Travel
3 min

9 great Halloween haunts in Europe

Ghoulish fun in some of the world's coolest creepy places

Things are far from dead in Bram Stoker's millennium-old hometown; check out the annual festival in his name. Credit: bramstokerfestival.com

Don't be haunted by regret at missing out on some of the world's coolest creepy places. If you really want to get to grips with Halloween, go to Europe: it's where this hallowed holiday had its ghoulish beginnings.

1 Dublin, Ireland
A 2,000-year-old Irish invention, Halloween was thought to be the feast day of the dead when the veil between this world and the next was at its thinnest, allowing the dead to pass back through for one night only. People would disguise themselves as spirits and devils so they'd pass — and not be scooped off to the underworld — if they met any such creatures on this fright night. One story claims that the original Jack o' Lantern was an Irish blacksmith who colluded with the devil in the 1700s and was condemned to wander the Earth for eternity with a lump of coal glowing in a gouged-out turnip. Think of that when you're piling up the pumpkins and decorative gourds. Things are far from dead in Bram Stoker's millennium-old hometown, and the lively city loves any excuse for a celebration. This year, various spooky walking tours are supplemented by the second Bram Stoker Festival 2013, Oct 26 to 28.

Gayest haunt: On Oct 30, rambunctious LGBT bar The Dragon is the venue for the best Halloween antics. Last year was Dolly Parton–themed.

2 Edinburgh, Scotland
The narrow lanes — or closes, as they're known here — of the 15th-century gothic Old Town are creepy after dark on any night of the year. It's little wonder that Frankenstein, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Harry Potter were all written in this ancient city. Ghost and murder tours abound, from graveyard excursions to underground walks.

Gayest haunt: Halloween coincides with the 20th annual exuberant Glasgay! Festival, 70 kilometres west in Scotland's largest city, Glasgow.

3 Amsterdam, Netherlands
From Oct 25 to 31, the fourth annual Amsterdam Halloween Festival returns to strike fear into the heart of soberly attired Dutch folks. This bewitching week features Halloween boats on the canals, a costumed Friday Night Skate and the infamous costume party.

Gayest haunt: It has to be Rapido's Halloween Edition on Oct 27, a quarterly house party with DJ Manny Lehman.

4 Sedlec Ossuary, Kutná Hora, Czech Republic
The bone-chilling Sedlec Ossuary — or Church of Bones — is a Catholic chapel in which 40,000 skeletons have been used as décor, from wall hangings to chandeliers. The grim design was started by a half-blind monk in 1511; the current array was arranged in the 1800s.

Gayest haunt: Head to gothic Prague for some bone-shaking beats at OMG Halloween, at Klub Mecca.

5 London, England
London has a bloody past, and with the London Dungeon, a ghost bus and the notorious Tower of London, it’s well stocked with macabre attractions. Halloween highlights here include events at the Dungeon, the Tower and the Zoo. A few days later, the calendar lights up again with Bonfire Night, on Nov 5. The ancient Celts lit bonfires to guide friendly spirits, but London's version commemorates the burning of Guy Fawkes, chief conspirator of the Gunpowder Plot to do away with King James 1 in 1605.

Gayest haunt: The London Gay Men's Chorus Halloween Ball at the Hackney Empire will feature a selection of frightful favourites.

6 Berlin, Germany
Among the many morbid events on offer, try the 10-storey, 20-DJ Halloween party at the Kulturbrauerei, a converted brewhouse, on Nov 2.

Gayest haunt: In addition to the Rocky Horror costume contest at Kino Babylon and parties at Sally Bowles, Woof and Dodo, the main event is Gayhole Halloween at Monster Ronson's Ichiban Karaoke. It promises both "dancefloor karaoke" and the intriguing "darkroom boxhopping."

7 Limoges, France
Forget "trick or treat?" Here you'll need to ask or answer "Des bonbons ou une farce?" — "Candies or a joke?" What started out as a street parade in 1996 is now an event that sees up to 50,000 traditional spooks and ghouls with candlelit turnips and pumpkins file through the streets of this ancient town.

Gayest haunt: Flee back to Paris, the city that inspired The Phantom of the Opera and where the 16,000 ghosts of the guillotine add to the ambiance. In LGBT terms, the biggest event is the Afro-Caribbean Ebony Halloween party at Brasil Tropical.

8 Ostend, Belgium
Another eerie European option, Ostend pulls out all the stops when it comes to decorating the town each October, so much so that it's now known as the Halloween City of Belgium. Street names are changed —Skeleton Street, Alien Street, Mummy Street and Werewolf Street — restaurants boast Halloween menus and a slew of spooky events take place, including vampires dancing the tango.

Gayest haunt: Mixed LGBT bar Valentino throws an annual Halloween party for the city's queer folks.

9 Transylvania, Romania
Vlad the Impaler's old address has to be the most haunted house in Romania. This petrifying prince of the House of Drăculești was born in 1431 and famed for his cruelty. Vampire fans can visit a few castles associated with Vlad, including Bran Castle and Corvin Castle, where he was imprisoned.

Gayest haunt: Homosexuality was only decriminalized in 2002, so the scene isn't huge in Romania. Try Bucharest's popular Impact Club (unfortunately, there's no website available), one of the few LGBT venues in conservative Romania.