Churches, known as places of fellowship and amazing grace. Even if churches are no longer visited for their religious significance; they are still visited for their splendour and beauty, their majesty and magnificence. There are so many beautiful churches around the world that showcase amazing architecture and exquisite ornate work that are a simply must visit. But since I cannot visit all of them yet, I have asked my travel blogger friends to share their most loved or favourite famous churches in Europe. Here they are! Some of the oldest and most beautiful churches in Europe.
Cathédrale de la Major, Marseille
By Maura of TravelKiwis
Wow, was the first impression on seeing the beautiful and majestic Cathédrale de la Major in the port city of Marseille, France. Marseille Cathedral has been a Basilica since 1896 located above the old port with views out across the harbour.
Visiting the Cathedrale de la Major is one of the best things to do when in Marseille.
What makes this Cathedral so impressive is the Romanesque-Byzantine style chosen when built during 1852 – 1896. The craftsmanship of the building is outstanding. Builders have used local Cassis stone and green Florentine marble to create striking contrasting layers. With a height of nearly 70 metres, the Cathedral is one of the largest cathedrals in France.
Cathedrals have existed on this site since the 5th century, and you will even find a 12th cathedral still standing alongside the current Cathedral.
And not only is the outside of the cathedral impressive, but also the interior of the cathedral is a must-see. You will be in awe at its size holding 3,000 seats, the beautiful chapels, columns of red and ochred colour stone, mosaic domes and arches and the inlaid tiles.
The Cathedral de la Major is visually stunning and one of the most famous cathedrals in Europe.
Blue Church, Bratislava
By Cristina of LooknWalk
I’ve been fascinated by the churches’ architecture and painting for many years. And while you won’t ever find me at the Sunday service, you can bet I’ll be visiting the most interesting churches of Europe in the cities I travel to. I’ve read about the Blue Church in Bratislava, Slovakia, when I researched the free things to do in the city. Yes, it is free to visit it! Its name is Church of St. Elizabeth but it’s known as the Blue Church. It’s a Hungarian secessionist Catholic church and you can find it in the Old Town of Bratislava.
All the buildings in the area look like they belong in a fairy tale, as the architecture is unique. It was built in 1909-1913 in Art Nouveau style and used to be a school chapel (belonged to the gymnasium nearby). At first, a cupola was planned but it was never built, so we have the 36.8m cylindrical church tower. We visited it in 2014 and they were preparing for a wedding. Since we didn’t want to disturb, we just took a glance inside. And yes, it’s blue.
Duomo di Siena in Tuscany, Italy
By Maggie from Pink Caddy Travelogue
It’s no secret that Italy is practically littered with beautiful churches. Every tiny town has a cathedral, and most of them are covered in world-class artwork and filled with intricate detail. But if you can’t visit every single one of them (which, if you’re not superhuman, you probably can’t), there is one Tuscan church that you absolutely should not miss: the Duomo di Siena.
Siena is one of Tuscany’s most famous cities, and many of thousands of tourists who come each year come primarily to see the Cathedral. If you’ve been to Florence’s Duomo, the one in Siena provides a stark contrast. Where the Florence Cathedral’s interior is drab, in Siena, it’s hard to decide what to look at first. The walls, floors, and ceiling are all completely covered in paintings and mosaics. Sculptures by Michelangleo, Donatello, Bernini all reside in the cathedral. The columns are decorated with an unusual black and white striped pattern, as is the belltower.
The Cathedral’s marble façade is one of the most impressive in Italy. If you don’t have time to tour the inside of the Cathedral, it’s worth visiting just to the church’s stunning exterior.
Therei s a small fee to enter the cathedral, but it’s 100% worth it.
For more on Tuscany, read Maggie’s Tuscany itinerary.
The significant Byzantine Church of Virgin Mary in Kalambaka
By Crystal of CastawaywithCrystal
If you’re headed to visit the incredible monasteries of Meteora, I implore you, DO NOT miss this amazing Byzantine Church as well! It’s located right next door to the monastaries in Kalambaka, so it’s an easy stop to add to your list. Here’s why you need to see it!
The Byzantine Church of Virgin Mary is thousands of years old. It was built in the 4th century AD, long before any of the famous monasteries were even a passing thought.
Erected into the walls of the church are the leftovers of an ancient Greek temple dedicated to the god Apollo. Around the time that Christianity became Greece’s official religion, the Temple of Apollo was demolished and using the materials of the Apollo Temple, the Byzantine Church of Virgin Mary was built. Outside of the church, you can still see the Apollo temple’s cartoon-like carvings in the stone.
It’s interesting to see the rich history of this area right there inside of this church. Inside, the walls are decorated to the roof with frescoes that were painted in the 13th century AD. Shrapnel damage can be seen in the church columns, left over from an exploded Nazi grenade. In the centre, a domineering marble pulpit, unique in Greece, almost touches the roof.
Matthais Church in Budapest, Hungary
By Josie from Josie Wanders
During a visit to Budapest most people visit the stunning St Stephen’s Basilica, but there is another church in town that is also worth a visit. Located in the old part of the city, not too far from Buda Castle, the Matthias Church was built in the late 14th Century. Currently the church belongs to the Roman Catholic denomination, but though the centuries it has been a place of worship to many differing factions, including a stint as a mosque when the city was under Turkish rule. During World War II Matthias Church was used as a base for the German forces and damaged quite badly, but restoration was finally completed in 2013, bringing it back to its former glory.
The outside of the church is as stunning as all the others in Europe with a lovely spire and traditional Hungarian coloured tiles on the roof. It wasn’t until I was inside though that I was truely wowed. I have never seen church decorated the way this one is. There was a mixture of styles thanks to the mixed history, but it all has come together to create a space that is simply beautiful.
St. Lambert’s in Munster, Germany
By Roxanna of Gypsy with a Day Job
The world is filled with amazing churches and cathedrals, but one church everyone should see is St. Lambert’s, in Münster, Germany.
St. Lambert’s is visually striking, even from a distance. Built between 1375 and 1450, with bright yellow stone and a sculptured gothic facade. But upon closer examination, it is the cages that capture attention.
Münster was founded in 794 by missionaries sent by Charlemagne himself. From its inception, the city was based upon Catholic rule. However, in January 1534, a religious group referred to as Anabaptists led an insurrection, taking over the city. Soon they had baptized over a thousand new followers.
The leaders declared Münster the New Jerusalem, and were in control for 18 months. But hunger and disease grew. In June of 1535, the city was weak and the Catholics swept through. Rebellion leaders were tortured and executed in the city square, and their bodies hung to rot where all could see: the cages in the steeple of St. Lamberts.
St. Lambert’s is also home of the watchman, a position manned since 1379. Each evening the watchman climbs the steeple and peers across the city on the hour, from 9:00 til midnight, looking for signs of fire. The watchman, who happens to be a woman at this time, blows a brass horn in three directions to sound an all clear.
In many cities and churches, seeing the watchman perform would be a source of great interest. This is true in Münster, but the cages will always be the greater source of curiosity.
By Emma from Emma Jane Explores
Perhaps forgotten a little, next to the much bigger and more visible Notre Dame de Paris, Sainte-Chapelle is a treat in waiting for anyone who stumbles through the church’s unassuming doors. Breathtaking is a word tremendously overused these days, but it’s exactly the right word to describe the 15 metres tall stained-glass design that stretches across 15 windows that really set Saint-Chapelle apart from other churches. The stained-glass design tells 1,113 different stories from the Bible and when the light hits the windows, the colours from the windows manifest colour so vibrantly. It’s a massive wow factor.
This gothic-style church was consecrated in 1248, commissioned by King Louis IX (later Saint Louis) to house Christian relics including the Crown of Thorns. It’s extremely close to a lot of other major Paris attractions, including that other famous church, Notre Dame, and is right next to The Conciergerie where Marie Antoinette was held during the French Revolution. In fact, the French Revolution cause significant damage to the Saint-Chapelle itself, where the steeple was removed, and various items connected to the church were melted down. After restorations in the 19th and 21st Century to coincide with Saint Louis’ birthday, Sainte-Chapelle is as good as new and as breathtaking as ever.
The Roman Catholic Italian Chapel on the Orkney Islands in Scotland
By Susanne from Adventures Around Scotland
The Roman Catholic Italian Chapel on the Orkney Islands in Scotland, was built by Italian Prisoners of War during the Second World War after they requested a place to worship. They were given two Nissen huts and allowed to construct the chapel in their spare time. With restricted materials, they managed to create an ornate and peaceful sanctuary which has now become the most popular tourist attraction on Orkney.
Beautiful frescos, painted glass windows, carved stone and intricate iron-work decorate the interior, with all the materials being scavenged from wherever they could find them and wood being recycled from a shipwreck. The impressive exterior facade features Gothic pinnacles and a bell tower with no indication of the Nissen huts behind it.
The end of the war meant that the chapel was only in use by the prisoners for a short period of time and was not fully finished when the prisoners left. Since then the chapel has been fully restored and locals have promised to look after the building which is now open to the public for a small fee.
It is hard not to feel emotional reflecting on the devotion and skill needed to produce this stunning place of worship given the basic materials they had.
The Montserrat Monastery in Barcelona, Spain
By Slavi from Global Castaway
Situated around 50km of Barcelona, The 1000 years old Montserrat Monastery is one of the most famous and beautiful monasteries in the world. Home to Catalonia’s favorite saint – the Virgin of Montserrat (also known as the Black Madonna), the abbey is a favorite place for both tourists and locals. It’s not known why the monks decided to build the monastery up in the Monserrat mountain, but the legend says some Benedictine monks could not move the statue of the Black Madonna, so they decided to build the abbey around it. Whatever the reason was, the location up in the mountains makes the monastery the perfect Barcelona day trip, giving you the opportunity to escape the busy city atmosphere and to get a bit of fresh mountain air in your lungs.
There is a tradition for the young people of Barcelona and Catalonia to make an overnight hike at least once in their life and enjoy the sunrise from the heights of Montserrat.
Make sure you check the monastery museum too. You’d be surprised to find some masterpieces of Picasso, Dali, Renoir, Monet and many other world-famous masters.
You can reach the Montserrat Monastery by taking the metro from Barcelona (Placa d’Espanya station) and use a cable car or rack railway after.
Tsminda Sameda Church in Georgia
By Audrey and Andrew of Gumnuts Abroad
The amazing 14th century church Tsminda Sameda is one of the most sacred churches in Georgia. Pictures of the delightfully weathered stone church have become an iconic symbol of Georgia. And it isn’t any wonder. The church dominates the view from every point. With its stunning location high above the town of Kazbegi and Mt Kazbek one of Georgia’s tallest mountains as a backdrop. Tsminda Sameda is the only cupola church in northern Georgia. Its architecture is traditional Georgian and is quite simple with only a few carvings on its massive stone blocks. The windows only allow in a miniscule amount of light creating an eerie twilight atmosphere. Not much is known of its history, but it’s thought to have been built on pagan sacred ground. During the Persian invasion of Tbilisi in the 18th century it was used to hide and store important sacred relics. Sadly, it was closed by the Soviet government at the start of the 20th century and didn’t open again until the 1990’s. It’s possible to visit on a day trip from Tbilisi but we recommend staying overnight and walking up to the church for incredible panoramic views.
St. Elisabeth Cathedral in Kosice, Slovakia
By Kami from My Wanderlust
When you visit Kosice, Slovakia there is one building that will catch your attention right away and that’s St. Elisabeth Cathedral. Not only it is incredibly beautiful and dominate the area, it is also pretty special as this is the southernmost Gothic cathedral in Europe and the largest church in Slovakia. Until 1370 the parish church was located in that very place but it burnt down in 1370. The construction of St. Elisabeth Cathedral started 8 years later, in 1378 and lasted until 1508. There are numerous details in the exterior but the most famous one is the head of the architect’s wife, showed in a rather unfavorable way, as a gargoyle. The rumor says she was a mean woman and the architect had a difficult life with her so to get rid of his bad emotions he portrayed her on the cathedral so everyone can make fun of her. You can see this sculpture when looking carefully on the upper right side, above the main entrance. Inside the cathedral is as stunning as outside, with the altar dedicated to St. Elisabeth being the most valuable place. Once you visit the cathedral be sure to climb the tower for the best views of Kosice!
St Oswald’s in Grasmere, Lake District, UK
By Tracey from Pack the PJs
From a distance there’s nothing particularly striking about St Oswald’s Church. Its location is much revered though, in one of the most beautiful villages in the Lake District, Cumbria, UK. The 14th Century roughcast stone and slate roofed church is named after Oswald, King of Northumbria – he founded an earlier church on the same site in 642. Sentimentally the church appeals to me as I was married here, 17 years ago. But it’s famed as being thechurch where William Wordsworth and his family worshipped. While they lived at Rydal Mount, Dove Cottage, Allen Bank or the Rectory, they were closely associated with the church. There is a memorial tablet dedicated to William Wordsworth within the church. Of course, William Wordsworth was a poet of such works as ‘Daffodils’ and ‘Tintern Abbey’ and he was considered one of the ‘Lakes Poets’.
Out in the churchyard you’ll find 12 graves surrounded by railings. These are the graves of William Wordsworth and his family, along with the Quillinan family. Edward Quillinan was William Wordworth’s son-in-law and was also a poet. These 12 graves are Grade II listed.
Every year thousands of visitors are attracted to Grasmere to view the Wordsworth graves; they are considered some of the most visited shrines in Europe.
St. Vitus Cathedral, in Prague, Czechia
By Oindrila from Oindrila Goes Footloose
Prague’s old town is famous for its cobbled streets and Gothic architecture. You have not explored the Czech capital properly if you haven’t been to St. Vitus Cathedral inside the Prague Castle complex. This is the largest church in Czech Republic and home to the tombs of a number of Bohemian and Roman kings. It is interesting to note that this cathedral took over 600 years to build! Its construction began in 1344, led by a French architect. Over time, the cathedral construction changed hands thrice due to the death of the previous architects until the 15th century when the work came to a halt during the Hussite War. The war and a fire in the same century caused the cathedral a lot of destruction. The cathedral remained unfinished for many centuries and only saw its completion in 1929.
St. Vitus Cathedral is easily one of the most ornate churches in Central Europe with its grandiose ceilings, gilded interiors, heavy chandeliers and intricate statues depicting various scenes from the Bible. Even the windows are decorated with colourful glass paintings that illustrate biblical episodes. The cathedral can be visited between 9AM and 5PM.
York Minister Cathedral in England
By Catherine from We Go With Kids
I’ve been to dozens of cathedrals, but York Minster, the largest cathedral in Northern England, is my hands-down favorite. I’ve walked through its doors dozens of times as a student of the University York and also as a tourist returning to this amazing city. Every time, I feel an overwhelming sense of awe at its enormity and beauty. Construction began on the Minster in the thirteenth century after at least three churches previously located at this site had been destroyed. It’s classic Gothic architecture was modeled after Canterbury Cathedral, and the Archbishop of York is second in England only to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Minster’s stained-glass windows are some of the best remaining examples from medieval times.
I have toured York Minster many times and also climbed the narrow staircase to the top of the tower and visited the undercroft. However, when we visited with our three young children aged 10 months to seven, we chose to save a formal tour for a later trip. Instead, we attended Evensong with Songmen and Choral Scholars, which was also a beautiful way to experience York Minster.
Find out more from Catherine about York With Kids: Five Fun Family Activites
Kolner Dom in Germany
By John of From Real People
One of the most beautiful and impressive churches in Europe is the Cathedral in the Germany city of Cologne. Known in German as the Kolner Dom it is the most visited landmark in the whole of Germany. Standing 157 metres tall it’s the largest gothic style church in the whole of Northern Europe, it really is an amazing masterpiece of architecture.
Building originally started 1248, but was halted in 1473 with the Cathedral still unfinished. It wasn’t until the 19th Century that construction continued. Finally, in 1880 the church was finished to its original plans. Cologne cathedral has the largest facade of any other church in the world. Depsite being hit 14 times by bombs in World War II, the church managed to survive the war mostly intact despite the heavy destruction in the city around it.
The Kolner Dom is an amazing space to wander around and to enjoy it’s many amazing spaces. There are often free concert and recitals so these are worth looking out for. One thing to bear in mind is that since the terrorist attacks in Germany in 2017 you cannot take bags inside the Cathedral iteself. One thing you can do, is to climb the 533 steps up to the platform in the spires where you will be rewarded with an amazing view of the city. A special tip is to walk across the railway bridge across the Rhine River and take the elevator to the top of the Koln Triangle. This is where you can get the best view of the Cathedral itself.
Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin in Dubrovnik, Croatia
By Taiss from Together to Wherever
Dubrovnik Cathedral is one of the most notable structures located inside the Old Town of Dubrovnik in Croatia. Visitors entering from the Old Port side of the Old Town are almost immediately presented with this grand cathedral just past the gates and on the left-hand side.
Its name in Croatian is Katedrala Velike Gospe or Katedrala Marijina Uznesenja and referred to as Assumption Cathedral. This Roman Catholic cathedral is the seat of the Diocese of Dubrovnik. The English king Richard The Lion Heart mainly paid for the cathedral after being shipwrecked in the earby area. Before it was renovated in 1673 the last cathedral had been destroyed on the same site by a earthquake and many cathedrals had been built on the same site previously, dating back to even to the 7th century! The cathedral was built in the baroque style and some parts of the interior date back to the 15th century.
It is a must see when visiting Dubrovnik Old Town! The interior is notably bright and spacious. On the exterior facade you’ll notice deep niches that hold statues of Saint Blaise and Joseph With Child. Also, Be sure to look for the painting inside by Titian portraying a version of the Assumption of the Virgin.
Basilica San Marco in Venice, Italy
By Katy from Untold Morsels
Venice is a city full of wonders, but among these the Basilica San Marco (St Mark’s Basilica) is perhaps the most amazing. This incredible church is a work of art inside and out. The roof is capped with Byzantine domes that frame glittering gold mosaics depicting biblical scenes. Inside there are 500 columns and a further 8,000 square feet of gold mosaics.
The basilica was founded 1200 years ago when Venetian merchants secreted the remains of the apostle Mark back from Alexandria in Egypt. You can see a mosaic depicting the story above the left door of the basilica. Most of the treasures inside are the proceeds of the Venetian Republic’s crusades as far east as Constantinople – today’s Istanbul – meaning San Marco has a very different look and feel to other great churches in Italy.
San Marco was once the private chapel of the Doge (duke) of Venice whose palace is right next door. The wealthy dukes spared no expense decorating their church. Thousands of gems including pearls, rubies and emeralds adorn one of San Marco’s major treasures – the golden Byzantine altar screen The Pala d’Oro.
No visit to Venice would be complete without a visit to San Marco – it truly is an icon of the city.
Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi near Rome in Italy
By Andrzej from Wanderlust Storytellers
The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi is a 13th century Roman Catholic church perched on the top of the hills of the medieval city of Assisi. Assisi is located in the heart of Umbria, only 2.5hrs drive North-East of Rome. This UNESCO heritage site is a major religious destination attracting pilgrims from all over the world.
The basilica comprises of two spectacular churches, a lower basilica and the upper basilica, both beautifully decorated with stunning intricate carvings, colourful religious frescos and rich golden touches. As you venture into the depths of the basilica, you will find the final resting place of saint Francis himself in his private crypt.
These days, basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, is one of the most visited churches in all of Italy and certainly one of the most photographed ones as well. The grandeur of the basilica is best observed from a far. It is truly an incredible church to visit and a destination that should be on every traveller’s list.
Salisbury Cathedral in England
Anisa from Two Traveling Texans
Salisbury Cathedral is a stunning gothic cathedral built in the 11th century. It has the tallest spire in the United Kingdom, measuring 404 feet. It also has the largest cloister and the largest cathedral close in Britain at 80 acres. On their tower tours, you can climb the 332 steps up for spectacular views.
The main draw though is the copy of the Magna Carta, which translates to the Great Charter. The Magna Carta is a landmark document signed in 1215 that established democratic principles still in place in many countries today. Salisbury Cathedral has one of the remaining four copies, and it is the best preserved.
In addition to seeing the Magna Carta, you can see the oldest working mechanical clock in the world. There is also a beautiful stained glass window dedicated to those emotionally imprisoned because of their race, sexual orientation, religion, or political views.
The Salisbury Cathedral is located in the center of Salisbury, England, which is about an hour and a half train ride southwest of London. Don’t worry with that spire you can’t miss it!
Basilica of Our Lady of the Holy Hill in Olomouc, Czech Republic
By Veronika from TravelGeekery
The first time you’ll spot the basilica, you’ll feel at awe with Baroque, the Czech Republic, and with the many gems that are hidden far from Prague. Olomouc is located in the east of the country, in the heart of Moravia. While the city is amazing enough by itself, you should also step out of it, at least to the hill looming over the city – the Holy Hill.
Atop the hill stands a majestic Baroque Basilica. The Basilica of Our Lady of the Holy Hill is technically a Basilica Minor, having been promoted to this status by the pope himself in 1955.
The Basilica’s interior is even more breathtaking. The ornate Baroque decorations leave you speechless and if you’re able to take in the atmosphere, you’ll walk out of there with a real sense of wonder. You cannot take photos unless you have a special permit, but the images will forever stay in your memory.
The area has been an important pilgrimage site ever since a chapel was built there in the early 17th century when, after the horrors of the Thirty Years’ War, people needed more than ever a place to come to, pray and contemplate.
Duomo di Milano in Milan, Italy
By Alex from Swedish Nomad
Duomo di Milano is one of the most spectacular churches in all of Italy, and that says a lot. It’s a grand Gothic Cathedral which stretches 157 meters in length and has room for 40 000 people at the same time. This makes Duomo di Milano to the second biggest Gothic Cathedral in the world.
It took six centuries to finish this church, and it’s dedicated to St Mary of the Nativity. The construction began in 1386 and it wasn’t completed until 1965. The church is situated in central Milano, and nearby you also have the iconic Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II where you can do some fancy shopping after visiting the Duomo.
It’s possible to go inside the church and it’s free of entrance if you want to attend a ceremony. However, if you want to visit the treasury chamber you have to pay a small fee, and the same if you want to get access to the roof and get a nice view, which is highly recommended. There’s an elevator you can use if you don’t want to walk all the stairs.
St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria
Maria & Rui from Two Find a Way
The Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is one of the largest Eastern Orthodox Cathedrals in the world, holding almost ten thousand people inside. The Neo-Byzantine style structure is the symbol and main tourist attraction of Sofia, but the elements to build it came from all across the world. Its construction started in 1882 and lasted thirty years, until 1912. It is named after the Russian prince Saint Alexander Nevsky, and built in memory of the sacrifice during the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878, which resulted in the end of the Ottoman rule in Bulgaria. Today, it serves as the Cathedral church of the Patriarch of Bulgaria, the head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.
This holy place is known for its golden domes and majestic outside, but the Cathedral is also beautiful, and very much worth visiting on the inside, where the painted murals stand out. In the crypt under the Cathedral, you can also find an impressive collection of Orthodox icons and masterpieces.
The Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is open daily from 7h to 18h and there is no entrance fee.
Duomo di Florence in Florence, Italy
By Christine from Christine Abroad
Duomo di Florence is located in the heart of beautiful Florence in Italy.
They began to build the church as a gothic cathedral year 1296, and replaced the church of Santa Reparata, a cathedral church dating back to the 7th century (you can still see remains of the 7th century church in the crypt).
The construction lasted until 1436, and later between 1871 and 1887, they added the marble cladding in a neo-Gothic style with colorful patterns. The Duomo di Milano is today no doubt one of the world’s most impressive and most beautiful cathedrals in the world.
During the day this place is packed with tourists, but during the mornings one can stroll around and admire the church in peace.
St Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London, England
By Sarah from ASocialNomad
The current St Paul’s Cathedral was designed and constructed by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London in 1666. It’s located on the top of Ludgate Gill, which is the highest point in the City of London.
At 111 metres high it was the tallest building in London from 1710 until 1967. It’s a Grade I listed building and is iconic in the United Kingdom. As well as the stunning views you get from the galleries at the top of the Cathedral and inside the Whispering Gallery is has housed many famous events. It was here that the funerals of Admiral Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Winston Churchill. Florence Nightingale is buried in the crypt along with many famous soldiers, sailors and poets. It is one of the famous European churches because Prince Charles and Lady Diana were married here and services for the Queen’s 80th and 90th birthdays were also held here.
It is a working church, although you can visit during the day (booking online is cheaper), the free audio tour is fantastic and sense of history is palpable.
Tatev Monastery in the Republic of Armenia
By Megan of Megan Starr
Armenia has many famous churches and monasteries, but the Tatev Monastery is certainly among one of the most famous in the country in the Caucasus. The monastery was built in the 9th century and sits on a high plateau in southern Armenia in the Syunik Province. I went to Tatev as an extended day trip from Yerevan and it was mindblowing. The scenery on the way there is spectacular, but the landscape once you arrive is jaw-dropping. Because of the remote and isolated location of the Tatev Monastery, Armenia built the world’s longest non-stop double track cable car as a means of transportation to reach it. The ride really was frightening as I am scared of heights, but something I will never forget. The Tatev Monastery was added, alongside a few other sights, to the tentative list for World Heritage Sites of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization by UNESCO in 1995. I highly recommend a visit to the Tatev Monastery for those visiting Armenia as the site itself, its history, and the landscape will definitely not disappoint.
Sint Jan in Gouda, Holland
By Kacie from The Rare Welsh Bit
The tiny city of Gouda, South Holland is best known for its cheese and stroopwafels, but it’s also home to several interesting historical, cultural and religious landmarks.
The longest church in the Netherlands at 123-metres long, Sint Jans lies at the heart of the city centre and boasts no less than 72 world-famous stained glass windows, some of which are 20m tall. 61 of these windows originate from 1530 to 1603, accounting for over half of all 16th century stained glass in the Netherlands! Even though I’m not religious, as soon as I stepped inside this gigantic Gothic church, I was overwhelmed by the sheer glory and beauty of its windows, gazing upon them as golden sunlight beamed through the vivid panes.
The windows were added following the great fire of 1552, which destroyed the medieval Sint Jans, prompting administrators to commission the construction of the most impressive church in the Netherlands.
In 1573, the church passed into Protestant hands during the Dutch Revolt, leading to the removal of the altars and saint statues, but the stained glass windows were allowed to remain.
The church is open to the public year-round from 9am – 5pm, and admission currently costs €7 for adults, including a complimentary audio tour.
St. Sava in Belgrade, Serbia
By Natasha and Cameron from The World Pursuit
The Church of St. Sava in the center of Serbia’s capital is an iconic place to visit in the city and well worthy of any stop. The church is newly constructed and has quickly become an icon for Belgrade. It’s the largest church of all the Balkans and is beautiful inside and out.
First I recommend admiring from the outside at a nearby cafe, and then venture in to check out the beauty inside. When we visited the inside was unfinished, but still is humbling in scale.
This church is actually where the founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church, St. Sava, is laid to rest so please show your respect when visiting.
It’s also worth visiting at night to see all the impressive lights and architecture!
Notre Dame in Paris, France
By Parampara & Parichay from Awara Diaries
In my two trips to Paris, I’ve never failed to visit the Cathedral of Notre Dame that stands tall and pretty as hordes of tourists visit the church on a daily basis.
The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is one of the most prominent monuments in the city of Paris. It is a highly famous Gothic cathedral from the Middle ages, also the setting for Victor Hugo’s novel, Notre Dame de Paris.
The Notre Dame is situated on the Île de la Cité in Paris, an island on river Sienne. This cathedral is known for its size (427 by 157 feet) and is a classic example of French Gothic architecture with two massive Gothic towers. This 800 years old building has been the setting to many key events in the Parisian history and has also been the coronation spot for the crowning of Napoleon.
The interiors of this cathedral are a true piece of art with stained glasses and carvings of the Old Testament decorating this 3 storeyed structure.
You can also get a gorgeous view of Paris and the grand gargoyles protecting the church, after climbing 422 stairs of the tower. One of the key highlights of the cathedral is it’s wheelchair accessibility, that opens doors even to the disabled tourists.
Its beauty and grandeur and the sheer vibes of the church make it one of the most amazing cathedrals around the world!
Update: The Catherdral of Notre Dame caught fire on the evening of 15th April 2019 and the spire burnt down. Over 400 fire fighters managed to save the structure after battling the fire for hours. President Macron has vowed to rebuild the church with the help of the international community.
Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres in Paris, France
By Elisa from World in Paris
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres is one of the “Grandes Cathedrales” in France, named like this because they meant an important step in the evolution of Gothic Architecture in France. Actually, some consider Chartres Cathedral as the “highest point of French Gothic art” that’s why today this beautiful cathedral forms part of the Unesco heritage in France.
The cathedral was built during the XII century in a town which was since centuries a place of pilgrimage. Actually, this was the fifth religious building to be built on that same site.
The cathedral’s main features are its asymmetric towers, and its 3 main façades, depicting scenes from the Old and New Gospel. These facades are especially beautiful during the summer, when all the sculptures are illuminated at night with bright colors just like it was in the past. Another interesting element in this cathedral, this time inside, is a mysterious labyrinth depicted on the floor. Still today pilgrims come to the cathedral to walk around the labyrinth while praying. The best day for admiring this labyrinth is on Friday, when all the chairs are retired. Chartres and its beautiful cathedral is one of the best day trips from Paris by train. Indeed, Chartres is located at only 80 km North of Paris, with direct trains every hour.
Santa Maria Maggiore Church and Colleoni Chapel in Bergamo, North Italy
By Iulia from EgoDiary
Bergamo is what I like to call a “hidden gem”. Located only one hour drive away from the famous Milan, its existence is overlooked by most of the tourists that are always rushing to get to the big city.
However, Bergamo is one of the most beautiful towns that I have visited so far in the North Of Italy. Cita Alta or the Old Town, is located on a high plateau and a thick Venetian wall, over 6 km in length, surrounds it just like a crown. The best square in the Old Town is Piazza Duomo, having some of the most remarkable buildings: Santa Maria Maggiore Church and Colleoni Chapel, edifices that are over 700 years ago.
The Church, in simple Lombard Romanesque style on the outside is richly decorated in gold on the inside and was built in place of an ancient church dating to the 8th century.
The Chapel, on the contrary, has an outstanding facade in white, red and black marble. It was erected under the order of Bartolomeo Colleoni, one of the most prominent figures of the town, as a mortuary mausoleum for him and his daughter.
Meteora Monasteries in Thessaly, Greece
By Chrysoula from Travel Passionate
When you plan to go to Greece, you should definitely visit Meteora. This beautiful and full of spiritual influences place is located in Thessaly, somewhere in the Central part of Greece. And while Meteora is a wonderful place altogether, the monasteries you will find here are simply breathing. These monasteries took shape between the 9th century AD and the 14th century AD. They were put together by a group of monks who were seeking spirituality and solitude. Out of 20 original monasteries, 6 survived until today and they can be visited.
The 6 monasteries of Meteora that you can visit are the Great Meteoron Monastery, the Holy Trinity Monastery, the Roussanou Monastery, the St Nikolaos Anapafsas Monastery, the Varlaam Monastery and the St Stephen’s Monastery. All of them are hundreds of years old and preserved in great condition. From all these, the Great Meteoron Monastery is the most impressive one. Most of these monasteries are accessible by climbing steps that might not be so comfortable for all types of tourists. But it is definitely worth the effort! There is a certain dress code to respect as well. Men are not allowed to enter these spiritual places in shorts as well as women are required to wear long skirts.
Overall, you will find the Meteora monasteries to be an incredible experience. And if you don’t have time to visit them all at once, definitely try to come back for more!
Rila Monastery near Sofia, Bulgaria
By Stephanie of History Fangirl
Rila Monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site about two hours outside of Sofia. Located near a national park famed for its natural beauty, the monastery sits beside a river and is nestled in the Rila Mountains. The central church was burned down in a fire in the nineteenth century and was rebuilt in a colorful yellow, black, and white Neobyzantine style that has come to be the most iconic image of Bulgaria.
While there, make sure to see the inside of the central church including the grave of one of Bulgaria’s former tsars, the museum with artifacts from the monastery’s history, and the cave where Saint John Rilski lived as a hermit before the monastery’s founding. Intrepid travelers and pilgrims can even stay in the monastery overnight in lieu of booking a nearby hotel or accommodations in Sofia.
Make a day of it by getting to Rila Monastery early and combining the church with a trip to the Stob Pyramids or the charming Seven Rila Lakes, a set of glacial lakes in the mountains. Other nearby options include visiting an unofficial junk museum and camping in the park.
This list of European Churches makes me want to visit all of these beautiful and amazing churches right away. I think I’ve only seen 7 of them. What about you? If you have a church you want to add to this list or the the list of most beautiful churches in the world, please ping me at abby@thewingedforkcom
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