We bet that you love discovering different cultures and admiring astonishing architectural work when traveling (who doesn’t), and some of the best spots to do so are churches. You must admit, even if you’re not that into religious stuff, the places of worship do offer a unique experience of the new culture, especially in Europe, since religion plays a major role in its history. In this blog post, we bring you our favorites – the 10 most interesting churches in Europe.
Before we start, be sure to check out our Cultural Places Platform and discover the amazing tours that will help you explore your destinations at your own pace.
Let’s explore those beautiful European churches…
St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City
St. Peter’s Basilica is not only the largest church in the world, but also the most important one, at least among the Catholics, so it had to make it to our list. This church is really stunning, it is a real Renaissance architectural masterpiece, with astonishing façade and decorations, and that colossal dome that is one of the main landmarks of Rome and Vatican City. St. Peter’s Basilica is just as stunning on the inside – it’s where you’ll find some of the famous pieces of art made by Michelangelo, Bernini, and Carlo Maderno.
St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow, Russia
St. Basil’s Cathedral is the most colorful spot in Moscow’s Red Square with its red façade and colorful domes that all look different. The building of the Cathedral was ordered by Ivan the Terrible in the 16th century. The legend says that once the Cathedral was finished the architect’s eyes were cut out so he could never create anything so beautiful again. Today, this gorgeous church is a museum and holds service only once a year – on the Day of Intercession in October.
Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain
This great Catholic Cathedral in Barcelona still stands unfinished, but it doesn’t make it any less popular or less spectacular. The Sagrada Familia is designed by architect Antonio Gaudi and it is his masterpiece. It has been in construction for the last 133 years, and it is to be finished in 2026. This marvelous building combines several architectural styles including Catalan Modernism, Art Nouveau, and Spanish Late-Gothic, but the main inspiration for its construction is nature and the variety of shapes that can find in it.
Want to learn more about this Art Nouveau masterpiece? Check out the blog post on the following link: “La Sagrada Familia: 10 Interesting Facts about Gaudí’s Masterpiece“
Stephansdom, Vienna, Austria
If you have already been to Vienna, then you know it – Stephansdom (or St. Stephen’s Cathedral), with its 5,5 million visitors a year is one of the biggest attractions of the Austrian capital. Stephansdom is a world-famous cultural heritage site and monument that stands up confidently to international comparison. The UNESCO has named the historic center of Vienna a “World Heritage Centre”, and this 12-century cathedral played an important role in this.
There is so much to tell about this gorgeous cathedral, but we will leave that for you to discover through our Cultural Places Platform – there is a media guided tour that will help you discover the history of this astonishing landmark.
Notre Dame De Paris, Paris, France
Located in the heart of historical Paris, on Île de la Cité, a small island on the River Seine, Notre Dame is considered as the cradle of medieval Christianity and probably one of the masterpieces of Gothic architecture. Unfortunately, this beautiful cathedral got severely damaged in a fire in April 2019, but it will always be one of the most beautiful and recognizable landmarks in Paris.
Mont Saint-Michel Abbey, Mont Saint-Michel, France
Mont Saint-Michel is a village on a tidal island that sits about one kilometer off the French coast in Normandy. This fairy-tale complex inspired the castle from Disney’s Tangled movie and it really looks like it came straight out of a fairy-tale. On the very top of this island’s hill sits a large Romanesque abbey church, whose history dates back to the year 709. This place of worship is like a cherry on the top of this picturesque French destination, which gives it that special fairy-tale feeling.
If you’d like to read more about this unique place on Earth, check out the blog on the following link: “8 Facts About the Medieval Village Mont Saint Michel“
Hallgrimskirkja, Reykjavik, Iceland
Hallgrimskirkja is the largest church in Iceland and one of the most unique architectural wonders in its capital city of Reykjavik. Even though it looks very futuristic, it is built to resemble the natural features of the Icelandic landscape. With its unique look, it is completely different than any other church on our list, but it’s definitely one of the most interesting places of worship we’ve ever seen.
Florence Cathedral, Florence, Italy
If you’ve ever searched for the photos of Florence, the one landmark that you’ve noticed is surely the Florence Cathedral and its famous Duomo (dome). The church is known for its gorgeous exterior decorated with pink, white, and green marble, as well as famous gilded doors of the Baptistery across the street. You must explore this amazing cathedral and climb up to its top to check out the awesome views over the red-roofed city.
Kölner Dom, Cologne, Germany
Set on the Rhine river, Cologne has a beautiful old town that is dominated by churches and museums. The most imposing one is the 13th century Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) – the third-largest church in the world and second-largest structure in Cologne. This Gothic cathedral’s architecture is just amazing with its twin towers that dominate the city skyline, stone façade, and beautiful stained-glass stories. Once you’re there you simply must climb its 500 steps to get to its top and enjoy the views and explore the hidden treasury located in the medieval crypt of the cathedral.
St. Mary’s Basilica, Krakow, Poland
Known for its two different towers, St. Mary’s Basilica is one of the most important landmarks in the historic city of Krakow, in Poland. This brick church dates back to the 13th century and is one of the best examples of Polish Gothic architecture. Besides its gorgeous towers, you will love its amazing interior with a carved wooden altarpiece.
BONUS: Borgund Stave Church, Borgund, Norway
We just couldn’t resist listing another European church, and that is the Borgund Stave Church that sits nestled between the valleys of Lærdal in western Norway. Built by the craftsmen in the 12th century, surrounded by lush hills, this unique-looking church is worth every second spent there.
Each of these churches is amazing and unique, just like most of the old churches that you’ll stumble upon in Europe, and there are many of them. Keep exploring beyond these 10 that we listed in this blog post, you will learn a lot about European history and culture, we promise. Start with checking out part two of this blog post, you will not regret it.
As we mentioned earlier, you can find a digital audio guide to one of these amazing churches, so feel free to check it out:
St. Stephen’s Outdoor Experience
The official outdoor tour! Why not take a walk with us around the St. Stephen’s Cathedral and discover the most important landmark and symbol of Vienna!