Highgate Cemetery is split into two halves, the East and West, and it's the western half that's the subject of a guided tour. (You can walk around the eastern half by yourself).
At first sight it might seem that the cemetery has fallen into disrepair, but the overgrown graves give it an atmosphere that no other cemetery can match. You will see tombs guarded by graceful angels, yawning lions, and a cricketer sleeping under a broken wicket. Best of the bunch is the Egyptian Avenue, dominated by two huge obelisks decorated with papyrus and lotus leaves. This leads you into the Circle of Lebanon... a stone ring of doors underneath a centuries-old cedar tree.
Famous graves include those of Charles Dickens' family (although not the novelist himself, who is buried in Westminster Abbey), Michael Faraday and Lucian Freud. If you're looking for Karl Marx, George Eliot and Douglas Adams, then you'll find those in the eastern half.
Craig has been to both halves of the cemetery and thinks that they are both worth doing. You will learn a lot more history on the West cemetery tour, and the tombs are easily better than the East's, but he thinks it's definitely worth spending an hour in the East cemetery as well. You can read his full review of Highgate Cemetery on his London blog. Feel free to ask him some questions before you go.
You might like to read his review of Brompton Cemetery while you're at it. It's nowhere near as good as Highgate, but it's still a very pleasant place to walk around (assuming that you don't mind walking around a graveyard -- it's not everybody's idea of a fun day out!).
Note: Children under the age of 8 will not be allowed on the West cemetery tour, although they can still visit the Eastern cemetery. It is advisable to book at least one week in advance if you want a weekday tour. It is not possible to book in advance for a weekend tour -- it's strictly on a first-come, first-served basis.
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