Halloween, a holiday rooted in ancient Celtic traditions, has evolved into a global celebration of all things eerie and enchanting. It’s a time when people of all ages don costumes, indulge in sweet treats, and immerse themselves in a world of spooky delights.
While Halloween is cherished worldwide, some places take the festivities to a whole new level, making it an unforgettable experience. In this blog post, we’ll embark on a thrilling journey through the history of Halloween and explore 17 of the best places around the world to celebrate this enchanting holiday.
A Brief History of Why We Celebrate Halloween
Halloween has deep roots dating back to the Celts, who celebrated a festival called Samhain. Samhain marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter.
People believed that during this time, the boundary between our world and the spirit world grew thin, allowing ghosts to roam freely. To ward off these spirits, they lit fires and dressed in costumes.
With the rise of Christianity, the holiday evolved. All Saints’ Day was created to honor saints, and the night before became known as All Hallows’ Eve, eventually becoming Halloween.
So, when we celebrate Halloween today, we continue a tradition that combines ancient Celtic beliefs with Christian customs, all centered around the spooky and supernatural.
Halloween found its way to North America through Irish and Scottish immigrants carrying their Halloween traditions. Over time, these customs blended with other cultural traditions, giving birth to the modern Halloween celebration. Jack-o’-lanterns, costumes, and trick-or-treating all became integral parts of the holiday.
The Best Places to Celebrate Halloween
From ancient castles to modern cities, Here are 17 of the best places around the world to visit and celebrate Halloween:
As the birthplace of Halloween, Ireland embraces its pagan roots with modern celebrations across the country. The city of Derry in Northern Ireland hosts the biggest Halloween festival in all of Ireland. The ancient walled city is transformed into a magical realm with parades, fireworks over the River Foyle, haunted houses, ghost tours, and more.
Dublin’s bars and clubs host elaborate costume parties, while rural towns like Westport have family-friendly events. Even the Irish countryside lends itself to Halloween with rolling hills shrouded in mist, ancient castles lit up in spooky splendor, and the limitless potential for leprechauns or fairies to appear from the forest fog.
Scots carried their Halloween traditions to the United States in the 19th century, and Scotland still celebrates with gusto today. The streets of Edinburgh take on a sinister air with its series of Halloween festivals. Costumed children parade up Calton Hill during the Children’s Halloween Street Party. Historic buildings host haunted houses and escape rooms.
The city also erects a “Gothic Forest” in Princes Street Gardens, with roaming monsters, magicians, performances, and food. Across Scotland, you’ll find age-old Halloween traditions like dookin’ for apples, where players compete to bite into apples floating in the water and tell each other ghost stories late into the night.
3) London, England
London gets into the Halloween spirit with spooky events across the city. At the London Dungeon, thrill-seekers can experience live-action shows and terrifying rides along with costumed performers. The ZSL London Zoo hosts an annual Boo at the Zoo with magic shows, creepy crafts, ghost hunting, and more family-friendly fun.
Head to Primrose Hill Farm for pumpkin picking or explore the Harry Potter Photographic Exhibition featuring images of costumes and props from the films. For an extra fright, join a Jack the Ripper tour in east London, following in the footsteps of the infamous serial killer when it’s time to party, bars in Greenwich, Camden, and Shoreditch host costume contests and themed cocktails.
4) Transylvania, Romania
The Dracula legend originated in Romania, so it’s an atmospheric place to spend Halloween. You can tour Bran Castle near Brasov, which resembles Dracula’s castle in Bram Stoker’s novel with its imposing stone towers perched on a hillside. Vlad the Impaler, who inspired the Dracula character, may have briefly lived there in the 15th century.
In addition to tours, you can dine on a vampire-themed meal infused with garlic and blood sauce or attend a medieval vampire ball in Sighisoara, where Vlad the Impaler was born. End your Romania Halloween trip hiking through the Carpathian Mountains, where the forests and valleys create an enchanting Transylvanian scene.
While Halloween is still catching on in Italy, the country celebrates its version called Ognissanti on November 1, All Saints Day. Many Italians visit cemeteries and bring chrysanthemums to honor departed loved ones. In Florence, the Festa di Carnevale fills the streets with costumed performers reenacting a plague procession from the Middle Ages.
The festival takes place over four days leading up to November 1. In Venice, costume-wearing revelers convene in St Mark’s Square for a Carnival of Venice Halloween Festival. The spooky setting of the piazza lit by moonlight sets the mood for magic shows, themed concerts, horror theater, and carnival rides.
6) Prague, Czech Republic
With its Gothic spires looming over winding cobblestone streets lined with gargoyles, Prague sets an ominous scene for Halloween. The city hosts costume parties; themed bar crawls with free shots, and sinister concerts leading up to the ghostly holiday. Or join a spine-tingling guided tour to hear chilling tales about Prague’s haunted past.
The paranormal-minded can search for spirits in Old Town Square or visit the ominous Faust House, where alchemist Edward Kelley once practiced black magic. Learn about one of Prague’s darkest times at the Communist Museum’s Halloween party, or experience the medieval terror of witch burnings at the National Museum’s Halloween festival.
Belgium is credited with being the origin place of the carved jack-o-lanterns associated with Halloween, thanks to the country’s history of growing pumpkin crops. In the Flanders region, locals traditionally light candles at gravesites on November 1 to commemorate deceased relatives.
But Belgium also celebrates Halloween in spooktacular modern fashion. Bruges hosts the Hallopleinen Festival with costumed zombies prowling the streets, DJs, and live bands. In Binche, you can witness the meaningful Halloween parade, a local tradition since the 14th century. Belgium’s love of ghoulish delights also comes to life at horror film festivals and masquerade balls in Brussels.
Although Halloween is a relatively new phenomenon in Amsterdam, the city embraces the trend with its twist. Grab a drink at an eerie Halloween-themed bar like The Evil Eye Pub, or stroll through Boscuil Gardens’ Bos Lomond’s haunted walkway.
The Amsterdam Dungeon brings the city’s darkest history to life with interactive shows and reenactments. Museum Vrolik exhibits creepy ancient medical tools and anatomical oddities. Partiers can head to De School for costume raves. At the same time, families enjoy trick-or-treating, costume contests, and magic shows at local schools and community centers.
Halloween coincides with the Days of the Dead (Dias de los Muertos) in Mexico, honoring those who’ve passed. Beyond the iconic decorations of skulls and skeletons, celebrations vary by region. In Oaxaca, artisans create local alfeñique figurines from cane sugar, while homes are adorned with orange Mexican marigold flowers. In Guadalajara, the Festival of the Skeletons unfolds over several days with parades, music, carnival rides, and fireworks.
In Mexico City’s La Isla de las Muñecas, an island covered in creepy doll bodies, visitors leave gifts and tributes for a young girl who, according to legend, drowned there decades ago. For lively festivities, check out family-friendly events in Mazatlan, a spectacular skeletal graveyard simulation in Acapulco, or a full-out Mardi Gras-style parade in Merida.
10) New Orleans
New Orleans embraces Halloween with its dark past, mysticism, and Mardi Gras spirit. You can party at special costume balls or an Anne Rice Vampire Lestat Ball. Go on a ghost tour to famous cemeteries and haunted hotels like The Omni Royal Orleans. St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 offers spirited historical and candlelight tours.
Join the fun at the Voodoo Music Festival, or get your tarot cards read at the French Quarter Pharmacy Museum. Sample creepy cocktails at vampire or zombie-themed bars and dine at restaurants like Muriel’s Jackson Square with its famous ghosts. Aim to visit for the massive Halloween block party on Frenchman Street or parades like Krewe of Boo.
11) Salem, Massachusetts
Salem is synonymous with witches and Halloween. Costumed psychics, magic shows, and massive crowds gather for the city’s month-long Haunted Happenings celebration. You can even attend the Official Salem Witches’ Halloween Ball hosted by practicing witches. Walk the candlelit Jack O’Lantern trail or visit witch trial sites and the Witch House, where Judge Jonathan Corwin presided over the Salem witch trials in the 1690s. Finish up at Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery, the town’s macabre haunted house.
12) New York City
New York City parties are hard for Halloween, with everything from raucous block parties to sophisticated soirees. The Village throws the nation’s largest Halloween parade, drawing over 60,000 costumed attendees. Brooklyn hosts parades for dogs and kids alike. Celebrate with rooftop bashes, bar hopping, concerts in cemeteries, masquerade balls, zombie pub crawls, performances of “Macbeth” and more.
Families can enjoy the Great Pumpkin Festival in the Bronx or head to the New York Botanical Garden Pumpkin Patch. See thousands of jack o’lanterns come to life on a Hudson River cruise or walk through decorations in artists’ studios in Dumbo. Check out spine-tingling theater shows like Sleep No More or Blood Manor, NYC’s Premiere Haunted House, for thrills.
13) Hong Kong
Hong Kong embraces Halloween with amusement park haunts and parties. Ocean Park transforms into 14 haunted attractions for its annual Halloween Bash. Hong Kong Disneyland puts on the Disney Haunted Halloween event with family-friendly shows, costume contests, and villain meet-and-greets.
On Lan Kwai Fong’s infamous bar street, locals don elaborate costumes for the street party. Ride the haunted mansion-themed Peak Tram or head to the Peak Tower haunted house. Hong Kong’s malls host trick-or-treating for kids, while bars offer themed cocktails and DJs. Catch a late-night showing of a classic horror movie at the outdoor cinema in West Kowloon.
14) Chateau d’If, Marseille, France
For a truly bone-chilling Halloween, spend the night in this 16th-century island fortress prison that housed political prisoners for centuries. Its dank cells and unmarked graves make it the perfect setting for ghost stories and encounters with tortured souls.
Special Halloween overnight tours on October 30-31 include hosted dinners, fortune-telling, ghost tours, and more. Guests in costumes get to wander freely, exploring the chateau late into the night.
15) Niagara Falls, Canada
Few natural wonders transform into a Halloween spectacle like Niagara Falls when illuminated in an eerie orange glow for the holiday. The town on the Canadian side hosts a Halloween Festival throughout October with magicians, bands, costume contests, spooky displays, street food, and a pumpkin trail.
You can get up close to the falls on a creepy lantern-lit voyage into the Niagara Gorge or opt for a haunted tour telling old Niagara’s ghost stories and dark past. Just steps away, Marineland puts on a Halloween event with trick-or-treating, costume parties, scary shows, and rides.
16) Cuchi Tunnels, Vietnam
For a truly terrifying Halloween, take a late-night lantern-guided tour through the network of Cu Chi Tunnels northwest of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. During the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong used this 125-mile maze of narrow underground pathways as hiding spots, hospitals, and passageways.
On the special Halloween Tour, guides dress as ghosts and share stories of people who died in the tunnels while emphasizing the frights of the Vietnam War era. Touring the dark, cramped tunnels by lantern light enhances the spooky ambiance. You’ll gain vivid insight into the eerie underground living conditions and encounter creative booby traps for a thrilling yet spine-tingling experience.
17) Ottawa, Canada
Canada’s capital claims to have the country’s largest Halloween festival, celebrating all month. Family-friendly highlights include costume contests, zombie walks, scary movie screenings, themed museum activities, and pumpkin carving.
After the kids go to bed, the freaks play with ghost tours, sinister cemetery walks, horror burlesque shows, Drag Queen Monster Bingo, and more. Make sure to catch a punk show by local bands with names like The Bloodnotes. Bars and restaurants concoct special Halloween cocktails and menus. With so many events, Ottawa is a great choice for an entire Halloween vacation.
Halloween is a holiday that transcends borders and cultures, bringing people together to celebrate the eerie and mysterious. Whether you prefer a traditional Celtic Halloween in Ireland, a vampire-themed adventure in Transylvania, or a voodoo-infused experience in New Orleans, there’s a spooky destination for everyone. So, pack your costumes, prepare for a scare, and embark on a Halloween adventure you’ll never forget. Happy Halloween!