Ever wondered about the most amazing churches in the world? The ones that you have to visit at least once. Here’s a list of the most magnificent, amazing and beautiful churches in the US and Canada from your favorite travel bloggers.
1. St. Patrick’s Cathedral, NYC
By Allison from Eternal Arrival
St. Patrick’s Cathedral in midtown Manhattan is New York City’s most famous church by a long shot, and as a result, it’s a huge must-do on any first time visitor to New York’s itinerary — particularly because it’s conveniently located right across the street from one of New York’s other most famous landmarks, Rockefeller Square. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a stunning Neo-Gothic Roman Catholic cathedral, and it is still the seat of the Archdiocese of New York to this day. It was completed in 1878 to much fanfare, designed by famous architect James Renwick Jr. who was known for his command of Gothic Revival design. It’s famous for its gorgeous facade, the Saint Elizabeth altar, and its beautiful Tuckahoe marble floor. The church has been kept in pristine conditions over its century and a half of life, adding spires, a rectory, stained glass windows, and a grand organ. It was declared to be a National Historic Landmark in 1976. It’s quite a popular place to visit, so my biggest tip for people visiting NYC who want to enjoy some peace and quiet in St. Patrick’s Church is to arrive as early as possible in the morning in order to avoid the crowds.
Here’s another take on Saint Patrick’s Cathedral by Talek from Travels With Talek
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City has a fascinating history.
The land where the cathedral sits today was purchased by a Jesuit community in 1810. It changed hands many times during its early life having been a school, orphanage, cemetery, foreclosed property, and a small church with stalled construction from 1858 to 1865 during the Civil War.
Meanwhile, the original St. Patrick’s, built from 1809 to 1815 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, was outgrowing its responsibility as the seat of the Archdiocese of New York. A newer, bigger cathedral was becoming urgent.
Finally, construction on the new St. Patrick’s was renewed in 1865 and completed in 1878. The spires we see today were completed in 1888 and were at that time the tallest structures in NYC and the second tallest in the country.
When completed, this neo-Gothic architectural work of art with its brilliant stain-glass windows and soaring arches was celebrated throughout the city.
The cathedral was renovated in 1927, 1931 and most recently in 2015.
It has been the sight of many attempted bombings and sabotage through its long life but, thankfully, none succeeded to any great extent.
And the original Saint Patrick’s? It’s still there, a historical reminder of the city’s fascinating past and one of New York City’s unique sites with its underground catacombs, the only ones in NYC.
2. Basilica of Sainte Anne de Beaupré in Quebec
By Sherrie from Travel By A Sherrie Affair
The Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré is a must visit when you travel to Quebec, Canada. It is one half hour drive from Quebec City to the basilica. As you approach, you will first see a beautiful white cathedral shaped in a cross that shines against a blue sky. Make sure to take photo’s outside. Tip- you will have to get to the farthest spot in the lawn in front of the basilica to fit it all in with the fountain.
Named after Saint Anne, the grandmother of Jesus Christ, the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré is also known to be a healing church. The present Basilica is actually the 5th church to be built at this area of Quebec. The first was a chapel in 1658 where the first healing occurred. The next were churches were 1661-1676, and 1676-1876. The first actual basilica was built in 1876 which is also when Saint Anne was proclaimed the patron saint of Quebec. The basilica burned down in 1922 but was immediately rebuilt which is the one that stands there today.
Once you go through the huge copper doors you have to look up at two columns and see all the canes, crutches and walkers that are attached to the columns. These represent the healings performed at the basilica. The stunning stain glass, statues, and even the ceiling will have you memorized. You can also visit the chapel and usually there is a Priest there to bless you or any item you may want especially blessed. The Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré is a very holy and spiritual experience to enjoy.
3. Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal, Canada
By Liliane from My Toronto World
If you ever make it over to Canada, and Montreal specifically, one of the things you have to do is visit the stunning Notre-Dame Basilica. It’s located in downtown Montreal and is pretty much impossible to miss since there’s normally a line out the door. To note, there’s a $6 CAD admission fee.
It’s a Gothic Revival Style church that’s been around since it was built in 1672 (!) and is now a designated national historic site in Canada.
While the exterior is impressive the real selling point is the interior of the church. It’s got stunning stained glass windows which interestingly enough depict historical Montreal scenes and not biblical scenes like the majority of stained windows do.
The church has played part in historical Canadian events. Current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave the eulogy for his father, former Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau during Pierre’s state funeral. On a less somber note, THE Céline Dion also got married in this stunning church!
4. Basilica of St. Josaphat in Milwaukee
By Paulina from Paulina on the Road
In my personal opinion, the Basilica of St. Josaphat in Milwaukee, WI is one of the prettiest churches in the US. it boasts a breathtaking interior and the historical background of this church is unique in the Wisconsin state.
Indeed, the Basilica is a symbol of the striving of early Polish immigrants to express their ethnic heritage, spiritual devotion, and patriotic pride. You may know that Poles were the largest of the European immigrant groups who settled in Milwaukee after the 1850s.
The construction of the church was finished in 1901 and by that time, it was the largest dome after the United States Capitol. In 1929, St. Josaphat Church was named the third basilica in the United States.
Don’t forget to walk in and marvel at the incredibly delicate murals inside the church. The best place to stay in Milwaukee, WI in order to be close to major tourist attractions is downtown.
5. St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Annapolis, United States
By Michelle of RomanticExplorersDirectory
When entering St Mary’s Church in Annapolis, it won’t take long for you to agree that it is easily one of the most beautiful churches in the world. Colorful statues, stained glass windows and art that depict stories from the Bible and the lives of saints adorn this Redemptorist Parish. What I found most awe-inspiring is that attendees come together in this church under a striking ceiling painted with a blue and starry night sky.
The church was established in 1853 when members of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer arrived in Annapolis. Before then, it was administered as a mission station by the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), who had been coming to Annapolis since 1704. The property was donated to the Redemptorists in the early 1850s by the granddaughters of Charles Carroll of Carrollton. He was the only Catholic who signed the Declaration of Independence. The property was Carroll’s birthplace, and he lived there for many years. His home still stands and visitors can view it.
Interestingly, Carroll’s granddaughters donated the property with the condition that the house, garden and other areas always be dedicated to Religion. They also requested that Mass be offered to them, their parents and grandfather once a month.
Top Latin American Churches that you must visit!
6. Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, Arizona
By Valentina from Valentina’s Destinations
Chapel of the Holy Cross is an religious icon in Sedona, Arizona. The Chapel juts out dramatically from Sedona’s rugged Red Rock scenery. Marguerite Brunswig Staude designed the chapel after having been inspired by the Empire State Building. She recruited Lloyd Wright (son of Frank Lloyd Wright) to help her execute on her dream.
The duo first set out to build this unique monument in Budapest. However, World War II raged on at that time. So, instead Staude settled to erect this Chapel on her native homeland in Arizona.
The Chapel was built on Coconino National Forest lands. They were obtained with a special use permit. There are still public hiking trails dotted all around the Chapel. The ‘Chapel Trail’ being most easily accessible.
Today, the Chapel continues to hold mass and prayer services. There’s also a bounty of art and sculpture to enjoy. Overall, it’s a beautiful small chapel with a unique history. It’s also free to visit.
7. Saint Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, Louisiana
By Tori Leigh
Located in the famous French Quarter, the St. Louis Cathedral sits next to Jackson Square, overlooking New Orleans and the Mississippi River with its triple steeples.
The Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, or the St. Louis Cathedral, is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans. It is also the oldest continually used cathedral in the United States.
Since New Orleans was founded in 1718, three churches have occupied the site. The original wooden church was destroyed in a fire. Construction of a new church began in 1789 and in 1793 the church was given cathedral rank. In 1849, plans for expansion began, while the current structure dates back to 1850. The bell tower, housing the victoire bell commemorating the Battle of New Orleans, was reused in the renovations and still stands today.
Rumor states that the cathedral is haunted by Pere Antoine, a priest at the cathedral who was laid to rest at the church. Nearby, Saint Louis Cemetery Number 1 draws as much of a crowd as the Cathedral. Notorious VooDoo Priestess Marie Laveau, along with other prominent New Orleans residents, are buried there.
Visitors can attend worship service or take a self guided tour of the church. Volunteer docents are sometimes available for guides tours, as well.
*Saint Louis Cathedral is located at 615 Pere Antoine Alley, New Orleans, LA 70116
8. St. Hyacinth Church in Detroit, Michigan
By Heather of Raulerson Girls Travel
Due to the massive influx of Polish immigrants, St. Hyacinth Church was founded in 1907. Detroit architects designed the Romanesque & Byzantine-style church and school. Felician nuns taught school in English and Polish to the area’s children for 81 years. The architectural details inside the church are exquisite. Mosaics from artisans in Venice has decorated the Sanctuary. And the three Cupolas in the ceiling are broken up to represent the New Testament, Polish Saints, and the Old Testament.
St. Hyacinth has always embraced the local Detroit community and preserved Polish history and traditions. During World War II, parishioners struggled to contact relatives upon the news of Germany’s attack on Poland. To help in getting information out to the community, an Honor Roll of servicemen perishing in the war was installed in the church vestibule. The bishop during that time also appealed to Poles to retain their family name rather than changing it, a practice that was becoming more prevalent.
St. Hyacinth has left a lasting legacy for Polish Heritage in Detroit. It holds a yearly Polish American Heritage Awards mass and is listed in the State of Michigan’s Historical Site Registry. During difficult times and the closing of many Detroit area parishes, Saint Hyacinth remains a stronghold for Poland and a gem on Detroit’s eastside to practice the Catholic faith and continues to be a robust active parish today.
9. Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist in Savannah, Georgia
By Cate from Sacred Wanderings
The Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist in Savannah, GA is known as the “Sistine Chapel of the South”, and for good reason. Painted a magnificent blue with gold accents throughout the inside, the Cathedral has incredible murals and stained glass that shimmers in the Savannah summers. It’s twin spires grace the Savannah skyline and it is within walking distance of Savannah’s many other remarkable landmarks.
The Cathedral was built by French immigrants to Georgia in the late 1800’s but, sadly, burned down shortly after. Rebuilt in 1900, the Cathedral Basilica is a rare example of a Roman Catholic Basilica in the deep South of the USA. Colonial charters often prevented Catholics from settling in parts of the USA, but many eventually did and built such gorgeous monuments as the Savannah Cathedral.
The Savannah Cathedral is considered a top historic site to visit in the USA. If you can, try to visit at Christman. The Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist is famous for its Nativity scene, which fills the church and has a few nontraditional figurines thrown in for the fun of kids and adults alike (keep an eye out for Alligators!).
10. Kateri Tekakwitha Church in Gesgapegiag, Quebec, Canada
By Slavka from On2Continents
A small village on the southern coast of the Gaspe Peninsula in Canada’s Quebec province, a unique Catholic church is hidden from the sight of the main tourist crowd. The village of Gesgapegiag is a First Nation territory. Their culture, history, and values are reflected in the architecture of their church which has a shape of a wigwam. Buildings in the shape of a wigwam are not common, especially for sacral buildings. This makes Kateri Tekakwitha Church in Gesgapegiag unique. And if you compare it to other wigwam-shaped churches, it is also the most beautiful one.
The church in Gesgapegiag is devoted to Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, an Algonquin–Mohawk woman who converted to the Catholic religion. She lived in the second half of the 17th century and she is the first canonized member of First Nations.
The church is not very large and is hidden among residential homes off the main road. The interior is decorated with Micmac art and walls are covered in wood. If you would like to attend a mass, you need to call the church administrator for a schedule.
11. Christ Church in Philadelphia, USA
By Derek of RobeTrotting
America’s most historic city is Philadelphia; the birthplace of the nation. It’s an old city for the United States and full of some of the country’s most important buildings. The former Presidential Mansion, Independence Hall and the home of Benjamin Franklin are just a few of the well-preserved Philadelphia historical sites to explore. The history is also witnessed inside some of the country’s oldest houses of worship like Old Swedes Church, Mikveh Israel Synagogue and the famous Christ Church – all dating back to the Colonial era.
Christ Church is the most well-known church in Philadelphia because of the notable men and women that filled its pews in the 1700’s. It’s been called the finest early American church because of its gorgeous but simple Georgian design. The church is also beloved for its towering steeple which was the tallest structure in North America until 1810. It was also financed by a lottery initiated by Benjamin Franklin, one of the church’s earliest parishioners. He was in good company at Christ Church where he worshipped alongside presidents George Washington and John Adams. Other famous figures who attended service at Christ Church include Betsey Ross and several other signers of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution like Benjamin Rush and Robert Morris.
Visitors to Philadelphia can tour the church as well as the nearby Christ Church Burial Grounds. There you’ll find the gravestone of Benjamin Franklin and his wife, Deborah. It’s said to be good luck to toss a penny on his grave in honor of his famous quote, “A penny saved is a penny earned”.
12. National Cathedral in Washington, DC
By Jennifer of FamilyTripGuides
The National Cathedral in Washington, DC is an architectural wonder, the 6th largest Cathedral in the world and a “house of prayer for all people.” It was constructed over 83 years in the English Gothic style of the late 14th century but was only finished in 1988.
The Cathedral has a national role as the place of many religious services for the nation. But it is also home to an active congregation of the Episcopal Church. Parking is very conveniently located in an underground garage right on the grounds in northwest DC. Services are listed online and open to all.
Some of my favorite architectural parts of the Cathedral include: The Creation Rose window with over 10,000 pieces depicting when God declared, “Let there be light.” The Ex Nihilo sculpture above the central door, the state symbol gargoyles around the exterior and the
Darth Vader Gargoyle/Grotesque. My kids love looking around the Cathedral’s exterior and spotting the interesting gargoyles!
Our family loves visiting the grounds, especially the Bishop’s Garden. Located just to the west of the great Cathedral is a charming garden filled with stone pathways, fishpond and beautiful gazebo. The Cathedral grounds cover 59 acres of parks and woods to enjoy dawn to dusk. It is definitely a recommendation for visiting DC with Kids!
13. Saint Dunstan’s Basilica in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada
By Jackie at Enjoy Travel Life
You might not expect to find a soaring French Gothic cathedral towering over the quaint city of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (Canada). But that’s exactly what you’ll find at Saint Dunstan’s Basilica.
Two massive spires uphold 10-foot tall spiral crosses. They are the highest points in the city skyline. Quatrefoils, intricate stonework, and statues of the Gospel writers adorn the exterior.
The interior is no less impressive, with arched cathedral ceilings, ornate wood carvings, and expansive stained-glass windows including a 14-foot German-crafted Rose window.
An example of High Victorian Gothic Revival architecture—and the only Roman Catholic basilica in the province—St. Dunstan’s is one of the most elaborate churches in the Canadian Maritimes.
Historically, it’s seen several incarnations.
The first primitive wood church built in 1816 on this site burned down. A larger wooden building replaced it in 1843. Then, the large stone cathedral built in its place burned down in 1913, just six years after its dedication. Finally, the incredible basilica that stands today was built in 1917 upon the remnants of the old.
Besides the elaborate design and objects of veneration inside, you’ll find an unusual artifact in Saint Dunstan’s Basilica: Father Angus MacEachern’s boat.
Not long after his arrival in Charlottetown in 1790, this Scottish priest became the sole clergyman for PEI, the Magdalen Islands, Cape Breton Island, and the Northumberland Shore of Nova Scotia.
The vessel transported Fr. Angus with his Mass kit and vestments across water and snow (drawn by horses). When you see this small boat on display under glass, you might conclude that MacEachern’s safe crossing was truly a matter of faith.
St. Dunstan’s Basilica is located at 65 Great George Street, Charlottetown. It’s free and open to the public, and holds Catholic Masses daily.
The history and the heritage of these amazing churches is awe-inspiring. I’ve just added so many of them to my bucket list. What about you?
And if you’re looking for churches from Europe, the list is ready here. The list of churches in Asia is here, churches in Latin America is here, Australian churches is here, and African churches list is here. Happy reading! Toodles!
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And a PS! If you have a church you want to add to this list, please ping me at [email protected]