Romania

Visit the Unique Merry Cemetery in Romania

Last Updated on 18/07/2024 by kami

Merry Cemetery in Sapanta is one of the most unique tourist attractions in Romania. Even if the place is located somewhat off the path, on the edge of the country next to the border with Ukraine, it is definitely worth a detour.

I have wanted to visit Merry Cemetery in Romania since I heard about it many years ago. But at the same time, I was slightly apprehensive about whether it was not an overhyped attraction that the quirky sites are often turned to. And while I felt it was a bit like that, the Merry Cemetery lived up to my expectations.

merry cemetery in romania

If you plan a trip to Romania, don’t miss the Merry Cemetery in Sapanta. It’s one of the kind of places that you definitely want to see. And while you are there, the nearby Maramures region is really beautiful and interesting, too.

Here’s your guide to visiting the Merry Cemetery in Romania.

merry cemetery in romania

Where is the Merry Cemetery in Romania

The Merry Cemetery is located in Sapanta village, in the Maramures region in northwest Romania, right at the border with Ukraine. The closest large cities are Satu Mare (90 km away) and Cluj-Napoca (200 km away). Bucharest, the capital of Romania, is 660 km away from Sapanta.

merry cemetery in romania

A brief history of the Merry Cemetery

In 1935 the local artist Stan Ioan Pătraș created the first wooden tombstone crosses with the carved, humorous epitaph. This has changed the look of the local cemetery forever and turned the place into a kind of open-air museum.

Since then, over 800 similar tombstone crosses have been sculpted and put in the Sapanta cemetery. They all tell a story of the person buried here; however, their life is described in a funny way. The humorous epitaph is always accompanied by a carved painting showing the person’s occupation or scenes from everyday life.

The creator of the tombstone crosses decides what is shown and written on them. Still, he always discusses it first with the family so his work can reflect the deceased person in the best possible way.

merry cemetery in romania

After Stan Ioan Pătraș died, another local artist Dumitru Pop Tincu continued creating the tombstone crosses for the Sapanta cemetery. The new works are done in the same naive art style and with interesting epitaphs. All the crosses are painted in light navy blue – this particular shade even got its name after the cemetery – “albastru din Sapanța” (“blue from Sapanta”).

merry cemetery in romania

Visiting Merry Cemetery

Unfortunately, the only way to reach Sapanta is by car. The Merry Cemetery is located a bit off the main road – you need to follow your map to find it (here is the exact location).

You will notice when you start getting closer as suddenly the narrow streets will get busier, and there will be numerous souvenir shops around. Depending on your luck, parking near the cemetery might be a challenge, but there should also be some private parking places where you can leave your car for a fee.

merry cemetery in romania

To enter the Merry Cemetery you need to get a ticket at the main gate. When I visited the place, it was 5 Romanian lei per person.

The cemetery is open daily between 8 in the morning and 8 in the evening. You will need around half an hour to see the Merry Cemetery properly and admire all the amazing works here.

merry cemetery in romania

Once you pay the entrance fee, you can visit the Merry Cemetery and check out all the fantastic work around. As a fan of Art Naive, I was really impressed with the paintings on the crosses as well as with all the details there.

Even if a cemetery is a rather somber place, this one is so different. All the tombstone crosses are in bright colors, the paintings are often funny, and you can’t help but smile when wandering around and checking out the place.

The epitaphs are in Romanian only, but a Google Translate app with the photo function was a big help when trying to understand what is written there (hence, I recommend downloading the app and then Romanian and your native language to use it offline if you travel without internet access).

The lyrics are written in the first person, and the deceased tells about his life, occupation, best and not-so-good features, and sometimes how they died. The text is always humorous and sarcastic.

merry cemetery in romania

merry cemetery in romania

merry cemetery in romania

It’s worth taking a closer look at the paintings of crosses, too. They are usually simple but they show scenes that portray the person in the best way, either by the occupation or how they liked to spend time.

You will see a housewife doing housework, a seamstress at a sewing machine, a spinner at work, a lumberjack, a shepherd, a tractor driver, a farmer picking fruit in an orchard, a person feasting with his companions over a bottle of alcohol, a postman, a policeman in a police car, etc.

Some of the crosses have a painting on the other side, too – this shows the cause of death of the person, such as a car accident, drowning, or a lightning strike.

merry cemetery in romania

merry cemetery in romania

merry cemetery in romania

merry cemetery in romania

merry cemetery in romania

In the middle of the Merry Cemetery, you will find a beautiful church built in the style typical of the Maramures region. Unfortunately, during my visit, it was closed, so I could only admire it from the outside.

Right in front of the church, you can see the grave of Stan Ioan Pătraș, the local artist who first created the sculpted tombstone crosses for the Sapanta Cemetery.

merry cemetery in romania

Where to go next

Still in Sapanta, you can visit the Memorial House of Stan Ioan Pătraș and learn more about the author of the beautiful crosses from the Merry Cemetery as well as his works and art inspirations.

The whole region of Maramures is an interesting place to visit. It’s very authentic; sometimes, it even feels like time has stopped there. The landscape of Maramures is beautiful, too, with rolling hills and villages hidden in the valleys.

maramures romania

Besides the Merry Cemetery, you should also visit the wooden churches in the region. There are around a hundred of them in the area, but eight were granted the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site for their exceptional cultural value. There are also some beautiful monasteries, like in Barsana, that are worth visiting.

maramures romania

maramures romania

In Maramures, you can also take the narrow-gauge steam train – Mocanita – one of the last of that kind in Europe. The journey goes through the beautiful Vaser Valley offering stunning views along the way.

maramures romania

From Maramures you can either continue your trip to other parts of Romania (most likely Transylvania or Bucovina) or cross the border to Hungary or Ukraine (when it’s safe again) and explore those countries.

Further reading

I published many articles about Romania that you might find useful when planning your trip there. Here are some of them:

If you are looking for articles about a specific destination – check out the map with all the articles I’ve published (and their locations). You can also join my Facebook group about traveling in the Balkans and ask your questions there.


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merry cemetery in romania


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