Europe boasts a wealth of religious and cultural history, making it a highly sought-after tourist destination. The traditional and distinctive church architecture is awe-inspiring and draws millions of visitors annually.
Explore the top 10 most beautiful churches in Europe of all time.
10Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavík, Iceland
The Hallgrímskirkja is Iceland’s tallest and biggest church, featuring a unique curved spire and side wings. It is a significant landmark in the city and symbolizes Iceland’s national identity. This architectural gem stands tall on Skólavörðuholt Hill, overlooking downtown with an impressive presence on the Reykjavík skyline.
The intricate podium and other decorative details at the church’s front show Iceland’s excellent craftsmanship. A statue of Leif Eriksson stands in front of this Lutheran Church, honoring his exploration and discovery of America.
9Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence, Italy
Located in the heart of historic Florence, the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral boasts Gothic-style architecture with a spectacular view. Famously known as the Duomo Cathedral, it features a dome, the most iconic symbol of Florence, and amazing terracotta roles.
The majestic structure continues to inspire architects and artists of this century. Dedicated to the Virgin of Flowers, the church is an important pilgrimage site for both locals and tourists. The impressive size of the dome is evidence of the incredible feats of engineering and architecture at the time.
8St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic
Located in Prague, St. Vitus Cathedral is a significant Roman Catholic church symbolizing the Czech State. Inside, visitors can explore the St. Wenceslas Chapel, which boasts beautiful decorations and houses the tomb of St. Wenceslas.
The Crown Chamber is home to the crown jewels, while the crypt is an important burial site for Czech kings. Access to the Cathedral is through the western facade portal between the Second and Third Courtyard of Prague Castle. The entrance features a bronze door depicting scenes from the history of the Cathedral, as well as legends about St. Wenceslas and St. Adalbert.
7St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
Stephansplatz Square in Vienna is home to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, a beautiful blend of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. This religious site has played a significant role in Austrian history. The exterior of the Cathedral features intricate statues on limestone walls, while the iconic multi-colored tile roof is a recognizable symbol of Vienna.
On the roof’s south side, an imperial double-headed eagle is created from 230,000 ceramic mosaic tiles, while the north side showcases the arms of the City of Vienna and the Republic of Austria. The towers with ornate spires that scrape the sky are also prominent features of the cathedral.
6St Mark’s Basilica, Venice, Italy
St. Mark’s Basilica is a former religious and political center on the eastern end of Saint Mark’s Square next to the Doge’s Palace. Dedicated to Saint Mark, the Evangelist, it holds the relics of this city’s patron saint. The basilica is historically significant as it is an important burial site for the Dukes of Venice.
It incorporates features from Byzantine architecture and boasts a beautiful Greek cross design. The basilica’s golden mosaics dominate the interior, representing classic artwork synonymous with Venice. Due to its opulent gold decorations, it is often referred to as the Church of Gold.
5Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany
Cologne Cathedral is Germany’s most popular tourist attraction, drawing in an average of 20,000 visitors each year. As the tallest twin-spired church in the world, this Roman Catholic Cathedral is truly a masterpiece of exceptional intrinsic value.
Built in the Gothic architectural pattern, it reflects the strength and persistence of Christian belief during Europe’s medieval and modern periods. The Cologne Cathedral even houses the relics of the three Wise Men mentioned in the Holy Bible. The Madonna of Milan, a wooden sculpture of Mary and the Christ Child, is one of the prime features that attract pilgrims to the church.
4Westminster Abbey, London, UK
Westminster Abbey is an architectural marvel that combines Gothic, Romanesque, Baroque, and modern styles. The church has impressive statues, tombs, and memorials showcasing prominent British history. It has a rich history of hosting significant and historical events. Visitors enter the abbey through the Great North Door, adorned with medieval gargoyles and carvings.
The North Transept serves as a tribute to Victorian politicians. And the church’s windows and monuments near the nave honor architects, engineers, and scientists. The pointed arches, glass rose windows, and flying buttresses, typical of Gothic architecture, create an atmosphere of spirituality, making it a must-visit destination.
3Sagrada Família, Barcelona, Spain
The Sagrada Família is a significant religious landmark in Barcelona and Spain’s most famous sacred site. Regarded as the world’s largest unfinished church, it has been over a century since its construction started. Antoni Gaudí, a renowned architect from Catalonia, is the mastermind behind this architectural wonder that still inspires modern architects and designers.
Gaudí’s tomb is in the chapel, where people worldwide come to pay their respects. Gaudi drew his inspiration from nature while constructing the church’s design. The embedded faces within the stone of the Sagrada Familia honor all those who worked tirelessly for the project.
2Notre Dame, Paris, France
Located in the heart of Paris and surrounded by the beautiful Seine River and other famous attractions, Notre Dame is a medieval Catholic cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Built mainly in the French Gothic style, it also combines Romanesque patterns. The architectural style features rib vaults, flying buttresses, and colorful rose windows with rich sculptural decorations.
A distinct facade with intricate carvings represents the pinnacle of craftsmanship from the medieval era. Over the years, the church has witnessed numerous historical events, wars, and revolutions. Every year, millions of pilgrims from all over the world visit this architectural masterpiece.
1St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City
St. Peter’s Basilica is the world’s largest church in terms of interior measure. It features Renaissance architectural patterns. The basilica took about 120 years to build and involved the work of five leading architects. Michelangelo was the principal designer, and he incorporated the original aspects of the basilica while reducing its geographic norms.
The dome of St. Peter’s is the tallest of any church and was inspired by the Pantheon. The most famous artwork in the basilica is the 95-foot-tall bronze Baldacchino, designed by Bernini. St. Peter’s is a famous pilgrimage site that attracts over 15,000 visitors every year.