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A New Orleans cemetery with above ground graves. The graves are decayed small buildings with arched roofs.

Map: New Orleans cemeteries you don't want to miss

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2013 and has been updated with the most recent information.

A year and a day...according to local lore, that’s the amount of time that must pass before a body interred in one of New Orleans’ above-ground tombs decomposes, leaving only bones behind. At that point, the tomb—which acts like an oven in the subtropical heat, subjecting the body to a process resembling slow cremation—can be opened.

The process says as much about New Orleans’ relationship with death as it does about its climate and topography. Because the city is below sea level, interring a body six feet under is not a viable option (caskets literally float back up out of the ground). So, New Orleans has developed a unique cemetery culture of above-ground tombs.

In New Orleans, you'll find cemeteries dating back as early as 1789; a triple-x marked tomb believed to house Voodoo queen Marie Laveau; a Hurricane Katrina memorial paying tribute to the unclaimed and unidentified victims of the storm; and a relationship with the spiritual world that’s both haunting and beautiful.

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Metairie Cemetery

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Don’t be fooled by the name: this sprawling, historically significant cemetery is in New Orleans, not Metairie. It’s also where more than 9,000 people have been laid to rest, including nine Louisiana governors, seven New Orleans mayors, Confederate president Jefferson Davis, New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, and Popeyes Chicken founder Al Copeland. Even if it weren’t a who’s who of famous deceased New Orleanians, the shady, park-like cemetery would be worth a visit for its elaborate tombs alone. It’s open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily.

A cemetery in New Orleans with above ground tombs. The tomb in the foreground is shaped like a pyramid. The tombs in the background have crosses on top of the tombs.

Holt Cemetery

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Established in 1879 for the city’s indigent population, this cemetery is not one you're likely to see on a New Orleans cemetery tour. Holt is unique in that 99 percent of its population is buried below ground, and rainfalls can cause some ... turnover (the cemetery was the center of a bone theft controversy). But the oak trees draping the lot and the personal marks on the graves make this a special place. The cemetery is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon.

Greenwood Cemetery & Mausoleum

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Opened in 1852 by the Fireman’s Charitable and Benevolent Association, this is one of the city’s largest cemeteries. The Elks Lodge tomb is topped by a gigantic bronze elk statue. The Confederate Monument, with busts of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, contains the remains of 600 soldiers. The cemetery is open Monday through Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 3

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It should be noted that many of these cemeteries were in a serious state of disrepair—some still are—and Save Our Cemeteries, well, pretty much saved them, with the help of the Archdiocese.

Opened in 1854 and much tidier than the other St. Louis cemeteries, this was a built upon a leper colony. Carved stone angels adorn the entrance area, which leads to 10,000 burial sites and 3,000 wall vaults. Photographer E.J. Bellocq is buried here. The cemetery is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Cypress Grove Cemetery

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Built in 1840 and recognized for its fine marble and cast iron tombs, this was the first cemetery in the city to honor volunteer firemen. Maunsel White, a Battle of New Orleans veteran and one of the first to use Tabasco peppers to make a hot sauce, is entombed here. The cemetery is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.

Charity Hospital & Katrina Memorial Cemetery

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This is the final resting place for thousands who died in Charity Hospital, particularly during the yellow fever epidemics. The land was raised several feet so graves are underground. The Katrina Memorial was added in 2007 to remember the unclaimed, unidentified individuals who were among the storm’s more than 1,800 victims. Hours vary.

St. Roch Cemetery No. 1

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This may be the most unusual cemetery ever. Past the tombs and Stations of the Cross, the Gothic Revival chapel’s tiny side room is littered with prosthetics, intimate hand-written thank-you notes, coins, crutches, and more. Truly a “you have to see it to believe it” kind of place. The cemetery is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily; however, the chapel is closed for renovations.

St. Roch Cemetery No. 2

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Far less creepy than St. Roch No. 1, this cemetery has fantastic tile mosaics of saints and several mausoleums. The intricately framed headstone photo memorials are about as heartwarming as it gets. The cemetery is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 2

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St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 opened in 1823 after officials decided that “miasmas” from yellow fever/cholera victims were causing the epidemic. The ornate ironwork and Greek Revival-style tombs are fantastic, though. Earl King and R&B legend Ernie K. Doe share a tomb here. The cemetery is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. to noon.

A cemetery with above ground tombs and gravesites. One of the tombs is red and the other tombs are grey and white. Information of New Orleans

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1

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The city’s oldest cemetery (created in 1789) is a maze of tombs and crumbling bricks. It’s widely believed that Voodoo queen Marie Laveau’s remains are here. Many old city VIP are interred here. The most famous recent addition is a controversial tomb (it's a pure white pyramid) that Nicolas Cage will be buried in when he passes. The cemetery is open Monday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., but visitors must be accompanied by a registered tour guide.

Louisiana residents may enter for free on Good Friday, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day when they show a valid Louisiana ID.

Carrollton Cemetery

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While not the most architecturally significant, the Carrollton Cemeteries is one of seven cemeteries owned by the city. Founded in 1849, the cemetery was owned by the town of Carrollton, which was annexed by the City of New Orleans in 1874. Several notable and pioneering families who have positively impacted the town, and later the neighborhood, of Carrollton are buried here. The cemetery is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.

Lafayette Cemetery No. 1

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This is a non-denominational, non-segregated cemetery from 1833 with a stunning society tomb for the Jefferson Fire Co. #22. Anne Rice, who used to live around the corner, created some of the most popular tombs here—in her imagination. The Mayfair Witches and Lestat the vampire’s tombs are based off the ones in this cemetery. The cemetery is open Monday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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Metairie Cemetery

A cemetery in New Orleans with above ground tombs. The tomb in the foreground is shaped like a pyramid. The tombs in the background have crosses on top of the tombs.

Don’t be fooled by the name: this sprawling, historically significant cemetery is in New Orleans, not Metairie. It’s also where more than 9,000 people have been laid to rest, including nine Louisiana governors, seven New Orleans mayors, Confederate president Jefferson Davis, New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, and Popeyes Chicken founder Al Copeland. Even if it weren’t a who’s who of famous deceased New Orleanians, the shady, park-like cemetery would be worth a visit for its elaborate tombs alone. It’s open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily.

A cemetery in New Orleans with above ground tombs. The tomb in the foreground is shaped like a pyramid. The tombs in the background have crosses on top of the tombs.

Holt Cemetery

Established in 1879 for the city’s indigent population, this cemetery is not one you're likely to see on a New Orleans cemetery tour. Holt is unique in that 99 percent of its population is buried below ground, and rainfalls can cause some ... turnover (the cemetery was the center of a bone theft controversy). But the oak trees draping the lot and the personal marks on the graves make this a special place. The cemetery is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon.

Greenwood Cemetery & Mausoleum

Opened in 1852 by the Fireman’s Charitable and Benevolent Association, this is one of the city’s largest cemeteries. The Elks Lodge tomb is topped by a gigantic bronze elk statue. The Confederate Monument, with busts of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, contains the remains of 600 soldiers. The cemetery is open Monday through Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 3

It should be noted that many of these cemeteries were in a serious state of disrepair—some still are—and Save Our Cemeteries, well, pretty much saved them, with the help of the Archdiocese.

Opened in 1854 and much tidier than the other St. Louis cemeteries, this was a built upon a leper colony. Carved stone angels adorn the entrance area, which leads to 10,000 burial sites and 3,000 wall vaults. Photographer E.J. Bellocq is buried here. The cemetery is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Cypress Grove Cemetery

Built in 1840 and recognized for its fine marble and cast iron tombs, this was the first cemetery in the city to honor volunteer firemen. Maunsel White, a Battle of New Orleans veteran and one of the first to use Tabasco peppers to make a hot sauce, is entombed here. The cemetery is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.

Charity Hospital & Katrina Memorial Cemetery

This is the final resting place for thousands who died in Charity Hospital, particularly during the yellow fever epidemics. The land was raised several feet so graves are underground. The Katrina Memorial was added in 2007 to remember the unclaimed, unidentified individuals who were among the storm’s more than 1,800 victims. Hours vary.

St. Roch Cemetery No. 1

This may be the most unusual cemetery ever. Past the tombs and Stations of the Cross, the Gothic Revival chapel’s tiny side room is littered with prosthetics, intimate hand-written thank-you notes, coins, crutches, and more. Truly a “you have to see it to believe it” kind of place. The cemetery is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily; however, the chapel is closed for renovations.

St. Roch Cemetery No. 2

Far less creepy than St. Roch No. 1, this cemetery has fantastic tile mosaics of saints and several mausoleums. The intricately framed headstone photo memorials are about as heartwarming as it gets. The cemetery is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 2

A cemetery with above ground tombs and gravesites. One of the tombs is red and the other tombs are grey and white. Information of New Orleans

St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 opened in 1823 after officials decided that “miasmas” from yellow fever/cholera victims were causing the epidemic. The ornate ironwork and Greek Revival-style tombs are fantastic, though. Earl King and R&B legend Ernie K. Doe share a tomb here. The cemetery is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. to noon.

A cemetery with above ground tombs and gravesites. One of the tombs is red and the other tombs are grey and white. Information of New Orleans

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1

The city’s oldest cemetery (created in 1789) is a maze of tombs and crumbling bricks. It’s widely believed that Voodoo queen Marie Laveau’s remains are here. Many old city VIP are interred here. The most famous recent addition is a controversial tomb (it's a pure white pyramid) that Nicolas Cage will be buried in when he passes. The cemetery is open Monday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., but visitors must be accompanied by a registered tour guide.

Louisiana residents may enter for free on Good Friday, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day when they show a valid Louisiana ID.

Carrollton Cemetery

While not the most architecturally significant, the Carrollton Cemeteries is one of seven cemeteries owned by the city. Founded in 1849, the cemetery was owned by the town of Carrollton, which was annexed by the City of New Orleans in 1874. Several notable and pioneering families who have positively impacted the town, and later the neighborhood, of Carrollton are buried here. The cemetery is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.

Lafayette Cemetery No. 1

This is a non-denominational, non-segregated cemetery from 1833 with a stunning society tomb for the Jefferson Fire Co. #22. Anne Rice, who used to live around the corner, created some of the most popular tombs here—in her imagination. The Mayfair Witches and Lestat the vampire’s tombs are based off the ones in this cemetery. The cemetery is open Monday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.