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 and amazing churches around the world from your favorite travel bloggers.
Memorial Church of Moses church on Mount Nebo, Jordan
By Lindsay of CarpeDiemOurWay
Mount Nebo is known as one of the top biblical sites in the world and is home to the Memorial Church of Moses. This site, in the mountains of Jordan, 40 kilometres south of the capital city of Amman, contains a church, built as a memorial to Moses as it is believed that he stood on this spot with the Israelites and pointed to the promised land.
The location provides a panorama of the Holy Land and Christian tradition says that Moses was buried here although the place of his burial was never specified in the Bible.
Today you will find a serpentine cross sculpture depicting Moses’ stick, a monument of the Bible commemorating Pope John Paul II’s visit in the year 2000, and perhaps the most impressive feature of all, the brand new Memorial Church of Moses, built atop the 1500 year old church remains.
Inside the church you will find mosaics from the 5th century on the floors. This biblical site is owned by Franciscan Monks who in 1933 started excavations on the mountain. With the help of locals, they unearthed the remains of the preexisting church site and the mosaic tiles. Depicted on the tiles are images of daily life, animals and hunting, olive trees and grape leaves as well as the tree of life.
You can read this post Is Jordan Safe? If you are curious about visiting want to know about safety in Jordan.
Cathedral of Havana in Havana, Cuba
By Talek from Travel with Talek
The Cathedral of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception is the official name of what is commonly referred to as the Cathedral of Havana.
This baroque style church sits in the center of Cathedral Plaza, one of four principle plazas in the old part of Havana. As the Spanish settlers converted more and more of the local natives to Christianity, it became necessary to build churches. After much petitioning the King of Spain, construction of the church was finally approved. Construction dates from the middle of the 1700s and was originally built on a drained swamp. The left bell tower is narrower than the right. It was designed that way so water would drain off the church into the ocean rather than flooding the plaza. As a result, the church can lay claim to being the only structure in existence with such an asymmetrical feature.
Today this graceful church serves as the seat of the Archbishop of Havana and a major tourist draw. All around it are the well-preserved examples of Spanish colonial architecture. Also nearby are famous restaurants including one frequented by Hemingway, art galleries and the elegant Museum of the City of Havana.
Church of the Good Shepherd – Lake Tekapo, New Zealand
By Suzy from Suzy Stories
Situated on the waterfront of Lake Tekapo in New Zealand, the Church of the Good Shepherd is an iconic and picturesque chapel with a very unique view. You absolutely can’t miss the chance to visit this unassuming but outstanding church in the heart of the South Island when travelling in NZ!
Arguably the most photographed building in New Zealand, it was constructed in 1935 and has since been loved by many as a quaint and beautiful place of worship and also as a photography location thanks to its stunning surroundings showcasing this part of the South Island known as Mackenzie Country. With views of the Southern Alps on all sides of the lake, it’s easy to see why the Church of the Good Shepherd has become a charmingly popular attraction.
In every season the church is presented in a unique perspective each more beautiful than the last. The spring provides the bright purple and pink lupin flowers surrounding the church, the summer shows off the crystal clear blue waters of the lake behind, autumn boasts the dramatic snow-capped mountains, and winter is the perfect chance to observe the famously dark night’s sky illuminated with breathtaking constellations above.
The church itself is small and simple. A traditional stone front and tiny interior, the main attraction is the large window at the altar presenting visitors with outstanding views framing the lake and mountains. Like many religious buildings, photography is not allowed inside the church, however this only adds to the serenity of the location and chance to reflect on its beauty.
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.
Holy Rosary Parish Church, in Angeles City (Philippines)
By Ruben from Gamin Traveler
The Holy Rosary Parish Church is one of the most visited historical landmarks in the Philippines. The history of the church started with the history of Angeles City. The Holy Rosary Parish Church was constructed from 1877 to 1896 by the “Polo y Servicio”, the constrained and unpaid work of the Filipino local individuals to all men by the Spanish frontier government. It also served as hospital and sanctuary for the U.S. Army. Another part of the church was turned into the execution grounds from 1896-1898 in shooting down Filipino revolutionaries and suspects by the Spanish powers. The government restored the church in early 1940s with the help of American troops after it was hit by an American bombler plane during the World War II. In 1849, it became a parish together with town of Culiat becoming Angeles City.
Today, the Holy Rosary Parish Church stands in Angeles, Pampanga where local devotees and tourists flock to attend church. They also organize feasts in honor of not just Santo Rosario but also Our Lady of Rosary de Naval, which is a local celebration in the Philippines. It’s a must to visit and take in a touch of Philippine history from!
Tan Dinh Church, the pastel-pink gothic church in Ho Chi Minh City
By Maire from Temples and Treehouses
Tan Dinh Church is a pink Disney castle-style gothic church, plonked on a busy street in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. This dreamy wedding cake of a building is a working Catholic Church and one of the most important in the city. It was built in French colonial times and is painted an Instagram-friendly peony pink and white.
Weirdly, when I visited Tan Dinh Church there were hardly any tourists around. It isn’t as well known as Ho Chi Minh City’s Central Post Office or Notre Dame Cathedral (two other famous landmarks from the same time period). I have no idea why though — it’s an utterly gorgeous building and to be honest, despite not being the most famous it was my favourite sight in the whole of Ho Chi Minh City!
Tan Dinh Church is located pretty centrally in District 3. You can actually walk there from various other central landmarks — but Ho Chi Minh City tends to be hot and humid with crazy traffic, plus taxis are cheap, so I’d recommend simply hopping into a cab and asking them to take you to the Barbie Church!
Saint Nicholas chapel, Protaras, Cyprus
By Dani from A Baby Abroad
Agios Nikolaos Church, or Church of Saint Nicholas, is a small chapel in the Protaras area of Cyprus. It is located right on Kalamies Beach, next to a fishing harbor.
There is a legend that tells about Agio Nikolaos resurrecting a drowned sailor who was traveling to Jerusalem. Like this, many of his miracles are related to the sea, the reason for which he is the patron saint of sailors. This is also why his tiny church was built next to the fishing harbor in Protaras, where locals still believe he is protecting their boats and crew.
Unlike western churches, that are designed with high spires that focus the worshippers aim towards heaven and god, this Orthodox church represents bringing god to earth. It has a blue dome and whitewashed walls, that resemble traditional greek colors.
This church is also a popular destination for weddings and christenings. It is, in fact, a very romantic place as it is located practically over the water. Sunsets and sunrises here are beautiful, although any time of day makes for a picture-perfect scenery.
If you want to see a unique church that is off the beaten path, then Agios Nikolaos is one you cannot miss.
Vank Cathedral, Isfahan, Iran
By Nicholas from Rambling Feet
When the Armenian community from Julfa (in present-day Azerbaijan) was displaced by Shah Abbas I in the 17th Century, the Safavid ruler established an Armenian quarter called New Julfah in Isfahan, Iran. The community settled there and the Holy Saviour Cathedral, also known as Vank Cathedral, was one of the first churches that it built.
Within the cathedral compound, there is also a small museum (included in the entrance fee) featuring religious and historical artefacts, including the first book that was printed in Iran. It also prominently documents the Armenian genocide that the Ottoman Empire (the precursor of modern-day Turkey) waged in its final years.
As for the cathedral, its plain dome and exterior belie the richness of the art within. Gilded frescoes depicting the Old and New Testaments and saints cram the walls. Look a little closer and you’ll find Persian floral motifs in the borders. The altar is ornamented with tiles that would not look out of place in any of Iran’s grandest mosques. The combination of Persian and Armenian Christian architecture is unique to this part of the world. If you have never been exposed to Eastern Churches, you could do worse than make Vank Cathedral a priority when you visit Iran.
Bonfim Church in Salvador, Brazil
By Thais from World Trip Dairies
The church of Nosso Senhor do Bonfim, or just Igreja do Bonfim, is in the peninsula of Itapagipe, in Salvador (Bahia, Brazil). It was open in 1754 and still preserves a lot of its original beauty.
Every year, in January, they have a massive celebration called Festa do Bonfim, where the church’s stairs are washed and there is music, culture, tradition, and faith.
It’s one of the many Catholic churches in Salvador (the city has over 300 of them!) but what makes it stand out (besides from its history and its beauty) are the gates. The gates all around the church are covered in colorful ribons, tied by the visitors.
They are said to make a wish come true and are very popular. You can buy them from street vendors all around the church or on the souvenir or religious items shops in the neighborhood. Make your wish as you tie a ribbon to the gate, then make another wish and tie one to your wrist. When the ribbon breaks (you can’t force it, though), your wish should come true!
Dili Cathedral, East Timor
By Halef from The Round the World Guys
East Timor is overwhelmingly devoted Catholic.
The Vatican is number one, of course, with 99.99% being Roman Catholic. But East Timor comes second with an astonishing 96% of the population being practicing Catholics.
As a Portuguese enclave, East Timor is one of two countries in South East Asia where Roman Catholicism is the religion of the majority. The Dili Cathedral is said to be the second largest church in South East Asia after Manila’s. There is even a big statue of Jesus overlooking Dili Bay that was a gift by then Indonesian President Suharto to win Timorese hearts.
It failed. He didn’t.
Pope John Paul II visited Dili in 1989. For that event, a traditional Timorese altar was built. A statue of the Pope was erected on top of a hill, and his signature marks the entrance to the Dili Cathedral.
You can find Pope John Paul II’s signature, instead of Suharto’s, at the Cathedral’s main entrance.
Moedergemeente in Stellenbosch, South Africa
By Sarah of The Winged Fork
Moedergemeente or NG Kerk is second oldest church in South Africa built back in 1686. It is located at the end of the church street lined with art galleries and tall trees. The surroundings are really peaceful and when you enter the church you get a glimpse of its simple, yet beautiful artwork. What surprised us was that the Church does not have an altar like most other churches. It has beautiful wooden pulpit where the altar would normally be.
The pipe organ in the church is especially lovely while the colorful stained glass windows add a surreal serenity to the church.
Myeongdong Cathedral, Seoul
By Marie from Be Marie Korea
Myeong-dong Cathedral is located in the middle of the touristic center of Seoul. The Gothic Cathedral, built in 1892, is the main church for the Archdiocese of Seoul and it was the birthplace of the Roman Catholic Community in South Korea. The Cathedral was constructed under the rule of Emperor Gojong but was funded by the Paris Foreign Missions Society and costed $60,000 USD.
Christianity was only introduced to Korea in the 17th century and the Christians had a very difficult time until the Joseon Dynasty as Buddhism was Korea’s main religion at that time. Many Catholics and foreign missionaries were killed. Now 25% of the country is Christian, compared to 15% being Buddhist.
Now the magnificent church is surrounded by department stores, street food vendors and themed coffee shops in Seoul’s most popular shopping district.
The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá: Colombia’s Underground Church
By Danielle & John from Two for the World
Step into the sweeping central chamber of Colombia’s Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá, and you’ll spy the hallmarks of a classic Catholic church: soaring columns, rows of wooden pews, a stone altar backed by a high cross.
This minster though, is unlike any other you’ll visit. For one thing, it’s hewn straight from the halite rock of an ancient mountain. It’s also 200-metres underground.
People have been mining rock salt from the Zipaquirá foothills, an hour north of Bogotá, for millennia. The perilous work led miners to carve a small chapel underground in the 1930s, where they could pray for safety. Today’s vast cathedral was quarried sixty years later.
Symbolism buttresses this sacred complex. Touring Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral with a guide, you’ll pass 14 low-lit stone chapels – stations of the cross – before arriving under a wide, glowing dome.
A labyrinthine stairway descends to the cathedral itself: three rock-hewn chambers representing birth, life and death. A monumental cross illuminates the central nave, a cleverly-carved optical illusion.
This subterranean marvel is a functioning Catholic church, with Sunday services. Visit any day though; if you’re looking for things to do in Bogotá, the rock-solid grandeur of this singular cathedral-under-the-mountain is a must-see.
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 specially blessed. The Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré is a very holy and spiritual experience to enjoy.
Livingstonia Church, Malawi
By Rachel from Rachels Ruminations
Livingstonia Church is not as ornate or ostentatious or historic as many of the churches you’ll read about here. Nevertheless, it’s one of my favorites. Livingstonia, a small town in northern Malawi, sits high above Lake Malawi on a steep escarpment. The Free Church of Scotland missionaries who founded the town in 1894 chose this hard-to-reach site in their effort to escape the malaria that had killed many of their predecessors down on the more accessible lakeshore. The red-brick buildings in this tree-shaded town are, in my view, charming for their turn-of-the-century simplicity.
The church is just as simple and unadorned, except for a large stained-glass window over the entrance door. The window expresses the Scottish missionaries’ patronizing views by depicting David Livingstone (as in Stanley’s famous question “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”) preaching to scantily-clad natives under rays of light from heaven.
Getting to Livingstonia is not easy, involving a drive up the escarpment on an unpaved, poorly-maintained road, including more than 21 hairpin turns. It’s worth it, though, for the charm of the colonial-era buildings and for the gorgeous views over the lake. To read more about it, go to Livingstonia: A Glimpse of Malawi’s Colonial Past.
The churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Clemens from Travellers Archive
They say, they were built by angels, but nobody knows: The churches of Lalibela are a true wonder and one, that must have been an absolute challenge to build. Located in the North of the Eastafrican country Ethiopia, you’ll find the 11 stunning rock-carved churches of Lalibela. All of them have been built, roughly, in the 12th and 13thcenturies and are assembled in four different groups that can be explored within two days. As each individual church tells its own story, it’s recommendable to take a local guide who knows all the background information. Also, when visiting the churches, you are obliged to take off your shoes. Hence, walking around the churches for an entire day results in a lot of taking off and taking on of shoes. In order to facilitate this thing, there are official shoe people that you can hire at the entrance of the whole area, where you also buy your tickets. These guys will follow you around, watch and arrange your shoes each time you take them off and will be happy to assist you.
Do some research and come here when there is an official holiday as then a lot of Orthodoxe Ethiopians would go on a weeks long pilgrimage to the churches in order to sing and pray together. This is a stunning thing to see and should not be missed.
Saint Nicholas Church – Demre, Turkey
By Pascale from Slow Travel Guide
The Saint Nicholas church in Demre may not be the most exciting building when seen from the outside, it does hide a fascinating interior and has an even more intriguing history. The Byzantine church is worth visiting, also if the story of Saint Nicholas, who later became Santa Claus or Sinterklaas, has no spiritual significance to you. Saint Nicholas from Patara was the Bishop of Myra during the 4th-century who lived and worked here. Legend has it Saint Nicholas was involved in helping young people and the poor. The original church was destroyed in an earthquake, only to be repaired and damaged by the Arab invasions. The current church dates back to the 11th-century, with today’s ruins being the result of restorations and extensions carried out in different periods. Inside, you’ll see spectacular mosaics, domes, frescoes, and tombs. Recently, a team of specialists discovered a hidden temple underneath the church. Speculations have risen that this temple may very well contain the tomb of Saint Nicholas. Researchers at work there claim they will find Saint Nicholas undamaged in the temple. If you want to visit the church, try visiting early morning or late afternoon. In avoiding the crowds, you get a far more immersive experience.
Basilica of Bom Jesus and the Churches and Convents of Goa
By Natalia from My Trip Hack
Goa is mainly known for its beaches and nightlife, though there are also several heritage sites in the state. One of them is Old Goa or Goa Velha. It used to be a capital of Portuguese India. Nowadays it’s famous for its monuments and churches.
Despite each of the churches in Old Goa is interesting in its own way, one of the most visited sites is Basilica of Bom Jesus. It was built back in 1605, thus you can see the elements of late-Renaissance in its structure. It took almost 11 years to complete the constructions of basilica. This Church became famous in the Catholic world as it has the tomb of St.Francis Xavier. St.Francis is renowned for his missionary voyages in the East. Despite the intricate exteriors are impacted by monsoons every year, Bom Jesus is the only church in Old Goa not plastered on the outside. In the 1950s one of the Portuguese conservationists removed the plaster stating the stone will strengthen itself with years. Since then, no one has installed the plaster back despite numerous other restorations in different parts of the complex. Churches and Convents of Goa became UNESCO heritage site in 1986.
Sanctuary of Atotonilco, near San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, UNESCO World Heritage site
By Donna from Nomad Women
Just 8 miles (14 km) from the colonial town of San Miguel de Allende, in central Mexico, is a church amazing enough to be nicknamed “The Sistine Chapel of Mexico.” The Santuario de Atotonilco looks like a simple Mexican church from the outside, with unadorned high white walls and a dome. But walk through the doors and you enter into a mad celebration of blood and baroque. Nearly every surface of the interior is covered in exuberant murals. Phantasms and angels, bleeding penitents and pilgrims, mythical animals and flowers swirl over the ceilings, arches and walls in a visual frenzy.
The church was begun in 1740 and took 35 years to complete. The murals, relating an exaggerated vision of the life of Christ, were painted by a local artist in the “folk baroque” style. The murals are augmented by statues, pillars, mirrors and gilt. Taken together, the effect is dizzy-making as you wander the aisles craning your neck to take it all in.
Years of damp and neglect took their toll, threatening to damage the murals beyond repair. But in 1996, the World Monuments Fund spear-headed a drive to restore the endangered sanctuary. The result is a cleaned and stabilized work of art. In 2008, The Santuario de Atotonilco was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Ruins of St. Paul’s, Macau
By Emily from Wander-Lush
An autonomous enclave on China’s southern coast famous for its casinos and nightlife might be the last place you’d expect to find one of the world’s great churches. But the Ruins of St. Paul’s is emblematic of modern-day Macau and its Portuguese heritage.
When it was completed in 1640, the Church of St. Paul was one of the largest Catholic churches in Asia. The adjoining St. Paul’s College, a Jesuit training center, was the first Western university in the region. The complex was a project of the Portuguese, who colonized Macau in the mid-16 th century and remained there right up until 1999. After serving as a house of worship for almost 200 years, the church was gutted by a fire in 1835 and left to weather away.
All that remains of St. Paul’s is a single façade. The looming silhouette retains its original stonework and sculptural elements. Interestingly, it was Japanese Christians in exile who were responsible for the carvings, which blend Jesuit and Eastern imagery. It’s also possible to visit the church’s crypt, which houses a small collection of relics and religious artworks.
Today, the Ruins of St. Paul’s doesn’t really attract the pious—but rather zealous Instagrammers who jostle for photos on the vast stone steps.
Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica in Kochi, India
By Johann from Escaping Life
One of the first churches to be established in India by the Portuguese. The Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica still stands tall to tell a tale or two of the multiple European powers who conquered the fort city of Santa Cruz. Yes, Fort Cochin, the small town in Kerala was once called Santa Cruz, after which the church got named. In its 513-year-old existence, the church has seen the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British who ruled the fort town successively.
Built in 1505, after the then Kochi Maharaja donated the piece of land now called Fort Cochin to build a Portuguese Fort. In 1558, the church was raised to the status of a cathedral. When the Dutch overthrew the Portuguese in 1663, they razed all the Catholic churches to the ground leaving behind the Santa Cruz Cathedral and the St. Francis Church. The Dutch converted the church to store their arms and ammunition. With the arrival of the British, the church was brought down.
The church was rebuilt at a new space and was consecrated in 1905 under the British rule. The church was raised to the status of a Basilica by Pope John Paul II in 1984. Inspired by Indo-European gothic design, the church now stands with whitewashed walls and tall spires and large paintings and frescoes by an Italian artist by the name of Fra Antonia Moscheni depicting the Passion of the Christ.
Don’t miss this historical church while on a visit to the city of Kochi.
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!
El Santuario de las Lajas, Colombia
By Claire of Tales of a Backpacker
This stunning church is in the south of Colombia, close to the border with Ecuador. What makes this church special is that it is built on a bridge 130 feet above the Guaitara river, in a feat of engineering and beauty. There has been a shrine on this site since the mid-1700s when a local woman and her deaf-mute daughter were sheltering from a storm and saw an image of the Virgin Mary on one of the slate rocks (known as lajas) found on the mountainside. Since then, a church was built around the shrine, gradually being expanded over the years. The spectacular building that stands here today was completed in 1949 and is one of the world’s most beautiful churches.
El Santuario de las Lajas in Colombia is definitely worth a detour if you are crossing the border between Colombia and Ecuador by land, there are shared taxis which go from Ipiales bus station close to the border to the church. Take time to go inside the church, and walk up the surrounding paths. You can also take a trip on the cable car across the valley for incredible views of the church from above.
The history and the heritage of these amazing churches fill me with awe. I’ve just added so many of them to my bucket list. What about you?
And a PS! If you have a church you want to add to this list, please ping me at email@example.com