I always loved Halloween. As kids, we would dress up and go trick or treating. As an adult, we did the same with a much more “adult” themed costume. Then when I had children, it was very special. Kati had a different experience growing up in Germany, though she still went to Halloween parties and celebrated. Europe, with it’s many castles and rich history is actually a perfect place for Halloween festivities. Even though Halloween originated in the U.S, Europe is catching up on scary themed activities. We all know how big Halloween is celebrated in the U.S. and in Europe, the American culture around Halloween definitely seeps through into the homes of many citizens. Yet, Europe has an amazing history regarding ‘All Saints’ day and loads of the typical Halloween activities get an adapted twist to the history of the region or country. There is something to satisfy any pumpkin heart. There are amusement parks full of haunting ghosts, walking through historical dungeons, beautiful castles that hide some scary secrets, and pumpkins all over the place.
Belgium has the best theme parks
A small country full of exciting fun. The Belgian theme parks have been listed in the top 10 of themed parks in Europe for many years. People come from anywhere to test their courage on the big attractions. Halloween for sure is the moment to walk around in one of the theme parks. Many of them provide extended opening hours, all around decoration, free gadgets for the ones who dress up, special food, and so on. Depending on your age there are better choices, the young will find their little monsters in Plopsaland or Bellewaarde, Bobbejaanland is the place for people who love haunted houses with their pop-up places and last but not least Walibi is the one to make your attitude teenagers meet themselves.
Not in Belgium, but the most famous theme park in Europe: don’t forget about Disney Land Paris. A place many dream to visit, turns into the sweetest nightmare during Halloween. Pictures perfect with Jack: the pumpkin king, spooky decoration yet adorable collectibles, and a special late-night opening with most people being dressed up. Disney Land Paris definitely makes up for the lack of Halloween celebrations in France.
The UK and its capital’s dungeon
London has some of the biggest parties in the world, and Halloween themed parties are to be found all over the city. But we want to search the city a bit closer to the ground base, year-round the London Dungeon is known as a scary yet exciting place, and that is where your greatest Halloween will be happening. Every day of the year, this is where thrill-seekers go, yet on Halloween, even the toughest daredevils will be shaking on their legs. People book their tickets ages in advance and make sure you do the same if you want to enjoy a real-life Halloween in the dungeons of London. Nobody holds you from going to an after-party though. You don’t have to stick to London city itself. The same owners from London Dungeon also hold the Halloween festivities in Warwick castle. This medieval castle is the perfect background for a spooky history that seems to be going back to the Celtic age. And what better place than the country where the Celts were living. Here you can find some more information about Warwick castle and other spots in London for during daytime.
The Irish are the Celts
As Americans, it might come as a surprise that we got the ingredients for our Halloween from the Irish or better yet Celtic traditions. We twisted them up a little, yet we would love to make some things clear about the original festivities. During the ages of the Celts, Halloween was named Samhain. It was a spiritual time, being in transition between darkness and light and a time where the boundaries between the Otherworld and the human world became more vague. Hence why spirits could more around freely between both worlds. The humans developed some activities to scare away these spirits: putting on scary and ugly masks, huge bonfires were lid and the people deliberately made a lot of noise to scare those evil spirits away. These days however Halloween is more described as a feast for the children. But there is also the city of Derry that has become the best place to visit for Halloween. Its long tradition of celebrating Halloween with thousands taking to the streets to celebrate one night of being in the fancy dress makes it one of the biggest in Europe. The city boasts a major festival every year including parades, fireworks, and other Halloween festivities.
The Scandinavian countries are child friendly
The countries Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark all have Celtic roots, so a great base for Halloween treats you would think. Yet just like in other European countries, most of the typical American Halloween traditions have been adapted to the more Christian celebration of All Saints. Halloween in those countries is more focused on the younger ones in the family, there are many fancy dress parties, kids go trick and treating and the scariest things you’ll find are some carved pumpkins. Many traditional games around the 31st of October, like lighting candles in shops to keep the spirits away, playing a kind of hide and seek to confuse the ghosts or do a treasure hunt for good luck, have all been adapted to a more American version of Halloween. We’ll probably see Halloween evolving more in those countries the years to come.
Spain has its ‘El Dia de los Muertos’
As we said, Halloween is found in Europe, yet adjusted to the regional folklore. In Spain, Halloween is better known as ‘El Dia de los Muertos’: Day of the Dead or ‘All Souls Day. Halloween in Spain is a three-day celebration that starts on October 31st with ‘Dia de las Brujas’: Day of the Witches. It continues with ‘Dia de Todos los Santos’: All Saints Day on November 1st, and finishes in style with ‘Dia de los Muertos’ on November 2nd. Every region has its own traditions, yet starting with the Day of the Witches: Sant Feliu Sasserra is the town to be. Remembering the 23 women who were sentenced to death for witchcraft with music, dance, and an amazing parade. All Saints day is the day and night for some amazing walks on different cemeteries all over Barcelona such as Montjuïc and Poblenou. Tours are offered all year round, but for Halloween, they are just that little extra; music concerts, scary stories, walking around with candlelight,.. you’ll get in the atmosphere. Dia de los Muertos because today is the day you’ll do the famous Halloween Pub Crawl in Madrid. To end the information about Spain: don’t forget to buy some Chestnuts, it’s the time of the year for it, trust us.
Austria and pumpkins
Halloween and pumpkins, it sure is a thing. But long before the Austrians linked the pumpkins with Halloween, there were just festivals celebrating the pumpkins. Retz is the name of a region in Austria and they do the biggest pumpkin festival in Europe. Anything pumpkin related, cutting, harvesting, and mainly eating can be found there. You’ll discover food made with pumpkin you’ve never heard of before. There is also an amazing parade, where everyone is dressed as a different pumpkin. Definitely the more family-friendly version of Halloween in Europe.
Germany and the Frankenstein Castle
Isn’t Frankenstein one of the scariest monsters ever? He will always be related to Halloween and in Germany, you can find the castle on which the story is allegedly based, its name: Burg Frankenstein. Located in the city of Darmstadt, on top of a hill. As we said, this castle may have been an inspiration for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and since 1978 they have started a Halloween party at the castle. Obviously, it has evolved over the years and we must be honest, it grew out from a rather soft animation to an amazing festival and one of the best Halloween nights in Europe. Kinda have to keep the best for last, or almost last. There are 2 different festivals, during the day you can go there with the kids, depending on how bulletproof they are against scary monsters, people following them around, scaring them from around the corner, and so on. During the darker times of the time, things do get leveled up, there are way more scary sounds, better costumes, closer encounters, and not always age-appropriate for the underaged. But then again, pick your timing of the day and go to the all-time best Halloween environment.
Romania and Transylvania
Alright, you all know who we will be talking about next, vampires. Back in the 16th century, people really believed they were real, even scientists wrote articles about how vampires live among the living and many people hold crosses and holy water close to them. There are even graves found where people put rocks between the teeth of death to prevent them from turning. So Europe, New England, and Romania especially were the birth ground for the vampire myths, the novel Dracula concluded all of this. Those who say vampires, say Transylvania, these days better known as the country Romania. They have huge vampire parties and when we say huge, you think about a 3-day long party including ‘Ritual killing of the Living Dead’, food for 3 days, A vampires hunting Show, Best Female and Male Costumes, drinks for weeks squeezed in 3 days and dancing to the best beats. Romania is the place to be a vampire for the weekend.
The Swiss with their alternative celebrations
First of all, we know we were talking about Halloween and the 31st of October, but the Swiss, they are a different sort. So do they celebrate Halloween as we know it in The States? Yes, a slow version with some pumpkin carving and some fancy dress parties. Yet they extend Halloween and by extending we mean that they have scary traditions on other moments during the year and we just want to share this one with you: the Witches Week! This amazing week happens sometime in January, depending on the year. It is as unusual as popular and people go down the slope dressed as witches. The whole week there is all kind of events and races, all in honor of a local witch who supposedly got up to mischief in the area. Where to join in the fun? Belalp, the canton of Valais.
Rome and its Halloween Tours
Rome is a city full of beautiful history and the Celtic influence was felt back in the day. These days Halloween is enjoyed by walking around during nighttime in this beautiful city. The history is compelling and my buildings have some more creepy stories to them then you would hear during your daytime guided tour. It is amazing how people will show up to these tours dressed up as Halloween characters. Scary stories, great company, beautiful buildings, amazing artwork, and unexpected twists. Combined of course with great food stops, candlelight, and some unexpected monsters along the way. Definitely, some amazing parties to be found as well, far after the tour you know.
Europe counts about 50 countries, we’ve only listed 10. Any European country surely has something to offer for Halloween, yet the 10 above are the ones that caught our eyes. There are activities for young and old, scary or terror-stricken, creative, or a fun show,. It all depends on your taste but we guarantee you, you can have an amazing Halloween weekend in Europe.
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