Gothic tour of Highgate Cemetery in North London: British vampire graveyard! FG Properties rental apartments review.
When you’re in London with your Gothic comrades… there’s no better place to hang out than in an English graveyard!
Zoetica, Trevor and I spent a spooky afternoon exploring Highgate Cemetery in North London, the final resting spot of George Michael, Sex Pistols punk manager Malcolm McLaren, and other famous Brits.
Beware: according to local lore, these burial grounds are haunted by a vampire. Read on for the ghostly legends, as well as a tour of my classic FG Properties flat.
I was happy to reunite with my long-time friends Trevor and Zoetica Ebb, who both relocated from California to London. They’re thoroughly enjoying life in the UK: there are lots of alternative and underground events here (occult life-drawing, and witchcraft courses at the British Museum, to name a few. We also visited the Viktor Wynd cabinet of curiosities together, as you may recall from this post.)
It was our first visit to Highgate Cemetery, established in 1837 and a favorite haunt for Goths. We adored the setting from our first glimpse of these black and gold ornate gates, surrounded by autumn leaves.
Visitor info: Highgate is easy to access by the tube on the Northern Line, which passes through Camden. (Might as well visit Camden Market on the way — here’s my guide to Camdenlock). There’s a small entrance fee, and the gates close at 3:30 or 4:30pm, so be sure to get here early).
Graveyard address: Swain’s Ln, Highgate, London N6 6PJ, UK
Highgate Cemetery is split into West and East portions. West Cemetery can be accessed only if you pre-book a tour in advance, since you’ll need a guide to traverse these crumbling older graves. We’ll have to visit the western side next time: it contains some of the most impressive architecture, including the pillared Egyptian Avenue, and Circle of Lebanon.
However, there’s still so much to see the East side. We arrived as the sun was setting, and light was glowing through the crucifixes.
Highgate Cemetery holds 53,000 graves. I confess that we added one more…
… it’s a long story, but Zoetica’s Luichiny boots gave up their last breath during our hangout! We gave these gorgeous shoes a proper send-off in the most Gothic of graveyards.
Highgate Cemetery was established in 1839, and dedicated to St. James. Fifteen acres are set aside for the Church of England, and two acres for the Dissenters.
The tombs are especially striking in autumn, covered in creeping vines and fallen leaves
The cemetery’s grounds are lush with vines, shrubbery and wildflowers, most of which have grown naturally and intermingle beautifully with the gravestones.
Many of the gravestones are works of art, made more beautiful through decay. Love the effect of the stone-carved chains bound by vines.
In the early 1970s, locals began reporting sightings of a ghostly figure. Soon, the legend spread that a vampire was haunting Highgate Cemetery!
According to one tale, this supernatural being was a King Vampire of the Undead, who practiced black magick in medieval Wallachia (Romania).
It’s easy to understand why Highgate is the site of ghost stories, as you stroll through the overgrown pathways and stumble upon hidden crosses.
I think the only vampires you might come across…. are Goths lurking amidst the headstones!
The graveyard is especially striking around Halloween, when the tombstones are covered in creeping vines and fallen leaves.
Many famous artists are buried in Highgate, including musician George Michael, and author Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy).
Close-up on my Jawbreaker red rose tank top, which I layered over a long sleeved shirt. Love the cross-stitching down the center, and the embroidery detailing. They also have a 90s style tartan and mesh dress that I love.
In the 1970s, quite a few acts of vandalism took place. In response, an organization called Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust was founded in 1975. The Friends took steps to restore the damage, and carefully maintain the property to this day.
As the sun lowered, a groundskeeper walked through ringing a bell — time to clear out. I imagined that he was protecting visitors from vampires, who come out to feast at dusk!
Look for wild strawberries peeping through the leaves. Edible fruits, sprouting from the flesh of the dead.
If you’re an artistic, Gothic type like us, Highgate will stir your imagination.
Trevor pointed out this frightening statue of an angel, who looks like she could use an exorcism. He stands in front of a grave marked with the Cross of Lorraine, the double-cross symbol with connotations to the occult, alchemy and Freemasons.
The grounds are a haven for birds and small animals such as foxes. We came across this creature of the night… a black cat, sitting on a sarcophagus!
If Highgate Cemetery is indeed haunted, this black kitty would know…
I leave you with two of the most famous burial sites. On the left is MM – Malcolm McLaren, punk impresario and original manager of the Sex Pistols. On the right is the memorial to Karl Marx. The socialist theorist’s tomb was the site of two attempted bombings by discontents.
Don’t forget to stop inside the chapel, and browse the selection of artisan products — including fine books, and this irresistible black Highgate candle.
I leave you with this spectral view of the chapel after dark. The imposing Tudor Gothic building is topped with turrets and a bell tower. Inside, there are two chapels: one for the Church of England and the other for Dissenters.
If you’re intrigued, you can plan a visit and find out more about Highgate Cemetery here.
Between my adventures, I looked forward to relaxing in my Miffy pajamas!
London hotels are notoriously small and expensive. I solved this problem by renting an apartment from FG Properties. On their site, you can see that they offer short-term rentals and holiday apartments all over London, including the best locations (Chelsea, Kensington, etc).
My large, airy FG flat (The Fulham Road Residence) was conveniently located near Earl’s Court tube, and had plenty of space to cook and entertain friends. I enjoyed living like a Londoner, and feeling right at home in this cute living room. TV, fast WiFi and all amenities are included.
City Relay manages the flats, and made it easy for me to check in. City Relay has a front desk where you can get help from staff, and leave your luggage if you aren’t ready.
It only took a few minutes for me to get my key, and read the document that explained the WiFi connection and other info. The two bedrooms were stocked with fresh towels and bath products, so I had nothing to worry about.
Nothing like brewing a cup of tea, and kicking back in my bunny PJs!
I was glad to have a modern kitchen at my disposal. I went around the corner to Sainsbury’s for soup, and cooked it up on the stove with the pots provided. (A great way to save money as well, since eating out in London can be costly.)
Staying with FG Properties meant that I could experience living the posh life in Chelsea. How beautiful is the exterior of my rental flat, The Coleherne Road Nest?
The living and dining area have high ceilings, and lots of light. There are two bedrooms and a bathroom: the apartment has plenty of room for several people to share.
I was within walking distance of the Saatchi Gallery, Taschen bookstore, contemporary couture boutiques, antique shops, cute bakeries… Chelsea is the perfect neighborhood for a stroll.
FG Properties is the perfect balance between a hotel and AirBNB. You get to live in a spacious home filled with personality, supplied with fresh linens, water bottles water and toiletries.
The comfortable sofa called my name, after a long day of sightseeing.
If you’re looking for a reliable, modern yet affordable place to stay in London, FG Properties has my hearty recommendation.
I’ll end my London stories with two fine meals. I had the opportunity to dine at the renown Skylon Restaurant Bar & Grill. (Address: Royal Festival Hall, London SE1 8XX)
Part of D&D London, the restaurant is located in Royal Festival Hall, with panoramic views across the River Thames.
Skylon is located in Southbank, an area worth visiting. The waterfront has cute stores, public art exhibitions on display, a skate park, a luminous carousel, and the iconic London Eye Ferris wheel. Sit by one of Skylon’s picture windows, and take in the lively view below. (Photos by Joey Wong).
Inside, the upscale bar splits the space into two sections: the grill, and fine dining. Skylon has a large selection of cocktails based on various flavor families such as “spice, smoke and cinnamon”. I loved my tequila-infused lemongrass, with red bell pepper and paprika syrup, and egg whites.
The outstanding bartenders also made me custom cocktails, based on my favorite tastes and decorated creatively.
Skylon offers a set tasting menu based on truffles. We decided to order a-la-carte, beginning with a refreshing smoked salmon cannelloni with creme fraiche, salmon caviar, and chervil.
The juicy, braised ox cheek was served with a flavorful sauce, which paired well with freshly grilled vegetables.
I ended with what appeared to be a poisoned apple — but turned out to be a light and nuanced dessert. The cloud meringue also made a sweet end to the meal. If you’re looking for a special meal with an epic view of London, Skylon is the place to be.
The enormous brasserie-style restaurant is located in the heart of St. James. Recently renovated, the glowing bar and staircase are… “lit.”
Quaglino’s has been a “happening” dining establishment since the 1930s; Queen Elizabeth II even dined here in 1956.
The bar has a massive cocktail selection, from fresh botanicals to vintage liqueurs. On the right, I’m savoring every sip of “The Happy Widow” — made with vintage Remy Martin XO, benedictine, yellow chartreuse, apricot brandy and bitters.
Quaglino’s was revamped with flair by D&D London. The result is modern meets old-school Mayfair charm. Don’t miss out on the bathrooms, which remind me of Beetlejuice’s suit.
The menu is based on seasonal flavors. Since I was there around Halloween, I got to savor the perfectly cooked saffron risotto, with winter greens and aged pecorino. My friend Vanessa loved her roast sea bream with caramelised cauliflower, curried raisin and coriander.
We had a healthy starter: salmon tartare with herb and green chili emulsion. This gave us a great excuse to indulge in the chocolate marquis dessert. Quaglino’s was a West End meal to remember.
It’s time to say “cheerio” to London for now… but I’m sure I will return soon. I hope you enjoyed these stories from Great Britain! For more travel tips (including Shoreditch, Camden, Goth clubs and shopping), check out my England blog posts here.
PS: I’m doing a travel AMA (Ask Me Anything) here on AMAFeed. Feel free to submit questions to me, and I’ll answer them in depth!