Highgate Cemetery – One of London’s Magnificent 7

Highgate Cemetery
Highgate Cemetery, London

Highgate Cemetery, located in North London, is one of the most famous cemeteries in the world and probably the most famous in London.

It forms part of the Magnificent Seven garden cemeteries built in the Victorian era and is the resting place of quite a few notable names, the most famous of which is Karl Marx.

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A Brief History of Highgate Cemetery

It’s quite an incredible place that we’ve visited on more than one occasion. We’ve taken a tour around the cemetery and also wandered around under our own steam to properly explore the place.

There’s a lot to look at, and if you intend to visit without taking a tour, it’s worth allocating an hour or so for your visit.

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If you’re wondering what the other “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries are, they are:

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It’s fair to say most people visit to see the graves of the famous people buried there, but we were attracted by the architecture.

It’s fascinating and like a ready-made film set in some places like Egyptian Avenue, the Circle of Lebanon, and the Terrace Catacombs.

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Designed by architects Stephen Geary and David Ramsey, Highgate Cemetery was founded in 1839.

It was one of the earliest private garden cemeteries in England.

Founded to meet the growing demand for burial space in London, it was built on a site that was initially part of the grounds of Ashurst House.

It was to be the third of the Magnificent Seven garden cemeteries planned around London.

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The cemetery was divided into two parts: the east cemetery, the original part of the cemetery, and the west cemetery, which was opened in 1860.

The east cemetery was designed to be a more affordable option for burials, while the west cemetery was designed for wealthier families and remains the most prestigious side today.

The difference is strikingly obvious – the landscape is vastly different, with graves spanning as far as the eye can see on the east side.

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The cemetery was known for its stunning Gothic architecture and beautiful gardens, which landscaper David Ramsey designed.

The cemetery is another piece of master design by the Victorians but looks very different today than it would have at the point of inception.

Vines have grown around gravestones, and trees have slowly established into a canopy, creating a different atmosphere than you might expect in the 1800s.

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In the 1970s, the cemetery fell into disrepair and became overgrown, with nature claiming back the site and damaging much of what man had created.

In 1975, the Friends of Highgate Cemetery was formed to help restore and maintain the cemetery.

The group worked to clear the overgrowth and restore the cemetery to its former glory. They still look after the cemetery and conduct the tours.

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Highgate Cemetery Famous Graves

There are a considerable amount of famous graves in Highgate Cemetery, with the most notable name being Karl Marx (east side), a German-born philosopher, economist, political theorist, historian, sociologist, journalist, and socialist.

George Michael (West Side), one of the world’s best-selling musicians, is also buried there in a very well-kept grave.

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We’ve picked out some more below who have some interesting background:

  • Alexander Litvinenko – a former Russian Federal Security Service who was poisoned with polonium.
  • Charles Cruft – the man behind the world-famous dog show – Crufts.
  • Michael Faraday – known as the father of the electric motor, electric generator, electric transformer, and electrolysis and is regarded as one of the greatest scientific discoverers of all time.
  • Thomas Sayers – a bare-knuckle prize fighter who became a sporting hero. His funeral was the largest the cemetery has ever seen, and his dog ‘Lion’ can be seen on his gravestone.
  • George Wombwell – the man behind the first lion to be bred in captivity in Britain.
  • Jeremy Beadle – a TV presenter, famous among the Baby Boomers and Millenials.
  • Elizabeth Jackson – the first burial in the cemetery.
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This list is by no means exhaustive. These are the names that stood out to us or had some interesting background story.

You’ll find loads of other famous public figures, writers, poets, artists, publishers, financiers, etc., on both sides of the cemetery.

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Highgate Cemetery Tours

Tours around the west side of the cemetery are available daily and take around 90 minutes. You can turn up but are advised to book on the weekends as they get pretty busy. We took a tour on a Friday afternoon in winter.

There were around 15 of us on it, and according to the tour guide, that was a small-ish group. It’s worth noting – you won’t see Karl Marx’s grave on the tour.

That’s on the east side, but you will have about 30 minutes afterwards to dash over to the other side to see it.

Alternatively, if you pay the entrance fee, you can explore the west and east sides before the tour, which we recommend you take advantage of.

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The tour was great. Our guide took us to the main point of interest around the cemetery and filled the time with plenty of stories, anecdotes and information about the cemetery during the Victorian era.

We’re confident you could find a lot of the information on the internet, but it can never be brought to life in the same way a tour guide brings it to life.

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On the tour, you’ll visit Egyptian Avenue, the Circle of Lebanon and the Terrace Catacombs. Without a doubt, these are the best bits of the cemetery.

The architecture is something else, and access to the catacombs is held exclusively for the tour.

Inside, you’ll hear more stories and see something which still remains from the famous story of the Highgate Cemetery Vampire.

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Practical Information

📍 Highgate Cemetery, Swain’s Ln, London, N6 6PJ

💷 Paid entry

🌍 highgatecemetery.org

🕙 March to October 10 am – 5 pm, November to February 10 am – 4 pm

Getting to Highgate Cemetery

There is no parking at the cemetery, so the easiest way to get to Highgate Cemetery is via public transport. Take the tube from Central London.

Archway is the nearest station (Zone 2, Northern Line). From there, you can walk up the hill or take the bus (210, 143, 263) and then walk through Waterlow Park.

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Highgate Cemetery photos

If you’d like to see more photos of the cemetery, visit our Highgate Cemetery photos post.

Is Highgate Cemetery worth visiting?

Yes, it’s worth visiting the cemetery. It’s a remarkable place with plenty of interesting history and impressive architecture. You’re unlikely to find anywhere else quite like it.

Plus, it’s home to some of the most famous graves in London, each with an interesting story.

Highgate Cemetery prices

Prices are as follows:

To enter both sides – adults are £10, children (8-17) £6, and children (0-7) are free. To enter the east side only, adults are £6, children (8-17) £2, and children (0-7) are free.

If you’d like to take a tour, they are adults for £18, children (8-17) £10, and students are £9.50. The tour price will give you access to both sides of the cemetery.

Is there a cafe at Highgate Cemetery?

There is no cafe at the cemetery operated by the cemetery. However, there is one in the west colonnade operated by an independent company.

It’s never been open when we have visited, so it might be best to plan a cafe visit around your visit to the cemetery and not during your visit.

Is there parking at Highgate Cemetery?

There is no visitor parking at Highgate Cemetery. The best way to visit the cemetery is via public transport.

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