Take a Tour Through Highgate Cemetery in London

History, Architecture, and Famous Names

Highgate Cemetery, West Cemetery Entrance
Highgate Cemetery, West Cemetery Entrance.

 Laura Porter

If you're visiting London and enjoy history and architecture, add the Highgate Cemetery to your list of things to see. Opening in 1839, the Highgate Cemetery in north London is the final resting place of many famous names including Karl Marx, Malcolm McLaren, and Jeremy Beadle. Singer George Michael is also buried here; however, his grave is in a private area not open to visitors.

The cemetery is on both sides of Swain's Lane in Highgate, N6 (directions). The East Cemetery is open daily (except Christmas and Boxing Day) and you can visit for a small fee. A map is available showing graves of particular interest. You can see Karl Marx on this side of the cemetery.

To visit the West Cemetery, you must take the tour organized by the Friends of Highgate Cemetery because the ground is unsafe in many places. Tour fees go toward the cemetery's upkeep and repairs.

Once a fashionable place of final rest for Victorian society, the cemetery went into decline in the 1970s until the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust brought it back to life. In addition to giving tours, the mostly volunteer charity maintains Highgate's landscape. 

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Karl Marx

Karl Marx Memorial, East Cemetery, Highgate Cemetery, London
Laura Porter

Karl Marx, the father of Marxist philosophy, died in 1883 at age 64. His most well-known work was the pamphlet "The Communist Manifesto." Marx was German but became stateless in 1845 and spent most of his life in London. In 1954, the Communist Party of Great Britain built this tombstone featuring a bust made by Laurence Bradshaw. Several bombings have been attempted at Marx's grave.

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Jeremy Beadle

Jeremy Beadle Tombstone, East Cemetery, Highgate Cemetery, London
Laura Porter

Jeremy Beadle was an English television presenter known for his trivia knowledge. He was both a game show host and game show winner. Beadle died of pneumonia in 2008 at the age of 59.

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Malcolm McLaren

Malcolm McLaren's headstone and grave
Jim Dyson/Getty ImagesOwner

The former manager of punk band the Sex Pistols died in Switzerland in 2010 at the age of 64. He was also a musician in his own right as well as a clothing designer, boutique owner, and visual artist. 

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Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams Tombstone, East Cemetery, Highgate Cemetery, London
Laura Porter

Douglas Adams was the author of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." He also wrote and edited for the British television series "Doctor Who." In 2001, Adams died at age 49 in the United States from a heart attack. Fans of the writer often leave pens at his grave.

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James Selby

James Selby Grave, West Cemetery, Highgate Cemetery, London
Laura Porter

James Selby was a celebrated stage coachman who achieved fame in 1888 when he made a 108-mile coach trip from London to Brighton and back in less than 8 hours. He had to change horses 13 times during the trip.

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Circle of Lebanon

Circle of Lebanon, West Cemetery, Highgate Cemetery, London
Laura Porter

Highgate Cemetery features magnificent family vaults influenced by Egyptian, Gothic, and Classical styles. The Circle of Lebanon tomb and vault pictured here has a 300-year-old Cedar of Lebanon tree towering in the middle.

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George Wombwell

George Wombwell Grave, West Cemetery, Highgate Cemetery, London
Laura Porter

Wombwell founded Wombwell's Travelling Menagerie and showed his exotic animals at fairs around Britain. He died in 1850. His gravestone fittingly features a lion, one of the many animals included in his menagerie.

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Egyptian Avenue

Egyptian Corridor, West Cemetery, Highgate Cemetery, London
Laura Porter

The Egyptian Avenue structure is on Britain's Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. Its entrance leads to the Circle of Lebanon.

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Highgate Cemetery Cat

Highgate Cemetery Cat
Laura Porter

If you hear something—but don't see it at first—don't get frightened. It's probably just the resident cemetery cat keeping an eye on things.