Take a ghoulish getaway by train to see some of Europe’s most superb supernatural spots.
From world-class museums to ancient castles and ruins, Europe’s eclectic cities are treasure troves of history and culture. Their wealth of heritage however, also means these cities have seen their fair share of gruesome and gory goings-on, which have led to many supernatural stories and legends cropping up around their respective histories. Here are some of Europe’s notoriously spookiest cities and creepiest haunts to visit by train, guaranteeing sightseeing thrills, if not spine-tingling chills.
Many of the world’s most famous horror stories were penned by Dublin writers, including Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, and Oscar Wilde whose famous novel The Picture of Dorian Grey has haunted readers since 1890. It’s unsurprising then that Dublin has plenty of spooky haunts, including Trinity College, said to house the ghost of professor Edward Ford who was murdered there in 1734. Other creepy places in Dublin include the city’s oldest pub, the Brazen Head, where the ghost of rebel leader Robert Emmett is said to be often spotted overseeing the clientele. Of all Dublin’s haunted attractions, the Hellfire Club is the most infamous, a ruined building once known for hedonism and satanic rituals in the nearby Wicklow Mountains.
Widely regarded as one of the most haunted cities in Europe, there are plenty of spooky spots to visit in Edinburgh. The Vaults, a maze of subterranean chambers built in the 1780s, once housed an entire underground city of cobblers, taverns and shops. However, by 1820, damp conditions forced the businesses to vacate, leaving the deserted vaults open to illicit activities. Today, visitors can tour the spooky underground chambers, which have been linked to paranormal activity. Edinburgh Castle, which has witnessed battles, bloodshed and betrayal on its rock overlooking the city, is also known to be one of the capital’s creepiest locations. Supernatural sightings on Castle Hill include a phantom piper, a headless drummer, and a ghost dog howling in the night. Other famously haunted castles in Scotland include Drum Castle, Craigievar Castle and Castle Fraser in Aberdeenshire, and Castle Stuart in Inverness.
England’s capital city is teeming with historic buildings and monuments that have weathered history’s highs and lows, with many of the scariest places in Europe dotted around London’s sprawling neighbourhoods. Hampton Court Palace and the Tower of London are among the most well-known haunted spots in town, but there are plenty of others with chilling stories. The Ten Bells pub in London’s East End Spitalfields area is said to be haunted by the ghost of Annie Chapman, one of Jack the Ripper’s victims. And the Old Operating Theatre in London Bridge saw plenty of gore in the 19th century, now Europe’s oldest surviving surgical theatre and a popular museum with tourists and Londeners alike.
Paris is well known for its romance, but its streets are also said to be full of ghosts, and not just of relationships past. One of the darkest places in the City of Light is its catacombs, a maze of galleries covered in millions of bones, created in the 1780s as a result of the city’s overflowing cemeteries. This historic ossuary is one of the most popular places to visit in Paris, open Tuesdays to Sundays. Another spooky spot is the Paris' Vampire Museum. One of the most unusual places to visit in Paris, Le Musée des Vampires houses a 19th century ‘anti-vampire protection kit’, crossbows and mummified pets, among other curiosities.
One of Prague’s most sinister sights is located in the Old Town’s St James the Greater church, where a severed arm dangles from a meat hook on the ceiling. This mummified limb once belonged to a thief who attempted to steal jewels from the church, and today still hangs as a warning to anyone else thinking of doing the same. Another famously dark Prague landmark is Charles Bridge. In the 14th century, martyr Saint John of Nepomuk was thrown from the bridge after refusing to divulge the Queen of Bohemia’s confessional secrets to her husband. Today, a plaque on the Charles Bridge commemorates St John, and touching the sign is said to bring good luck.
Rome’s reverence for the afterlife is seen in its countless churches and religious statues, from the Doors of Death in St. Peter’s Basilica to the statue of Giordano Bruno in Campo de’ Fiori. One of the creepiest places in Rome, however, is found underground. The Capuchin Crypt and Museum is an eerie visit, its subterranean chambers housing the bones of over 4,000 Capuchin monks. Regular tours take visitors around the bone-bedecked crypt, where skulls make up the oddest ornamental features. Beware the plaque that reads, “What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be." The Coliseum, where gladiators once battled to their death, is also one of Rome’s most haunted landmarks. Sightings have been reported of ghostly Roman soldiers roaming the amphitheatre at night, and anguished cries have been heard to echo out from the landmark after dark.
Powered by Froala Editor
The best train station restaurants
We love trains and we love to eat, so we've gone in search of Europe's finest train station restaurants. Please note that this article was originally written by Kate Andrews, founder of Loco2, which went on to be rebranded as Rail Europe. It has been tweaked by our editor to give up to date links in the body of the text. Bon appetit.
Steve McCurry's epic train photography
Inspiring images from Steve McCurry's journeys on the Indian railways