Always the most spooktacular holiday of the year, Halloween is celebrated in a whole load of weird and wonderful ways across Europe. Whether you want to get dressed up and dance, scare yourself silly exploring haunted castles or just embrace those crunchy autumnal vibes with some next-level pumpkin carving, these are the best places in Europe to get your ghoul on this Halloween.
Surely one of the scariest places in all of Europe, this Romanian region leans hard into its bloodthirsty notoriety each Halloween. It’s best known for its starring role in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but if that wasn’t creepy enough, it’s also the birthplace of real-life ‘Dracula’, the terrifying Vlad the Impaler, who’s said to have murdered over 80,000 people in his lifetime. Today, Transylvania’s spectacular gothic castles and winding medieval streets make the perfect backdrop for a spooky adventure. There are annual parties at the majestic Bran Castle and Corvin Castle (where Vlad was imprisoned and went mad), as well as a shindig in the dungeon of the citadel in Dracula’s hometown, Sighisoara.
Oh my gourd, if you want to get fully immersed in the wholesome autumnal world of pumpkins (and who wouldn’t), there’s nowhere better than the Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival in Germany. Held from September until early December each year, the Kürbisausstellung Ludwigsburg has been going since 1999 and now takes place in the pretty palace grounds, featuring, ahem, gourdeous artworks created from over 450,000 pumpkins – there are also an impressive 600 different varieties of the humble vegetable on show.
Look out for spooky jack-o-lanterns and mammoth sculptures of anything from space rockets to grand pianos, all made from the seasonal squash. There’s also a pumpkin boat race (yes, that’s pumpkins hollowed out and used as boats), a big session of smashing pumpkins terrifyingly called ‘The Slaughter’ and countless pumpkin-based food and drinks, of course. There’s even pumpkin wine. Who knew.
Said to be one of the most haunted places in the world, ghostly Edinburgh is the perfect place to give yourself a real paranormal scare on Halloween. If you’re feeling brave, take one of the tours of the creepy underground streets of Mary King’s Close, go on a walk to learn about the dark and sinister side of the beautiful Old Town late at night, explore the bloody vaults beneath the imposing castle or meet with the well-rested inhabitants of the haunted cemetery.
The city’s history is packed with gruesome tales of witches and murders, many of which come to light once again on Halloween, making it the ideal spot for a spooky sojourn. Just don’t plan on getting much sleep after you learn about the ‘tongue tearer’.
Forget Camden Lock, if you really want to immerse yourself in the UK’s goth scene at Halloween, it’s all about the town of Whitby. Every October (and also April), the small seaside spot is overtaken by black clothes and awesome outfits for the Whitby Goth Weekend, a festival celebrating gothic culture, music and fashion. There are also tons of other weird and wonderful events, plus a big bazaar with over 100 stalls, selling everything from gothic garms to accoutrements of the dark arts.
Wondering why all this happens in Whitby? Horror fans will know that Bram Stoker found inspiration for his fang-tastic novel while staying here in 1890 (he even discovered the name Dracula in the Whitby library), so there are plenty of Drac-based shenanigans to sink your teeth into at Halloween.
Another spot graced by the presence of the vampiric Count, Budapest is a city with its very own Dracula-related story. It’s said that the eerie series of caves under Buda Castle were where Vlad the Impaler (i.e. the ‘real’ Dracula) was imprisoned and tortured for 14 years in 1463. Today you can take tours of the underground labyrinth and hear the terrifying tales of its past.
In autumn, the city takes on a spooky feel thanks to its gothic parliament buildings and the ornate, imposing Vajdahunyad Castle, making it the ideal location for a Halloween adventure. Once you’ve been chilled to the bone, warm up with a soak in one of the city’s many thermal baths
If your idea of a happy Halloween is diving head-first into the dressing-up box, busting out the face paint and going OUT out, Amsterdam is the place for you. While not classically a Dutch holiday, the Dam defo knows how to do the autumn spookfest properly, thanks to parties happening across the city.
The biggest shindig has to be the annual Amsterdam Halloween festival, this year kicking off on October 28. Now in its 14th year, it’s a big night of live music, dancing and lots and lots of fantastical fancy dress. This year’s theme is ‘evil supervillains’ and the dress-code is strictly enforced, so don’t just chuck on any old cape and mask and expect to get in. You have been warned.