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.
Basilica Santa Maria Della Neve in Cuglieri, Sardinia
By Hanna from Solar Powered Blonde
We actually found Basilica Santa Maria della Neve totally by accident. While driving down the west coast of Sardinia from Bosa, we saw this basilica from far away perched on top of a hill in the town of Cuglieri. It is hard not to miss, as it really towers over the whole landscape in front of you. Although it may appear less grand than others, it is still a very beautiful basilica to visit. The drive up is a tough one right by the basilica as the roads are so narrow so the best option is to park at the bottom of the old town and walk up. The walk is lovely, as you walk through beautiful small streets, with washing hanging and very traditional architecture. Once at the top, there are lovely grounds surrounding the basilica. It is open for visiting inside, and it is as beautiful inside as it is outside. This photo was taken with a drone, and if you are also a drone enthusiast, then this basilica is a great spot to get some drone photos. From above you can see all the orange rooftops and greenery around.
La Catedral in Barcelona, Spain
By Vicki of Vicki Viaja
Anyone who thinks of Barcelona automatically has the Sagrada Família in mind. What many don‘t know before their visit to the Catalan capital, however, is that there is another equally impressive cathedral in the city: La Catedral de Santa Creu in Santa Eulàlia, or simply called La Cathedral.
Unlike the Sagrada Família, La Catedral is located in the city center – in the beautiful Barrio Gótico to be exact. The most popular part of this cathedral is, therefore, its roof, which you can go up to. From there you have a wonderful view over the surrounding Gothic Quarter, which is considered the oldest part of Barcelona.
The construction of this beautiful cathedral began in the 13th century, but the church has been rebuilt and changed many times over the years. The façade, as it is today, was even built in the 19th century.
Long before the construction of the cathedral started, a Roman temple stood in the same place, followed by a smaller Catholic church.
So, if you plan to visit Barcelona, you should not only visit the famous Sagrada Família but definitely also check La Catedral.
Aarhus Cathedral in Denmark
By Lesley from Freedom56Travel
Aarhus Cathedral (Domkirke) is the longest and tallest church in Denmark. Construction began in 1190, but the church was mostly destroyed by fire in 1330. It was re-built in 1500 in the Gothic style with Romanesque elements still visible. With a 93 metre nave, it is the longest in Denmark.
When you visit Aarhus Domkirke, don’t miss the beautiful fresco paintings that pre-date the reformation. Look in the northwest corner to see one fresco from 1300 that remains on the old Romanesque-style cathedral.
What I love best about Danish Lutheran churches are the ships. It is a custom in many parts of Denmark to hang a ship in the Church crossing as a reminder of those who have been lost at sea. The ship in the Aarhus Domkirke is particularly beautiful, dating from 1720. As is appropriate in this huge church, the ship is largest church ship of any Danish Chuch, at 3.50m high and 2.65m long.
If you spend any time in Aarhus, you’ll hear the beautiful sound of the church bells from Aarhus Domkirke’s huge bell tower ringing through the city.
Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona
By Juergen from Dare2Go
You might ask: “How can a construction site be the biggest tourist attraction of Barcelona?” Well, the Sagrada Familia Cathedral is not just another church. Finished, it will be the tallest church in the world. Its unique architecture was the inspiration of Barcelona’s most famous Modernista architect Antoni Gaudí. His intricately designed buildings are the major lure for many visitors to Barcelona.
In 1883 he dedicated the rest of his life to the construction of this magnificent cathedral. Gaudí poured his heart, and all his acquired knowledge, into this project. Each facade is completely different to the next. Each detail forms a small, well thought-out, puzzle piece in his overall vision for the grandest of all cathedrals.
Once you step inside this becomes even more apparent. The sheer volume of the structure is offset by its unbelievable lightness. This is enhanced by the colourful light that floods through the beautiful stained glass windows. The awe-inspiring space invites you to slow down, sit down, and take it all in.
The current plan is that the Sagrada Familia cathedral will be completed by 2026, fittingly to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of Antoni Gaudí’s death.
Hallgrimskirkia in Iceland
By Suzanne Jones from The Travelbunny
Hallgrimskirkia is one of Iceland’s most recognisable and unique landmarks which can be seen from almost everywhere in Iceland’s capital. The Lutheran parish church stands at 74.5 metres high and is one of the tallest structures in Iceland.
The church is named after clergyman and Icelandic poet Hallgrimur Petursson. The design is said to be based on the shape of basalt rock when lava cools. These basalt columns can be seen around Iceland’s coasts. It’s definitely one of the most uniquely styled churches I’ve visited and was designed by Guðjón Samúelsson in 1937. The building was completed in 1986 after his death so he never saw the final structure. The inside is quite plain and dominated by a massive 5275-pipe organ.
If you’re heading to Reykjavik then Hallgrimskirkia is a must-see landmark in Icelandic design, it’s easily walkable from Reykjavik centre. It’s free to enter the church but there’s a charge for the elevator to the top of the tower where there are fabulous views over Reykjavik and surrounding countryside.
Hagia Sofia in Turkey
By Sage from Everyday Wanderer
The Hagia Sophia is not only one of the most beautiful churches in Europe. It’s also one of the biggest. Paris’s Notre Dame could fit inside, and the Statue of Liberty could do jumping jacks without bumping her crown on the dome.
Fun Fact: The Hagia Sophia plays an important role in Dan Brown’s thrilling novel, Inferno.
Hagia Sophia was originally a Christian basilica, first Eastern Orthodox and then Roman Catholic. When it was converted into a mosque in 1453, Christian symbols (like the altar, bells, and statues) were replaced with Islamic features (such as the mihrab, minbar, and four minarets). But many of the Christian mosaics were simply plastered over. In 1935, the Hagia Sophia was secularized and opened as a museum. Today, the Hagia Sophia retains both Christian and Islamic features, especially as centuries-old mosaics reappear as the plaster ages and flakes off. It’s unique history make it one of the top things to do in Istanbul and one of the most unique and beautiful churches in Europe.
Westminster Abbey in London, United Kingdom
By Kenny from Knycx Journeying
Located in West End London, Westminster Abbey is the neighbor of the most notable London’s landmark, Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. The structure was completed over a thousand years ago, where it is filled with numerous remarkable monuments and countless events (including coronations, royal weddings, funerals, to burials). Since 1560, it was no longer an abbey nor a cathedral, but a church of England “Royal Peculiar” – instead of the diocese, the church was subject to the direct jurisdiction of the monarch.
Apart from admiring the beautiful architecture or sitting in mass, there are many spots in Westminster Abbey worth seeing: the coronation chair in Saint George’s Chapel, the Pyx Chamber off the East Cloister, the royal tombs, and the college garden hidden within the walls of the Abbey precincts.
One of my favorites is hearing the plainsong chanting by the monks during the daily choral service in the abbey; It’s been a tradition since the 10th-century monastic foundation.
St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Italy
By Kate from Our Escape Clause
Built in the 16th and 17th centuries on the remains of the tomb of St. Peter, St. Peter’s Basilica dominates the skyline of Vatican City, is one of the four major basilicas in Rome, and is one of the most famous churches in the world.
Considered a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture (famous names like Michelangelo and Raphael contributed to its design), St. Peter’s Basilica plays host to tens of thousands of pilgrims each year–and plenty of other visitors of all types, from the casually interested to the devoutly Catholic.
While St. Peter’s Basilica is free to enter, lines for their security check can be long during the day, especially during the high season. Go early to avoid the crowds, and don’t forget to dress appropriately! The basilica enforces a strict dress code, and knees, shoulders, and cleavage should be covered.
Unless you’re claustrophobic, absolutely pay the small fee to climb to the top of the dome for an unbeatable view of Piazza San Pietro and Rome itself.
Cathedral de Santiago Compostela in Spain
By Campbell & Alya from Stingy Nomads
The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is an incredible Baroque-Gothic style building that attracts tourists from all over the world. The current cathedral was built in the 12th century but before it was built, there were a couple of small churches and chapels here, the first chapel was built in 829AD after the tomb of the apostle Saint James was rediscovered here in 814AD. The Cathedral was expanded and its exterior and interior were changed several times the last time in the 18th century.
Besides being a significant architecture attraction the cathedral plays an important role in European pilgrimage history being one of the three known churches in the world that were built over the tomb an apostle of Jesus. One of the major pilgrimage routes the Camino de Santiago finishes at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. In fact, the Camino is not only one route but dozens of them, they all start in different places all over Europe and all finish here. Every day hundreds of pilgrims arrive at the Cathedral, there are even special pilgrim’s masses that take place twice a day. Thanks to the Camino the Cathedral de Santiago is not just a tourist attraction but the end of an important, sometimes life-changing, pilgrimage for many people.
Monastery of Batalha, Portugal
By Cath from Passports and Adventures
The Monastery of Batalha is a stunning church and monastery located in the Leiria district of Central Portugal. It hadn’t been on our radar until our plans were changed due to weather conditions and we ended up visiting it during our time exploring Central Portugal with kids.
It is one of three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the region, along with the monasteries of Alcobaça and Tomar. From the car park to the rear, which is free to park, it doesn’t look that spectacular, but once you come up alongside and to the front, you are awe-struck. At least I was.
It is a Dominican convent which was built in the late 14th century. The main nave of the church is free to enter but if you are visiting, you simply must pay to enter the cloisters area. It is here where the wonder and beauty really lie. Stunning architecture, quiet corners, tombs, unfinished chapels and something around every corner, even our four-year-old enjoyed visiting this monastery. Make sure to take time to go outside to see the façade of the nave.
This monastery really is a thing of beauty. And if time permits, try visit the other two monasteries in the locality.
Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland
By Cath from Passports and Adventures
In the heart of Dublin City Centre lies a church that you simply cannot miss on the southside of the city. Christ Church Cathedral, or The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity to give it its full name, is one of the cities two medieval cathedrals, the other being St Patrick’s Cathedral, just a short walk away.
It is the official seat of both the Roman Catholic Church and Church of Ireland archbishops of Dublin but since Reformation times, it has only been the seat of the Church of Ireland’s archbishop of Dublin.
The original church at the site was founded in the early 11th century. It is a beautiful church to visit and much of the renovated buildings you see today stem from Victorian times. Not only can you marvel at the stunning architecture, you can visit the crypt housing Ireland’s first copy of the Magna Carta and even see the “cat and the rat”, two mummified animals of the cathedral. Guided tours will help you learn about the cathedral and its history and it also gives you a chance to ring the famous bells. It’s a beautiful church in Europe and a great place to visit in Dublin with kids.
Collégiale Notre Dame de Dinant
By Sabine from The Travelling Chilli
The Collegiate Church of Our Lady (Collégiale Notre Dame de Dinant) is an iconic landmark in the city of Dinant in Belgium. Originally built in the 10th century using Romanesque architecture, it was later destroyed by a rockfall in 1228. Over the centuries, the church has been partly destroyed and subsequently renovated and is now a shining example of 13th century Gothic architecture.
One of the main features of the church is the pear shaped Bell tower which was built in the 16th century. Also, from the inside you can admire the story of salvation on one of the largest stained glass windowns in Europe.
Set against the steep rock formation at the foot of the Citadel and beautitully located on the banks of the river Meuse, a visit to the church is a highlight when exploring Dinant, especially if you want to know more about the rich history of Belgium.
Cathedral of Saint James or Innsbruck Cathedral in Innsbruck, Austria
By Fiona from Passport and Piano
Innsbruck is a picturesque city in the heart of the alps in Austria.
The Cathedral of St James is near Hofburg Palace in the old part of town, and its architecture is stunning. It was built in the early part of the 18th Century after an earthquake destroyed the previous church.
There has been a church here since 1180 and today’s cathedral was designed by Johann Georg Fischer and Johan Jakob Herkomer. Its 2 green domes make it easy to distinguish, and its baroque architecture is some of the most exquisite in town.
The structure was heavily damaged during World War II, but thankfully it is now fully restored and well worth a visit.
The interior of the cathedral is beautiful and richly decorated with pink marble and gold leaf. One of the highlights is the tomb of Archduke Maximilian III, Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights. The canopy above the vault is supported by four elaborately decorated bronze pillars which have carvings of vine leaves, birds, and small animals.
The organ is another impressive feature with its golden facade and elaborate decorative statues. It has 3,729 pipes, and 57 registers and its presence dominates the gallery in the west wing.
The cathedral is also home to the second-largest bell in the Tyrol and the largest carillon in Austria. The bells can be heard only on Friday, but the Carillon chimes ring out each day just afternoon.
Avignon Cathedral in France
By Carol from Wandering Carol
If you’re in Avignon, it would be a shame to miss Notre-Dame des Doms, often called Avignon Cathedral. Sitting on the formidable Rocher de Doms – the Rock of the Doms – near the Palace of the Popes, this cathedral dates back to 1111 and was expanded in the 14th century by Pope John XXII. Built in the Romanesque style, it also has Gothic and Baroque elements that were added over the years.
There are many things to see here, but the first thing you’ll notice is the 20-foot golden statue of Mary that crowns the cathedral and overlooks all of Avignon.
Inside, a few things of note are the statue of Our Lady of All Power, an important symbol for the church; Pope John XXII’s Gothic-style mausoleum; the white marble throne of the Avignon popes; and the 15th-century fresco, the Baptism of Jesus Christ.
Open every day, the cathedral is best paired with a stroll in the Gardens of Rocher de Doms, where you’ll get expansive views of the Rhone River beyond.
Wies Pilgrimage Church in Germany
By Joel of World Heritage Journey
The Wies Pilgrimage Church in Bavaria, southern Germany, is one of the most incredible churches I’ve ever visited. On the outside, it’s not impressive in either size or design. The building itself is painted a fairly plain combination white and beige, and roughly oval-shaped in a modest size. There’s no flashy adornments, sculpture, or design outside. But stepping through the heavy oak doors is like being transported into another world.
The inside is marvellously decorated with frescoes, painted stucco, marble, statues, and huge amounts of gilt trim. It’s just such gorgeous rococo styling, and has a really striking impact. What I love about it is that the artwork inside is all surprisingly positive, focused on themes of mercy and salvation – a real change from the fire and brimstone you often see in churches!
The church was built in the mid-18th century, designed as a replacement for an earlier pilgrimage church that had stood on the site. Pilgrims were first attracted to the area in 1738 when a statue of Jesus was found to be miraculously crying, and the original church was built to house this important relic. And even today, in this remote corner of Bavaria, over a million pilgrims visit every year!
Engelhartszell Abbey in Austria
By Amber from With Husband In Tow
Founded in the 1290s, Engelhartszell Abbey in Austria began life as a Cistercian monastery. Over the centuries, the Abbey witnessed the Protestant Reformation in Austria resulting in both financial and spiritual decline. Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph II dissolved the Abbey in 1786 leaving it to fall into ruin. In the early 20th century, the Abbey was reborn as a Trappist monastery. The Trappist monks flourished until the Second World War when Nazi Germany annexed Austria. In 1939, 71 Trappist monks resided at Engelhartszell. During the Nazi occupation of Austria, several monks were sent to Dachau Concentration Camp for their religious beliefs. Other monks were imprisoned or forced to join the German army. At the end of the Second World War, only a third of the original 71 monks returned. Today, the monastery is home to only 4 monks. Self sufficiency is a pillar of the Trappist monks. To support themselves, the monks of Engelhartszell are one of 14 Trappist monasteries to brew beer. Trappist beer is one of the unique Austrian drinks to try and you can only try it in this small village on Danube River. Along with beer, the monks of Engelhartszell distill their own schnapps. Tours of the abbey are available as well as the opportunity to purchase Trappist beer and schnapps along with other products made by the monks.
The New (and Old) Coventry Cathedral
By Dagney from Cultura Obscura
Before arriving in Coventry, the dark tourist and history buff in me knew I wanted to visit the ruins of the Old Coventry Cathedral. I hadn’t even considered visiting the new one. So imagine my surprise when we figured we may as well pop into the New Coventry Cathedral and discovered it was stunning. Visiting is definitely one of the top things to do in Coventry. Don’t be fooled by the outside, which, personally, isn’t very inviting or attractive. Inside the walls are adorned with beautiful stained glass, a mural of angels overlooking the old cathedral and a rather impressive organ.
Coventry was hit the hardest of any UK city during WWII, and the Old Coventry Cathedral was destroyed after being hit by several incendiary bombs.The new cathedral was built in the 1950s – along with most of Coventry. The name ‘Coventry Cathedral’ refers to both simultaneously, and they are located directly across from each other in the city centre.
If you love cathedrals, the New Coventry Cathedral shouldn’t be missed. And since you’re already there, the ruins of the Old Coventry Cathedral are also hauntingly beautiful.
Cathedral in Palma de Mallorca
By Ania from The Travelling Twins
James I’s celebration of his victory over the Moors stands as a magnificent golden block on its outcrop plinth above the Mediterranean. Palma Cathedral, known as La Seu and dedicated to the Virgin Mary stands on the site of the previous Grand Mosque, physically as well as metaphorically crushing the earlier masters of the island.
The massive form is emphasised by its siting and also by its stark form without tall towers and spires. But it really is big. The nave stands 44m tall, and the church is more than 120m long overall. Over 60 stained glass windows light the interior, of which the most striking is the huge rose window in the west gable.
La Seu was founded in the 13th century and took almost four hundred years to complete, with 20th and 21st-century elements by Gaudí and Barceló. A trip to la Seu offers a profound experience of architectural development through the ages. It is not only a magnificent structure but also displays exquisite decoration, especially in the chapels.
Give yourself plenty of time when in Mallorca with kids to explore Palma Cathedral’s riches, including its museum. The best time to visit is in the afternoon as a refreshing escape from the heat of the day and after the midday crowds have left.Take Walks to European Churches
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Saint Basil Cathedral in Moscow
By Alejandra in Universo Viajero
Located in the famous red square of Moscow, the Cathedral of St. Basil is one of the most beautiful churches in Europe, including since 1990 as part of the UNESCO world heritage sites. This Orthodox church, built in 1555, is known as “Saint Basil” because the saint that bears the same name is buried inside. However, its real name is “Cathedral of the intercession of the Virgin by the moat”. It is world famous for its beautiful bulbous shape domes, all painted on very bright colors that make the facade very different from any other church on the continent.
To go inside (a must-see in Moscow) it is necessary to pay an entrance fee of 500 rubles for foreigners, but Russians and children under 16 can enter for free. Inside religion is still professed, so it is necessary to go around with respect between the different rooms and sections of the cathedral. Do not miss admiring the beautiful altars and, of course, get the typical photo on the outside with the red square and the cathedral in the background.
Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg
By Alejandra from Universo Viajero
The construction of this beautiful church in St. Petersburg a must visit if you are in the city, began in 1883. It was commissioned by Tsar Alexander III two years after his father died and was built on the exact spot where he was mortally wounded (that is the reason of the name of the church, which indicates the blood spilled from the wound).
The idea was to make a memorial of enormous magnitude, which would forever remind the reign of Tsar Alexander II, and a huge Orthodox church with 5 huge brightly colored domes and a myriad of details both on the facade and inside, an that costs more than 4.5 million rubles to be constructed was, of course, the best idea. Inside, just across the main altar, the memorial to Tsar Alexander II was built: just at the point where he was wounded.
Its located in a very central spot of the capital, on the banks of the Griboedov Canal and very close to the Nevsky Avenue. It opens daily between 10:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. (except on Wednesdays when it is closed) and entry for adult foreigners’ costs 250 rubles. Undoubtedly, a must see in St. Petersburg.
Santa Iglesia Catedral Basílica Metropolitana de Santa María de Burgos or Burgos Cathedral
By Katie-Beth from Her Life in Ruins
The Santa Iglesia Catedral Basílica Metropolitana de Santa María de Burgos, or Burgos Cathedral to its friends, is a Gothic cathedral in the heart of the historic district of Burgos. Construction began in 1221 and (after a brief 200 year hiatus) was completed in 1567.
Visitors can see the entire history of Gothic art through the Cathedral’s collection of art, choir stalls, reredos, tombs, stained glass window, and even an eccentric clock. The crowning jewel of the Cathedral, though, is the massive, gorgeous dome that rises above the center of the building. The entire interior of the dome is covered in stunning white statues, inscriptions, and other details – it’s overwhelming, but in the best way! If that’s not enough, the Burgos Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the largest cathedrals in Spain.
Tickets for the Burgos Cathedral are 7€, but lots of visitors qualify for reduced rates and there is free entry on Tuesday afternoons. Admission includes an audio guide that has SO much information about the architecture and art of the Burgos Cathedral. I loved visiting so much that I went twice in as many days. It’s such a stunning building that’s a must visit to anyone who finds themselves in northern Spain.
The Sé (Cathedral) of Porto
By Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan
Built in the 12th century, the Sé is one of the oldest monuments in Porto and a striking landmark that towers over the rest of the city center. With its crenellated walls, from the outside it looks like a cross between a church and a fortress. This was common in Portugal during the 12th century, as the Christians had only recently ousted the Moors from this part of the Iberian Peninsual and were at the ready to defend against future attacks.
The Cathedral’s façade largely retains its original Romanesque features. Inside, though, it’s a mix of architectural styles, as many renovations and additions were made in subsequent centuries. There are several Baroque chapels and a Gothic cloister that was added in the 14th and 15th centuries. The walls of the cloister are covered in azulejos (Portuguese ceramic tiles) painted with Biblical scenes. It’s one of the top sights in Porto and is worth the extra entrance fee.
Before you leave, don’t forget to admire the spectacular view over the city’s red rooftops from the Cathedral Square. The column in the middle of the square is where convicted criminals were hanged!
Durham Cathedral in England
By Sinead from Map Made Memories
Durham Cathedral is located in the small city of Durham in the northeast of England. The UNESCO World Heritage listed cathedral is unmissable. The cathedral dominates the compact city skyline and has been a place of pilgrimage since its’ construction in the 11th century. Situated in pleasant grounds, the cathedral holds the relics of Saint Cuthbert and Saint Oswald. Inside the cathedral, attractive Romanesque rounded arches sit on top of Norman era stone carved pillars. These arches and pillars line the nave which leads to the impressively ornate high altar. Stained glass windows ranging from centuries-old to modern-day throw a myriad of colours onto the stone floor. The 18th century Rose window is particularly beautiful. The architecture and design of Durham cathedral are simple, yet stunning. Don’t miss the chance to visit the atmospheric exterior cloisters which were used as part of the grounds of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movies.
Christ Church Cathedral in England
By Laura from What’s Hot Blog
Christ Church Cathedral may be one of the smallest cathedrals in England but it’s also one of a kind. It serves as the cathedral for Oxford, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire as well as the college chapel for Christ Church. Each college at Oxford University has its own chapel but this unique dual role means that by Christ Church Cathedral is by far the most beautiful and most grand of all the Oxford colleges. The cathedral’s interiors have even inspired those all the way across the world in Christchurch, New Zealand!
As the cathedral is located inside the most popular Oxford University college, it drives droves of tourists each and every day. Entrance to the cathedral is included in the Christ Church ticket price, which is £9 for adults. Alternatively, the college hosts Evensong, a short service of evening prayers and psalms, which is free for members of the public to enter. This is one of the best free things to do in Oxford as on your way into the service you can admire Tom Quad, the beautiful entryway to Christ Church.
Storkyrkan in Stockholm
By Emma of Emma Jane Explores
Storkyrkan is the oldest church in central Stockholm, located in Gamla Stan. Nestled in amongst the cobble stone streets and winding laneways of Stockholm’s old town, this 13th century church is a beauty that can be spied on approaching the Royal Palace. Storkyrkan just means ‘Big Church’, although the church was originally called the Church of St Nicholas when it was first built. Many of the Swedish Royal Family were married here and there are often concerts or other important events that take place inside the church’s hallowed walls. Storkyrkan’s treasures feature a very famous wooden sculpture of St George and the Dragon and also a copy of the oldest known image of the town, the Sun Dog Painting. One of my favourite decorations in the church is the candlelit circular globe that spins at the entrance; there’s something mesmerising about the gentle rotation of the golden lights. Access to the inside of Storkyrkan costs around 60 SEK, and it is also included in the Stockholm Pass along with a bunch of other city attractions.
Santa Maria Gloriosa Dei Frari Church in Venice
By Michela of Rocky Travel
If you travel to Italy and want to see the hidden places of Venice, one church that must be on your list is the Basilica Santa Maria Gloriosa Dei Frari. It takes only 10 minutes on foot from the railway station or 25 min walk from San Marco Square. This amazing church dates back to the XIII century, when it was started, and is one of the few examples of Venetian Gothic and Renaissance that you can admire in Venice. While the exterior of the Basilica is simple and wouldn’t naturally attract you inside, once you step into the church, it will leave you in awe. The church has the shape of Latin cross with six polygonal chapels and 12 columns that represent the 12 apostles. While you will be bewildered to go through the many paintings, you will be captured by the Titian’s altarpiece painting, the Assumption of the Virgin. There are many more sculptures, altars and artworks to see. Also the tombs of the Doges are remarkable. One masterpiece that stands out is the wooden Choir, which is the only one that maintained the original position. To visit Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, there is an entry fee of 3 Euro, which is a small donation towards the maintenance and ongoing restoration of this magnificent church of Venice.
Santa Maria di Sibiola in Sardinia
By Claudia from My Adventures Across The World
One of the best things to do in Sardinia is going in search of its hidden gems. Romanic countryside churches are scattered around the island, each of them different and each of them worth visiting. One of the best kept ones is Santa Maria di Sibiola, near Serdiana, a village at a mere 20 minutes drive from Cagliari (Sardinia’s capital).
Santa Maria di Sibiola dates back to the 10th century and it is completely immersed in the beautiful countryside of the Parteolla region, an area famous for its wine and olive oil production. The church only opens for special functions such as weddings; events such as Cantine Aperte (celebrating the local wine production) or for the celebration of Santa Maria, which takes place on 8 September.
The exterior of the church can be visited throughout the year, but if you want to visit the inside on a regular day you will have to get in touch with the local city council who will provide the key to the door and a guide.
Not far from the church you’ll find Su Stani Saliu (“The Salted Pond”) where you’ll have high chances of spotting pink flamingoes. Serdiana, from where the church can be reached, has several fantastic wineries that offer guided tours and wine tasting.
Sheffield Cathedral in England
By Daniel James of Layer Culture
When looking for the most beautiful churches in Europe and you find yourself in England, you must see Sheffield’s Cathedral. Named as the place for all people, this Cathedral has been standing for over 1000 years and counts for one of the 5 grade listed I buildings in the city.
The Sheffield Cathedral is located in the heart of in the city center and you’ll find that its doors are open to everybody, every day of the year. There is a full choir service twice a week, including a Sunday service. Over recent years the Cathedral has cared for the homeless and vulnerable citizens of Sheffield; by offering medical care, food and support. In 2015 Queen Elizabeth II visited the Cathedral for the Royal Maundy service where she honored 89 men and 89 women. Many people from all over the world came to witness. So, if you are in the north of England and plan to pass by Sheffield, then you are more than welcome to visit Sheffield’s Cathedral – the place for all people.
Strasbourg Cathedral in France
By Diana from The Elusive Family
As one of the most beautiful cathedrals in all of Europe, the Strasbourg Cathedral towers over the small center square in Strasbourg. It’s size, though disproportionate to the surrounding buildings, shows grandiosity and the beauty of this immense gothic style structure.
Known as Strasbourg Cathedral de Notre-Dame, was once one of the tallest buildings in Europe and unique in that it had one tower, whereas other gothic style cathedrals had two. Construction started in 1015 and it took a few centuries and a variety of financiers to finish the masterpiece. Inside the cathedral, a few important things to note include an astronomical clock that stopped working in the 16thcenturies as well as magnificent stained-glass windows.
The beauty if the cathedral is immeasurable however, as visitors can’t help but be overwhelmed with its powerful presence in the middle of Strasbourg. There is an entrance fee to view the interior of the cathedral. The cathedral is open year-round with a few select days closed.
Cathedral Basilica of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Tarnow, Poland
By Diana from Travel Guide Poland
The Cathedral Basilica of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Tarnow, Poland is a gothic style Catholic Church. Built around 1330, the Cathedral has a tumultuous history as the country had seen different reins of power throughout the centuries.
At one point, the entire church’s treasuries were confiscated by the Austrian government. The church also went through several city fires though the extent of the damage was not recorded in its entirety. Though the main altar had been confirmed to have burned down and been rebuilt. Around the 1820’s and again in the early 1900’s, strict renovations took place to reconstruct the cathedral and replace relics and preserve original gothic features. The main tower was rebuilt to reflect St. Mary’s Church in Krakow.
Black Church in Brasov, Romania
By Loredana from Earth’s Attractions
One of the most interesting attractions in Brasov is the Black Church. Completed in the 15th century, this church is the main Gothic-style monument in Romania, and one of the most beautiful such churches east of Vienna.
The church is impressive, on the outside and on the inside. Initially named Saint Mary’s Church, the current name comes from the huge fire from 1649. A big part of the church was destroyed, but the monument was rebuilt.
The Black Church has the biggest bell in Romania – a six-ton bell! It’s also home to an impressive collection of Anatolian carpets.
The church is home to the biggest mechanical organ in the country and there are organ concerts held here (especially during the summer). The church is closed on Monday.
Located near the City Council Square and close to other major attractions in the city, the Black Church is a not-to-miss place to visit in Brasov. It’s easy to get to it and you’ll see that there are numerous signs directing you toward it.
Seville Cathedral in Spain
By Helen from Helen on her Holidays
Any list of the most beautiful churches in Europe has to include Seville Cathedral. Stunningly beautiful, absolutely enormous (it’s the world’s third-biggest church) and with a fascinating history, it’s a must-see when visiting this part of Spain.
Standing looking up at the Gothic magnificence of Seville Cathedral, you might be surprised to learn that the building you see today didn’t start its life as a Christian church. It was built in the 12th century as a mosque, and was converted into a church overnight when Ferdinand III conquered Seville. It was used for Christian worship for the next 150 years until the city leaders decided to rebuild in the grandest-possible style to reflect prosperous Seville’s wealth. The remodelling of the old mosque took so long that architectural fashions changed; one end of the cathedral has a distinctly more Renaissance style.
On a guided tour of Seville Cathedral you can see the beauty of the cathedral up close. The best way to visit the cathedral is by taking a rooftop tour with one of the expert guides. On these tours you’ll be able to climb up inside the enormous pillars, see the intricate stonework and even make your way along a narrow walkway high above the nave, bathed in the coloured light from the stained glass windows.
Hauptkirche St. Michaelis in Germany
By Inma from A World To Travel
The Church of St. Michael (in German, Hauptkirche St. Michaelis) is almost 4 centuries old. Originally from the 17th century, being built between 1647 and 1669, it has a spire of 433 feet covered in copper and in its crypt, we can find the tomb of the musician Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.
A bolt of lightning in 1750, a fire in 1906 and the Second World War caused this church to undergo several reconstructions.
Today it is one of the five main protestant churches of Hamburg and is visible from any high point of the city. As well as surprising for its proportions and its luminosity, it is also an excellent viewpoint since you can enjoy the view of the Hamburg cityscape from its top.
When we visited St. Michael last fall, thanks to a campaign that led us to discover many awesome things to do in Hamburg, we witnessed the great sonority that this church has when listening to the rehearsal of an orchestra. Undoubtedly, a must in the city of Hamburg.
Cathedral of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, Italy
By Annalisa from Travel Connect Experience
The papal Cathedral of Santa Maria Maggiore lies at the border between the Monti and the Esquilino neighborhoods of Rome. This is the best area to stay in Rome for first-time travelers. The cathedral is part of the Vatican’s property, as the other papal cathedrals in Rome.
The first thing that will move you about this building is the beauty of it’s facade. At sunset, the sun bestows pink-greyish hues to the marble of this religious building that was erected in the 5th Century on a privileged hilly position.
The legend of the foundation of the temple, however, is even older. It tells that in the 4th century, the Pope Liberio saw the mother of Christ in dreams and she asked him to build a church where there soon would be snow. It was full summer at that time, but the snow fell on the hill where the cathedral is found today.
There seem to be no remains of the old church, but the underground shows a late Roman building with many rooms and a court, and it can be visited with a €5 ticket which includes a guide. Another guided tour of 45 minutes (€5) will lead you through the first floor which holds the 13th Century mosaics of the Loggia of Blessings, the Pope’s apartments, and the impressive helicoidal staircase. The cathedral has three aisles, a crypt and several baroque chapels. Numerous great artists offered their mastery to decorate the interiors which looks like a treasure chest and holds the tombs of well-known figures including Bernini and a few popes.
St Peter and Paul Church in Krakow, Poland
By Karolina from Lazy Travel Blog
St Peter and Paul church may not be the most popular in Krakow but it’s definitely the most beautiful one.
While St.Mary’s church is the landmark of the city and you will see it for sure if you are visiting Krakow, head to Grodzka street to see All Saints Parish. You will easily find St Peter and Paul church – it has the figures of twelve apostles outside the fence. The impressive creamy white facade of the church will definitely attract your attention as well.
When you get inside this monumental building, you will see the beautiful golden dark altar with the painting of St Peter getting the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Walk around to see other impressive baroque paintings and art. If you want, you can visit the crypt that is the final resting place of many important Polish priests, one of them is the famous Piotra Skarga.
Even if you are not a Catholic, St Peter and Paul church may be an interesting place for you to visit. Classical music concerts are organized there almost every day. Plus, it really is a must-visit place if you are an art lover. It’s one of the first baroque buildings in Poland.
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?
And a PS. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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