By Cady Price
Europe has no shortage of extraordinary religious sites to visit. Whether you’re visiting for the beautiful architecture, the rich history or to attend a service, these sites won’t disappoint. Religious sites are some of the most visited places in the world, most of them drawing in millions of travelers a year.
Some popular religious sites in Europe:
- Cathedral de Notre Dame
- Sistine Chapel
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Most recently built in the late 1600s and early 1700s, St. Paul’s Cathedral is located on Ludgate Hill in London, England. The building serves as an Anglican Cathedral, but many people visit for its stunning architecture and rich history. The dome sits at 365 feet in the sky, nearly 36 stories, and can be seen from all around the city.
Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
Located in Galicia, Spain, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is believed to be built over the tomb of Saint James, an apostle of Jesus. It marks the end of the pilgrimage route Way of St. James. The structure was built with Roman and Gothic architecture styles.
The cathedral is free and open to everyone, including during mass. Visitors can also opt for a roof top tour to get a view of the city below and enjoy the museum. On special holidays, like Christmas or Easter, attendees can witness a Botafumeiro ceremony, where monks swing an incense burner that is suspended from the ceiling.
La Sagrada Familila
La Sagrada Familia was designed by world famous architect, Antoni Gaudi. Much of his work can be seen in Barcelona, Spain, where La Sagrada Familia is also located. The building is actually unfinished, construction is expected to be finished in 2026, but the building is still open for tours. The church is a UNESCO world heritage and one of the most visited places in Barcelona.
The architecture is breath-taking, with both gothic and modern attributes. In good weather, visitors are able to ascend one of the towers for a beautiful view of the city. The building had eleven complete spires but seven more are planned in construction. There are several facades, each facing a different direction and depicting different stories. The facades are intricately carved and full of stunning detail.
Cathedral de Notre Dame
One of France’s most visited sites, Notre Dame is a medieval Catholic cathedral. Famous for its French Gothic architecture, many people like to see its rose windows, pipe organs and church bells. Located along the Seine River in Paris, France, the epic cathedral offers beautiful sights both of the architecture and the city.
In 2019 a fire broke out, collapsing the spire and damaging several other areas of the structure. The building is currently closed due to repairs, and is expected to reopen in December of 2024.
Milan Cathedral, or Duomo of Milan, is located in Italy and an iconic landmark in the city. The marble interior and carved statues bring in many travelers. Elegant stained glass windows depicting stories from the Bible line the walls. Also on display are skeletons of Saints dressed in their finest garb. The roof has an astounding 135 spires creating a stunning visual from the outside. Its collection of thousands statues and gargoyles is another attribute that makes Milan Cathedral a special visit.
St. Peter’s Basilica
Vatican City is home to many famous religious sites including St. Peter’s Basilica. It is the largest church in the world and also the heart of the Roman Catholic Church. Built on the burial site of Saint Peter, the church is one of the most famous holy buildings. Constructed in Renaissance style architecture, the building showcases a remarkable dome. The internal walls feature impressive carvings and mosaics, making it the perfect destination for art lovers.
It is free to enter but there are typically long lines. Guided tours are also available if you want to skip the lines.
Also located in Vatican City is the Sistine Chapel, the formal residence of the Pope. The ceiling was famously painted by Michelangelo depicting breath-taking, emotional scenes from the Bible. The architecture and artwork are both remarkable examples of Renaissance style. The artwork, painted by world-famous artists, makes the Sistine Chapel a must-see for act lovers.
Visitors can wait in line and explore themselves, or take a tour with Vatican Museums which includes Sistine Chapel.
Temple of Athena
The Temple of Athena in Delphi, Greece is a grouping of limestone structures. It is an ancient temple dedicated to the Goddess Athena and is equally stunning as it is historical. Sitting on higher ground, the temple offers panoramic views of beautiful landscape. First created in the 7th century BC, the temple has been damaged and restored several times over the years, but keeps its original serenity. Visitors can go to the temple on their own or in guided tours.
Dohany Street Synagogue
The Dohany Street Synagogue, located in Budapest, Hungary, is the largest synagogue in Europe. The interior is covered in ornate gold detailing and geometric artwork. The decorative inspirations include North African Islam and Medieval Spain, creating one of the most beautiful synagogues and an attraction for art lovers. On-site is also a museum covering a lot of Jewish history.
Travelers can take a guided tour to escape the long lines or explore the grounds on their own.
Wiltshire, England is home to the pre-historic stone monument known as Stonehenge. Each stone stands at about 13 feet and are placed in a circle. No one knows for sure how or why the stones were placed there, but the history and fascination make it worth a trip. The circle was erected around five-thousand years ago, but the stones are much older. Some believe the stones were used to track movements of the sun, which would have been incredible for that time, or that it was used as a burial ground. Regardless, the site and the surrounding landscape are interesting to see.
Other Notable Religious Sites
There are many more religious sites in Europe that are worth visiting. Here is a list of 5 more popular options.
- Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque- Istanbul, Turkey
- The Sanctuary of Fatima- Fatima, Portugal
- The Basilica of San Francesco- Assisi, Italy
- Elisabeth Cathedral- Kosice, Slovakia
- The Rock of Cashel- Cashel, Ireland
For more information on Religious and Historical Sites in Europe visit Top 30 Pilgrimage Sites in Europe and Subscribe to Leisure Group Travel magazine for FREE.