most emphatically

Put this on your lists. Now. Trust me!

Highgate Cemetery tour. Next time you're in London. Do it.

Our tour guide was a goth self-described cemetery nerd with dyed hair and a huge gold thing dangling from one ear. He talked about Hammer horror films and advertising on monuments, and Julius Beer's final finger to Victorian society. And he gave us a view into one of the mausoleums by sticking a camera phone up to one of the little holes in the doors. Corpse lights and stench. Faux Egyptian styling. Marble and granite and mold and ivy run wild. Fabulous.

I looked for the Forsyte family vault, but alas, it was fictional. Here's Galsworthy, in 1920:
Three days later, in that fast-yellowing October, Soames took a taxi-cab to Highgate Cemetery and mounted through its white forest to the Forsyte vault. Close to the cedar, above catacombs and columbaria, tall, ugly, and individual, it looked like an apex of the competitive system. He could remember a discussion wherein Swithin had advocated the addition to its face of the pheasant proper. The proposal had been rejected in favour of a wreath in stone, above the stark words: "The family vault of Jolyon Forsyte: 1850." It was in good order. All trace of the recent interment had been removed, and its sober grey gloomed reposefully in the sunshine. The whole family lay there now, except old Jolyon's wife, who had gone back under a contract to her own family vault in Suffolk; old Jolyon himself lying at Robin Hill; and Susan Hayman, cremated so that none knew where she might be. Soames gazed at it with satisfaction--massive, needing little attention; and this was important, for he was well aware that no one would attend to it when he himself was gone, and he would have to be looking out for lodgings soon. He might have twenty years before him, but one never knew.
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It was amazing. And a look at a set of funerary practices that was entirely wiped out by the First World War.
London was, almost literally built on the bodies of the dead - Highgate represents a movement that aimed to take the corpses out of London and give them a more dignified burial in - what was then - the countryside. The sprawling city, of course, caught up with its dead citizens and has long since swallowed up the Victorian cemeteries, leaving us a fascinating legacy of monuments to past lives and a even more fascinating story of attitudes to death, bereavement and how to get rid of thousands of dead bodies before they polluted local water supplies ...

For those who haven't done it, a tour of Highate is a must, as are places like Kensal Green, West Norwood, or Brompton. Seeing these ornate burial grounds help you understand the victorian fascinating with death, the reason why (the original) gothic horror was so popular - and why the Watcher's Council might be based in London, given the way that the dead past crowds in on the greater city and the homes of the living jostle up against the dwelling places of the dead.

They also showcase some damn fine architecture and some amazing gardens too ... :-)

(Glad you enjoyed your visit!)
The closest point of comparison I had was with Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass, which shares the fascination with exotic plantings (trees, shrubberies), but is far more spacious. And has less of the wild individuality of momuments I saw in Highgate.

The guide discussed the churchyards previously used, and the practice of re-using graves. London had quite a problem with bodies-- and a huge reluctance to cremate, because they feared cholera was spread in the air. And oh my yes, the presence of the dead! So close to the city, so close in memory, so macabre. Glass domes over vaults so that one could look in and see coffins...

It's also wonderful to have at last a visual reference point for that Forsyte family vault, and the final chapter of To Let, where Soames sits atop the hill and thinks about the passing of an age.
Thank you for that. I live about an hour out of London, and I'll recommend to some friends that we do that tour.

If you still have time, consider doing the Jack The Ripper tour as well, although the success of that walk depends largely on who you get as your guide. If you manage to get the man who designed the walk, it should be very entertaining and informational, although sadly the original buildings of the era are long gone.
We have another week, so hey! On the list it goes.

Despite the death flu that has me on my back in the hotel room with a mild fever while my companions eat a nice dinner somewhere, this has been a marvelous visit. I've seen and thought about many wonderful things. And my stress levels are back down to something sane. I thought I was going to pop there, just before I got on the plane.
The gold earring was, in fact, an angel wing. I was full of glee when I realized he was our guide, particularly since I'd picked him out as the most interesting of our fellow participants when he was faking us out at the benches. I heard a bit of the other tour guide, too. Also neat, but typical. I think we got a much more pragmatic look at the grounds. :)