Europe’s best churches – from Basilicas in Italy to Medieval churches in England – most beautiful religious buildings in Europe!
Europe is home to many beautiful sights and among these are some of the most graceful churches in the world. The continent’s vibrant history has resulted in incredible churches standing tall across almost every country in Europe. These breathtaking buildings have been fuelled by a deep devotion of belief and beauty. Incredible architecture is coupled with remarkable craftsmanship, creating structures, unlike anything that would be built in the modern world.
These churches were once places of amazing grace and fellowship for the communities of Europe. While some people may not visit for religious reasons, they are still on travel bucket lists because of their magnificence and majesty.
All across the globe, there are unique churches which showcase ornate designs and fantastic architecture.
Europe is lucky enough to boast thousands of these stunning buildings, all of which are unique in their own way. The churches of Europe reveal the history, charm and culture of the areas they sit upon, and visitors can experience this first hand.
We’ve rounded up our top 30 churches in Europe which should be on every traveller’s bucket list.
Most beautiful churches in Europe:
1. Church Of Our Lady Of Esperance – Cannes, France
Known to the French as Notre-Dame d’Espérance, this catholic parish church was classified as a historic monument back in 1937, and it is clear to see why. Located in the Alpes-Maritimes department in the commune of Cannes (southern France), the beautiful building dates back to 1521. The architecture is classic Gothic style, while the porch is Renaissance and shows just how long was spent building the church.
A Romanesque style bell-tower climbs above the building and has become a famous sight for visitors to the area. Look out for the harmonious statue figure of Our Lady of Hope which dates back to the 17th century. It sits elegantly under the central stained glass. The church sits atop a steep hill, but it is worth the climb. Not only for the stunning church itself but for the spectacular views across all of Cannes.
Would you add this church on the French Riviera to the list of most beautiful European churches?
2. Pilgrimage Church of Wies – Steingaden, Germany
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The Pilgrimage Church of Wies is a small but magnificent church located in a peaceful meadow in the hamlet of Wies near Steingaden, Germany. It houses a wooden figure of Christ which was responsible for starting a mass pilgrimage when tears were claimed to be seen falling from his eyes.
Built in the mid-18th century by acclaimed architect Dominikus Zimmerman, the Wieskirche remains an outstanding example of Rococo design. Pastel coloured illusionist frescoes grace the ceiling, illuminated by an abundance of natural light that flows in through tall windows. Slim columns and arches are decorated with carvings and gold to add colour and exuberance to the church’s interior, a surprising contrast to its simple white exterior.
In 1983 the Pilgrimage Church of Wies was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List because of its well-preserved Rococo art and testimony of cultural and religious traditions.
3. Ruins of Ahamore Abbey – Ring of Kerry, Ireland
No list of the most beautiful churches in Europe would be without… the ruins of Ahamore Abbey! Right, it not an amazing building anymore but the location of it is stunning.
If you drive the Ring of Kerry, make a stop at Glenalappa Middle.
From the place where the ruins are, you can admire a beautiful view of Derrynane Beach – one of the best beaches in Europe!
4. St Edward’s Church – Stow-On-the-Wold, England
Located in the beautiful English countryside, St Edward’s Church is a magical and unique sight. The medieval sanctuary boasts a tree-framed door which creates the image of a portal into a mythical realm. Like something out of a fairy tale, this enchanting church is a must-see for anyone visiting the Cotswolds.
Between the two trees is an arched wooden door topped with colourful stained-glass windows, leading visitors to let their imaginations run wild. Locals state that the mystical church was used as inspiration for J.R.R Tolkien’s Doors of Durin. The structure of the church itself was built during the Middle Ages, and today visitors can spot a medley of parts from various centuries.
It really is one of the most unique churches in Europe!
5. Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg – France
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One of the best things to do in Strasbourg is to visit the gorgeous and unique Strasbourg Cathedral. It’s considered one of the best examples of high Gothic architecture and parts of it are even Romanesque architecture. That’s because construction began on the cathedral in 1015 and it was not completed until 1439. In short, the construction of the cathedral straddled two periods of architecture and was a project left to multiple architects.
Perhaps the most unique feature of the cathedral is the single spire at the top of the structure. The exact reason for the unique design was lost over time, but theories claim it was due to a lack of funding, the change in design preferences and that the structure was too heavy to be properly supported with a second spire.
Inside the cathedral are beautiful stain glass windows, an astronomical clock, a crypt of notable Renaissance burials and a massive pipe organ. Visitors can also climb to the top of the church and walk around the landing for a great view of the city.
6. Marsaxlokk Parish Church – Marsaxlokk, Malta
Known as one of the prettiest villages in Europe, Marsaxlokk has many stunning buildings. One of them is the Parish Church, located just a stone throw away from the Marsaxlokk Open Market.
If you are visiting Malta, make sure you spend half a day in Marsaxlokk – the Parish Church in the village really is one of the most beautiful churches in Europe!
7. St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral – Sofia, Bulgaria
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St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a Bulgarian Orthodox cathedral located in Sofia, Bulgaria. It was built in a Neo-Byzantine style and it occupies an area of over 3,000 square meters, which makes it one of the top 50 largest Christian church buildings in the world and the third-largest Orthodox cathedral in Southeastern Europe. It is also believed that until 2000 it was the largest fully finished Orthodox Cathedral.
The construction began in 1882 but it wasn’t finished until 1912. The church was named after the Russian prince Saint Alexander Nevsky and was created in honour of the Russian soldiers who found their death in the Russo-Turkish war, fighting for the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire.
The dome of the cathedral is, in fact, plated with gold, and it stands 45 meters high, with the bell tower reaching 53 meters.
St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is one of the top things to do in Sofia and there is not a single Sofia itinerary without it. The beautiful building has turned into a symbol of the city and you can even find smaller copies of it in other places in the country.
8. The Cathedral & Abbey Church of Saint Alban – England
Another of England’s graceful churches is St Albans Cathedral. Called by the locals the Abbey is one of the key landmarks in St Albans. It’s is located on the way to Verulamium Park so you can’t really miss it.
Not only is it a noteworthy spot in local history, but it is also one of the most visited buildings in the county of Hertfordshire. The church has drawn in pilgrims and visitors for more than a millennium. The building has withheld its beauty over the years and contains perfect architecture as well as art.
We really had to add this church to our list of the most beautiful churches in Europe as it’s only a short drive away from where we live – a perfect place to visit on a day trip from London by car!
9. Savior on the Spilled Blood – Saint Petersburg, Russia
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When I visited St Petersburg for the first time, I didn’t know much about its landmarks. During a stroll in the city, I saw a church with intricate decorations and colourful onion domes and decided to go in. It turned out it was the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, second to St Isaac’s Cathedral only in terms of beauty and grandeur.
It took 24 years to build it and it is understandable why. The walls of the church are completely covered in mosaics depicting the saints and Christ. It is claimed that there are 7,000 square meters of mosaics there! To create them they used marble, jeweller’s enamel, dark red granite and semiprecious stones. The decoration of the church is so rich because only the royal family would attend it.
The church is splendid, but behind the decision to build it lies a tragic story.
On the 1st of March in 1881 the members of the People’s Will movement planned to assassinate Emperor Alexander II, called Tsar-Liberator. The first attempt to blow up his carriage didn’t work as planned, so they threw the second bomb at the monarch’s feet when he got out of the carriage. Alexander II was mortally wounded and died a couple of hours later in the palace. His family decided to build a church exactly at the place where the bomb exploded. So the spilled blood part in the name of the church refers to the emperor’s blood.
10. Salzburger Dom – Salzburg, Austria
Salzburg is home to numerous magnificent churches, but if you have to choose just one to visit, it would need to be Salzburger Dom. It is the cathedral of Salzburg and the most important and sacred building in the area. It features two impressive towers and a mighty dome, creating a unique and powerful stamp on the city’s skyline.
Honestly, it isn’t just that which makes this church bucket list-worthy, Salzburger Dom has many exciting and surprising details that can only be seen on a closer look. Keep an eye out for the 370-year old graffiti that is etched into the marble portal and be sure to find the chest containing relics from the saints Rupert and Virgil.
11. Funchal Cathedral – Madeira, Portugal
Madeira is one of our favourite islands in Europe, and it really is full of interesting landmarks and buildings. And one of them is definitely the magnificent Sé Catedral de Nossa Senhora da Assunçâo.
Known as Sé, or The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption is a cathedral of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Funchal.
The interior of the cathedral is hugely impressive as it’s a mix of Gothic and Romanesque styles. It was built in the fifteenth century. It is also one of a few structures that remained unchanged since the early colonisation of Madeira.
One thing will for sure grab your attention – the ceiling, made for local wood. It is known as one of Portugal’s most beautiful ceilings.
Would you add this cathedral to your list of the most beautiful churches in Europe? We think you should! 😊
12. Szeged Synagogue – Szeged, Hungary
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The New Synagogue is reason enough to visit the town of Szeged, in Southern Hungary.
Constructed between 1900 and 1903 by Leopold Baumhorn, who built 22 synagogues in Hungary, the exterior of the New Synagogue already strikes us with a 48,5-meter high dome, where Baroque and Byzantine styles mix together.
The stunning, spacious interior features also Roman and Gothic influences and is decorated in the tones of white, blue and gold. Our eyes are guided from the altar, up to the vault inscription “Love your neighbour as yourself” in Hungarian and Hebrew, to the marvellous glass dome: 24 columns, like the hours of the day, support a starry blue sky, representing the infinity of the world. There is space to accommodate 1340 people.
Rabbi Immanuel Lőw advised the architect on the interior decorations by providing flowers and animals listed in ancient Jewish literature. Look for them among the geometric art on the walls and on the stained glass windows, work of master Miksa Roth.
Read more on what to do in Szeged and plan your visit!
13. Basilica Of The Holy Blood – Bruges, Belgium
Standing tall in the medieval town of Bruges is The Basilica Of The Holy Blood. It has become one of the best churches in Europe and a popular visitor attraction because it houses a cloth stained with the blood of Christ.
The historic chapel is a beautiful sight and was built in the 12th century. It features a Romanesque style lower level and a contrasting Gothic upper level. These two chapels could not be more different but are connected via a monumental brick staircase. While the church is stunning; it is the blood of Christ and the story behind it that attracts many visitors.
If you are in the city for a weekend getaway, make sure you add this beautiful church to your itinerary.
14. Kölner Dom – Cologne, Germany
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It’s the most visited attraction in Germany and a historic landmark that sits at the centre of Cologne: The Cologne Cathedral or Kölner Dom.
A must-visit on any Cologne itinerary and the most famous icon on the city skyline, the ‘Dom’ is an impressive gothic structure which rivals many of its European counterparts. Currently, the tallest twin-spired church in the world and also holds the record for the second tallest church in Europe, this iconic church started it’s life in 1248 but was only completed in 1880, remaining unfinished for decades.
With spectacular stained glass windows and a legendary high altar made out of black marble, the church is also home to a series of tombs of twelve archbishops alongside some priceless treasures including the celebrated Shrine of the Three Kings and the Gero Crucifix.
Interesting fact: The Cologne Cathedral has a more dubious claim to fame: it was one of the only large structures left standing in Cologne after the World War II bombing, as it’s said that Allied pilots used it as a landmark, rather than a target.
15. La Sagrada Familia – Barcelona, Spain
This church has become iconic on the streets of Barcelona, and when the foundations were laid back in 1882, no-one expected construction to be continuing well over a century later. La Sagrada Familia is unique in every sense of the word and offers stunning views both inside and out. It is the incredible architecture and unbelievably history, which attracts visitors from all over the globe.
Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudi took charge of the building of the church in 1883 and exchanged the neo-Gothic plans for something much grander and more awe-inspiring. Following his death in 1926, the construction of the building has faced many setbacks and is still not finished to this day.
This stunning church is a must-see place in Spain and one of the most famous churches in Europe!
16. St Andrew’s Church – Castle Combe, England
This stunning Grade I listed building was originally founded in the 13th century. Located in Castle Combe, one of the most beautiful villages in England is a key building in the village – a perfect place to visit on a weekend trip in the UK.
All visitors are welcome to enjoy exploring the church and churchyard. There is also a little shop selling a selection of postcards and books as souvenirs form this famous Cotswold village.
Without a doubt, English churches are amongst some of the most beautiful in Europe. Would you add St Andrew’s church to the list?
17. Capela dos Ossos – Évora, Portugal
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The Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones) in Evora must be one of the most unique churches in Portugal if not all of Europe. What makes this small chapel so special is the fact that the whole interior is completely covered in human skulls and bones.
The Chapel of Bones came to be during the 16th century when the graveyards of Evora were so overcrowded and eventually ran out of space. The city decided to exhume about 5000 bodies to free up space in the graveyards, and the remains of those exhumed ended up being used as decoration in the Capela dos Ossos.
The inscription above the entrance to the chapel reads “These bones that lay here wait to welcome yours” and you really get to ponder the idea of mortality as you admire the macabre columns and walls made of skulls and bones.
The small Chapel of Bones is located inside Igreja de Sao Francisco church complex and should definitely be on top of your list of things to do in Evora. After seeing the chapel and the church, climb to the rooftop for a sweeping view over Evora and the Alentejo countryside.
18. Lutheran Church – Hallstatt, Austria
A picture-perfect chapel in the centre of Hallstatt. This church has featured on many postcards and picture albums thanks to its simplistic beauty. It was built in 1785 as a house of prayer for Evangelists, and it has a rich and long history.
Located just steps away from Hallstatt marketplace, the church is still very much part of the local community and hosts cultural concerts throughout the year.
Hallstatt and its church are definitely amongst the best places to visit in Austria.
19. Cathedral Of St. Andrew – Amalfi, Italy
Many tourists flock to the Amalfi Coast because of its unbeatable views, rich history and delightful cuisine. Costiera Amalfitana is known as one of the best road trips in Europe – full of stunning places to visit!
One of the top attractions is the Cathedral Of St. Andrew which sits atop a grand staircase in the middle of Amalfi town. It has been hailed as one of the Campania’s architectural highlights and for good reason.
Referred to by the locals as The Duomo, it is the religious, cultural and historic heart of Amalfi. After heading up the grand staircase, visitors are greeted by magnificent bronze doors which date back to 1061. Look out for the four figures which represent Christ, Virgin Mary, St Andrew and St Peter.
If Amalfi Coast is on your Italian bucket list, then add the Cathedral of St. Andrew to your itinerary – it really is one of the most beautiful churches in Europe!
20. Parish Church of St. Martin – Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
If you have ever been to Garmisch-Partenkirchen or any other parts of southern Germany, you will know that most of the market towns have many stunning buildings.
The Parish Church of St. Martin is a great example of the beautiful Baroque architecture. It was designed by master builder Josef Schmutzer and built in the 18th Century.
Typically for the region of Bavaria, there are many warm colours and life-like imagery used to create the sculptures.
It’s maybe not the most famous church in Europe but definitely one of the most beautiful!
21. Hallgrímskirkja – Reykjavík, Iceland
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Hallgrímskirkja is one of the most iconic symbols of the capital city of Iceland. Located in the heart of Reykjavik, Hallgrímskirkja is the tallest church that towers over the city.
It is a parish church, that was built in 1937, and was named after the Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrímur Pétursson.
Entry to the church is free. Inside the church, you can easily admire the simplicity of the interiors and be appalled at the giant organ pipes that were brought here from all over the world.
One of the must-do things in Reykjavik is to soak in city views from the Hallgrímskirkja church tower.
There is an entry fee of 900 ISK, and it is completely worth it, as you can capture the colourful roofs of Reykjavik houses from there. There is a lift to access the tower which is a great thing as you don’t have climb stairs, unlike many medieval churches in Europe!
22. St Mark’s Basilica – Venice, Italy
No visit to Venice is complete without a trip to St Mark’s Basilica. It takes pride of place in the main square of the city and offers unique beauty that leaves visitors in awe. The current structure was built in the 11th century, but a previous Basilica stood on the same spot since the 9th century.
The architecture is a Byzantine style, making it so striking against the surrounding buildings. One of the must-see aspects of St Mark’s Basilica is the 8,000 square metres of mosaics that are housed in the church.
St Mark’s Basilica is not only one of the top things to see in Italy but also one of the most famous churches in Europe!
23. Svalbard Church – Longyearbyen in Svalbard, Norway
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One of the most humble, yet significant churches in the world is located in the archipelago of Svalbard – the frosty, tundra land, above the Arctic circle.
The Svalbard church is a simple, rectangular, wooden church. It used to be the northernmost church in the world that served a few thousand people in the town of Longyearbyen, the capital of Svalbard.
Svalbard itself is the proud home of polar bears, and the church is home to a large, taxidermy polar bear inside. True to Svalbard culture, visitors must take off their shoes at the door. They can either attend services that are given in Norwegian or simply visit to see the polar bear inside the church.
Longyearbyen is a small, thriving capital. If you decide to visit, there are a handful of very unique hotels in Svalbard that you can stay at to experience this Arctic town.
Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about the Svalbard church experience.
24. Parish Church Of Saints Peter And Paul – Hel, Poland
Built in the 15th century, the Gothic St. Peter and Paul Church is one of the top attractions in Hel Poland. Nowadays it has been turned into a Museum of Fishery.
Go to the top of the church tower, where you have a fantastic view of the beaches and the sea.
The building itself is really beautiful and it really deserves to be top on the list of most beautiful churches in Europe!
25. Temple of Saint Sava – Belgrade, Serbia
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There are many churches in Europe that take your breath away with their buildings, but one, in particular, stands out. The Church of Saint Sava, located in Belgrade, is the largest Orthodox church in the Balkan. It is located in the municipality of Vracar at the place where the relics of Saint Sava, the founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church, was burned by Ottomans Turks.
The construction of the temple itself took quite a long time, over 100 years and even now it is still not completely finished. It has been stopped by numerous wars over the years. Its construction is financed by voluntary contributions.
The domes of the temple are decorated with 18 gilded Orthodox crosses. The temple is covered with granite and white marble and can accommodate 10,000 believers and about 800 choristers.
Below the temple is the church of the Holy Emperor Lazar, with the treasury of Saint Sava and the crypt of the patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Retired patriarchs will be buried in that crypt.
26. Kerimäki Church – Kerimäki, Finland
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Kerimaki Church is one of the largest wooden churches in Europe!
The outside is a bright and friendly yellow that rises up on a hill in a clearing. The inside is also wooden but has some creative painting to make the wood appear more textured.
While the outside is very grand, you’d be surprised once you enter how big it is. Over 5,000 people can fit inside! It’s a few hours outside of Helsinki in Finland on the way to the lake district, and it is well worth the stop.
27. Parish Church Of Socorro – Ronda, Spain
Standing on the site of a former mosque, the Parish Church of Socorro is very modern. It was built in 1956, and while it might not have the rich history of other churches on this list, it definitely has the beauty. It is probably one of the most interesting buildings in Ronda Spain.
Set on the mountain top in Spain’s Malaga province, visitors flock to the church to take in the pretty white and gold décor, and to explore the surrounding plaza.
28. Chiesa Catholica Di San Marco – Zakynthos, Greece
Not all of the most beautiful churches in Europe are huge. The Chiesa Catholica Di San Marco is actually small in size but it is the only Catholic church on the island of Zakynthos.
The church was built between the museum of Solomos and Kalvos. When you look at it, it seems like it’s a single building as the same style was used on the outside.
If you like European islands and you choose to spend next holiday in Zakynthos, you will be glad to hear that during the summer there is a mass celebrated in English on every Sunday at 10.00 and 19.00.
29. Heddal Stave Church – Heddal, Norway
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Heddal is a stave church located at Heddal in Notodden municipality in Southern Norway. It’s the largest stave church in Norway. It was built at the beginning of the 13th century. The interior is marked by the period after Lutheran Reformation in 1536-1537. The current look is a result of the latest restoration that took place in the 1950s.
Heddal Stave Church is extremely photogenic and you can take some amazing pictures, especially in the sunny weather. You can park your car right next to the church, therefore the shortstop doesn’t take much time even when your plan is tight. Obviously, the main attractions of Norway are all these spectacular fjords, however, Heddal is worth stopping for everyone and not only for religious people. Walk around the surrounding park and cemetery is a nice rest after a long drive.
Before travelling to Norway, read this Norway travel guide with practical information, you should know before you go.
30. Malaga Cathedral – Malaga, Spain
Malaga Cathedral is not just a religious building but a famed landmark in the area. It is one of the finest examples of Spanish religious art and was built on top of the remains of other cultural sites, including the early Almohad mosque. The foundations for the grand cathedral were laid in 1530, and the building still remains unfinished today.
Malaga Cathedral is home to two magnificent organs which have over 4,000 pipes. They are rare and stunning examples of musical instruments from the 18th century. The organs aren’t the only sights to behold in the cathedral, with the Malaga choir having 42 carvings which are the work of Pedro de Mena. This fine example of Spanish Renaissance and Baroque style architecture is a must-visit for tourists on the hunt for the best churches in Europe.
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Which of the above churches in Europe are you going to visit next?
So, whether you’re looking for gothic architecture, renaissance artwork or natural beauty, all of these churches have a real sense of magic and wonder – regardless of your religion.
From humble St Edward’s Church to the opulence of La Sagrada Familia; you have something for everyone. Each of these twelve is well worth looking out for on your travels and making time to visit to really appreciate their beauty and wonder.
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