way to experience them for yourself is to join a guided ghost tour around the city.
Most tours operate every evening, taking small groups on a walking tour down dark narrow streets which are little changed from medieval times. In the gloom, your guide will regale you with some of York’s darkest secret history, and share the spots where others claim to have seen or heard ghosts.
Listen out for the ghostly dog that howls from within York Minster, and see the flickering candlelight of plague victims boarded up in their homes and left to die, Try to make out the faint sounds of Roman soldiers as you pass by the cellars of the Treasurer’s House.
Perhaps you’ll be lucky as you reach Bishopthorpe Road, and you’ll catch a glimpse of the black-clad headless horseman driving a coach pulled by four headless horses.
While ghost tours operate all year round, the best time to join one is after nightfall. One of the best tours runs at 8 pm from outside the King’s Arms pub at Ouse Bridge. (The pub floods occasionally – if it’s flooded, the meeting place is on the bridge at the side). The thoroughly enjoyable tour costs £7.00 and lasts 75 to 90 minutes. Don’t forget to wrap up warm and wear walking shoes!
READ MORE: What to Pack for a Trip to Yorkshire
The Traboules of Lyon, France
Contributed by Leyla from Offbeat France
Push open an unmarked door in the hilly city of Lyon and you might find yourself in a dark passageway, called a traboule. These not-so-secret tunnels were originally built to help the Lyonnais circulate beneath buildings from one street to the next.
The word “traboule” comes from the Latin “transambulare”, or to go through, which is exactly what they were used for.
The oldest date back to the 4th century and were built to help residents access water from the rivers and wells far below.
Later, in the 19th century, when Lyon was a major silk capital, the city’s “canuts”, or silk workers, used the traboules to carry bolts of cloth down the hill from the workshops to the city’s merchants – and keep them dry when it rained. During the various canut rebellions, where they sought to improve their working conditions, silk workers used the traboules to hide from the government’s soldiers who had come to re-establish order. It is easy to imagine them cowering and holding their breath, hoping they wouldn’t be discovered.
In the same way, during World War II, the traboules were used as hiding places and escape routes by the Résistance, the French rebels who were fighting the Nazis.
These passageways have always been part of Lyon’s historical fabric and when the city faced danger, the traboules helped protect it.
Today, fewer than 10% of the 400 or more traboules in Lyon are open to the public and can be visited. Some will take you from one street to the next, some will have stairways you can climb, and yet others will be dead ends, the exits sealed for whatever reason over time. Just remember to be quiet because they are built under buildings – and people still live above them.
Recommended Tour: Haunted Lyon
Dragsholm Castle, Copenhagen, Denmark
Contributed by Derek from Everything Copenhagen
On the northern coast of Zealand, the Danish island that includes Copenhagen, you’ll find one of the spookiest Danish castles – Dragsholm Castle. This spooky destination boats beautiful gardens and scenic views of the North Sea. It’s also home to centuries of ghost stories and, as legend puts it, four wandering spirits. The castle is also a luxury hotel with a high-end restaurant, so you can even plan to spend the night in this spooky haunted castle.
The 13th century castle was built by the former Bishop of Roskilde and has been leveled by invading Swedish armies and rebuilt several times. During the Reformation, the castle was seized by the Danish King who laid claim to all church properties. At this time, the bishop was imprisoned in the castle and left to die. Guests claim to hear moaning and wailing in the area of the castle’s prison cells.
Another lingering prisoner still haunts the grounds, the Earl of Bothwell, husband of Mary Queen of Scots. He was captured in Norway, imprisoned in the castle and tortured to death on the premises. It’s said that his spirit appears in the courtyard riding a horse-drawn carriage.
Two female ghosts haunt the castle as well: a lady in white and a lady in grey. The first is the ghost of a nobleman’s daughter who fell in love with a castle worker. Her father forbade the relationship and murdered her for not obeying his demands. He chained her to a post in the castle’s cellar and built a brick wall around her. A skeleton was found when the castle was modernised lending truth to the legend.
The second is the ghost of an old woman who died after castle doctors removed an infected tooth in her mouth. While it relieved her pain, the extraction was infected causing her death. This happy spirit haunts the castle, thankful for the relief of her pain.
Capela de Ossos (The Bone Chapel), Faro, Portugal
Contributed by Diana from Travels in Poland
Located in the Igreja do Carmo courtyard from which you must enter the church, the Capela dos Ossos chapel is decorated with bones, skulls mostly lining up against the wall as well as femurs driven into mortar. This spooky chapel has thousands of bones fragments that have been put into the wall with mortar, including in the ceiling.
Collected from the remains of over 1,200 monks (which includes the same number of skulls) the bones are all displaced pieces.
While the bone chapel is not that large, a small 4×6 meters, there is only one way in, making it a bit dark particularly on days where it’s overcast. The order of the chapel is impressive as it is quickly apparent that there was a very purposeful design created in the chapel.
It is best to go to the chapel early in the morning when it first opens as it can sometimes get crowded inside. Head straight to the back of the church and enter the courtyard and there will be an entrance to the chapel.
There is a fascinating inscription right before you enter the chapel, which, when translated reads ”Stop here and consider, that you will too reach this state.” Perhaps a warning? An ominous threat to the people during that time? Whatever its meaning, those moving the remains most certainly worked carefully, as the bones are still quite well preserved two centuries later. This ancient chapel certainly deserves its spot on the list of the spookiest places in Europe!
The Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, Turkey
Contributed by Praveen from InfiniteWalks
The Basilica Cistern, one Istanbul’s hidden gems, probably wasn’t on your bucket list. It’s a large underwater storage tank (9800 m2) with walls that are four meters thick with waterproof mortar coatings.
The construction dates back to the 6th century making you wonder how such a complex design was possible in the Middle ages. Water from the nearby Belgrade forest (~ 19 km away) was stored in this cistern and Turkey has hundreds more of them!
The final climax scenes of the movie “Inferno” were filmed in this location.
Inside the Basilica Cistern
There are 336 tall marble columns and it’s so silent that you can hear the echoes of dripping water. There’s hardly any light for photography, making it feel really creepy.
One column is nicknamed “the Crying Column”, and it’s dedicated to the slaves who died during the construction of the cistern. Out of all the columns, spookily, this is the only one that’s always wet!
After crossing countless marble columns, a small surprise waits at the end. This is the Medusa heads, meaning three female Monsters in Greek mythology. The heads are tilted, and no one knows why they are here. Some believe that the heads protect the Cistern, and you can see coins thrown around them.
How to reach the Cistern
Board Tram line T1, to the ‘Sultanahmet’ tram stop, and the Cistern is just a few blocks away.
Why visit the Cistern?
Amidst Istanbul’s iconic attractions, the Basilica Cistern is a totally an offbeat experience and part of Turkey’s rich cultural heritage. Inside, there is silence and mystery, making it one of the spookiest places in Europe.
Spookiest Places in Europe with a Literary Connection
Contributed by Cass from Cassie the Hag
Continue admiring Sighisoara’s gorgeous walled old town, including the citadel, clock tower and churches, before heading to Brasov to continue your trip. From here you can visit what the locals tell tourists is Dracula’s old haunt – the spooky Bran Castle!
While the entire region of Transylvania is worthy of your attention, the small city of Sighisoara particularly stays in my mind. On the surface, the vibrant streets of brightly painted historical architecture and medieval buildings make it sweet, Instagram-worthy place. But those with knowledge of where real vampires hang out in Europe know it is famous for another reason – supposedly, Sighisoara is the birthplace of Dracula!
Have a traditional meal at Casa Vlad Dracul as this restaurant is allegedly where he was born and you can visit his old room! Though don’t worry, although the real-life Vlad Dracul – more famously known as ‘Vlad the Impaler’ was rumoured to drink the blood of enemies, the restaurant here has no human options (in fact, the building has actually been rebuilt since then). In fact, you can even tuck into a Romanian vegetarian and vegan options, such as bean stew, polenta and zakuska.
Bran Castle, Transylvania
Contributed by Sean from LivingOutLau
Located in the mysterious region of Transylvania is one of the spookiest places in Europe – Bran Castle, aka Dracula’s Castle. For anyone unfamiliar with Dracula, it is an 1897 gothic horror novel written by the famous writer Bram Stoker. In the novel, Count Dracula is a horrific vampire that does any sorts of gruesome things to his prey. Based on the description of the castle in the novel, it was believed (though erroneously) that Bran Castle is the home of Dracula.
However, it isn’t surprising that people believed Bran Castle was the home of Dracula. The menacing exterior, the dilapidated facades, and the odd tombstone all create a very ominous environment. Though summer is arguably the best time to visit Romania, we recommend you visit in late fall or winter if you want to feel the spookiness of Bran Castle. The added gloom of those seasons will enhance the mystique of the castle and create an eerie atmosphere.
Currently, the castle is mostly a museum for displaying art and furniture. Visitors can find an exhibit near the top of the castle just for the legend of Dracula and vampires. Here you will find how the gruesome acts of Vlad Dracula (ruler of the historic region) inspired Bram Stoker to write his spine-tingling novel and all the myths along with it!
If you are visiting Romania during Halloween, Bran Castle holds its annual Halloween party inside the castle. It is a great way to get your spook on and learn about the interesting history of Transylvania!
The Paris Sewer Museum, France
Contributed by Elisa from World in Paris
The Sewers Museum of Paris is one of the spookiest places to visit in the French capital. This rather uncommon museum is located on the Seine’s Left Bank, not far from the Eiffel Tower, and it is a great place to check for those spending 2 days in Paris or more and looking for unique things to do beyond the city’s main sights.
Despite the name and the topic, the museum does not smell that bad but you need to be fit enough to climb up and down 70+ stairs.
This small museum closed down in July 2018 for renovation works. Finally, it will reopen in October 2020, so we cannot wait to visit it for a better museum experience.
The Paris Sewer Museum details along 500m of their tunnels the history of the sewer system in Paris, from the Roman times to the current network which dates from the 19th century. To do so, there are educational boards, interactive screens, some models, and old machines and you can also walk along some of the spooky tunnels running below the streets of Paris.
In the Paris Sewer Museum, you are also going to learn some interesting anecdotes, like when the workers found a crocodile or the chapters of Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables that take place in these tunnels.
Contributed by Pauline from BeeLovedCity
When it comes to the spookiest places in Europe, Edinburgh sets the standard. The Scottish capital is one of the most haunted cities in the world! Ghosts, witches, horror stories… it has it all!
There are so many spooky stories about Edinburgh! If you’d like to discover the most famous ones, make sure to go on a ghost tour. There are several tours running in Edinburgh Old Town at night (yes! it’s always better when it’s dark!). You will discover some small alleyways and crazy murder stories, places where witches were killed, and the Greyfriar’s Kirkyard.
This graveyard is known in the entire world for 2 things: it’s one of the Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh and it’s one of the most haunted graveyards in the world.
There are many stories about it. The most famous one is about the ghost of George Mackenzie. If you feel brave enough, you can take a look into the black mausoleum where “Bloody Mackenzie” is buried.
Just next to it, you will find the Covenanters’ Prison. Loads of prisoners died there back in the days. Since then, loads of inexplicable attacks happened which is why the gates are now closed. You can still look at it from the outside though.
As fascinating as these ghost stories are, Edinburgh is also an awesome European destination for culture and Harry Potter lovers. The old town is beautiful, and you will find amazing Scottish landmarks such as Edinburgh castle.
Finally, it’s a great place to taste typical Scottish food like Haggis!
Recommended Tour: Edinburgh: Late Night Underground Vaults Terror Tour
Whitby, Yorkshire, UK
Contributed by Anisa from Two Traveling Texans
On the Yorkshire coast in England, you will find Whitby which inspired many parts of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. He was so moved by his short holiday visit to Whitby in 1890 that the picturesque harbour, the majestic abbey ruins, the eerie churchyard, and the stories he heard from Whitby seafarers all shaped the popular gothic horror novel.
When you visit Whitby, you must climb the 199 steps to see St. Mary’s Church and the Whitby Abbeys ruins. The cemetery felt a bit spooky even during the day.
If you want to follow in Bram Stoker’s footprints, you can see where he stayed during his visit to Whitby at 6 Royal Crescent and sit on his favourite bench just south of the Captain Cook Memorial and Whalebone Arch. The Quayside Fish and Chips restaurant is in the building that used to be the Whitby Library. This is where Bram Stoker decided on the name Dracula after coming across it in a book.
Whitby is also one of the best places to shop for jet, a natural gemstone formed from the compressed wood of the prehistoric Monkey Puzzle or Araucaria tree, found nearby. Some believe jet has magical powers and protects against evil.
These are only a few of the things to do in Whitby. Twice a year it hosts the alternative music festival called Whitby Goth Weekend. It’s definitely a place worth spending some time exploring.
17 Best Things to Do in Knaresborough: Visit the cave of Old Mother Shipton, a soothsayer from the Middle Ages. Her cave is the oldest paid tourist attraction in England!
Visiting Fountains Abbey: The spookiest place in this ruined 12th century UNESCO World Heritage monastery is the Sacristy. It’s where over 400 skeletons were discovered, walled in -long-forgotten victims of the English Civil war!
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Have you been to any of these creepy spots? What was your experience like? Do you love exploring dark history? Where else would you add to this collection of the spookiest places in Europe? I’d love to hear about them 🙂