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Highgate Cemetery Review
Highgate is not the oldest cemetery in London, but it is probably the best known. After it was consecrated in 1839, Victorians came from miles around to appreciate the ornate headstones, the impressive tombs, and the view. Such was its popularity that 19 acres on the other side of the road were acquired in 1850, and this additional East Cemetery contains what may be the most visited grave—of Karl Marx (1818-1883)—and those of a host of other famous names, including George Eliot (1819-1880) and Malcolm McLaren (1946-2010). At the summit is the Circle of Lebanon, a ring of vaults built around an ancient cypress tree—a legacy of 17th-century gardens that occupied the site. Leading from the circle is the Egyptian Avenue, a subterranean stone tunnel lined with catacombs, itself approached by a dramatic colonnade that screens the main cemetery from the road. Both sides are impressive, with a grand (locked) iron gate leading to a sweeping courtyard built for the approach of horses and carriages. By the 1970s the cemetery had become unkempt and neglected until a group of volunteers, the Friends of Highgate Cemetery, undertook the huge upkeep. Tours are arranged by the Friends, and they will show you the most notable graves among the huge variety of statues and memorials once hidden by overgrowth. East side tours are limited to 15 and tickets are sold on a first come, first served basis. The west side is accessible only by tour, though these can be booked ahead. You're expected to dress respectfully, though in practice this just means erring on the conservative side. Children under eight are not admitted; nor are dogs, tripods, or video cameras.
- Address: Swains La., Highgate, London, N6 6PJ | Map It
- Phone: 020/8340-1834
- Cost: East Cemetery £3, tours £7; West Cemetery tours £7. No credit cards.
- Hours: Daily; usually Apr.--Oct. 10--5, Nov.--Mar. 10--3:30, but call ahead as hrs vary according to whether a funeral service is scheduled. East Cemetery tours, Sat. 2. West Cemetery tours, Mar.--Nov., weekdays 1:45, weekends hourly 11--3.
- Website: www.highgate-cemetery.org
- Tube: Archway, then Bus 210, 271, or 143 to Highgate Village.
- Location: Regent's Park and Hampstead
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