Historic churches around the world tend to appear on the bucket lists of many travelers. Although a lot of people do visit the iconic churches of the world for religious reasons, these centers of Christianity are often so stunning to witness that they attract travelers who don’t identify as religious.
Not only do the world’s most beautiful churches hold relics and treasures that are significant in the world of Christianity, but many of them are architectural marvels that take your breath away. Keep reading to find out what 10 stunning churches you should visit, even if you’re not religious.
10CATHOLIC CHURCH: BASILICA OF NOTRE-DAME DE FOURVIÈRE, FRANCE
We bet you thought that there was only one Notre-Dame in France! While the most famous one resides in Paris and was recently devastated by fire, there is also the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, which is located outside of Lyon.
The church offers amazing views of the city, as it is located on top of a steep hill. But there’s more to see here besides just the view. The interior features splendid mosaics and adornments. According to Insider, this is also the location of the crypt of St. Joseph.
9BORGUND STAVE CHURCH, NORWAY
Noway’s Borgund Stave Church might not be the kind of structure you think of at the mention of religious buildings, but it is one of the most unique churches in the world. A stave church—meaning that it was constructed of timber—Borgund has been standing since medieval times.
The church is a fine example of 12th-century architecture, and its setting amongst luscious greenery makes it an even more stunning site to visit. There aren’t many stave churches left in the world, so this is definitely one to add to the bucket list!
8CHURCH OF ENGLAND: WESTMINSTER ABBEY, ENGLAND
Westminster Abbey is one of the most famous churches in the world. Serving as the setting of the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as well as other royal weddings, the church has become an icon of London.
According to Orbitz every coronation in the British monarchy has taken place here since 1066. The building is shrouded in history and is one of the top sites for tourists to see when visiting London. It is one of the most stunning displays of Gothic architecture in the United Kingdom.
7CATHOLIC CHURCH: LAS LAJAS CATHEDRAL, COLOMBIA
Las Lajas Cathedral was built relatively recently compared to some of the other churches on this list. Constructed in 1949, it was constructed in the Gothic Revival style, according to Odd Stuff Magazine. Located in Ipiales, Colombia, the church is nestled inside the canyon of the Guáitara River.
The church is not only a spectacular place to visit, thanks to the surrounding natural scenery, but it is also a significant site for many Catholics. An apparition of the Virgin Mary was the inspiration behind the church’s creation, making it a pilgrimage location of sorts for Catholics around the world.
6LUTHERAN CHURCH: HALLGRIMSKIRKJA, ICELAND
The largest church in Iceland, the Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik definitely looks different from your average church. The building was constructed in 38 years, ending in 1986, and is now a landmark of the city.
Named after an Icelandic clergyman, Hallgrímur Pétursson, who was also a poet, the church was designed to resemble the basalt lava flows commonly found throughout the Icelandic landscape. Inside the church, you’ll find one of the most famous organs in the world. Weighing 25 tons, the organ has 5275 pipes and is a sight you won’t want to miss.
5CATHOLIC CHURCH: ST. PETER’S BASILICA, VATICAN CITY
There’s one reason why you should visit St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, aside from the fact that it is a beautiful sight. St. Peter’s is the largest church in the world. It is also the setting of the Christmas and Easter masses held by the Pope, which are broadcast around the globe every year.
Inside the church, you’ll find many fascinating gems and relics. St. Peter’s Basilica is the burial site of St. Peter himself, the first Pope, as well as other popes. This makes it one of the most significant churches in the Catholic tradition.
4CATHOLIC CHURCH: SAGRADA FAMILIA, SPAIN
You’ll be left in awe the first time you visit Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia. Even if you don’t have the time or patience to line up for entry into the magnificent structure, simply admiring it from outside is often satisfying enough. The landmark is included in many bus tours of Barcelona and is the number one highlight to see for many travelers in the Spanish city.
The architect Antoni Gaudi had envisioned for visitors to the church to see three vaults upon entering the church. The Sagrada Familia is still not complete, even though construction began in 1882.
3CATHOLIC CHURCH: DUOMO, ITALY
A prominent country in the history of Catholicism, Italy is home to more than one stunning Catholic church. Aside from spectacular churches in Vatican City, Florence and elsewhere throughout the country, Italy is also blessed with the Duomo in Milan.
It’s hard to decide which is more beautiful: the inside or the outside of this gorgeous cathedral. The outside was built with intricate sculptural details and a marble façade, while the inside contains stained-glass windows, artwork, and other treasures. The Dumo took almost 600 years to complete, finally being finished in 1965.
2CATHOLIC CHURCH: LE MONT SAINT-MICHEL, FRANCE
Le Mont Saint-Michel is located in Normandy and is one of the hidden gems of France. If you want to witness true manmade beauty, you won’t regret adding this one to your itinerary! The church itself is stunning, but what really completes this picture is the fact that the building is surrounded by serene water.
The interesting thing about this church is that it wasn’t always surrounded by water. Originally, Le Mont Saint-Michel was constructed on dry land. Only after the water levels rose did it become a remote island church.
1RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH: ST. BASIL’S CATHEDRAL, RUSSIA
An icon of Russia, St. Basil’s Cathedral is among the most beautiful churches in the world. Located in Moscow, St. Basil’s is one of the most popular sites that tourists visit in Russia. The construction of this landmark was ordered by Ivan the Terrible, commonly known as the first Tsar of Russia, between 1555 and 1561.
The official name of this cathedral that straddles Red Square isn’t actually St. Basil’s, although that’s how most of the world knows it. It’s actually The Cathedral of the Protection of Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat. We can see why it’s been shortened!