10 Fascinating Famous Graves That Share Stories of the Eternal

These final resting places are noteworthy for their displays of devotion, over-the-top imagery, and/or their famous residents.

Published March 4, 2024
Couple on their backs hugged in front of a cemetery wall

Some of my mother’s earliest memories are of scrubbing chalk onto paper pressed into the ridges of old headstones. While grave hopping isn’t the family activity it used to be, there are some famous graves you don’t want to miss. No one’s time is guaranteed, so the clock is ticking to check these gravesites off your list before it’s time to stare into the face of your own.

10 Unusual Famous Graves

Losing our loved ones is one of the hardest things we ever experience, but these famous gravesites prove that someone’s grief and suffering can give birth to something beautiful. From tongue-in-cheek monuments to astounding displays of the macabre, these are 10 famous graves you’ve got to visit while you're still alive.

Florence Irene Ford

Where: Natchez City Cemetery in Natchez, Mississippi

Florence Irene Ford’s grave stands as a testament to her mother’s love. In 1871, Florence was struck down by yellow fever. She was only 10 years old. While millions of children throughout history share her story, her grave makes hers stand apart.

The headstone itself is standard, but behind it sits a stairwell that leads underground. Its purpose? To allow her mother access to her daughter’s casket (which she had a window put into) during storms so she could comfort her in death as she did in life.

Oscar Wilde

Where: Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France

Oscar Wilde 's grave in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery

Oscar Wilde lived up to his last name in life and death. Though he didn’t leave plans behind for his internment, the Egyptian Revivalist sculpture that was erected in his absence captures his pure Aesthetics roots to a T.

But what makes this Parisian tomb worth heading to is the folklore behind it. For generations, people have left a lipstick-marked kiss print on his tomb when they visit. Today, there’s a glass barrier set up to block said affectionate displays, but people don’t let that stop them from leaving their mark behind.

Victor Noir

Where: Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France

Tomb of Victor Noir

Undoubtedly, this is the most erotic grave you’ll probably visit in your lifetime. Victor Noir was a French journalist and outspoken critic of the French imperial regime. Shot and killed at only 21 years old by Emperor Napoleon III’s cousin, he was laid to rest with a life-sized bronze statue of his likeness covering his grave.

But it’s one prominent feature that makes people flock to the Parisian grave every year. Like a true Frenchman, Noir couldn’t escape the country’s inherent eroticism. His statue has become a folkloric symbol of fertility, with people stroking his well-worn bulge in hopes of increasing their chances of conceiving.

Vladimir Lenin

Where: Mausoleo de Lenin in Moscow, Russia

While Russia might not be at the top of your travel lists right now, should you find yourself there in the future, we suggest heading to the Red Square and visiting Vladimir Lenin’s massive mausoleum. As a Russian revolutionary hero and leader, they couldn’t bury Lenin in an average grave. Why would they, when they could keep his body embalmed and on display for everyone to venerate?

Yes, if you visit Lenin’s burial vault, you can see his entombed, preserved body on display. And it’s shocking how well the guy has held up since 1924.

Related: 8 Creative Grave Decoration Ideas to Honor Your Loved One

Jules Verne

Where: Cimetière de la Madeleine in Amiens, France

Nerd out with your fellow science fiction fans at the foot of Jules Verne’s grave. Known as one of the founding fathers of science fiction, Jules Verne’s gravesite is a poetic effigy. A sculpture of his body — including his death mask — breaks through the rocky tomb he’s buried in and stretches towards the sun. It speaks to how he continues to live on after death through his work.

It’s nestled in a type of cove, surrounded by trees and is the perfect pitstop to take if you’re near Amiens anytime soon.

Rudolf Nureyev

Where: Cimetière de Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois in Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois near Paris, France

tomb of the world famous dancer and choreographer Rudolf Nureyev in the Russian Orthodox Cemetery

When it comes to Russian ballet defectors, most people remember Mikhail Baryshnikov’s daring escape to the West in 1974. Yet, principal ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev defected over 10 years earlier in 1961. Undoubtedly one of the greatest male dancers in ballet history, he brought the art form to the masses.

Of course, a showman like Nureyev needed an equally bombastic grave. Draped over his headstone is a mosaic replica of a kilim rug that Nureyev was quite fond of. Its bright red, gold, and blue colors make it unlike anything you’ve ever seen in a cemetery before.

Rosalia Lombardo

Where: Catacombe dei Cappuccini, Palermo, Italy

If you thought Vladimir Lenin was well preserved, wait until you get to visit Rosalia Lombardo in Palermo, Italy. Unfortunately, she died of complications due to the Spanish influenza pandemic in 1920 at just two years old. In an act of love and grief, her father asked an unparalleled embalmer to preserve his daughter’s body.

Today, her casket is encased in nitrogen-filled glass and is fully on display in the Capuchin Catacombs. Nicknamed “Sleeping Beauty,” her cherubic face with a delicate bow tied in her curled hair will certainly send shivers down your spine.

Colonel van Gorkum and Lady van Aefferden

Where: Begraafplaats Nabij de Kapel in 't Zand, Roermond, Netherlands

If there’s one famous grave that proves love conquers all, it’s this one. Colonel Jacobus Warnerus Constantinus van Gorkum and Lady Josephina Carlina Petronella Hubertina van Aefferden were married for decades. But, in a time when your religion could impact your social rights, they weren’t allowed to be buried in the same part of the local cemetery.

The Colonel was buried first on the edge of the Protestant side, and his Catholic wife was buried on the edge of the other side. Yet, arms outstretch from either monument, and the hands are clasped together in an eternal gesture of love and devotion. So, if you want your partner to step it up in the romance department, take them on a trip to the Netherlands for a visit.  

Edith Piaf

Where: Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France

Edith Piaf 's grave in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery.

Edith Piaf was a famous French singer known just as well for her warbling vibrato as she was her thin, high eyebrows. Her songs have become timeless anthems enjoyed across the world. And while her grave itself isn’t something to write home about, the French’s devotion to her is.

Take a trip to Paris to visit her grave on any day of the week, and you’ll see a sprawling bouquet of flowers draped over every available inch. And if you’re feeling up to it, you can bring a set of your own.

Jim Morrison

Where: Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France

James Douglas Morrison grave at cemetery Pere-Lachaise in Paris

When it comes to pilgrimages, people tend to think of the religious kinds. And while some would argue this pilgrimage is religious to them, heading to Jim Morrison’s grave in Pairs has long been a right of passage for young rockers, poets, and oddballs.

The Lizard King was a complicated figure, but his gravesite is one that grew in popularity with the advent of the internet. Written about in blog posts and message boards, people flocked to his grave en masse. And now, it’s become a highlight of the Père Lachaise Cemetery experience.

Graves With Gravitas

These famous graves prove what Goth teens and edgy Victorian history bounders have been saying for years — cemeteries are fascinating. They stand as a bridge between what’s currently here and what’s no longer. So, connect with the dead while you’ve got your feet firmly planted in the land of the living through these iconic gravesites.

10 Fascinating Famous Graves That Share Stories of the Eternal