Dark Tourism Hotspots: My Top 3 Sites

Dark Tourism: My Top 3 Sites

‘I’ve always been fascinated with all things deathly and dark.  Given my love of travel, it’s not surprising that I’m a fan of dark tourism…’

Should you also be fascinated with locations of a dark tourism nature, there’s no end to the places you can visit. This is the first part of a list of some of the best sites I’ve visited.  

Auschwitz/Birkenau

 
Auschwitz death camp

I was spending a week in Krakow and it seemed like it would be a shame to go so far from Scotland and not visit THE dark tourism epicentre.  I caught a bus to Oswiecim and found that even on the long journey through the countryside, my mood lowered and I became apprehensive. 

One of the first things I spotted was an old disused rail track, which set out the tone for what was to come over the next few hours.  I was immediately struck by how close the camp was to the local town. I  assumed, wrongly, it would be out in the middle of a field somewhere, far away from prying eyes. 

Once within the confines of Auschwitz, you can pick up a guided tour, which is available in a range of languages.  There are pretty strict instructions on how you should conduct yourself, particularly in respect of noise levels and photography.  After all, the former concentration camp is a memorial to the horrors of the Holocaust and must be treated with the utmost respect.

The guides are wonderful at relaying the stories of imprisonment. Along with the information boards and the walking tour, you can start to get a sense of how utterly horrific it was.  And, just when you think you can’t see anything worse, you’ll enter another area and your jaw will drop further.  

It’s so quiet and so peaceful and it was more than my brain would allow to imagine how truly terrifying it must have been to be there. I distinctly remember not really being able to speak on the way back to Krakow because I was so saddened.

It’s a must-see site from an educational point of view, and in order to pay your respects to the people that were piled on to trains and taken there, sometimes under the pretence of starting a better life.
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Dealey Plaza, Dallas

texas book depository
Texas School Book Depository

I’d heard the story a million times: ‘you’ll instantly recognise it when you see it’, referencing the infamous site of the 1963 shooting. I was largely unconvinced even though, like everyone else, Although, I’d seen the location of JFK’s assassination countless times through TV and movie footage, I wasn’t sure I’d know it well enough to recognise the place the moment I walked around the corner.  I couldn’t have been more wrong. This is the reason Dallas has one of the most high profile dark tourism sites on the planet

I arrived in Dallas around 6 pm and anxiously negotiated the rush hour traffic, desperately trying to make it to my downtown hotel in one piece.  Once there and checked in, I wandered down to the front desk to ask how far away I was from Dealey Plaza. Obviously accustomed to being asked the same question, the Receptionist smiled, handed me a map and pointed me a few blocks to the right.

As daylight was starting to fade, I initially worried that I would have been better making the trip the next morning, but I couldn’t wait that long. I just wanted a quick glance before returning to visit the Book Depository and surrounding area the following day.

I found the Plaza quickly, without using the map, and proved that what I’d heard was absolutely true. It was a strange feeling to arrive somewhere you’ve never been before and feel like it’s not your first time.  From the Book Depository to the motorcade route around the Plaza and, obviously, the grassy knoll, it all just looked so familiar. I’d never experienced anything like it before and haven’t since.  It was surreal.
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After a quick look round, I managed to drag myself away.  I spent a few minutes watching traffic drive over the white cross that’s painted on the road. The cross marks the exact spot where President Kennedy was shot.
Early the next morning, I rushed back. The Texas School Book Depository is now The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza and is dedicated to the story and theories behind what transpired on that November day.
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It is a fabulous attraction, where you can stand in the sniper’s nest and gain your own perspective.  Or, if you’re like me, you could stand there and go: “Really?? Why didn’t he shoot him as he was approaching the bend instead of waiting until he was around the corner??  Surely, that would’ve been an easier shot??  What the hell??”  But then again, maybe you’re not as cynical as me.  And that can’t be a bad thing.
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Anyway, it is a truly fascinating experience. It absolutely must be followed up by a visit to the grassy knoll so that you can solidify your wild conspiracy theories.  Do try not to lie on the ground and pretend to shoot motorists as they pass, though. I imagine it’s probably quite disconcerting.

 

Dealey Plaza

Pere Lachaise, Paris

This might not quite be everyone’s idea of a dark tourist spot.  But, when you think about it, wandering around the graves of people you didn’t know is a little bit dark.  PL is the largest cemetery in Paris, covering a massive 110 acres.
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It is claimed that Pere Lachaise is the most widely visited cemetery in the world. However, I’m unsure who actually tallies graveyard visitor numbers.  I’d know that it is NOT a job I would like to do.  ‘Ooh, I say! We’ve seen a worrying drop of 7% footfall on the previous years’ figures.  We really need someone famous to die so we can stem this decline…”
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One of the most famous residents of Pere Lachaise, and my personal reason for visiting is the wonderfully shirtless and leather trouser wearing Doors front man, Jim Morrison.  I was such a massive Doors fan as a teenager.  I think everyone went through that stage. I’m still in mine to a certain extent, although I no longer have his poster on my bedroom wall.
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You can pick up a map at the entrance, as you step off the Metro. Then, you can decide who you fancy popping by to see and plot our your journey (pun intended).  Some of the graves are truly magnificent and well worth seeing. It’s also quite an educational trip. You will undoubtedly come out and spend the next hour, sitting in a café, Googling the names you’d never heard of.
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I’m talking about you, Victor Noir.  I had, however, heard of Chopin, Balzac, Marceau and Piaf, and enjoyed walking around in the shadow of such talent.  The highlight of the trip, once I finally found it, was Morrison’s grave. I didn’t actually locate it myself, but rather I spotted two Policemen standing guard in the distance. I instantly knew they were guarding the only grave that required protection.  As it happens, it’s quite the draw for pot smokers, hence the security.   Who knew?
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Another fabulous grave is that of Oscar Wilde. It’s a quite huge affair and is covered with wonderfully bright lipstick prints. Yes, it’s true; people smother themselves in lipstick and kiss his grave.  I didn’t partake in this particular tradition, mainly because I don’t really wear lipstick.  Also, I don’t kiss many graves*

Jim Morrison's Grave
The final resting place of The Lizard King
Oscar Wilde's Grave
Covered in lipstick and looking fabulous…
*Any.  I don’t kiss any graves.
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Suzanne x 

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Dark Tourism: My Top 3 Sites
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About sightseeingshoes 243 Articles
Hi, I'm Suz. I love travelling (obvs..), dogs, shoes and wine, although not necessarily in that order. I'm originally from Scotland, but now live in Snowdonia in North Wales with my husband and a seriously large shoe collection.

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