By Anne McCarthy
Spooky season is officially upon us! The days are getting shorter and colder, pumpkin-flavored everything surrounds us, and children (and adults) are eagerly planning their Halloween costumes.
Fall is a great time to travel (visiting Florence in the fall is especially dreamy). Fall – or autumn – is an ideal travel time because the summer crowds have died down, and the must-see monuments will be less packed. Not to mention, you won’t be sweating from the summer heat! If you’re heading to Paris or Rome during the spooky season, here are some of the best places to visit if you want to get some haunted vibes on your trip this time of year.
And while you’re in Paris and Rome, come join us for a tour! To keep up with the spirit of the season, book our bestselling Paris Night Bike Tour. You’ll zip through Paris on a bike like a witch on a broomstick, gliding through the city at its best witching hour, and then your guide will lead you on a boat cruise where you’ll sip wine under the glistening moon. This magical tour is an ideal way to experience Paris, whether it’s your first or twentieth time in the City of Light.
For another epic evening tour that feels aligned with the spooky season, book our Rome Night Bike Tour, where you’ll get all the fun and romance of the Eternal City with an expert guide leading you the whole way. On the Rome Night Bike Tour, you’ll see Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Spanish Steps, and much more.
Now, here are some haunted favorites to get in the Halloween spirit during your travels!
Arguably one of the most spooky and haunted spots in all of Rome is the Catacombs of Rome, a former underground burial site. They date all the way back from the 2-5th centuries and were used for the burials of Christian and Jewish people in Rome. Burials were prohibited inside the city during ancient Rome, so these catacombs were an honored place for people who wished to be buried versus cremated. The burial grounds are within narrow tunnels, so if you’re claustrophobic, this may not be the best place for you!
Rome’s Colosseum is one of the most notable sites in the whole city, and for good reason – it’s nearly 2,000 years old! The huge amphitheater was once the site of countless executions, wild animal fights, and gladiator battles. Suffice it to say that the Colosseum certainly has some spirits lingering about, thanks to its ancient history and all the deaths that took place within the space.
Check out our Skip-the-Line Small Group Colosseum Tour for an extra-special way to visit this iconic monument. On this tour, your professional and licensed guide will lead you around the Colosseum while providing a detailed overview of the history of the famous landmark.
Boutique hotel Palazzo de Cupis (Via di Santa Maria dell’Anima, 10, 00186) is in Rome’s Piazza Navona, which is a public square that regularly sees tourists and locals walking through it. The special and notable thing about this hotel is its reported paranormal activities. The hotel building was built in the 15th century, and reportedly, hotel guests have seen sightings of the ghost of Constanza Conti de Cupis.
Constanza was said to have been a gorgeous woman living in Rome in the early 1600s and she also had beautiful hands. Some visitors to the area have reported seeing a vision of her hand, which had been amputated when the young woman caught an infection, which later led to her death. Guests have claimed to have seen her hand on the windowpanes of the boutique hotel.
Ponte Sant’Angelo is a bridge built over Rome’s Tiber River. (Interested in experiencing Rome by boat cruise? Check out our related blog post.) The ancient bridge was build by Emperor Hadrian to connect Rome’s left bank with Castel Sant’Angelo. The remarkable bridge is lined with ten angel statues, which artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini sculpted.
While the bridge is stunningly beautiful, it doesn’t have such a beautiful history; in the 1500s, the bridge was where many people were executed. It’s been said that those who were executed on the bridge still haunt the area, including 22-year-old noblewoman Beatrice Cenci, who was killed for plotting against her abusive father, Count Francesco Cenci. It’s rumored that every year on the night before the anniversary of her death, the ghost of Beatrice Cenci returns to Ponte Sant’Angelo, the place of her execution, holding her severed head!
Another bridge, the pedestrian bridge of Ponte Sisto, is also known as being a wee bit haunted. This one is haunted by the ghost of Pope Innocent X’s sister-in-law, Donna Olimpia Pamphili. Donna reportedly appears to visitors of the bridge of the anniversary of the Pope’s death. Her ghostly figure can sometimes be seen riding in a horse-drawn carriage. How’s that for an epic ghost sighting?
Much like Rome, Paris also has its own catacombs. Dubbed a “veritable labyrinth in the heart of underground Paris,” the Paris Catacombs were created in the tunnels of former quarries and remain a popular tourist attraction for visitors to Paris. The network of tunnels, which serves as a burial ground, feels like an adventurous expedition among more typical Parisian fare, like visiting the Louvre or going up the Eiffel Tower. Paris’s Catacombs are the center of all things spooky, ghostly, and ghoul-y in Paris, and this place always serves up major Halloween vibes. Some visitors to the Catacombs report seeing strange shadows among the tunnels or being followed by ghostly figures.
It doesn’t get much more haunted than a gravesite, right? Père Lachaise is the largest and most-visited cemetery in all of Paris. Located in the 20th arrondissement, the cemetery is best known for all the famous people buried within its grounds. While strolling through the cemetery on a crisp autumn day, you’re bound to notice and recognize some of the notable names on the headstones there, such as Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Honoré de Balzac, and Frédéric Chopin. It’s a hauntingly beautiful place that is well worth a visit.
Opéra Garnier, the stunning opera house in the 9th arrondissement where many of Paris’s ballets and operas are performed, is a jaw-dropping building, inside and out. If you get the opportunity to take a tour of the interior, seize it! It’s a stunning space, and you’ll feel like royalty as you waltz through the hallowed – and semi-spooky – halls. The famed 1909 book-turned-musical-turned-movie, Phantom of the Opera, is based on the true story of a masked phantom haunting the opera after the phantom’s face was badly burned in a fire in the late 1800s.
Legend has it that the phantom still roams the opera, particularly in the lower levels of the building. A body, which is believed to be that of the phantom, was found in the basement of Opéra Garnier in 1907. After the body was found, strange occurrences continued, like the unexplained death of a dancer at the opera, an audience member being killed by a falling chandelier, and a dancer dying from falling offstage. Opéra Garnier is one of the most beautiful and one of the most haunted places in all of Paris.
On your next trip to Paris, join us for a tour, and we’ll delight you with even more fascinating stories from the City of Light.
Anne McCarthy is the Editor in Chief of the Fat Tire Tours Blog. She is a contributing writer to the BBC, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Wired, and many more. She splits her time between the U.S. and Europe.