Creepy tourism in Europe?
July 9, 2007 9:37 AM   Subscribe

What are some creepy things to do in Brussels, Amsterdam and London?

I'm getting ready for my first trip to Europe, which will be focused on Belgium with side trips to Amsterdam, London and maybe Paris. My girlfriend and I have macabre tastes and would like to visit some creepy museums and exhibits while we're there. I'm talking medical oddities, true crime stuff, hallways made of bones, you name it. We're hip to the Tower of London and would like recommendations on the best Jack the Ripper walking tours, etc. Nothing is too outre, but the supernatural ranks far lower than anything real.
posted by Bookhouse to Travel & Transportation (25 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I haven't taken it in about 20 years, but the Jack the Ripper walk from these guys is supposedly the best. I was only a kid but I enjoyed it and it was fairly creepy.

If you make it to Paris, head straight to the Catacombs. It's wonderfully creepy and probably exactly what you're looking for.

...and don't even think about taking any bones. Your bag will be searched on the way out.
posted by dhammond at 9:43 AM on July 9, 2007

Oh, and don't bother with London Dungeon, in case you were wondering. Horribly overpriced, crowded and just plain cheesy. Unless you're a 12-year-old boy.
posted by dhammond at 9:45 AM on July 9, 2007

Best answer: The London Dungeon is a tourist trap of waxwork torture victims. It's pretty tedious.

If you're looking for something a bit more serious (but way more impressive with it), go to the Hunterian Museum, which is the museum of the Royal College Surgeons. They have an amazing collection of very old specimens in formaldehyde (lots of very deformed animals and foetuses, including a few humans) and surgical intstruments. It's amazing.
posted by caek at 9:46 AM on July 9, 2007

Sounds like you'll want to visit The London Dungeon in, um, London and the Torture Museum in Amsterdam.
posted by SpacemanRed at 9:47 AM on July 9, 2007

Response by poster: My friend in Brussels just let me know he's thinking that we might spend more time in Paris than I thought, so strange things to do besides the catacombs would be good.

And another only sorta-related question: will I be able to find the English-language new Harry Potter book the day it comes out if I am in Brussels or Paris?
posted by Bookhouse at 10:03 AM on July 9, 2007

Not creepy or odd, but medical: the Florence Nightingale Museum right between the Houses of Parliament and Waterloo in Southwark, London.

There's also the Roman-era Arenes de Lutece located in Paris - probably the site of many a massacre, still with the original animal cages! Not Colosseum-sized, and often the site of a neighborhood petanque game, but still pretty cool, and in a neat little quiet corner of town. Also in Paris, check out the Pantheon, the burial place of many of France's late greats - you can even get photos with the sarcophagus of Voltaire!
posted by mdonley at 10:06 AM on July 9, 2007

you will find te book in brussels in the local waterstone branch

71-75 Boulevard Adolphe Maxlaan, Bruxelles 1000, Belgique

* Tél.: 32 2 219 27 08
* Fax: 32 2 209 04 30
* URL :
* Adresse e-mail :

they hold a laun party.

this will take to a visit of the er... sewer system. Not the catacomb but it should be creepy enough
posted by Baud at 10:07 AM on July 9, 2007

Best answer: oh and if you're in that sort of thing, there is a Brussels cafe litterally meters away from the Grand'PLace called le cercueil. Drinks served in skulls, macabre decoration, etc.
posted by Baud at 10:10 AM on July 9, 2007

You might also be able to pre-order the book from (it's in English, don't worry) and have it delivered on the day of publication to your place in Paris or to your friend's house in Brussels. (Perhaps le Belge can help you with the French if it's not your native language.)
posted by mdonley at 10:16 AM on July 9, 2007

Best answer: The Palace of Brussels has a ceiling and chandelier in the "Mirror Room" that is made up of the carcasses of 1.4 million scarab beetles, giving it a bright green iridescent color. It's known as "Heaven of Delight" and was created by artist Jan Fabre.

From your interests it sounds like you'd really be interested in the Sedlec ossuary in Kutna Hora, Czech republic; it's a church that has chandeliers and other pieces made out of human bones. Creepy and impressive at the same time., but it's several hours out of your way.
posted by Challahtronix at 10:20 AM on July 9, 2007

Winston Churchill's Britain at War Experience was quite chilling in its own way when I visited it (back when it had a different name). It was aiming for realism rather than the supernatural, and it was definitely interesting and worthwhile.
posted by sueinnyc at 10:28 AM on July 9, 2007

Besides the Catacombs in Paris, you might try Père-Lachaise Cemetery. Not super-creepy, but definitely interesting.
posted by CiaoMela at 10:33 AM on July 9, 2007

I'm trying to remember the details of a place that I went when I last visited europe, that had the whole bone-room thing going on. I think it was called The Church of the Immaculate Conception?

Ah damn. Google says it's in Rome.
well, here is a website about it.
Next time, I suppose?
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 11:23 AM on July 9, 2007

I've not been to it yet, but the Wellcome Collection on Euston Road in London sounds like it might be up your street. As well as exhibitions on the human body, they have collections of medical curiosities, including - according to the posters on the tube - a used guillotine blade and a shrunken head. There's an article on the museum and its founder, Henry Wellcome, here, if you're interested.
posted by terrynutkins at 11:24 AM on July 9, 2007

Also, don't think to overlook Westminster Abbey.
Basically everyone important to Britain's history is interred there.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 11:28 AM on July 9, 2007

The ossuary in Kutna Hora that Challahtronix mentioned is fun (and the church spires have skulls & crossbones on them for some reason), but it's way more than a couple hours out of your way if you're not in Prague.

The Boerhaave Museum in Leiden, NL (it's a short train ride outside of Amsterdam) has some interesting medical oddities, and a shitload of old science gear if you're into it. It's an easy day trip and Leiden is a pleasant little town.
posted by cmonkey at 11:39 AM on July 9, 2007

To re-iterate what others have said: avoid the London Dungeon as hard as ever you can. It's a dreadful, feeble rip-off tourist trap. Seriously.

Check out some of London's cemeteries - perhaps some pictures of Highgate Cemetery (old pics) and Abney Park Cemetery (recent pics) might pique your creepiness-seeking curiosity. They're especially recommended at around dusk...

Also, I've no wish to cast aspersions on something you're dead keen on doing - but might I suggest skipping the Jack The Ripper walk? I don't know of any of them that do anything other than present a view of old East London that bears more resemblance to old Hammer films than it does to reality - fog-bound nonsense sprinkled with myths of monocles, cloaks and wenches. East London has plenty of incredible history (and plenty of easily-themed routes between good pubs...) without resorting to the stereotype industries.
posted by flashboy at 11:55 AM on July 9, 2007

Best answer: Oh! Oh! Deyrolle, Paris' finest taxidermist! We had a post on them last week over on the Blue!
posted by mdonley at 11:56 AM on July 9, 2007

I definitely agree with seeing the Paris catacombs. They are extremely creepy! Père Lachaise cemetery is also quite interesting and beautiful.

In London, Westminster Abbey is a must! I have never seen so many famous dead people buried in one place!
posted by exquisite_deluxe at 12:14 PM on July 9, 2007

You should visit the suburbs of paris. The cellers in the block houses in the suburbs are supposed to be pretty creepy. The ghettos of Paris, that's what you should visit. Real misery, not the fake old one.
posted by markovich at 1:15 PM on July 9, 2007

Best answer: Definitely do a London Walk, as suggested by dhammond, they do a range of creepy ones. We did a ghost walk last year accidentally (we were after a regular non-supernatural walk) and it was very, very good, not at all cheesy, and with lots of really interesting stuff about the areas we were in. The best bit for me was that I learnt new shortcuts and the whole route was still lit by gas lights.

Also visit some cemeteries.... Abney Park is great, but be aware if you do go at dusk, it is a bit of a cruising ground.

I've never been, but you might also like the Old Operating Theatre Museum. From the days when operating theatres were really theatres.
posted by Helga-woo at 2:34 PM on July 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

dhammond is right about the Jack the Ripper tour. Highgate and the Hunterian Museum in London are worthwhile.
posted by prjo at 4:32 PM on July 9, 2007

I saw the last Harry Potter book in English on the day of release in Slovenia. Paris or Brussels aren't going to be a problem.
posted by roomaroo at 12:53 AM on July 10, 2007

goshling beat me to it, but seconding the vaults beneath the chapel at Kensal Green cemetery. Ask for the extra-special lights off tour.

And the views over west London from the cemetery are excellent.
posted by Well that's a lie at 4:08 PM on July 10, 2007

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