Although it’s known as an American celebration, Hallowe’en has gone global in recent years, and the spook-filled parades and parties that are popping up across Europe are the perfect way to pep up the quiet weeks between the end of summer and the Christmas holidays. Whether you want family fun, carving pumpkins and dressing up in ghoulish costumes, or prefer to party into the small hours, surrounded by ghouls and zombies, there’s a spook-filled city to fit the bill.
USA and Canada
Few cities can rival New York for Hallowe’en shenanigans, the highlight of which is the Village Hallowe’en Parade, which sees around 50,000 zombies and giant puppets process up Sixth Avenue from 7pm on the 31st. If you’re looking for a serious party, there are masked balls around the city, while restaurants and bars offer up Hallowe’en themed menus and special cocktails.
The 31st October is one day of the year when Washington DC shakes off its staid image and comes alive with parades, special events at the Smithsonian museum and pumpkin-decorating and trick or treat stations at the National Zoo. The Nightmare on M Street party at Dupont Circle is hugely popular, while the Silver Spring Zombie Walk is an unforgettable sight.
Further north, Quebec embraces all things other-worldly for Hallowe’en, with houses across the city decorated with pumpkins and the Joan of Arc Garden turned into a haunted park. The Morrin Centre – the city’s oldest jail – is putting on an interactive Halloween Experience, while Quebec’s National Museum, MNBAQ will host a costume party.
Budapest brings its usual quirky style to Hallowe’en celebrations, with a Pumpkin Festival in the Downtown Market on the last Saturday in October, and a Lantern Festival in Heroes Square. And no Hallowe’en visit to Budapest is complete without a visit to Buda Castle Hill, where Dracula – the legendary Vlad Tepes – was imprisoned in the 15th century. Lantern-led tours of the caverns and bunkers are not for the faint-hearted!
Few cities party as hard as Berlin, and Hallowe’en ups the ante even further; horror film lovers should head to the party at the iconic Kino International – a Soviet Era cinema – while the clubs on Potzdamer Platz hold special costume parties. For something quieter, the Botanical Garden holds the ‘Hallowe’en Kulturbruhne’ - a programme of family-friendly performances, along with face-painting and pumpkin carving.
In Copenhagen, the Tivoli Gardens are home to Denmark’s biggest Hallowe’en party, which lasts from mid October to early November. The gardens are filled with pumpkins, Hallowe’en themed stalls, and pop-up cafes, and visitors can watch the Monster Night Out parade, or have a go at catching zombies in a new augmented reality game that can be downloaded onto mobile phones.
If you want to mix Hallowe’en celebrations with some other traditional festivals, Barcelona is a great choice. Clubs and bars across the city put on costume-themed nights on the 31st, but on Nov 1st – a Bank Holiday in Spain – the locals celebrate All Saints Day, dedicated to remembering those who have passed away. It’s also the beginning of Castanyada; a traditional celebration with roasted chestnuts, marzipan cake and sweet wine – stalls and bars throughout the city will be serving all three.
Closer to home, Cornwall is a great choice for a family-friendly Hallowe’en – visit the Eden Project, which runs Hallowe’en themed activities for a week before the night itself, including a Monsters Ball on the last Saturday in the month. Many of Cornwall’s gardens put on special pumpkin trails, with lots of opportunities for dressing up and hearing ghostly tales around the fire.
Up in Scotland, Edinburgh has a huge range of ghostly goings-on taking place around the 31st; families can go along to the Scottish International Storytelling Festival to hear spooky tales from Scotland’s history, or head to Lauriston Castle, which offers ghostly guided tours and Hallowe’en themed craft activities. In Greater Grassmarket there are parades and family workshops, while restaurants and bars throughout the city host special ghoul-themed nights.